By CAROLINE MURRAY
With the new year just around the corner, many people tend to reflect on their past and plan for a happier and more fulfilling future.
Local art teacher and artist Tina Marie Rodriguez took it one step further on Saturday by helping community members recognize their new year's resolutions through the teachings of a traditional Tibetan monk art form called "mandala."
At the Creative Connections Art Center in Amsterdam, Rodriguez began her art class by explaining what a mandala is, who participates in the practice, and how it relates to bettering one's life.
"We are going to be looking at the Dalai Lama ... so that we can really get to the core of our values. How we can be happy and cultivate happiness in ourselves and how can we bring happiness to the world," she said.
The slides displayed quotes from the Dalai Lama, Buddhist theories, as well as shared the steps Tibetan monks take to create and later deconstruct their art piece.
By exploring the creation of the mandala and the healing nature of the artwork, Rodriguez believed it would help her class build a collage/vision board of their future.
After Rodriguez finished educating her class, it was time for them to create their collages out of photographs and content from old magazines.
These collages would symbolize the past and also their new goals for the new year.
"Positive vision for 2014, what does that look like for you?" said Rodriguez.
She asked her students what they need to let go of, move forward with, what they were the most proud of, how they could become a better person and what would make them happy in the year to come.
With this direction, they were instructed to cut out different shapes, colors and patterns to demonstrate what they were saying good-bye to in 2013 and what the new year meant to them.
Linda Marshall of Amsterdam said had many aspirations for 2014 and would create her collage around those goals. Marshall admitted that she was going through a divorce and was hoping to move forward with life after the new year.
"Take better care of my health, stay more calm, find out what's important in my life and be happy," she said while cutting out various shapes and pictures from a magazine.
Marshall has attended other art classes at the CCAC and was pleased that Amsterdam has a facility where people can make art.
She already had an understanding of the mandala creation and decided to give it a try when she heard about Rodriguez's class.
"I like doing artistic projects," said Marshall.
Amsterdam resident Sandra Rivera-Aleman brought her 7-year-old daughter Ailani Aleman-Rivera and 4-year-old son Eliel Aleman-Rivera.
Rivera-Aleman put together a piece of art that she thought represented a "super mom." She said she would like to work on her marriage, take charge more often, build a home and her family for the new year.
Her son's collage was supposed to reflect a stronger and happier Eliel, according to Rivera-Aleman.
Marita Nurminen of Watervliet also took her children to the event. Six-year-old Zach Nixon said that he was going to use patterns and the colors yellow, green and blue on his artwork.
Nurminen's other son, 12-year-old Erik, said he did not have any new year's resolutions. His mother added that he had to think a long time about that.
Marita said that she would like to eat healthier and run more next year. Her collage would consist of certain geometric shapes and the colors of the rainbow.
"It's a good weekend project," she said.
Earlier Rodriguez explained how Tibetan monks construct a mandala by drawing a detailed outline of shapes and lines on a black board, which takes the monks up to three hours to complete. They then fill in the drawing with colorful sand using a small funnel. This process is so tedious it takes them several days to complete, said Rodriguez.
She explained that the affair draws the attention of surrounding communities and the media. When the mandala is finished they began to take it apart almost immediately.
The monks will give the sand to audience members upon request for personal health and healing.
The rest of the sand is dispersed into a body of water which is supposed to release healing energies of the mandala throughout the world.
The practice teaches patience, impermanence and the art of healing; Rodriguez believed that this practice encompasses the new year.
"Healing is necessary in order to tune in to what's happening and it's a time to change, to get rid of habits, recharge your batteries, it's a blank canvas. Healing is a way to get ready for the New Year," said Rodriguez.
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