The Story about Jan Johnson

Jan was a Montessori teacher and Michele’s granddaughter’s teacher for 3 years. She asked Michele to teach a mandala class to her 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade students. Then, with no real instruction herself other than what she observed in the classroom with the students, Jan went home and tried a personal mandala herself. Four binders-full and counting, her story follows.

Jan Johnson with some of her mandala artwork.

I have always had a desire to record my thoughts and feelings in a journal, to sort out my inner world on paper. I have tried on many occasions to record the complex thoughts of my mind, but when I go back and read my journals at a later date, they never seem to represent what I am really feeling or trying to say. They always sound artificial and corny. During my marriage and after my divorce I recorded my thoughts and feelings in a journal—in fact, many journals. After re-reading what I wrote some time later, I had a ritualistic fire and burned all of them. It seemed the right thing to do.

I have a very active inner world of colors, and I see things in “pictures.” I believe I am fairly intelligent, my mind is very active, and I also have an active inner spiritual world. On May 25th of this year, one of my student’s grandparents came to our class to present Mandalas as both an art form and as a medium to get to one’s “center.” I was skeptical at first, wondering if the many children in my class whose sole art form seems to be of a “video game” style, would be able to do this. She talked about the Tibetan origin of the Mandala, did a visualization of finding the flower of yourself at your center, and then passed out paper and markers.

Flower of Self by Jan J. – Instructor at the Montessori School

The results were stunning. The children created beautiful re-creations of their centers. One of the most remarkable one was from Luke, a child who lives both in his own head, and is obsessed with the military. He has never liked art projects, and always found working with clay, chalk, or virtually any other medium disdainful. When Luke was working on his Mandala, he stated, “Wow, I never thought art could be fun.” He drew a large eye, a bit off center, surrounded with oranges and greens. It was beautiful.

As the children created their mandalas, my job was to be a support of them; hand out new papers, new markers, and so on. The next day, which was the first chance I got to be alone, I did my first Mandala, of my inner flower. I loved every minute of it.

I have found a new way to journal, using colors, pictures, and a minimal amount of words. I don’t think I will ever burn this journal.

– Jan J.
Montessori Instructor