MUSIC AND MANDALAS June Boyce Tillman (with Meta Killick and Alistair Clarkson)

This project initiated by Living With Harmony is designed to enrich the atmosphere of care homes. It combines music with a liminal/spiritual element. The project is based on Living with Harmony’s considerable experience in music in care homes (Clarkson & Killick, 2016). Their What Good Looks Like project (Hopkinson et al., 2015; Oakes, 2018)) was rooted in an innovative approach to safeguarding using art, drama and music. Living With Harmony – Alistair Clarkson and Meta Killick – improvise on harp and guitar using repetitive motifs with calming expressive character. They use unfamiliar music without lyrics to promote relaxing and liminal experiences. They produce gentle, soothing cycles of sound, created and present in the moment – ephemeral and passing.

There is much repetition. Any harmonic dissonance is used to push towards the release in consonance. The musicians are expressing musically the circle of life in the same way as the mandalas. Care homes are sent mandalas for staff and patients (in advance of the video) to colour together to encourage all the characteristics described in the sections above on music, meditation and mandalas – the discovery of meaning, contentedness, happiness, relaxation, and understanding.

Combining listening to new music with the opportunity to colour a mandala is the essence of this practice. Done in a group characterised by non-judgemental acceptance, the associated tranquillity is shared in a profound sense of togetherness and shared mindfulness. Colouring a mandala with improvisatory music using repeated motifs in a circular musical shape intends to create a musical cradle, gently holding the meditative mood; it is a simple and possible path to the health benefits of mindfulness for vulnerable adults.

With the understanding that moods transmit between people – both staff and patients – those who are capable and willing to colour a mandala are encouraged to do so. At the same time, others who can only sit in the session can do so as well. This allows the maximum number of people to enter a quieter, more tranquil meditative space. It can be extended to administrators, family members, and the wider community.

Combining two art forms that promote entry to a lamina/spiritual/meditative space to alleviate stress, raise mood and self-awareness, and contemplate dying and relaxation is an innovative practice with considerable potential. The capacity to deliver this electronically, via the internet, in care homes offered the real possibility of effective musical interventions during the time of the COVID virus. This has been continued in non-COVID times and now includes music from the plants. It needs extension and evaluation to examine its role in transforming the mood of staff, family and older people.


Clarkson, A. & Killick, M. (2016), A Bigger Picture: Community Music Therapy Groups in Residential Settings for People with Learning Disabilities. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, 16 (3). Available at:

Hopkinson, Patrick Jonathan, Killick Meta Batish Anita Simmons Lee, (2015),”“Why didn’t we do this before?” the development of Making Safeguarding Personal in the London borough of Sutton”, The Journal of Adult Protection, Vol. 17 Issue 3, 181 – 194

Oakes Peter (2018), Making Safeguarding Musical, PMLD Link Vol. 30 No. 2 Summer Issue 90, 8-13.