Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mark's Mandalas

Fig. 1 -- Mandala

Mandalas date back to ancient times as images used for meditative purposes. I recently watched the movie The Last Mimsy, which included mandalas as an important part of the development of the story. I found out that making your own mandalas can be a spiritual practice, like meditating. As it turns out, at the beginning of last month, I sat and made some of my own mandala's without knowing that was what I was doing. Fig. 2 shows the drawings I made in December 2010, a night when I felt myself open up, as I do when I'm writing, drawing, playing music, or observing some beautiful scene in nature.

Fig. 2--Mark's Mandalas from Dec. 2010

I know from reading Betty Edward's books, especially Drawing on the Artist Within, that that feeling of connection at least partly includes activating the right side of the brain, and was in fact why I was drawing these pictures on 12/10/10. I felt peace and harmony within myself, and my brain had a satisfied, relaxed feeling. I find it striking, therefore, that there is a skull in my favorite one from that night.

As it turns out, two times in December I reached what I would call serious levels of despair. In my mind, I think of this despair as emerging as a reaction to my current circumstances--not finding success with my writing career, living on credit cards, living in a town, state, and region I don't particularly like, etc., etc., etc. Later in the month, on two occasions, I'd become serious enough about committing suicide to plan the date and the means. On the most recent, I actually wrote out a suicide letter. Today, this very day, I'd be dead if I had carried out the plan.

Yesterday, a book came into the library that I'd ordered after watching The Last Mimsy. It's about creating your own mandalas. Last night, I just sat down and started scribbling away. What works for me is to scribble for a while, and then highlight shapes that I see in the figure and shade them or the surrounding areas. The important thing to realize here is that at the time, I had no plan or idea what I was doing. When I engage in this activity, I become happy, joyful, and positive. I sing and dance my way around the house, whatever I may be doing. Indeed, something incredible happens when I do these drawings, but at the time I had no sense of their potential meaning.

Fig. 3--Spider

Last night, the first drawing I made (Fig, 3) I named "Spider," mostly because the shape in the middle looked like a black spider. The second drawing I did that night I entitled "Coin," but might just have easily named it "Pentacle" because there is what looks like the Coin/Pentacle suit in the Rider-Waite Tarot decks directly in the middle.

Fig. 4--Coin

The third drawing I made that night (Fig. 5) I entitled "Butterfly" because it looks like a butterfly to me in an abstract way. This morning, I got up and instead of meditating, as I usually do, I elected to draw mandalas. I drew a drawing that I entitled "Heart" (Fig. 6), but it felt inauthentic, as if I was intentionally trying to make something hopeful. I grabbed another piece of paper and just started scribbling. The result was Fig. 7, which I entitled "Door." This mandala, for me, held the same mysterious force of the others in compelling me to look, to pay attention, to feel life and light inside me. It was quite strange, and then, I began to see the pattern and to match them to some really important insights I've been making recently.

Fig. 5--Butterfly

Fig. 6--Heart

Fig. 7--Door

The Spider is a dark being or presence creating chaos and mayhem. As I sat working this morning, I kept getting glimpses of underlying anxiety in me, a dark cloud of fear that has me sitting in my house hating my life, fearing the worst, nitpicking, complaining, and feeling hopeless despair. I think, this is the part of me that made plans to kill myself and wrote a suicide letter. But it's elusive, hard to pin down, a shadow that isn't easy to detect, but the chaos it creates is very real.

The Star mandala is nearly identical to the Spider except that there is a star in the middle and there is a pattern, or the chaos is patterning. It is as if the coin/pentacle is creating order from chaos. There is another part of me, also elusive, that is like starlight--not so easy to detect, but somehow hopeful.

The Butterfly reflects the outward sign of that hope. I wrote in this blog some months ago about the Moth and Butterfly signs I saw, that spoke of hope. I've recently finished another draft of my failed project Wayward Son. In a couple of scenes in the story I experience the unfettered starlight and the sight of a comet that spoke to something deep inside me. The presence was sad and lonely as it was joyful and expectant.

The Door is the way through. Again, the image is very similar to the Spider and the Coin, but the middle is empty, as if that is the direction I should go. The darkness and chaos is scary, but I feel compelled to follow. I know in this that I am passing into the seemingly upside down world of soul, a place where the thoughts and feelings associated with the heavy matter and karma of this life are ridiculous. However, living in soul is dark, mysterious, and frightening to the self locked into the karmic conditioning of "reality."

I was at a place that felt like the end, and it was, but in a way I didn't fully understand. Living the old way is done. If I continue to live that way, I already know what waits for me. I understood this morning as the realization of all of this was dawning on me that I likely committed suicide in my previous life. In this life, my task is to overcome that karma and truly live, live in a way that makes being here worth it. It's an interesting place to be, sittign here and watching this transformation take place.