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.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Rhythm Here, There, Everywhere

I was feeling pretty lazy and really would rather have continued to lounge in my parent's apartment, but I really felt compelled to go for a walk. I'm glad I did.

I stepped out the front door of my parent's apartment building to see a pink and orange sunset. What was most remarkable, however, was a column of fuchsia-colored light shooting from the horizon straight upward, like a great pink sword about the cut through the gray, purple, and red clouds. It was like a beacon and reminded of the light coming out of the top of the head of the Ghost of Christmas Past.  

Once on the walking trail--an old railway bed converted into a paved walking path--I strolled in the crisp, dry air of the purple twilight, still able to see the pink shaft of light through the spindly spines of the hardwoods going along the path. Usually during walks I talk to myself, aloud, basically converting the idle chatter of my ever-anxious left brain into verbiage that allows me to air and resolve some if it, but lately, I've grown weary of the endless babble. The other day, it seemed appropriate to put this part of myself to death. The next day, lying in bed after awakening, I envisioned this dead blathering fool as an endless chattering, frantically anxious skeleton and lay in the quiet darkness laughing heartily at the image. I named him Skullboy and at times just let him chatter along while I allow life--life that I've not been too keyed into because of Skullboy's endless prattle--to come into my awareness.

This time, I wouldn't allow Skullboy to needle, but quieted my mind as I strolled along. I closed my eyes and let all the sounds that normally escape me come into awareness. Soon, I could feel a rhythm, or was I sensing it? I don't really know. What I do know is that in those moments, all of the sounds I heard--my breath, the scritching of my jacket, the crunch of snow under my feet, a single leaf rattling on a branch as it falls, squirrels frolicking among the spindly fingers of a maple, even the rumble of cars on the road I was approaching, the squish of their tires on the pavement--it all fit together somehow in some vast rhythm, some connected and united dance where all of the participants were synchronized and flowing in harmony and cohesion. I felt old; not in a tired and dying way, but like an old, old soul who has lived for thousands of years and has finally awakened from a long and wearying dream.

Skullboy wouldn't stop blabbing, and occasionally his words sunk in "...we're in trouble, we're in debt, it's getting dark, it's too cold, i don't like it here, i need to leave..." I pictured his frantic, skull jaw flapping like wind-up teeth and I laughed, as I tend to laugh whenever I picture Skullboy's anxious chattering.


On down the trail, I spotted Alpine and Doug, an Alaskan Malamute and his owner. I've run into them a few times out here. I don't especially like dogs, but Alpine has some presence about him that stands out to me. He sees me and begins to howl. Doug hasn't remembered meeting me, but he says, "We must have met you before because he uses that howl when he sees someone he remembers and likes." It seemed an omen to see Alpine, to run into an animal, a dog no less, to which I feel some primal connection.

In the growing darkness, I continued down the trail to its end, a wooded area near the freeway. As I turn around and walk back, I'm aware of ancient spirits in this wood, old Native American ghosts, but then, I sense guardian spirits of the forest and from them sense a positive energy, a connection, a welcome, love. On back toward my parents, the feeling has passed as I come closer to residential neighborhoods, but the feeling of connection to the rhythm in creation is still there. It's a rhythm I want to feel connected to always, even in a room constructed of cinder blocks watching the News on TV with a group of people who think they're hearing the truth. That would be a life well worth living.

Electric Prayer Hands

A dream....

I am in a kind of old garage that has been converted into a room. The place is unpainted and fairly Spartan with a concrete floor and unpainted walls. Outside, it is fairly rustic looking, dead leaves lying around, peeling paint. The surrounding area has a lot of big hardwoods and there's a kind of drive going past outside the door. 

Outside the room, there's a covered area, like a porch. The garage is a room where I am living with Rusty as a roommate, but Michael and Denny are there also. There's some sense that we are all teenagers. I am sitting at my desk in the room playing with a MIDI program on my laptop. There's some interaction with a stereo and wires, but that seems left over from the previous dream or string of episodes. Rusty is listening to music—Country Music that I don’t care too much for. I am thinking I need to remember to turn my music on before he does so we don't have to listen to his stuff. It occurs to me that I'm being a bit of a music Nazi. 

I’m sitting at my desk with my desktop. We’re all waiting to go to a movie together. It’s time to go, so I pull away from the computer and note that a really bad thunderstorm is moving in with dark clouds, driving rain, and intense thunder and lightning. The lightning is striking the ground and trees outside the room and leaving bluish, tinsel-like arcs of electricity. The lightning strikes down by the lower left of the door and I can see the tingling charges there. 

Denny walks over to check it out and he is hit by a bolt of lightning. He lies there with the bluish charges arcing around his body as he convulses with a surprised look on his face. 

Soon, Denny is standing again. He steps over toward the door and a pair of giant hands--like the praying hands of Jesus with the flowing sleeves of his white robe undulating in the breeze--reach down from out of the sky into the room. The hands are held like a pair of scissors and clamp around Denny’s neck, lifting him off the ground. The hands become electrified, like lightning, shooting jolts of electricity through Denny’s body. His arms and legs flail as the bluish charges arc around his body. He's screaming in terror and pain. I tried to reach over and pull him free, but felt a jolt of electricity and so let go and just stood there helplessly watching. The hands open and Denny falls to the floor of the porch. The hands recede back up into the sky. 

I stand there stunned, looking at Denny's motionless and smoking body lying on the ground. His eyes are wide open. Before I make a move or can even think what to do, the hands come reaching back down from the sky and grab me around the neck. I'm terrified, expecting a jolt of electricity to course through me, but it doesn't. The hands pull me out of the porch and lift me high into the air, above the trees. I expect to be killed, but then I realize the owner of the hands is gentle. I look down and see the world below. The hands carry me over to a newly paved street with freshly painted, crisp yellow lines against the midnight black asphalt. Newly poured, white curbs line the street, providing crisp boundaries for the manicured lawns across rolling hills. There are no trees here. Everything seems clean and new. A white van is passing on the street and the giant hands place me inside the van. Now, I’m inside the van on the passenger side. Someone is driving and we head down the road together.