This was the week of the three Trumps: the Fort Meyer Commander-in-Chief Trump, the axe-wielding Phoenix rally Trump, and the Reno call for unity Trump. It’s enough to make my head swim. Some suggest that’s the whole purpose, a carefully choreographed ploy to keep us all insanely off balance. This mandala is a reminder of the perfect balance that lies at the real center of it all. The two triangles represent the divine feminine and masculine forces in perfect balance despite the chaos of the world in which they rest.
It is an impossible task to make a mandala that transcends the possibility of nuclear war and the destruction of the human race. I note how this mandala seems rigid and closed (in mandala parlance, a stage 5 target mandala). The only light in at is in the North Korean flag. A scary commentary that if there is to be a way through this mess, it’s going to have to comes from the likes of Kim Jung Un.
I’ve changed the name of this series from Transforming Trump to Transcending Trump. It’s such a little change, but it acknowledges a huge truth. I do not have the power to transform Trump or the terrible divide within this country. But perhaps with this seres I can do my part to help transcend its life-draining impact.
The headline at the bottom of the mandala says it all: And suddenly it’s reality. In the wake of Charlottesville, there is no longer any possibility of ignoring the hatred and racial divide within our country. This mandala is not an effort at denial; that’s not what transcendence is. It is a way of maintaining our centers in the midst of it.
That is the gift of mandala. It draws you deep into its (and your) transcendent center and then propels you out from it into the world beyond its borders. Without this spiritual anchor, the world I’m currently living in can feel too overwhelming to cope with. With it, I’m able to rest within the quiet of its core and then get out there to make those calls, write those letters, attend those vigils and scrawl a sign I never dreamed I’d need to make: KKK IS NOT OK.
The headlines opined: “Trump v. Nixon- No Comparison.” Of course, everyone has been making the comparison, with the Russia scandal so front and center in the headlines and the growing fear that our entire Constitutional system is under attack. I remember the day Nixon resigned. I was watching TV with some friends of a friend in Paris. Reading the subtitles as President Nixon made his much-heralded announcement, one of them asked me, “Why would Americans force Nixon to step down? He was a respected diplomat. He ended the Vietnam war and opened China. He founded the E.P.A. and enforced the desegregation of schools. He was a good president.”
“But he was a liar and a cheat,” I responded.
The French speaker looked at me incredulously. “You Americans are so naive. Do you really expect politicians to be honest?”
The answer back then was yes. It still is.
As much as I am opposed to Trump’s politics and the rise of red state conservatism in America, I am far more troubled by the loss of our Enlightenment ideals- those powerful (and often conflicting) beliefs that have been the hallmark of American political rhetoric for almost two hundred fifty years: freedom, equality, democracy, individualism, hard work and the optimism that comes from a belief in progress and perfectability. Perhaps these were never actually the basis for American politics. My daughter’s Turkish boyfriend certainly scoffed at that claim. Perhaps they’ve always just been rationalizations for brute aggression and capitalist greed, and Trump is just claiming our true national birthright.
But how I hope that’s not the case. How I pray that there is still a place for a constitutional government based on these ideals and that our congressional leaders will find the courage to stand up to this President and reclaim the moral leadership that has.
This week’s Transforming Trump mandala makes use of the star of life, the paramedics’ symbol for emergency medicine. Our medical system is so clearly on life support and in desperate need of a transplant. I hope and I pray that those in power can find some way to bridge their differences and work together in the interest of our hurting nation- the same hope and prayer that people everywhere have echoed for millennia. The Flower of Life (and the promise of my faith) is that this reconciliation has already happened, if only we can open ourselves to it.
As I cut out the headlines and arrange them on a 12 x 12 inch wood block, my blood pressure starts to rise and I am overwhelmed by a sense of fear and futility. Then I paint over them a thin layer of white acrylic paint, just enough to let the headlines fade into the background. I feel myself begin to relax. I take out the compass and draw the first flower of life and my own consciousness is transformed. Slowly I come to the acceptance that all that is happening is necessary to bring both me and my country to the next stage of what we are becoming. It’s my job to both speak my truth and release my insistence that it is the only one.
Almost all physical evidence of the medieval Cathars has been erased, systematically destroyed by the Roman Church. What remains are a carving here, a button or an old coin there to suggest that the Cathars knew full well the healing power of mandalas.
Arthur Guirdham was a British psychiatrist who treated several clients who believed themselves to be the reincarnated souls of Cathar perfects. In his book The Great Heresy, he wrote that “Seven centuries ago the Cathars used [completing mandalas] to give insight into the nature and potentialities of those wished to be Parfaits,” both to weed out those with healing potential and to discern there particular aptitudes.
In Elmina’s Fire, the Signora Bonata introduces Elmina and her sisters to the Flower of Life as part of their journey on the path to perfection”. This is how I imagine it taking place:
“Can you teach us to drawn a Flor de la Vida like the one carved on Magdalena’s loom?” asked Amelha.
“Of course I can. It’s very easy,” the signora replied. She picked up a piece of charcoal and tied a length of twine to it. She instructed Amelha, “Just put your finger on the twine and hold it fast. Now move the charcoal around it.”
Amelha drew a perfect circle on the table and my heart tightened in envy.
“Next place the end of your twine on any part of the circle. Hold it fast and then draw another circle.” Amelha did as she was told.
“Do you see where the circles intersect? Place the twine at one of those intersections ad draw another circle, and then another until you have made a flower,” continued Na Bonata.
“This is the seed in which all things find their being,” she said.
I wondered what she meant, but she went on. “God’s kingdom is like an everlasting circle. Right here in its center is the divine heart. Each circle is the love of God, sent out in all directions. Look at the petals formed when the circles meet. They make a rose of purest perfection, the rose each one of you can be.
“Now watch,” Bonata said. She took the charcoal from Amelha and added more circles to the the drawing.
As I looked down upon the Flor, I thought that I could feel its energy moving within me. “The roses could go on forever,” I commented.
“Indeed they do,” replied the signora. “They are your souls, all roses and all held within the fullness of God’s love. Do not forget this Flor. Thinking upon it can give you great healing in the most trying of times.”
We are all on the verge of something new, and the lengthening days remind us of the coming of spring despite the snow an ice. In the Mandala Great Round, that’s Stage 3, the build-up of energy that precedes any new endeavor. There’s a sense of antsy anticipation, of being propelled toward the unknown. We may want to rush into it. We may want to put on the brakes for a while. We may want to turn tail and run. But life generally doesn’t give us those options. And so we rest for a while in this place of expectancy.
In this mandala each knot in the string represents a moment in my life when I was on the verge of something new. It was fun to look back on those moments. I remember going to coffee with Peter after a meeting we’d both attended with no clue it would lead to a life together. I remember seeing an add in the Portland Herald for Bangor Theological Seminary and wishing I were the kind of person who could just leave teaching and go study theology. I remember hosting the Masicic family sponsored by my church; it led to sharing our home with more families and finally to starting Melita Welcome House. I remember stepping outside my office to find five cocker spaniel puppies playing in grass taller than they were; one was Abbie! The list keeps going. And those last two knots that approach the center? Those are for whatever is next.
Suzanne Fincher describes Stage 2 as the “hot tub of the mandala Great Round.” It is a stage of respite and renewal from which the potential for new life emerges.
Here’s a mandala exercise to try, combining a technique learned from Julie Gibbons’ Mandala Magic course and round stickers. Cut a circle from water color paper and place random stickers on it. Create a marbled mandala by floating ink on a bed of shaving foam and using a chopstick to swirl it around. Press your mandala into the paint and then wipe off all the excess foam. (Beware: this can be pretty messy!)
When your mandala is dry you can remove the stickers. Now you’re ready to make a Mandala of Possibilities. Close your eyes and recognize that your next breath ushers in a whole realm of possibilities- everything from “I could eat a piece of dark chocolate” to “I could write the first line of my next novel.” Breathe into the possibilities present in your life at this moment. In each circle write down one thing that comes to your mind. Don’t censor yourself! Write anything that occurs to you.
I’m taking a Julie Gibbons’ on-line Mandala Magic class and an assignment this month was to explore the symbols that re-appear in your journeying, dreams and/or artwork.
Try this! It’s really interesting what emerges. Ask the question and then breathe into a meditative space. When I did it the first images I got were my animals, the ones that in stuffed form live on the mantel over the old fireplace in my bedroom. There’s Horse who I sleep with when I’m feeling upset or scared. (Horse has been getting a lot of bed time this past month!) There’s Zebra who takes me into the dreamworld. And there’s bedraggled Fox who opens his mouth when my ego is feeling especially vocal.
After the animals came the symbols that appear most often in my mandalas. The flower of life forms the grid for much of my mandala work in the same way it forms the energetic grid in which we live. My work often incorporates the spiral that shapes our life cycle. The Tao grounds me in the assurance that even when things seem hopelessly polarized, the yang cannot sustain itself without its yin counterpart. The knot of infinity somehow grounds me. And I discovered a long time ago that even though my spirituality takes me to a wide range of places, it always brings me back to the cross.
After journaling with these symbols, I thought I’d see if I could incorporate all of them into one mandala.