Mandala People

Mandala 1November, it seems to me, is something of a forgotten month.

Not that it means to be, of course. Here in the Great Southern Land, November kicks off in style and ceremony, with all the pageantry (and absurdity) associated with the Race That Stops the Nation.   But once the Melbourne Cup has been run, all the celebratory elements somehow disperse, disappearing into the seven week slog towards the summer holidays and Christmas.

November, however, is not a month to be underestimated.

I have learned this, the hard way, in years gone by — and that’s why it seemed apt to made Blue Jai’s Word of the Month for November the most challenging I’ve selected all year: INTEGRATE.

Because it’s time, people.

It’s time to put all the pieces together.

At the year’s outset I wished my nearest and dearest (and anyone who happened to stumble across this small patch of cyberspace I call my own) strength and ease. And as time went one, we explored a different theme together each month, focusing on a specific concept. I invited you to connect and reimagine. To set your intention and find momentum. To seek alignment and focus. To know and understand your habits. To appreciate the value of honesty and perseverance.

Now don’t panic…I’m not about to start spouting stuff about “journeys” or “spiritual awakening” or “discovering your destiny”.

And please — feel free to insert an eye roll or three here. Seriously.

Mandala 3If you’ve read any of my posts during the year, you’ll know that’s not really my style.  Life is far too full of unexpected twists and turns (of both the totally awesome and not-so-crash-hot variety) for me to seek refuge in fluff and bunkum.

That said, nothing’s going to stop me from having the temerity to add the Mandala as a Symbol of the Month for November.

The mandala, despite its recent and frequent appearance between the pages of apparently calming colouring books, is an ancient symbol with its roots in Buddhism.  For Buddhists, the mandala represents nothing less than the whole universe — and if you’ve ever seen Tibetan monks creating a sand mandala, you will know how well this symbol fits with the concept of integration. It is incredibly beautiful (not to mention meditative and downright humbling) to watch as the monks use grains of coloured sand to form intricate patterns and pictures, working harmoniously together and producing a single unified whole out of many intricate and interconnected pieces.

Mandala 5If you haven’t had the privilege to see a sand mandala being made, you can watch one being created here. For me, it’s almost like watching a life unfold, which is why I believe it to be such an appropriate symbol for integration: it’s what we do, all our lives.  We take the pieces we have within our reach and we arrange and rearrange them until they fit in a way that looks and feels right for us.

In Jungian psychology, dreaming of a mandala represents the dreamer’s search for completeness and unity — those important, intangible things we are all searching for. We are all familiar with the niggling sensation when the pieces aren’t quite fitting together properly, or that the colours are somehow clashing. But we also know the feeling — the utterly glorious feeling — when they do fit, perfectly, and the colours seem to sing.

We are Mandala People.

All of us.

Anyone who is running a business or raising a family or generally trying to succeed in life is a Mandala Person. We are all trying to bring together — to integrate — all the separate parts of our existence and striving. We are all working on our own internal mandalas, making the picture as whole and complete as we can.

mandala 4It’s worth remembering, at this point, that the word integration comes from the Latin word integrus, meaning renew or restore. Each day is an opportunity to renew our commitment to bring all the pieces together, to restore our faith in the knowledge that every last grain of sand we add to our own internal mandalas counts.

Each day is a new beginning until, of course, we reach the end of our days. And once again, the sand mandala provides us with an exquisite reminder of our own impermanence: in the Buddhist tradition, as soon as the final grains of sand are added to complete the mandala, a lama takes his dorje and runs it through the sand. The bright colours fade into grey, resembling ashes or dust, and the sand is swept into an urn. The sand is then poured into running water, so that the healing powers generated by the mandala’s creation flow on and are extended to the whole world, so that it may be re-energised and healed.

Each grain of sand ultimately becomes part of something much larger, just as we are all small — but important, and individual — parts of a much larger whole.

So this month, and every month, I invite you to embrace the spirit of integration. Know that you, like everyone else, are a work in progress. That the only person who knows how the pieces really fit together for you, is you. That it’s perfectly fine to take your time — indeed, to take a lifetime — with the process of putting it all together. That every day is an opportunity to restore and renew.

We are Mandala People.

Mandala 6

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Welcome to Gotham

“Gotham” by Justin Van Genderen…travel art for the descent into madness…

Some days, being a parent is fun — it’s an absolute breeze. Everything runs smoothly and everyone is happy. But other days, it’s like a slow slide into madness, Gotham style.

Those of you know me will understand that I am usually far more partial to the Marvel Universe than I am to the world of DC Comics, but on those days (yes, you know the ones) there is something about Gotham and its seedy underworld of crazed criminals that I can relate to. Those are the days when I feel like a disillusioned lawman, struggling to bring order to a city intent on dragging itself down into madness. The days when you either channel your inner Detective Jim Gordon or risk winding up in the crumbling confines of Arkham Asylum.

I’m not sure whether I’m making this (massively tenuous) connection because I have just binged on Season One of Gotham on Netflix or because in this part of the world we’re halfway through the final term of school — both possibilities are equally likely.

It’s just that time of year. Term Four. The kids, despite their best efforts, are beginning to get…ratty (I’m trying to be nice, here). And I, despite my best intentions, am certainly not being the model of a rational, reasonable mother I aspire to be. Everyone is a bit tired, a little strung out, and a tad more likely to snap. To answer back. To yell, instead of taking a single, soul-saving breath.

Oh, the backchat...Marvel Girl is currently obsessed by penguins, but I'm glad she hasn't come up against THE Penguin yet...

Oh, the backchat…Marvel Girl is currently obsessed by penguins, but I’m glad she hasn’t discovered THE Penguin yet…

I’m not sure why I always find it surprising that at this time of year simple things — like buckling car seatbelts, for instance — seem to become inordinately difficult for my children. That everyday activities like locating a hairbrush or two matching shoes of a morning, or washing a stack of lunch boxes each afternoon, suddenly leave me teetering on the edge of insanity.

It’s not like November creeps up on us or anything: it’s there on the calendar, in the same place, every year. I have nothing against November, nothing at all. I love that the jacarandas are out, that summer is on its way. But it’s not quite December, is it? The finish line is just out of sight. Sometimes it feels like November is the month when they ring the bell to remind you there’s still another lap to run…

Regroup, re-caffeinate...

Regroup, re-caffeinate…

Next year, perhaps, I will put a big circle around November 1 on my calendar to remind me that it’s time to regroup. To return to my First Principles. To restock my caffeine and chocolate stashes. To remember that while I may be fluent in both profanity and sarcasm, neither represents my best self linguistically.

I would also do well to recall some of the lessons learned from Gotham, particularly those that the young Jim Gordon imparts to the even younger Bruce Wayne, long before one was appointed Commissioner of the Gotham City Police Department and the other became Batman. Of the importance of honesty. Of doing what is right, rather than what is easy. Of treating people, including my family — no, especially my family — with respect.

Everyone has to matter...

Everyone has to matter…

As Jim Gordon says, “Everyone has to matter, or nobody matters”.

We all have Gotham days, all of us. And for every one of us, Gotham looks and feels slightly different. We’ve all experienced times when we’ve shouted at our kids instead of holding them close, when we’ve lost it over something trifling and insignificant that we look back on with almost instant mortification and remorse. But it’s also important to remember that we’re not alone, even when it feels like the descent into chaos is only a step away.

Everyone matters.

Even on Gotham days. Especially on Gotham Days.

And that includes the person who feels like they’re sliding slowly into insanity.

There will be light...

There will be light…

Yesterday, as you might have guessed, I had a Gotham day. I’m not proud of it, or of the way I behaved. But today, I’m doing better. I’ve apologised to my family for yesterday’s yelling and unnecessarily sardonic remarks. I’ve sent up my bat signal, I’ve made my mental phone call to the GCPD. I’ve had a coffee (definitely not decaf).

And, instead of checking myself into Arkham, I’ve embraced the insanity and set up plastic dinosaurs in a potted plant in the bathroom for my girls to discover when they come home.

I’m looking forward to their laughter.

And the light? Well, I’m looking at that already.