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03 January 2007 @ 02:25 pm
Happy Birthday, Skylar! & Mandala madness, part 2  
Happy Birthday to you, Skylar. Can you really by 24 already? I wish you a wonderful, wonderful day, and the best year yet.

Back to mandalas...
In another book I have, Coloring Mandalas by Suzanne Fincher, the author, a Jungian psychotherapist, describes “The Great Round of the Psyche,” a cycle of twelve stages that we pass through many times in our lives, at all levels of our being – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Each of the twelve stages represents a variation on the connection between the ego and Self, the latter of which can be understood as “the very core of the personality, not directly accessible to consciousness” and lying at “the true center of the psyche.” The Self “transcends the personal” and represents “a spark of the life force that dwells everywhere in all things.” So each of the phrases of the Great Round represents different levels of connection between our personal experience and that which surpasses that experience, infinite and mysterious and common to all of us. I think of the Self as the thing I’m always looking for that is there all the time. T. S. Eliot had a much better way of expressing this:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
(from “Little Gidding” in Four Quartets)

At any rate...

Fincher describes Phrase 2 of The Great Round as Bliss:

“The state of mind is dreamy, drowsy. It has been found that creative persons return to this stage often between periods of productivity, to rest and receive inspiration from the unconscious.” 

One of the stage 2 mandalas featured in the book for coloring depicts a large circle filled with five-pointed stars and also surrounded by two or three uneven layers of five-pointed stars. The caption reads, “The sky is filled with stars and your life is full of opportunities. You will be shaped by your choices. It is hard to focus on only one, but that is the challenge of stage 2, Bliss.”

When I read that, I felt a curious relief at knowing that a state of mind that I pass through from time to time is recognized as a natural, rather commonplace psychological stage. At certain times of the year, I feel so full of creative ideas and intrigued by different spheres of knowledge I’d like to pursue that I find myself slogging through a sort of distressing inability to settle down mentally and focus on any one activity at a time. Each creative pursuit sparks intense desire to pursue two or three more, such that I find it difficult to feel calm enough to apply myself to any one thing. I do, of course, but I tend not to feel happy. Meditation feels very difficult during these times; my energy feels erratic and I feel burdened by a general sense of too much, too much, too much. When I was younger, I used to experience these phases in the dreamy way that Fincher describes; my youth made everything seem possible, if not immediately, somehow eventually. At my current age (51), these moods inspire more jumpiness than dreaminess. My future doesn’t feel so open-ended anymore, at least not as open-ended as it did when I was 21.

Here is another mandala-like poem, one that brings me great comfort each time I read it. I love the way Kunitz undresses the craft of poetry. Glorious imagery usually requires a great deal of unglorious labor to reach its fullest expression.
The Round
   by Stanley Kunitz 
Light splashed this morning
on the shell-pink anemones
swaying on their tall stems;
down blue-spiked veronica
light flowed in rivulets
over the humps of the honeybees;
this morning I saw light kiss
the silk of the roses
in their second flowering,
my late bloomers
flushed with their brandy.
A curious gladness shook me.
So I have shut the doors of my house,
so I have trudged downstairs to my cell,
so I am sitting in semi-dark
hunched over my desk
with nothing for a view
to tempt me
but a bloated compost heap,
steamy old stinkpile,
under my window;
and I pick my notebook up
and I start to read aloud
the still-wet words I scribbled
on the blotted page:
"Light splashed . . ."

I can scarcely wait till tomorrow
when a new life begins for me,
as it does each day,
as it does each day.  
Current Location: my study
Current Mood: thankfulthankful