A contemporary mandala

I woke up the other morning with a single image emblazoned in my mind.  It was a kind of contemporary mandala.  Mandala means ‘circle’ in Sanskrit.  It is:

  1. A geometric figure representing the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism.
  2. Such a symbol in a dream, representing the dreamer’s search for completeness (Wikipedia)

My dream mandala is a white circle, it looks like a plate, with purple interconnected animals on it, in even symmetrical lines running across the plate.  Purple on white.  I think they are horses, possibly lions.  It is such a clear image in my mind, I can still see it.  This lovely artwork by Mark Hearld gives some sense of the style of the animals, though there is way too much going on in it and the colour is wrong. 

I never dream of mandalas, and I can’t remember ever waking up with such a clear lone image in my mind, apparently unrelated to any dream that came before.  It felt important, it came up on the screen of my blank-slate mind like a flash photograph, commanding me to wake and attend.

Jung saw the mandala as “a representation of the unconscious self”, and he believed his paintings of mandalas enabled him to work towards wholeness.  

“My mandalas were cryptograms concerning the state of the self which was presented to me anew each day…I guarded them like precious pearls….It became increasingly plain to me that the mandala is the center. It is the exponent of all paths. It is the path to the center, to individuation. ”Memories, Dreams and Reflections

Dreaming of a mandala or seeing a mandala in your dreams, is often seen as a spiritual yearning. 

What could a plate with lots of interconnected purple horses mean, I wondered?  I was  surprised, intrigued and a little unsettled to receive this feedback from a friend:

‘Purple is generally seen as the color of change, because blue is the colour of light going away from you and red is the color of light coming toward you…  Horses are generally seen as representing connections in life.  Perhaps you are having some choice in this area, and you have a longing for something more.’

The mandala is a symbol from within, it is unsolicited feedback to myself from deep inside myself.  Maybe it is an echo of memories or experiences sometime in my life or beyond the boundaries of my personal life, maybe it is connected with the past that stretches beyond myself, whether personal, generational or that of humanity.  It is an enigmatic message which I can attribute rational meaning to, but I will never know.

Another friend felt that the mandala holds ‘the idea of the “return” – always coming back to the same place (to know it for the first time?)’  This takes me back to TS Eliot and my past and my deeper Self. 

The mandala is an image I can meditate on, if I can stop myself from getting caught up in trying to decipher it.  It feels like a mysterious message that has the power to unsettle a comfortable life.   It’s something I can’t ignore and yet something I can never resolve.

‘Most mandalas have an intuitive, irrational character and, through their symbolical content, exert a retroactive influence on the  unconscious. They therefore possess a “magical” significance, like icons, whose possible efficacy was never consciously felt…’ – Carl Jung, Concerning Mandala Symbolism

I feel hopeful and uplifted by this image.  Then I note it is in space, it is one-dimensional and it has no depth to it, no shadow.

Even mandalas have shadows.  And mine does too.  It augurs some promise that I can’t quite fathom, and in that promise is also a fear.  All change holds promise and fear.  Against my will I hear words read aloud, words that I did not exactly solicit but neither did I refuse them.

This is the shadow side of my mandala.  It is far more literal, definite and directive, yet I can’t read it with confidence either.

How to reconcile both sides of a mandala?

It is not possible to believe something and disbelieve it in the same moment.  Thoughts oscillate and trying to hold belief and disbelief at once is a mind-bending experience.  It creates a bodily sensation that can only be likened to feeling that one’s brain and heart are being wrenched apart – rather like a nut you are trying to prise open with a nutcracker.

We are all more than one self, and finding what Jung called our Authentic Self and liberating that Self from memories, tendencies, habits, is a lifelong goal.  It is never easy and it can be helped but also hindered by someone else’s messages from outside.  So I turn to the inside image as a compass.

I feel that my mandala has appeared to speak to me from a deeper place.   Its message may become clearer over time if I can strip my mind of its resistances and barriers, to receive it.

This entry was posted in connections, dreams, Jung, yoga. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to A contemporary mandala

  1. Thanks, Karin, for the external and internal images. As well, perhaps even more importantly, your reflections which give cause to the eternal question of reconciliation. 🙂

  2. Naini says:

    ‘The Message’

    The mandala in your dream has had quite an impact as is clear from the journey it’s taken you on – further exploration and it’s depths. You mentioned that it is not possible to ‘believe and disbelief’ something at the same time. As long as we live in a world of duality you will always find justifications and explanations both, for and against. They are the two sides of ‘truth’. Sometimes it’s easy to see and apply this, sometimes it isn’t. Speaking for myself – I have experienced it many times or shall I say I have noticed it quite often. If you gently explore your thoughts and mind, just below that ‘belief’ or ‘disbelief’ you will be surprised to find the other also exists with ‘weaker’ energy. It’s a matter of changing focus and you will find it.
    Have a go… and tell me what you find?

    As to your seeking the message(s) from the dream – the first response is usually the answer, but due to the complexities of life and the mind, it could have various points of references and could be applied to various life situations you are immersed in at present (perhaps some rooted in past).

    As humans we always want to ‘know’, however for something like this it’s hard to be ‘sure’ and ‘know’ it’s true meaning, the message… but when you do find the message you will also know it’s the right one.

  3. Thank you, Naini. I appreciate your comments. I will tell you at Easter. 🙂

  4. co-q-10 says:

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  5. Dear Karin

    Your piece feeds my soul – I love to hear about the your dream of a mandala and your ruminations on that.

    I agree with Naini that we can believe and disbelieve at the same time. When I have my house healed I am in this space. I actually enjoy having belief suspended and the lack of certainty, so there is possibility! Also I treasure my memories. Maybe there is a fragment of memory in your mandala? Re habits – I think if they have the soulful quality of ritual rather than OCDs…they can be good too!



    • Hi Amanda, thank you for this. The timing has been really helpful. My comments on memories, habits etc were somewhat influenced by study of the Yoga Sutras I have been doing. There is certainly more than a fragment of memory in my mandala and a lot of faith also.

  6. further thoughts from reading Antonio Damasio’s Consciousness book – just that without memories (eg from damage to parts of the brain including Hippocampus through a sroke) we would only have ‘core consciousness’, we wouldn’t have what Damasio calls ‘extended consciousness’ or ‘autobiographical consciousness’. How we operate in the world would then be limited because we wouldn’t recognise friends and loved ones, or anything much! Imagination would be limited if only very recent past could be recalled. A person without memories could come across as perfectly pleasant but without much of what we regard as human as emotional responses would be very basic.

    I’m sure you didn’t mean no memories at all but it’s interesting to ponder how we would be without them, regarding consciousness. I’m still dipping in and out of the book in a manner my Daughter cannot understand (she always reads from the beginning to the end!)


  7. Hi again,
    I must read Damasio, he keeps coming up. On memories, I think I was really reflecting on how memories are always influences and can be negative influences unconsciously as well as consciously. They can also be uplifting, but I was certainly reflecting on the negative power at the moment I wrote this piece and their power to restrain, for example, trust in the moment. The moment is coloured by memories. I was looking at the potential for a clear (uncoloured) moment, neither dark nor rosy. And the liberation that might achieve in that moment – not a lasting phenomenon. (Hence the link with the Sutras) However, as you say, the prospect of someone living everyday life in the world without memories might present as a pleasant persona but one with no depth and perhaps also with no empathy – quite scary. Could be a sociopath, someone who has no scruples about past behaviours as every moment is a new start….Your comments have helped me reflect on this further. 🙂

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