the iron mandala

The Iron Mandala

I had by the end of 2015 reached a difficult point in my life. I was experiencing health issues that made it difficult for me to walk, and at times had me crawling around on my hands and knees. In a conversation with a friend, she described me as at an exit point in my life journey, and as “on the fence” in regard to staying or leaving. This confirmed a feeling I’d had but hadn’t named since August. It felt somewhat like a recapitulation of the first months after my wife, Lesa, died in August of 2011. My friend pointed out that the past fifteen years had been painful, and that pain had caused me to wonder at times whether or not I wanted to stay.

Then on Feruary 1, 2016, just before waking, I saw an iron circle with eight spikes pointing toward the center, which reminded me of a mandala. I considered if it would be possible to get through without being wounded by the spikes. It reminded me of a fiery hoop from a circus act with the spikes in place of the flames.

Two days later, on my birthday, I drew the image to left, The Iron Mandala.

Here, I realized, was the entryway into what could be a continuation of my life. However, passing through would not be easy or painless.

I drew two pictures during the course of the following month that seemed to show the way ahead.

what we hope to learn 2/18/16

“What we hope to learn…” February 18, 2016

This image includes a reference to my Annular Sector Dream of June 16, 2012: I’m sitting in a chair in a class of some kind, but the room is not a formal classroom, it's an informal gathering in a home or a meeting room in an inn. The class participants are sitting in a circle, more or less. A woman sits on the floor to my left and I reach over and touch the top of her head. Her right arm rests on the seat of my chair against me. I have a feeling of connection with her, and a sense that we are participating in this class together. We are studying a shape. Two concentric arcs connected by lines (reminds me of the face of a gauge). The shape is empty (but “clear” is the word that comes to mind). She moves her arm to make some notes or draw something then places it next to me again. I have an impression of her drawing or painting something inside this shape, but my sense is this will happen later, perhaps once we are done with the class. At one point the shape seemed like a three dimensional object and we were to learn how to “fill” it.

I colored the mandorla of the vesica piscis the blues I associate with the unconscious and sacred space. Adding the radiating lines seemed to give it the shape of a seed breaking open to sprout. The arc recalls the annular sector shape from my dream. The rainbow, sky, and pearl are how the shape gets “filled.” The combination of the mandorla, the radiating lines, and the annular sector reminds me of a thistle blossom, bringing associations to Celtic cultural symbolism. I saw the rainbow stripes as ripples radiating out from the center which has been opened allowing this communication to take place—an offering out into the world. In the vesica piscis I found an image of deep partnership, two circles touching each others centers, a shared sacred space, an opening up that transcends the boundaries, the annular sector, although each end starts within the space of one of the circles it extends beyond the outline of the two overlapping circles. The rainbow arc also has a bridging function. So lifting up, but also connecting the circles in another, transcendent, way.

the spaces between 2/26/16

The Spaces Between Mandala February 26, 2016

I redrew the iron mandala image, turning it. This allowed me to consider the negative space inside the iron mandala, and the annular sector emerged as the key which opened it. One of my interpretations of the annular sector shape is that it represents a span of time, a portion of the wheel of my life, and represents the possibility of finding meaning after the death of my wife, Lesa. Around the time that she died I had a dream of a doorway that opened onto new rooms beyond a bedroom where I was in bed alone. I understood the annular sector dream as occurring in those new rooms, just beyond the doorway and to the right. So my first experience in those new rooms was a “training session” concerning how to “fill the time” that remained in my life. “What we hope to learn...” felt like a positive direction was taking hold that relates in some way to my ongoing work with drawing and writing.

I continued exploring these themes in a subsequent image.