Completing the Mandala with Faith
What if a mandala could begin... not with the construction of a perfect circle, but with an abundance of disorganized, yet highly symbolic shapes? What if there was no perfectly-closed container to hold them?
Although I have not studied mandalas as interpreted by Jung, I’ve seen videos of buddhist monks creating exquisitely balanced sand mandalas and then destroying them. But alas, I’ve fixated on the destruction instead of the creation. I’ve also been given mandala coloring books, but have never been able to bring myself to color them in.
Perfect geometric expressions within a perfect container have felt foreign to me, even though their beauty is undeniable. I’ve felt like an outsider looking in, but never finding a way to enter that perfectly balanced and enclosed space.
My perfect circle, my personal safe space, was broken long ago by family trauma. And while I can’t begin to understand the deeper trauma experienced by victims of genocide and war-rape, I can empathize - perhaps not a lot, but perhaps enough - and I wonder if other survivors might feel that their circle has been broken too?
What if, as we rise collectively from a field of feminine trauma, our personal mandalas need to be recreated from the centerpoint outward? What if our center post - the strength that has gotten us through - is like a star, and our healing is like rays of light? Each ray born from the center, emanating outward one at a time. As each ray spread it would form a wedge, and as the wedges multiplied and aligned they would eventually form a circle.
Our circle (and thus our healing) would not be complete until we had given birth to the final wedge. Only then would our circle be contained and our broken boundaries be restored. But what if that final wedge eludes us?
Demaris, you suggested that clinging to a center post during trauma reduces harm. And you quoted Jung as saying that love and kindness are the antithesis of evil. So if we believe that the center post that gets us through trauma is fierce burning love, then the light emitted from that source would be healing indeed. I see a center post of love as both the logical and intuitive place to begin healing. And that duality feels very mandala-like for me. So yes, maybe it’s possible to create a mandala from the center point out.
But what are the missing or elusive rays in our healing mandala star? How do we conjure and express them? And harder still, how do we come to recognize and name that final piece - the one that will bring closure? The pieces that need to be named will be different for each of us, but the process of assembling our mandalas will be fueled from the same source. The rivers of inspiration, the mix-ups, the road blocks, the resistances and synchronicities - all will be held in perfect tension by a common core. And as Bonnie suggested through her characterization of Penelope, and Demaris concurred through the words of her narrators, perhaps the most authentic expression of that common core is the archetypal centerpost of Eros, or feminine love.
I love everything about your book, Demaris, and even love how its final steps to completion/publication are proving to be so frustrating. Birthing is messy and painful! From your title “Making it Through; Bosnian Survivors Telling Stories of Truth,” to your conclusion “Making It Home,” there is such a sense of strength and hope. You’ve named your life’s purpose as “I stand for the possibility of peace.” How wonderful that now you’re harvesting the fruits of that possibility, and feeling the full creative power of setting forth with intention. And you observe that the magic in your process continues to be guided by Spirit. Yes, all of this is bigger than you and beyond your control... But it still needs to get done. (Aye, there’s the rub ;-)
Yet I believe you crave connection above completion, a wise choice, because then the power of spirit will indeed see you through. And after all, the idea completion as an ending is just an illusion. For when a container is complete it is seamlessly connected, without beginning and without end.
Your book’s epigraph by E. M. Forster expresses our common goal as women, to live in fragments no longer. And I believe that last night you shined a light on the missing wedge for my mandala star. The words came not from you, but through you. And through the images you shared on your screen….
That young man, the Bosnian survivor who introduced the Karuna Center’s therapeutic process to the word you dared not speak - Forgiveness. “Forgiveness means unburdening myself.” It makes perfect sense that that word could only be introduced by one who had borne the burden. And that quote from your narrator Sabiha - “Forgiveness opens the door for our soul.” Another way to say this might be to say that forgiveness can complete the circle.
Last night I learned from your narrators that unfathomable forgiveness is often a key element in healing. But where does this ability to forgive originate? I believe it comes from what you have called Spirit and others might call Faith. And I’ve heard it said that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but inaction...
So I’m taking action, in my small way, by accepting a sliver of Faith from the gift of your presentation. I’m holding Faith close to my heart, close to my center post of fierce love, and believing that Spirit will grow my Faith as the final wedge of light that will complete the circle of my healing mandala star. In doing so I connect with your story and hope to contribute my energy toward your book’s fruition. Completion through connection. A rounding home, not an ending.
Thank you for including us in your journey, Demaris, and for sharing your vulnerabilities and obstacles so that we too could feel less alone. I’d like to offer you one of my favorite poems in gratitude - “Faith” by David Whyte. I’ve had the privilege of working with him in a class on spoken-poetry, and he is gifted in the way he brings words to life. His words need to be heard and felt, much like yours. May the life in his words contribute to the life in yours. A blessing, as in the sacred circle of Shaheed women, blessing the innocent lives of their war-torn newborns.
“Faith” by David Whyte (02:58) Listen as he works the poem, smoothing the transitions, until he embodies it and transforms it into a song...
“I want to write about faith,
about the way the moon rises
over cold snow, night after night,
faithful even as it fades from fullness,
slowly becoming that last curving and impossible
sliver of light before the final darkness.
But I have no faith myself,
I refuse it the smallest entry.
Let this then, my small poem,
like a new moon, slender and barely open,
be the first prayer that opens me to faith.”