Joseph Anderson

Notes Leading to a Mandala

This post is a bit of a ramble but there is an important Soul Cartography nugget a bit further down…

My senses have been opened up: I was a joyful participant in two deeply moving events yesterday. First was my wife Victoria’s heartful and intelligent lecture on Japanese aesthetics at the Seattle Japanese Garden. Then in the afternoon I sang with the Phinney Neighborhood Chorus in a memorial concert: music and poetry for those who are grieving. All kinds of moving music in many different styles, including this from “Hallelujah” by MaMuse:

I’m going to let myself be lifted by and by
I will lay my troubles down by the water
Where the river will never run dry

It’s spring: I’m writing this sitting on my deck in the sun listening to the birds and feeling blessed by each moment of consciousness that I’m privileged to experience in this brief sojourn.

And continuing my reading of difficult Modernist poetry. It’s not as crazy as it might seem: what Ezra Pound in particular is doing for me is sharpening my awareness in a way that feels wholly consonant with the blissful opening that life is bringing me. The poetry (the Cantos right now) leaps and jumps between topics with jarring abruptness and is full of obscure allusions. And what is that but a corollary to the activity of my own mind? Sitting here in the sun contemplating family health issues and my own increasingly wrinkled hands, the cracked teacups of Japanese ceremony and the gospel-tinged lines of the song above, the cool air and warm sun against my so-vulnerable body – I am not claiming facility with the technique, but it’s the awareness that matters. And Pound trains my awareness, not so much to enter his world but rather to enter my own more deeply.

To enter my own world more deeply: that’s what I want, and that’s what I want to teach others to do too. So Soul Cartography takes another turn, once again a necessary one, from last week’s exercise of mapping the throughline of life to finding centeredness within the potency of our experience. In our last session this week I will be asking you to consider surrounding yourself with the sacredness of your life, to reach into the storehouse of what has nurtured you and build a mandala, a sacred circle, around yourself. In the course of time you may want to look for ways to sustain and build this sense of sacredness (in the way you see fit, that only you can discover – although I would love to help you with that!) day by day through practice and the cultivation of useful habits. For now we are going to play with the possibilities of construction.

Pound called his work “a rag-bag to stuff all [his] thought in.” I am proposing that we all can and perhaps need to do the same. For me anyway, and probably for many of us, a little more structure is helpful, at least provisionally. Hence our focus on the mandala as a framework. From there we can each discover what we need to build.