When the Student is Ready; the Teacher Arrives

Chris Flisher

Boston, MA

We are all travelers with tales to tell. Some of us have had good fortune and some have had bad. What is important is that we evolve and expand in some manner as we make that journey. Whether it is emotional depth we gain, or intellectual vision, or the lightness of simply being, the results are a composite of our impressions and lessons. How we use the knowledge of our journey is the true gift, for in that we share. Sharing is a gift and the gift is returned from whence it came. Round and round. We learn. We expand. We reflect. We give.

I came to the Mandala as an art form after a very long and particularly harrowing time in my life. My wife and partner of 24 years and the mother of my three sons had passed away after a long and debilitating fight with brain cancer. She was a healthy intelligent woman of 48 and was taken by a brain tumor in her prime. Needless to say, facing such an ordeal and the path of destruction left in its wake was daunting. I often wondered how I would fill the gap left by her untimely passing? How do I go on without her? How do I explain death to my sons? How do I raise three boys and work? How do I cope alone? On and on, the questions came. They flew through my brain like wind-driven sleet, stinging each time I recalled my daily reality. In the beginning, I felt as if I was in a perpetual storm. The clouds never parted; the sleet never abated.

In the aftermath of this episode, I actively sought any and all forms of help. I meditated, I exercised, I journaled, I had therapy, I attended classes, I drank, I took drugs, I wrote stories, I read countless books, I took stress-reduction classes, I talked, I wept, I worked. I worked and I worked and I worked to ease the pain. It wasn’t necessarily constructive work. It was often just busy work. I cleaned out closets, re-arranged furniture, cooked, mowed the lawn constantly, played with the boys, or just drove the highway back and forth between two exits alone at night with the radio on. I did anything to distract and deaden my feelings.

During the course of my recovery I studied Buddhism. Even as a child, I had always had an interest in Eastern religion and philosophy so my curiosity was easily piqued. Through its simplicity and non-expectant approach to life and living, I came to understand so much. It was one of my saving graces. There were no answers to be found outside. There was no point looking to others to find truth. The real truth resides inside and always will. Despite my upbringing (the son of a preacher) I never understood conventional religions. I saw the value of their tenets and guidelines and I thought they were all well-intended, but the worship of idols and figures never held me. Buddhism was different because the onus rested on me. Only I could find it.

The Buddhist approach of living life without expectation was so succinctly perfect to me that it truly captured my psyche in an instant of discovery. It was an epiphany in every sense of the word. It was a flash of recognition out of the blue. With a simple shift of my perspective, I was able to see life and its outcomes much differently. I can’t quite explain why it all came together so easily for me. Perhaps I was an empty well?

Perhaps the teacher arrived because the student was ready? I do believe it was this. I was ready for real raw truth and it came to me easily.

During my epiphany, I started to see similarities and connections between several of my passions. I loved art and architecture and I drew since I was very young. I loved philosophy and deep thought and conversation. And I loved astrology. Its cyclical explanation and logic were inexplicably perfect. Despite my attempts to disprove it, I always stood corrected. Mandalas were a perfect homogenizing medium that coalesced so many of interests – spirituality, astrology, and art. My absorption was natural and even supported by my own personal astrology.

I had been familiar with Mandalas through my interest in Buddhism and world religions, but I didn’t realize at the time of my initial interest that the act of creating the mandala was as significant as the viewing. I did not put the concept of creation and self-discovery together at the time. I enjoyed color and lines and angles and I drew for countless hours when I was younger, but I did not see beyond the tangible art work. As a child and as a teenager, I spent hours working with point, line and plane, and I devoured architecture books on buildings and naval architecture.

When I was a teenager and I remembered staring at a blank white wall and seeing geometric colors in a swirl of color and shape. It was imaginary, like when you close your eyes very tight and colors and patterns begin to appear. The patterns I saw were Mandalas. That was over thirty years ago, yet those images remained in my memory somewhere. After my life changed dramatically, the Mandalas came back to visit me.

It was something about the circle that captivated my imagination. The circular form represented wholeness and maternal comfort to me. It was all-enveloping and without edge. The foundation of astrology also stood firmly on cycles and circular charting patterns. Mandalas were a natural extension and reflection of astrology and cycles. I saw the connection and the harmony between the two was immediately apparent.

I have always been absolutely entranced by astrology and its symbolic and hierarchical view of character and calling. I became hooked when I was younger. I had my first astrology chart done in 1972 by an absolute stranger. I knew my exact birth place, time, and date so the casting of the chart was easy. I gave up my information and within a few days I had the most accurate and detailed description of myself I have ever read. I was hooked and I have studied it daily for years.

The circular astrology charts; the roadmaps or the blueprints for our spiritual lives were so meaningful, so colorful, so compelling to me, that I took up the habit of drawing them by hand. The physical act of drawing an astrology chart imbues the result with a sense of connection that is immediately organic and tangible. It adds so much more depth and value to the chart.

The memory of the Mandalas and the connection with my love of astrology fell into my lap at a time when I most needed an outlet. I discovered a joy which has remained with me since. It filled me with anticipation and played on my senses like a mystery or puzzle. The friendly and vibrant colors of the palette give me hope and fill me with a sense of purpose I once thought would never exist. The power of drawing the round symmetry, the angular shapes and deep, rich colors all served to soothe my battered spirit. I found a way to pour out my pain and refill my well.

Once it clicked, I was unstoppable. I purchased a drafting table and all sorts of drawing tools. Always fascinated by stationary stores with their arrays of pens and papers, it was only a matter of time before I was freely buying rulers, angled wedges, compasses, Rapidograph pens, color markers, sharp mechanical pencils, erasers, watercolors and a variety of brushes, acrylic inks and paints. I started on used printer paper just to experiment with my new found fun. But soon I was expanding and branching out in ways I had never done before. It was as if I had been tapped on the shoulder and given this joy which can only be described as a gift. The joy and contentment they have brought to my life cannot be measured.

This work represents my labor of love and redemption. My gift has been clearly sent in the form of art. It is the tangible reflection of my interests, my purpose, and my path. I have long been a student of architecture, astrology, form, function, color, and texture. These are the tangible, touchable facets of daily life that reflect the underlying logic of the divine universal order. In that intricacy we can see that we are truly one.

These mandalas are my friends, my companions, my teachers, and my gifts. In their swirl of color and geometry I have found beauty and truth. I offer them with good intention as a messenger who points towards a much-needed shift in our collective sub-conscious. Through methodical practice, positive expansion, and continual discovery we can shift our mindset and evolve. Round and round we go, like ripples in a pond, widening with each ring.



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