Lisa Miller: The Subway Car is My Mandala?

“Each Person’s life is like a mandala—a vast limitless circle. We stand in the center of our own circle, and everything we see, hear, and think, forms the mandala of our life. We enter a room, and the room is our mandala. We get on the subway, and the subway car is our mandala, down to the teenager checking messages on her i-phone, and the homeless man slumped in the corner. We go for a hike in the mountains and everything as far as we can see is our mandala: the clouds, the trees, the snow on the peaks, even the rattlesnake coiled.”

~Pema Chodron, Living Life Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change

Standing in the center of our own lives is a powerful place to be. If life is in fact a vast limitless circle, it means that not only are all our experiences meaningful and brimming with potential, it also means that our loved ones have their own mandalas to create—even if that means they must make mistakes and experience painful struggle at times.
This was, is still sometimes, a tough concept for me as a mother. I want to prevent problems before they occur especially because my acute foresight spots a snag just as it begins to unravel. And why should it have to unravel if it doesn’t have to? Unraveling is bad. Bad unraveling, bad!

I have lost many nights of sleep and found many a pizza and pint of ice cream in my fretful worrying about unraveling. There are so many people in my life for who my help, if only they would follow it exactly as directed, could be spared struggle, disappointment, anguish, a sore throat, even.

But the truth is that considering the magnitude and mystery of the grand scheme of things here, there’s no way to tell if someone else’s experience is actually an unraveling. Chances are quite good in fact that one’s perception of another’s pitfall is really an incomplete view. You can only stand in the center of your own mandala, not someone else’s. What if their struggles, disappointments, anguish and re occurrent sore throat are meant to lead them to more deeply intricate aspects of personal mandala design?

This realization could unburden many a Catholic and Jewish mother.

What’s more, Pema Chodron goes on to say, “But it’s up to you whether your life is a mandala of neurosis or a mandala of sanity.”
If I habitually lose sleep and gain pizza because of someone else’s problem, I have carefully created a new problem where none existed, and, am choosing to live it as I decide to create a life of neurosis for myself.

Phew. Well, when I put it that way…

Lisa MillerConversely and coincidentally, as I sit down to edit this article this morning—waiting for my computer to boot up—I glance at Facebook on another device and see right there in my news feed the proof that this is all true: “My happiness depends on me, so you are off the hook.”

This realization could unburden many a spouse, parent, friend, employee, parent, grocery checker, teacher, aunt, and parent.

Dear loved ones, you are officially off the hook. And, I will officially really, really try to stop worrying about you—I know I’m off the hook. See you from the center.


P.S Take your vitamins


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