Flexible Focus #22: New degrees of freedom with a digital mandala chart

by William Reed on October 7, 2010

When it comes to capturing your thoughts, do you prefer handwriting or software? Why not use both?

Handwriting is more personal, spontaneous, and aesthetically engaging, but it is more difficult to edit, harder to organize, and harder to read. Software is faster, more flexible, easy to organize and share, but it is not free, there is a learning curve in mastering the features, and it is less personal.

Of course you can maximize the benefits and overcome some of the drawbacks by combining the two approaches. For example, you can print out a Mandala Chart generated with a software program, and use it to take handwritten notes when you are away from your computer. You can scan and store your handwritten notes. You can take handwritten notes or use a keyboard, depending on your mood or physical location. It is a matter of both/and, not either/or. Analog plus digital mandala.

Software is often for early adapters, who are willing to invest a small amount of time and money to master tools which can then greatly extend their reach. As with transportation, owning a car gives you greater access and convenience, but it is not meant to replace your legs. Nothing is stopping you from using both.

The eMandala Chart for Early Adapters

The eMandala Chart is a web-based subscription software site which enables you to produce, save, share, and print A-Chart and B-Chart Mandalas. Though it is not difficult to use, there is one hurdle that makes it a bit of a challenge. Some of the menu and instructions are in Japanese.

To make it more accessible, we have created some basic English instructions which enable you to register and use the site for a trial period of 21 days. If you want to continue beyond that, the payment process online is fairly straightforward, but as some of the auto responder announcements are in Japanese, this creates a hurdle that makes the program perhaps better suited at this stage for early adapters. The advantage is that eMandala Chart enables you to produce digital Mandala Charts, and print them out as PDF files.

To access the eMandala Chart website visit: http://www.mandalachart.net

The landing page at first glance appears to be entirely in Japanese, but if you look closely in the middle of the left-hand column, you will find a link that reads, English Registration Process. Clicking here takes you through a 7-step registration process that should get you signed up for the trial period of 21 days.

If you get stuck at any part of the procedure, including trying to decipher auto responder messages in Japanese, one power user tip is to enter the web address or the text in Google Translate, and get a rough machine translation that is probably adequate for the purpose.

That is the hardest part, though it is not really so difficult. Once you are registered, there are lots of cool things you can do with the eMandala Chart.

  • Create A-Chart and B-Chart Mandalas which you can edit, rearrange with a single click, and print out as a PDF file. Of course you can enter text in English, or other languages.
  • Create your own templates, which you can use online or print out for work offline.
  • See all of your thoughts at a glance, the big picture, the small detail, and the relationships, and you can change the position of a box with one click in the upper corner.
  • Organize and file all of your Mandala Charts in one convenient place.

There is room for improvement in the program, which imposes some limitations on design and appearance.

  • The print button generates a pre-formatted Mandala Chart in PDF form, which needs to be renamed as file, and includes some Japanese wording about the software in the footer which you cannot erase.
  • You cannot choose the font or formatting for the text, and the amount of text shown is limited to a certain number of characters. In other words, if your text is long, you may have more information in your digital file than you can actually print out.
  • There is no feature for adding graphics or editing the PDF, unless you have a PDF editor such as PDFpen for Mac, CutePDF for Windows, or of course an Adobe Acrobat program.
  • The interface was designed for Japanese, and there is virtually no support available in English. It is not difficult to use, but you are on your own. However, you do have a free trial period of 21 days to make up your mind on how it works for you.

eMandala Templates

Another nice feature of the eMandala Chart is the availability of eMandala Templates, which provide content in Mandala Chart form. You can even create your own. At this point there are only two content packages available, and one of them is in Japanese. Both can be viewed and purchased at: http://www.mandalachart.net/land/, and you can download instructions on how to experience the Mandala Master Contents.

There is information on the web link too about the Nanba Diary English Version Template Set, which contains 30 Nanba Templates that you can use to engage with Nanba, the Art of Physical Finesse, including A-Charts and B-Charts that essentially provide 8 key questions a day for a month. You can download a sample here of the first one in the set, Enjoy the Mind.

Why eMandala Chart?

You might ask, why introduce a program that is not fully designed for smooth use in English? After you pass the initial hurdle, with a little patience you have access to a new vehicle for producing and sharing Mandala Charts. If you don’t want to bother, but still want to produce Mandala Charts on your computer, I offer an alternative in an earlier article in this series, Finding Focus in the Frames. However, it is worth giving the eMandala Chart a try. Unlike a simple Word or Excel file, eMandala Chart enables you to drill down and create layers of thought, with navigation links up and down. This is closer to the flexible focus experience than simply opening disconnected files in folders on your computer.

In the spirit of continuous improvement, we offer the eMandala Chart as a work in progress. The true value of the tool is how you use it to make improvements in your life, and in the lives of those around you.

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