In the last eight articles we have looked at themes related to significance and focus, finding what matters most. Revisiting these articles will help you re-explore the territories where we have been, and see also how they fit together. These selections also correspond to the primary eight categories covered in the series, so this review provides an overview of one trip around the wheel, and also reflects the amazing range of topics possible to address with the Mandala Chart.
The images are assembled in the Mandala shown here, referenced from the articles and downloads below. In the conventional Mandala fashion, they are marked A (bottom center), B (left center), C (top center), D (right center), E (bottom left), F (top left), G (top right), F (bottom right).
Here are a few notes to set your thoughts in motion. For easy reference, and to trigger new insights, download the Mandala Charts and review the original articles from each of the links below.
A FLEXIBLE MINDSCAPE (From Flexible Focus #67: A-Chart vs B-Chart)
The history of civilization is filled with fascinating examples of people who were unable to see or appreciate new points of view.
In this series we have introduced two levels of focus for the Mandala Chart, the 9 frame A-Chart 3X3 Matrix and the 64 frame B-Chart 8X8 Matrix, developed by Matsumura Yasuo, the founder of the Mandala Chart Method. You might compare them to two different levels of magnification in a telescope or a microscope, where the shift of focus instantly transports you to a new world. Only in this case the same lens can take you to either the microscopic or the telescopic view, in any mindscape you can imagine.
Moreover, like the longitude and latitude lines we impose on the earth for navigation, the Chart can help you get your bearings and understand the relationship of the parts to the whole. Without this you are like a mariner set adrift at sea without compass, map, or sextant. No wonder so many people are lost in life.
The difference with the Mandala Chart is that instead of a GPS (Global Positioning System), it serves as an LPS (Life Positioning System).
ONGOING RENEWAL (From Flexible Focus #68: The Principle of Improvisation)
The juggler maintains control by letting go. The only way to maintain the juggling pattern, or any other improvisation, is to continually catch and release.
The 8th Principle of the Mandala Chart is the Principle of Improvisation. This is the spirit of continuous improvement, the promise of ongoing renewal. Everyone encounters obstacles in life. How you face and overcome them is the key to your character, and ultimately to what you experience in life.
Why do people resist change, when it is the only constant in life? One reason is the fear of loss of control, even though the degree of control itself is dubious from the start. The Mandala Chart reminds us that our world is complexly constructed, and that it appears very differently depending on how we frame it. So many factors are beyond our direct control that the only real control that we may have is in how we look at and engage with it.
Rather than wrestling with things over which you have little or no control, why not master your mind through the Mandala?
THE ROYAL ROAD TO ENJOYMENT (From Flexible Focus #69: The 8 Frames of Life—Leisure)
Another way to view the frame of Leisure is not as a separate compartment, but as an element of each and every frame.
Children laugh between 300~400 times a day, whereas in adults the number drops to less than 20. What happened to them?!
According to Dr. Madan Kataria, Founder of the Laughter Yoga Movement, adults need a reason to laugh, whereas children laugh for laughter’s sake, as the sun shines and water flows. One characteristic of children’s laughter is that it always come with active play. Perhaps adults laugh little because by comparison they are relatively sedentary.
In Aikido training we frequently laugh as we throw and and are thrown on the mat. The humor is not like slapstick comedy, as when somebody slips on a banana peel. Nor is from an intellectual play on words, nor a twist in an improbable situation, nor is it disrespectful. The laughter in Aikido is similar to the laughter of child’s play. It simply can’t be helped.
Find something that you can engage with in such a way that it makes you laugh! In Japanese this kind of activity is known as a shumi （趣味）often translated as a hobby or pastime, but the etymology of the characters (走 (run) + 取 (take) = to go towards. 味 = to taste) show it to mean a joyful pursuit. To run after, to taste, and to enjoy!
Laughter is at the core of Leisure, the 8th Frame of Life in the Mandala Chart. No matter how much money you spend on leisure, without laughter it is all a grim business. Store bought pleasure doesn’t dig as deep, or last as long as the enjoyment that wells up from inside. Leisure should be rejuvenating, invigorating, delighting, yet when forced it can be draining, damaging, debauching.
Leisure is not just for weekends and holiday vacations. It is something that you can enjoy all year round, even as you work, if you approach it with the right spirit, that of enjoying what you do. Perhaps the 8th category could be renamed Laughter, the royal road to enjoyment.
SWIM UPSTREAM (From Flexible Focus #70: The Carp of Creativity)
In time the resistance you felt in front of you seems to be replaced by a counter current pushing from behind which drives you forward and keeps you in creative flow.
If you have ever been in Japan in early May then you will remember how the landscape is covered with carp streamer kites (koinobori), suspended on high poles and streaming in the wind. These are to celebrate Children’s Day (Boy’s Day) on May 5th, and are flown in hopes that boys will grow up strong and healthy. This national holiday follows the Girl’s Day Japanese Doll Festival on March 3rd. The symbolism of the koinobori is based on the legend that the carp swims against the stream, climbs a waterfall, and becomes a dragon. It is a powerful picture of the power of swimming against the stream, the very opposite of going with the flow.
Author Steven Pressfield wrote a book called The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, which describes a process by which writers, artists, musicians, and anyone engaged in a creative endeavor can overcome the internal and external resistance which comes of swimming upstream to create something new. In some ways, the stream acts and filters out all of those who lack the resolve to press through and create something new. After all, it is much easier to simply allow yourself to be swept along with whatever else goes downstream. As Pressfield says, it takes a special mindset to overcome resistance and achieve the unlived life within.
You need something other than sheer will power to help you navigate against the stream. You need fins and a strong tail to weave your way against the current and overcome gravity. When it comes to publishing and presenting, the Mandala Chart can give you an added advantage in this process.
ANATOMY OF A FAN (From Flexible Focus #71: The 3rd Mandala Chart Festival 2011)
The vision for the future is to make the Mandala Chart Method widely available in analog and digital form, so that people may practice and benefit from it wherever they be.
The 3rd Annual MANDALA CHART FESTIVAL was held in Tokyo on Saturday 24 November 2011. With over 100 attendees, participants enjoyed presentations, recognition of contest winners, a experts panel discussion, introduction of new Mandala products, and a party to meet and make new friends. The Festival Keynote was delivered by the founder of the Mandala Chart method, Matsumura Yasuo, with presentation from one of the directors of the Mandala Chart Association, a presentation on how to study Peter Drucker’s philosophy with the Mandala Chart, as well as celebration of success stories using the Mandala Chart method.
This was the 3rd year for the festival to be held, and it was with some reservations with the mood in the wake of the March 11 Earthquake and Tsunami disaster. However, the Association decided to hold the festival because of the importance of Mandala Chart education and applications to Japanese society, and to support those who are already dedicated to its practice.
Participants each received a full color copy of the 41 Mandala Chart Contest entries, from which 13 prizes were awarded for excellence and originality, as well as for effectiveness in applications ranging from business management to personal growth. Each entry was in the form of an A-Chart or a B-Chart, featured on the right hand page opposite an explanation of the Chart on the facing page. The explanation itself was in the format of an A-Chart, with the Theme in the center, surrounded by A) Profile, B) Overview, C) Application, D) Benefits, E) Recommended for, F) Why now?, G) Future Projects, and H) In a Word.
Serving as one of the directors of the Mandala Chart Association, I also made an entry in Japanese, the English translation of which appeared in an earlier article in this series, Flexible Focus #63: SAMURAI WALK.
RITUAL ENHANCES ENGAGEMENT (From Flexible Focus #73: The Power of Ritual!)
The coolest thing that I have discovered about ritual is that the more you engage with it, the more it transforms from a routine into a journey of discovery.
There is an energy crisis that rarely makes the front page, yet affects you each and every day. That is the internal energy crisis that comes from lack of full engagement in what you do.
Energy is a combination of spirit and vigor, which determines how much you enjoy your work, contributes to your staying power, and improves your performance. The crisis occurs when you do not have enough energy to meet and surpass expectations.
If your energy is not up to the task, then you are likely to perform poorly or put it off until later, neither way a productive strategy. Continuing to work like this will lead to burnout, or put you in the cue for the exit door.
If you feel out of synch like this, it is easy to blame the boss, complain about your colleagues, or decide that you deserve better. And perhaps you do. The problem is that entitlement has never been a ticket to empowerment.
The superior strategy is to navigate with full engagement, because its energy empowers you to enjoy and accomplish more, and actually increases your options on the path.
One of the most useful ways to generate energy is the power of ritual, developing a personal power routine. Institutionalized ritual is nothing new. It has been practiced for centuries as a means of cultivating energy in groups. It has also proved effective in enhancing performance in sports, and many top athletes stick to their rituals religiously.
FROM METHOD TO MASTERY (From Flexible Focus #74: Ritual Empowerment)
Without practice you will end up with more froth than finish. This applies as much in life as it does in the dojo.
One of the purposes of ritual is to develop personal power, to make yourself strong first, so that you can then go out and help others become strong.
People often confuse ritual with routine, when in fact they are nearly opposite. Routines dull your senses and crush your spirit, whereas when practiced properly rituals can renew your mind and body.
An essential way to discover something new is to visit the same place.
This was known by Confucius (206 BC~220 AD), and immortalized in his proverb,
Discover something new in the old (温故知新 onko chishin).
It was also known by Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who lived around 500 BC, and who famously wrote,
You can not step into the same river twice.
People who don’t have a personal power ritual often ask, how can you keep doing the same thing, over and over again? But is a game of golf ever the same? Doesn’t the artist see ordinary things with a fresh eye?
Similarly, training in martial arts or calligraphy is never boring, or you are there for the wrong reasons.After you have captured and secured something of value for yourself, you can do even better by sharing your knowledge with others.Blog about it on your platform. Share it on Social Media. It has never been easier.
The important thing to remember is that understanding does not equal recall. Remind yourself that “I understand means I can do!”
A takeaway is a breakaway from the habit of forgetting to apply what you have learned. What happens to this knowledge if you don’t capture or share it? Try writing on water and see how long the impression lasts.
ENOUGH FOR EVERYBODY (From Flexible Focus #75: Tofu Wars and the Art of Abundance)
It may take a stretch of the imagination to connect melodious beans to abundance, wealth, and richness, but it is a happy image, and abundance is different from the scarcity mentality which leads to winner-takes-all competition.
The interesting thing about scarcity is that it surfaces the underlying mentality that was there all the time. Scarcity can bring out patience and the spirit of community, as it did following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that shook Japan at the roots; or it can trigger riots and panic in the spirit of every man for himself.
This is not something that you cultivate at the last minute, but rather the result of the culture, or the cultivation that precedes the occurrence. It is in fact the fruits of the underlying mentality, not the outward conditions that we see. Abundance vs Scarcity. Enough for everybody, or get yours while you can.
We see this played out in the world’s economies. It is precisely the scarcity mentality which causes even the very wealthy to play a stingy and greedy game. And it is also the abundance mentality which enables truly wealthy people to be generous and leave a legacy that helps others. The former suffer from tunnel vision (either/or), while the latter see the world in full surround (both/and). A broad field of vision is characteristic of flexible focus, and is the best way we can be open to creative solutions that help everyone, rather than just the self-serving.
Use the Mandala Chart to open your mind to the mentality of abundance, and demonstrate what you know through what you do.
NOTE: The articles in the Flexible Focus series are updated with graphics, links, and attachments on the FLEXIBLE FOCUS Webbrain, a dynamic and navigable map of the entire series. It has a searchable visual index, and is updated each week as the series develops.
FINI: This article completes the Art of Flexible Focus Series. However, this is not the end! I am planning in November 2011 to release an adapted and abridged version of this series in book form, both Kindle and print editions. If you would like information on how to obtain this book, please contact me by e-mail, with the words ZOOM LENS FOR YOUR LIFE in the subject line.
We thank you for your support and dedicated readership!
—William Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.