Imagine if your view of the world was restricted to what you can see in front of your face. This was the case for much of human history. It is hard to fathom to what extent technology has changed our view of the world, giving us zoom access to the outer reaches of space, the microscopic world, cameras transcending time and space, and the web connecting our world.
What if there was a tool that acted as a zoom lens for your life? What if you could step away from the fray to see the big picture, zero in for analysis or action, without losing track of how everything is connected? The Mandala Chart is just such a tool, acting as a viewfinder with flexible focus. In all periods of history, the people with flexible focus have been able to dance circles around the rest.
The biggest room in the world…
My personal belief is that the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement. This is compatible with the philosophy of Active Garage to be always experimenting and implementing to improve. Increased access to ideas hidden in foreign languages and cultures offer opportunities for a new magnitude of improvement.
Until now, the vast majority of knowledge about the Mandala Chart and its development has been hidden from view behind the wall of the Japanese language. The purpose of this column will be to cross over that wall, and make this knowledge available for the first time in English. I have lived for much of the last 4 decades in Japan, working in my own business as an entrepreneur, in a career as an author, speaker, martial artist, and calligrapher, experiencing Japan from the inside.
We live in a fascinating reality, in which history repeats itself, and at the same time the future is unpredictable. Generations learn the same lessons under entirely different circumstances. We live in a world in which actions speak louder than words, and yet the pen is mightier than the sword. Proverbial wisdom comes in opposite pairs.
One reason for this is that the view changes depending on where you stand. Where we get into trouble is when we assume that our fixed view is absolutely right, and all other views are wrong. If wonder is the beginning of wisdom, then flexible focus is how you sustain it.
A tool for all times
The word Mandala comes from Sanskrit meaning essence of the universe. It is Hindu and Buddhist in origin, and for thousands of years has been used in Eastern religions as a means to enhance spiritual teaching and meditation. It was introduced to Japan with Esoteric Buddhism in the 8th Century by Kūkai, who studied the Mandala teaching in China, and it similarly spread to all of the cultures of East Asia.
Thanks to the work of Swiss Psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875~1961), the mandala has come to be known as symmetrical charts or geometric patterns that represents both the human subconscious and a microcosm of the universe from our perspective. Jung found mandala patterns to be fairly universal, ranging from the rose windows of the Gothic Cathedrals in Northern France, to the Navajo sand paintings of the American Southwest.
Its origins in religion, applications in psychology, and appearance as cultural archetypes are widely known. But there is one less-known evolution of the mandala in Japan, the Mandala Chart, which over the last 30 years has developed into a powerful tool for life planning, idea generation, project management, and continuous improvement.
The Mandala Chart was developed by Matsumura Yasuo, founder of Clover Management Research and of the Mandala Chart Association, who describes it as the practical framework of wisdom, without the external aspects of religion. It has evolved into a marvelous tool for flexible focus, with a popular annual Mandala Business Diary, a series of books in Japanese on its applications for life planning, eMandala Chart software, and a Mandala Chart Association to spread knowledge of its personal and professional uses.
Mastering the matrix
The Mandala Chart works like a multi-layered matrix. The word matrix means the field from which something originates or develops, and derives from the Latin word for mother. It is also connected to the word master. The matrix is the key to mastery, because it allows us to flexibly frame and reframe our world. It has been used throughout history in many forms, from the artist’s grid viewfinder for making accurate drawings; to the Golden Ratio and Rule of Thirds in photography; to navigational grids and mapping.
The frames in the Mandala Chart matrix can contain text, images, or links, each of which forms a window on the world, empowering you with greater vision and mastery of your own space and time. The fun begins as you start working with the tools and templates, and the applications are abundant.
It is no surprise that the Mandala Chart developed in Japan, a culture which has mastered the process of kaizen, or continuous improvement, almost as a way of life. The Mandala Chart is a lens through which you can see the big picture, the small detail, and the connections all at once. In future articles I will show how this works, and ways you can use it to make continuous improvements in your personal and professional life.
The Mandala Chart is a tool for applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. This series will run weekly, and in future installments we’ll explore:
- The Art of Flexible Focus―how to gain clarity and flexibility of mind
- The Framework of Wisdom―how to practice the principles of wisdom in daily life
- The 8 Frames of Life―how to gain comprehensive life/work balance
- Mandala Tools―how to give structure to your ideas and schedule your dreams
- Japanology―cool themes on ways of wisdom from Japanese culture
- Thinking Inside the Box―connecting your consciousness to the roots of creativity
- The Temple of Templates―cool templates to get you started and facilitate the process
- Art of Abundance―how to get in flow and leverage your value
For a visual preview of what is to come, download the PDF Mastering the Mandala Chart.
—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™.