Mandalas and CFL Systema

spituk-monastery-343034_640I could not believe they destroyed it. After all that effort!

Mandalas come from the Hindu word meaning “circle.” They, are one of the oldest art forms known and have a much deeper meaning beyond the obvious superficial beauty. In various spiritual traditions, mandalas are used for focusing attention, a spiritual teaching tool, for establishing a sacred space and as an aid to meditation.

Yesterday was the first time I watched one being created. The level of painstaking detail was well beyond what I anticipated. Each small section took hours and hours to create. Grains of sand were placed in precise positions, sometimes one at a time. Aside from the mental grind, there is a huge physical strain also. Many of the (typically Buddhist) monks spend hours on their knees or in painful positions just to get the mandala correct.

Aside from the mental grind, there is a huge physical strain also. Many of the (typically Buddhist) monks spend hours on their knees or in painful positions just to get the mandala correct.

Then after the magnificent piece of art was completed. . . . .

After the hours and hours and hours of excruciating details. . . . . .

The entire mandala is destroyed.

It is brushed way with the remains placed in something that looked like an urn and spilled into a river. The deep lesson for the monks who created this splendid art and those of us watching its sad destruction was straightforward: Nothing lasts forever. Life is imperment. Everything changes. Accept it.

This reminded me so much of our school, Central Florida Systema (as well as other Systema schools, teachers and the art itself). In the beginning some 8 years or so ago, we had a strong group of 4. None of those members stuck with the art. Some left with honor and dignity. Others provided a contrasting exit.

We rocketed our numbers to 4 times that number in a short time. A few years later, it sank only to rise again like the mighty Phoenix. In other words, it like the dazzling mandalas is impermanent. We are always changing. Never staying the same.

At times, I wanted to hold on to the numbers and some of the individuals who added so much to our Circle. It was such a pleasure to have members like Sifu Jeff, Garth, Jon W., big Mike, Carlos and Frankie Alvarez and others around. Their energy was so uplifting and our school was stronger.

Garth moved to Texas. Jon and wife had a child. Others changed jobs. The mandala changed, the sand placed into an urn and spilled into the ever-flowing river of change. Our school reflected life – constantly evolving. Constantly developing.

Tonight, I will be teaching our usual Monday Systema class. Most in the class members, with the exception of about 6,  were not around this time last year. The change has been incredible. Rejuvenating in fact yet there is still a sprinkle of strangeness to it. So much has changed, both in the group, the art and on a personal level.

So much has changed, both in the group, the art and on a personal level. I am learning to, if not always embrace it, at least not get in its way. After all, The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.

The mandala never lasts. Enjoy it while it is here.

 

 

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