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Introduction to the Tapestry of Being Mandala

Excerpts from “The Tapestry of Being: Talks on Practical Mysticism”

An Orientation in Subjectivity

Today there are an endless variety of teachings, techniques, and practices promising spiritual awakening to help us live happier, more fulfilled lives. While this is great, it can also be confusing. On what basis do we know how to choose what serves us? Without a unifying center, how does it all hang together? We want to walk our own path, but we also want to make sure we are going somewhere worthwhile.

Our awakening is just the start of a road that no one before us has traveled. We do not need another program, but instead, an orientation in subjectivity. What does this mean?

In my case, after years of working with groups of people describing their own spiritual lives unfolding, a picture came into focus. There’s a full spectrum of living that is potentially available to us, and perhaps this vision may give those who read this book a sense of what is possible to grow into, even among those who have already significantly awakened.

I began to understand this perspective intuitively long before I had words for it. The language about it emerged over time. I still feel that I have not found the perfect expression of it, but enough to begin to convey its essence.

The Tapestry orientation is the way that I came to relate to traditional spiritual understandings in a postmodern world. The foundation of this orientation developed from trying to make sense of my own direct experience and the experience of those I worked with without falling into a new dogmatism.

The Tapestry of Being is a practical approach to teachings on the subjective dimension from different sources, times and cultures, and a way to make use of them now. It is about trusting that the vast subjective inheritance of humanity is worth exploring and using, even for those of us who are not allied with a single religious tradition. A large part of why I began teaching the Tapestry is that I found that people using non-dual spiritual teachings were often using many different processes without having a perspective that held those things together in a way that made sense in their totality.

I found that many of those people, like me, did not always want to have to choose just one particular worldview. Instead, they wanted to relate to life as it revealed itself to them, and yet to honor those who came before us and to receive what they have to offer.

So, the Tapestry is one larger context in which to find your way; it is a template, or a way of approaching things, rather than a map to follow.

We Are Each a Unique Tapestry of Being

Over time, my own view and way of teaching developed. Central to this approach is the notion that the world’s traditions are our common heritage and are resources for us, regardless of which of them we find ourselves more (or less) committed to. With this foundation, it then puts your own experience front and center.

The traditions focus on perfecting specific potentials in life. I see our evolution moving toward being able to skillfully make use of all that came before us to bring forward new amalgams of transformation while appreciating and respecting the ancient sources. From this perspective, in the end, it is our own path that we walk, and all teaching is pointing to our unique situation and contribution. You weave it yourself, and your tapestry will be different from anyone else’s.

The Tapestry approach shows how to make use of the many different techniques, perspectives, and practices that are available in such a way that they deepen a singular unfolding process rather than cluttering it. At the same time, it avoids the trap of chasing certainty and allows you to open to new possibilities and ways of thinking when you are ready to. It helps you to keep your balance in the face of the unknown. I don’t know if this way of using spiritual paradigms is new. Sacred teachings employed as a means of orientation to mysteries rather than as a set of answers to mysteries may indeed be ancient, but few people have related to the traditions that way.

It seems to me that the belief that one can treat any particular system of thought or way of life as the total answer is not a very useful one. The idea that it is possible to have the instructions to life that remove the mystery (and danger) from it is not believable anymore, nor does it seem desirable. So the notion of guidance takes on a new significance today as many people consider themselves to be outside of any particular tradition, and “spiritual but not religious.” They don’t identify with being under the authority or control of any organized group with claims to have “the” truth.

 

The Tapestry Mandala

The Tapestry Mandala is a visual representation of spiritual life with each “node” on the tapestry being an area of awakened living. It sometimes happens that one part of our life is developed in isolation from, or in direct opposition to, other parts of ourselves. An example would be a reliance on our identity as Consciousness to the exclusion of human relationships. Some spiritual paths subtly encourage this, even when they don’t realize that’s what they are doing. However, the suggestions here come from the Tapestry’s inclusive, integrative view of spirituality.

Every node is distinct from every other node, but the Tapestry Mandala contains a spectrum of colors to convey the sense of continuity, showing how one dimension of the spiritual life is related to another and how they flow into each other. Also, within each node, there are shades of the next colored node on the spectrum because the distinction between the nodes is gradual and seamless. In the history of humanity, there have even been fields of study that focus on the particular shades of each color. However, I will not be making anything like a thorough listing of all that, but rather I will give the gist of each of the six stations on the Mandala with its colors on the spectrum and a description of how you can use this approach in your life.

Here are the six nodes of the Mandala:

  1. Transcendental Divine Identity

  2. Energetic Presence Identity

  3. Embodied Human Identity

  4. Embodied Human Relationship

  5. Energetic Presence Relationship

  6. Transcendental Divine Relationship  

A Process: Awakening, Embodiment, and Fire

Along with the Mandala itself, there is a particular metaphysical picture that we will explore throughout the book.

From this view, at our foundation, we are Unchanging Awareness, the Ground of Being. At the same time, each one of us also appears as an individual sentient being—a moving, changing, embodied person living in a world that seems separate from us filled with other seemingly separate beings.

The primary form of spiritual awakening that we’re pointing to here is insight and recognition into our nature as this unchanging awareness. When we awaken, we see that we have always been free from every appearance. Resting in this freedom, we may become aware of the current of feeling referred to as Shakti, energy, bliss or grace. If we are attentive to this dimension of vibration, feeling deeply into it, an integrating sense of authenticity can begin to inform our lives.

There is also the possibility to embody more of this energy and for it to overflow into a felt sense of non-separateness and one-ness with all of our experience. With this expansion, we can feel our individual sense of I-am-ness become a current that pervades all experience.

It may be helpful to remember that this feeling of connectedness does not come exclusively with the sensation of pleasurable bliss. Our process will blossom only if we are willing to meet whatever uncomfortable feelings there also may be.

As we embody more of this energy over time, the habits of the body and mind that we developed from the perspective of separateness are challenged and exposed to our now non-separate sense of experience. Rather than being buffered from the feelings that arise, we are now non-separate, yet open and available to whatever is happening inside.

The “vertical dimension” is the Consciousness that transcends personal identity, and is the context in which this transformation happens. The Transcendental Divine Identity is always already the case, without seeking or horizon. It is the baseline or the ground of everything, and in itself, it does not have any content, yet it is filled with potency for manifestation that comes forward and becomes the life lived. But in and of itself it is the formless ground of Unconditioned Awareness, untouched and unaffected by any transient phenomena.

The “horizontal dimension” is this process of your life unfolding as the embodiment of a flow of ever-changing energy and states. It is an emphatically unique and personal process. You are embodying the energies of the universe and expanding your sense of identity. Yours is a unique Tapestry of Being. You have a special song to sing, and whether grand or humble, you are here to play a part that no one else can.

What’s more is that there is no singular “you” to be, you are a continuously unfolding mystery, not a static object; in that sense this process is trans-personal. As we continue the awakened life, we see that different situations and people bring inherent qualities to fruition; the world of relationships reveals more of who we are. There is a direction to the process coming from inside you toward fuller authentic expression, and the universe appears to conspire with you in this. Who you become continues to surprise you and is ever beyond the person you previously took yourself to be. Your devotion to the Intelligence and Love that orchestrates your sojourn calls you home.

This process can be both humbling and empowering and requires compassion. You find that you are more fully present with the immensity of life,

The Nodes

12 o’clock position / Red
Transcendental Divine Identity
You Are Freedom Itself

Here you explore an ever-deepening recognition and claiming of your nature as Consciousness Itself.

At the 12:00 position, the top node of the Mandala, there is that aspect of the spiritual life that is the realization of our Timeless Nature.

This has been given many names, but it is ultimately beyond description:

∙∙ Unbounded Awareness
∙∙ The Self
∙∙ Consciousness Itself
∙∙ Spacious Awareness
∙∙ Buddha Nature
∙∙ Christ Consciousness
∙∙ The Conscious Principle
∙∙ Nature of Mind ∙∙ Intrinsic Awareness
∙∙ Unconditioned Awareness

Red is the node of spiritual awakening into our nature as the principle of Consciousness Itself, our Transcendental Divine Identity, our Conscious nature as emptiness or formless Awareness.

Consciousness Itself is never an object that is known, but is rather the underlying context and awareness of everything that arises within it. It never changes and is without apparent attributes. It is simply Consciousness that is aware of change and objects.

Just as there are many shades of the color red, so there are many shades or types of teaching having to do with this node of life. All the teachings of non-duality point to this Red area, the essence of which are direct teachings on Pure Awareness.

2 o’clock position / Purple
Energetic Presence Identity
You Are a Multidimensional Field of Radiant Energy

At the 2:00 position, the second node of the Mandala, there is that aspect of the spiritual life that is the experience of our nature as Radiant Being. This is your Energetic Presence Identity, where you are radiance and vibration. In the Purple position, we are exploring the field of being and current of feeling that flows through (and ultimately is) you and all that you experience.

As we move into Purple, we are speaking about the Energy of Consciousness rather than Consciousness Itself. There are specific forms of spiritual awakening within this realm, although the Energy of Consciousness is different from Consciousness Itself. The Purple node pertains to the field of radiant energy or vibration that comes into manifestation and is the substance of all that we experience, while Consciousness Itself is never an actual object of awareness.

In the Purple node, awakening is to our nature as Bliss, Presence or Shakti. These are perceptible and are ways of speaking about the natural power that emanates from Unconditioned Awareness or Consciousness Itself. This energy and peace are inseparable from unmanifest Consciousness Itself but they are perceptible and can be experienced and felt. This field of homogeneous energy is Purple as it emerges from Red. It is still a kind of non-duality, in that it is felt as one’s self even though it is something experienced.

As we move through purple into shades that are closer to Blue such as Indigo, we are embodying energy instead of being it. The energy there shows up as particular meridians, channels, chakras, and auras, which are part of us rather than being us.

4 o’clock position / Blue
Embodied Human Identity
Discovering the Dignity of Your Divinely Human Nature

Embracing our humanity, we meet the vulnerability at the heart of our life, and we contact the finiteness of our mortality. It includes our personality, and our soul as well as our particular flesh and blood body-mind. It is about living in the subject/object world as the individual center of our lives. Here, we establish boundaries, acknowledge needs and desires and own the limited nature of our lives.

The Blue node comprises our traits, tastes, body type, ethnicity, and gender. This node also includes delight in the senses, the arts and the earth itself. Those aspects of our humanity that are possible only in relation to others begin to move us into the Teal zone as we approach the Green node and Relationship itself.

6 o’clock position / Green
Embodied Human Relationship
The Catalytic Magic of Awakened Relationships

Green is the dimension of awakened relating where the multiplicity of the distinct otherness of every human (and every other embodied being) is honored and respected. In relationships, appropriate ways of expression and letting in the truth of others is a continual challenge. Interacting with others in mutual sensitivity as we recognize both our unity and our uniqueness creates a safe container for transformation.

 

The Green node of embodied human relationship further reveals what began in the Blue node. There are certain aspects of what it is to be a person that come forward only in relationships. The world of others is the whole world of multiplicity. Even as we are conscious of our boundaries and differences, we also become aware of the field of energies that connect us. We become sensitive to each person’s own unique energetic nature as we move into the zones that are Chartreuse and approach the Yellow node.

8 o’clock position / Yellow
Energetic Presence Relationship
Unseen Help: Becoming Sensitive to Numinous Presences

This is the node where we uncover and develop our capacity to know that we are never alone. Here, we reclaim our heritage as residents of a spiritual universe, becoming sensitive to the numinous, and able to contact unseen help.

This Yellow dimension is the node of our awareness of, and our relationship with, the presences of both incarnate and discarnate beings: angels, saints, masters, guides, buddhas, bodhisattvas, gods, goddesses, nature spirits and departed loved ones, as well as the spiritual or energetic presences of people who are alive now but who are not in our physical proximity.

In a spiritual gathering, there may be a feeling of presence with which we can commune. It also can be that you feel different presences while being outdoors in nature. Many cultures cultivated the idea of being in communion with the spirits of nature or the energies of particular places.

If you cultivate awareness of these diverse Energetic Presence Relationships, you may begin to recognize all energy as something you can be in relationship to as if in one single relationship.

This leads us into the realms of worship and devotional traditions. Yellow into Orange goes into Transcendental Divine Relationship, and that is relationship with the All-Pervading: The Being that is being everything. You begin to relate to the energy of the universe as a single lover or beloved.

10 o’clock position / Orange
Transcendental Divine Relationship
Devotion: Your Unique Relationship with Your Unique Divine

The Orange node is your experience of God (or Goddess) as you understand and experience that One in your life. This is the realm of devotion to the Divine Person in the particular way they reveal themselves to you. All forms of prayer and acknowledgement of synchronicities become reminders that there is simply one Beloved with whom you are in a private dance. Here you open to and acknowledge the Source of Guidance in your life that is always present and personal to you.

Like human love, the ultimate relationship is about heart and feeling communion. There are many different traditions related to the node of Transcendental Divine Relationship. Some mystical devotional paths emphasize the way in which we are embedded in and dependent upon the Divine. We are in the position of surrender. We become transformed by the reception of grace. We become holy and even divinized through participating in the energies of God. So, while there’s a way in which the Divine is never separate from us, there’s also a way in which the Divine is simultaneously distinct from us. Devotion needs “two” in order to feel the current of love, yet for non-dual devotion this is a paradox.

And yet, the more you love All-pervading Presence, the more you find yourself in communion with it, and the more the sense of separation disappears. It’s an ecstatic merging with the Supreme Power. Devotional mystics often use a sexual metaphor when speaking of this merging where Orange turns into Red. Relationship with Divine Radiant Presence outshines and absorbs everything else: As we move beyond words, there is non-dual dissolution. At this point, it is the Coral zone, approaching the Red node of Transcendental Divine Identity.

The Tapestry is an orientation for individual free souls

Whether we function as part of a group or on our own, it is in a spirit of freedom. In a sense, the Tapestry lays out an almost universal orientation for spiritual living. It’s generic in its description but is always a unique and individual brand as each person lives it. The distinctiveness of our own expression and revelation is central to this understanding.

As an orientation, it faces you toward your life in such a way that you have a sense of moving forward with spiritual progress happening through you, much more than that you are “doing it.” It is also just as much about sinking more deeply into each moment now—savoring the quality of Being, itself—in such a way that you can see beyond the concept of time.

So life unfolds as a spiral path where you find yourself going through the same spaces you were in before, but differently. So it’s not a strictly linear process. At the same time, you will not feel you are just going around in circles, but instead, you will be aware of how you’ve changed. In this case, the next “level” is the form your existence takes when you give yourself to where you are now, experiencing it as an increasing wholeness. You don’t avoid one state to cling to another; you embrace whatever state you find yourself in, in such a way that it naturally moves you into the next.

One cannot know much about another’s progress. Our next level can be a deeper version of the one we just left behind, but no one else may see that. This journey “around the Mandala,” or through the Tapestry, uncovers your union with everything through the various nodes of experience. In this way, we use the Tapestry Mandala to help us as we weave our own personal Tapestry of Being.

As we move along our unique exploration through the nodes of experience, it is all founded in Consciousness Itself. I describe Consciousness Itself as being both embedded in life, and also beyond all possible experience. Our life is discovered as an ornament and a manifestation of that which never changes.

Our appreciation for all we live, both the highs and the lows, becomes a natural form of worship. Experience is seen both through the shared lens of objectivity and the secret intimate lens of Radical Subjectivity. Being reveals something exclusive to you, in particular. Your life is a living conversation describing a private revelation never known to another soul. You discover yourself as a singular juncture of countless threads; a precious yet transitory expression that gracefully points to that which is beyond experience.

 


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