On the surface, The Mandala of Being is another ‘self-help’ book, and I’ve put off reading it for review for an additional month or two because of that. After taking it with me on a couple of long airplane flights, I’d say I was sorry I didn’t get to it sooner – except that my travels wouldn’t have been as interesting. Dr. Moss provides a framework for imagining the Self in ordinary life (his "mandala") and then using that image to in specific practices through to improve personal growth. As with many Eastern religions, the focus is kept of the Self in the NOW, focusing awareness on what is happening now, instead of next, or in the past.
Moss believes that there are only four places our minds go when they leave the Now: the past, the future, and (more interesting) judgments of ourselves, and judgments of others. These places, plus the Now, become the primary ingredients of the "mandala of being." He then retunes the mandala to reflect how the Past includes guilt or nostalgia or regret, Future includes inherent uncertainty, Me (the subject) includes grandiosity or depressiveness, and You (the object) includes anger or jealousy or envy or hurt. The Now remains in the center of the diagram of this and mandala of lower-self functioning. With another retunement, the mandala of higher-self functioning, the Past includes forgiveness, Future includes trust and nonattachment, Me includes self-inquiry and doubting the truth of stories, and You includes compassion and empathy. Here, the Now remains in the center but is itself encircled by joy, love, stillness, gratitude, and presence.
Moss believes that self-inquiry is the key to self-empowerment and enjoins us to meditate, to "go back the way that we have come" to earliest childhood. "Our original state of consciousness in childhood is not one of being a separate entity with our own thoughts and sensations," writes Moss, "but rather is a relatively undifferentiated domain of sensation and perception." With practice, Moss tells us, we become aware of the sacredness that lies within. Our inner being, our I-Am, is all that we are; we are Now. We are the center of the mandala. How can we be expected to understand the outermost parts of the circle -- the past, the future, judgments of ourselves and judgments of others -- when we can not see our center?
From the center we can move to the different sections to question our emotions and beliefs about our past, always returning to center to affirm who we are. He acknowledges the fact that despite the pain of many of these feelings, we will find comfort in their familiarity. Eventually, we become dominated by our feelings and emotions and fail to see ourselves and others as they truly are. Moss wants us to know that by reinventing our identities, we can rid ourselves of such cloaks, not by avoiding the feelings, but by acknowledging them without letting them control us:
There are a variety of plans and perspectives for viewing the psyche in ways that help us improve our functioning, our sense of self, our identity. I recommend this book to readers looking for a program that might help them with their own personal growth.
~review by Lisa Mc Sherry
Author: Richard Moss, MD
New World Library, January 2007pp. 320, $15.95