May 30, 2013


During my brief stint at art school, I took a college preparedness class. The one useful thing I took from it was the idea of a personal mandala.

Mandalas are big in Eastern/Indian cultures, and similar things pop up in the Americas as well. That's because it's a very simple concept: a circle, the classic symbol of unity, is divided into sections and filled from the inside out with symbolic imagery that makes up a spiritual whole.

The teacher suggested that we draw three concentric circles within a larger circle. The outer ring represents the present. The innermost ring represents the way that we wish things to be. The ring between them represents the path we take to get from the present to our ideals. The center represents our core, the things that guide and rejuvenate and make us ourselves.

The circle is also divided into quarters, representing four areas of well-being: Spiritual, Emotional, Physical, and Mental. The teacher suggested we fill in the mandala from the outside in, which is lovely symbolism of a road to self-discovery and all, but I feel it's a more practical exercise to leave the middle ring for last.

I'm glad I took up the habit of doing these now and again. It's probably more helpful than a journal for cataloging my mental state at various points, as it records my current self-image, adversities, and future outlook all at once. I fill them with words, rather than imagery, as my artistic leaning is unhelpfully abstract.

It's an interesting exercise comparing my previous mandalas to the current one. The comparison revealed some inconsistencies in the way I feel about touch. It's definitely touch I want, the chemical rush that comes from skin-to-skin contact. Holding hands, leaning into another's warmth, but otherwise going about my day as normal. It's one of those things that makes it hard to identify with the clinical descriptions of Asperger's.

I've gotten used to getting more affection than I strictly enjoy. With my ex, snuggling got unwarrantedly upped with sexual teasing. My step-dad is a hugger, and he desensitized me to that. Before, I predominately tackle-hugged people for my own amusement whilst avoiding other people's hugs because they always insisted on lifting me up like a rag doll. I've gotten so used to hugs that I briefly felt jilted when my aspie step-sister refused my offer of a goodbye hug. I'd finally started to grok that initiating goodbye hugs was the best way to make people happy and leave non-awkwardly, then she threw me off my game.

Thanks to my mandala habit, I think I'm starting to understand that coping well with a problem is not the same as not having it.

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