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Mandelbrot: Falling-Apart Relationships and Passing Tests

October 27, 2012

“Mandelbrot. Mandelbrot,” I woke up one morning with this term swirling around my brain. What the….? I couldn’t even recall the slightest meaning of “Mandelbrot.” Though at one time prior, I might have been able to tell you that a Mandelbrot set is a fractal  — and is infinitely complex.

“Complex” in conjunction with anything mathematical is where I shut down. These numbers are different than real numbers — with which I have a hard enough time. Never mind throwing in imaginary numbers. (Though I have been known to work with imaginary numbers when balancing my checkbook.) This made the choice of “Mandelbrot” by my subconscious even more mystifying.

I suppose it must be said that at the time “Mandelbrot” was doing laps around my mind, I was plagued by intense relationship problems. The increased incidence of which has since been reported by many, many other people as we take out the dregs of our personal, shadowy trash before December 21, 2012.  To say I was miserable would be sugar-coating how I felt…more than once pulling over to unrestrainedly weep in my car throughout a three-week period — which was about to come to an end.

Because this day — as “Mandelbrot, Mandelbrot, Mandelbrot” played knickknack on my head — I (?) made a snap decision to turn hard right into the parking lot outside Quest, the local metaphysical bookstore. Slipping past, I quietly situated myself in the back alcove where Gregg Braden’s book, Secrets of the Lost Mode of Prayer, jumped into my hands.

Dang if I didn’t randomly open up to a page explaining that Mandelbrot is a living equation. Talk about being guided…I almost fell out (as they say in the South). When set in motion, the equation grows and evolves within a short time as a beautiful and ever-changing series of curves, swirls, and lacy patterns. Braden says it is a never-ending dance between balance and chaos in nature, and represents emotional relationships.

Turns out, according to Braden, Mandelbrot has to do with being given a great test…with the potential to yield great gifts. This test is only given when one is in balance and has garnered all the tools necessary to pass the test. The balance itself is the trigger that invites the change.

I couldn’t believe it. Here was entirely hopeful news. I was in this morass because I had the means to get out of it. I wasn’t a victim. I was an end-of-semester student.

As Braden explains, fractal patterns had come together in balance and now needed to fall apart “…only to evolve into new patterns of even greater balance.” So, the only conclusion could be that I must be ready. A turn-of-events that started to look less like self-pity and a lot more like grace.

Braden goes so far as to call this falling apart a “Dark Night of the Soul.” In his October, 2011 newsletter, Eckhart Tolle defines the “Dark Night of the Soul,” as “an eruption in your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness,” triggered perhaps by the premature death of someone you love. Or in my case, by an ambushed harangue directed at my character. Emerging from the dark night, Tolle says, “They awaken into something deeper, which is no longer based on concepts in your mind. […] It’s a kind of re-birth.”

That day at Quest, I embraced the state of the relationship. In a funny way, this new-found confidence in my ability to pass the test obviated the need for taking the test at all. Of course, it’s not as difficult to pass an open-book test — especially when using the Teacher’s Edition.

The whole experience helped me to realize that the relationship was asking me to make a decision — calling me back “in” with a reborn sense of joy and commitment. What had seemed irreparable just needed to fall apart in order to reach a heightened level of love and devotion. Moreover, I began to see the breach as a chance to redefine myself and to re-qualify my desires and goals. Best of all, I am no longer afraid to ask for what makes me happy — and my requests are being granted.

All this was over a month ago.

This morning, I woke up with a distinct “Arjuna” on my lips. This was more a dream, an impression of his silky, long black hair but wearing a dark business suit. The two of us nestled in the backseat of a black Lincoln Town Car. Me in the middle with my real-life husband on the other side.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna is a warrior who’s trying to parse everyday struggles of the ego, exhorting that our greatest battles are fought in the mind. The ultimate aim: self-realization.

The following is excerpted from a June 14, 2010 blog post entitled “Arjuna Passes the Test,” at

Finally, it was the turn of Arjuna. As soon as Arjuna was ready, Dronacharya asked, “Arjuna, what can you see?” Arjuna replied, “Gurudev, I can see only the eye of the bird, and nothing else.” With a smile on his face, Dronacharya said, “Fire!” and Arjuna let loose the arrow which found its mark.

Dronacharya turned to the other princes and said, “Did you all understand the point of this test? When you aim for something, you must look at nothing else but the target. Only intense concentration can help you strike the target. All of you could see the other things like the trees, the fruits, the leaves and the people because you were not concentrating on the task given to you. It was only Arjuna who was really concentrating. So now all of you know why Arjuna is the best student!”

Dronacharya’s test silenced the Kauravas, and all understood that Arjuna was indeed the best student.


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