In 2012, Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services sponsored a workshop entitled, "Psychosis as a Spiritual Crisis: An Opportunity for Growth." Among its presenters were current Bay Area Mandala Project members, Jay Mahler, Michael Cornwall, David Lukoff and Cardum Harmon. Dina Tyler was also in attendance and shared her enthusiasm for the topic. A previous Esalen Institute workshop, put together by Michael Cornwall, Jay Mahler, David Lukoff and Laura Mancuso the previous year, called, “An Integrative Approach to Psychosis and Other Transformative Spiritual Experiences,” had been the inspiration for this Oakland training.
Out of this Alameda County workshop sprung a strong desire to unite with like-minded individuals - those who had received experiences of madness, altered states or been diagnosed with "psychosis" but were in search of deeper meaning. In the spirit of previous Esalen gatherings, with the same aspirations, we put a call out to local consumers, family members and mental health and medical professionals, holding expertise in psychiatric crises, who had a desire to serve as advocates for recovery-oriented services.
We wanted a name that would honor the transformative journey one encounters on the road to recovery and wellness. In 2004, Cardum Harmon completed a graduate thesis, researching individuals who had experienced spiritually-orientated altered states or "conversations with God." As this had been part of her personal journey, she realized there was a deep need to be able to successfully integrate ecstatic, and sometimes traumatizing, altered states into a greater sense of meaning. Most significantly, individuals needed a way to re-integrate into everyday life...How does one do the laundry after having a conversation with God? Mandalas carry spiritual significance and symbolism through the ancient Hindu and Buddhists traditions, in Sanskrit, garbha-dhātu meaning “womb world” and garbhakosa-dhatu, meaning "womb realm" - a way to signify both contemplation and transformation. According to Jung, it is the archetype of the Self “urging the person to ‘become what one is’…providing a sense of order and meaning.” To gain more insight, click here to get a preview of her journey: MANDALA PROJECT- Mysticism, Metaphysics and Divine Manifestation
Thus, our group embraced the name, Bay Area Mandala Project, or "Mandala Project," for short. Dina Tyler created our Bay Area Mandala Project logo to represent our system components, philosophy and vision. Our logo is based on the Eight Dimensions of Wellness (created by Peggy Swarbrick and re-envisioned by Alameda County's 10x10 Wellness Campaign), the 4 points of entry for our system diversion program, as well as the importance of being surrounded by an enveloping community – our Community Healing Room. The Chinese word for crisis is composed of two characters that represent danger and opportunity. In this way, we look at crisis as an opportunity for growth.
After many passionate and rich brainstorming sessions, personal sharings and hearty research, our group realized it was important to find both an innovative and integrative way to care for individuals in early or reoccurring psychiatric episodes of extreme distress (psychosis) or mania. We needed a model for an integrative crisis intervention approach - one that could divert individuals from ongoing dependency on the mental health system and long-term psychiatric drug use. Dina, had such a vision and developed a dynamic visual representation of our proposed Integrative Crisis Intervention Strategy.