Is there anything more lovely
than dandelion seeds floating in the wind?
Watching them fly, I ready myself to leave.
Who invented these wonders?
Tiny seeds suspended from gossamer webs of thistle
blowing, traveling, breezing by.
No future, no past, no planning
Just suspension, resting in the pure, present sky.
Monday, November 22, 2010
A mala and a milestone.
Rough-cut kyanite rondelles,
two sizes of round rubies with stars,
moonstone with blue fire,
and a sodalite guru bead with garnet and ruby as end beads. A tassel of French silk that I made.
Gold vermeil bead discs around the marker beads.
And fluorite in between the rondelles to make it "handleable".
This mala was intended to be one that you could go around very slowly, saying slow or longer mantras. It almost worked! It's on its way back to the drawing board. I'm going to remove the fluorite because they confuse my fingers. They aren't different enough in size from the kyanite.
It is still beautiful and inspiring, just not quite right yet. C'est La Vie!
Today was a special day. My Etsy shop reached a milestone. I never thought, when I put my first five malas in a "shop" on Etsy, that they would sell. But someone took a chance on me as a new seller and bought a picture jasper mala. Since then I've sold over 500 malas and counter bead sets on Etsy (as of today). I guess it goes to show that people are interested in things made with love, and that there are a lot of very spiritual and inspiring people in the world. Oh, the people I've met! People from France, Korea, Denmark, Hong Kong, Canada, Australia...everywhere, including California.
I am so thankful to my customers, to Etsy, and to the Buddhas. It's been an amazing way to put my art degree and my spiritual self together and create work that means something. It has become "right livelihood".
I'm looking forward to making these prayer beads for many more years. My next goal?
To learn to work more ergonomically and stretch every half hour so I don't curl up like a little mala-making snail. But it's been soooo worth it.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
A customer asked me what books to read about malas.
I haven't seen any that I'd send someone to about malas. If you read about mantras in Sogyal Rinpoche's book, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, I think that helps.
The books I recommend are about mindfulness, compassion, and meditation.
I especially like the books by the Dalai Lama, Chagdud Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse, Thich Nhat Hahn, and Chogyam Trungpa.
A lot of Hindu books may talk about mantras. In Buddhism they accompany practices, but they aren't the main focus. So if you read about the practices of Avalokiteshvara, it may speak about the Om Mani Padme Hum mantra. The same with writings about Tara, Guru Rinpoche, and all of the other Tibetan practices.
The way I was taught (it's different in different disciplines), is that you hold the mala in your left hand, close to your heart, and with the thumb and pointer finger you pull the bead towards you. When you get to the three-holed guru bead (or large bead, in your wrist mala), you turn around and go the other direction. You don't say a mantra on the guru bead.
It's a way of calming the mind and invoking the qualities of the deity in that particular practice. These qualities are Love, Compassion, Wisdom, and things like that. You focus loosely on the mantra, relax, and let the mantra flow quietly. Or out loud, it doesn't matter. You can keep track of how many you say in a little book or by hanging mala counters on your mala.
Here's the wiki article.
There are good links there.
And here's something I wrote about blessing and using a mala.
Hope this helps, it's not intended to be advice or overwhelming.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Every spiritual writer through the eons has used the analogy of thoughts as plants in a metaphorical garden.
For me, this metaphor works very well, so, since I think about it nearly every day, I'll share some blooms and weeds with you.
Thich Nhat Hahn says "Water the seeds of joy." It means, what you pay attention to and encourage, will grow. So grow the good thoughts and actions!
I noticed this when I first put some plants in pots in my meditation area outside. Practicing calm abiding for a period of time every day by looking at a variegated begonia, I also began to care very much about the begonia. Since it supported my practice and allowed me to project all my mental patterns on it while it just sat, it became a dear and trusted friend. So I removed its dead leaves and kept it just moist enough—not too moist. After about 6 months of this the plant was very large and beautiful! I did the same with a columbine plant, then my eyes moved around the garden. Soon I was probably doing more gardening than meditation, but Hey, it was peaceful. I'd say mantras and prune the roses, remove the dead bird of paradise spears, and pull weeds.
When my mother, a locally renowned garden writer and teacher, became sick, I left my gardening behind for a few years and tended to her. Our relationship blossomed even as her body withered. She spoke of being able to accept the naturalness of plants aging and dying, even as she fought to stay strong.
After she died, people came out of the woodwork to tell my family what her garden advice had meant to them. My sister and I inherited garden books galore, along with the implicit, unmentioned idea that we should, we must continue to garden.
I came home and took a good look at the weeds, the stumps, the deadness of plants that hadn't been watered or fertilized all winter. I began slowly with weeding and tending some epiphylums I brought home ("airlifted") from my parents' house. I was rewarded by a giant epiphylum blossom within weeks of her death, followed by a rare daylily's bloom. We had a very large earthquake during that period, but I didn't feel it because I was standing on the earth, pulling weeds and trimming overgrown lavender.
If you hate gardening as much as I once did, your eyes glazed over a while back and you're probably checking your email. If you are a gardener, you may be chuckling at the tale of a novice gardener getting hooked on plants. If you, like me, are turning to your garden unexpectedly during this time of turmoil and hyperactivity in the world, you understand. A garden takes so much, but it never pushes or demands. It lies dormant until the time you have the energy and feel the need to shape it up.
Like our minds! Our minds wait, accustomed to our patterns of thought, until we begin to notice those thoughts. In Buddhism we call it mindfulness and awareness when thoughts are observed compassionately but dispassionately. And once you find the state of your mental garden, you can begin to chose how to shape it!
Most meditators, or those starting a contemplative practice of any kind, want to pull the weeds right away. Shocking how many of our thoughts are angry, envious, judgemental of ourselves and others, and how creepingly lazy—like ivy, they are. We decide we don't want a weed, we pull it out, and lo and behold it pokes up again above the surface. Don't give up, we've been told. So we pull the weed again—this time grasping as much of its root as we can and pulling strongly and gently. Victorious, we relax.
You know, next time we look, the weed is back with many friends! At this point our frustration at having to live with this blight for eons feels intense. But we try something new. We don't pull the weeds until after a rain, and they come right out! Easily.
Over the weeks, months, and years that we tend to our gardens, be they mental or true yards, we learn patience and endurance. We get a sense of the vastness of the chore. We find humor. And we observe that those weeds become fewer, smaller, and more manageable over a long time of care.
Simultaneously, we plant the beautiful seeds of love for all beings; generosity, discipline, patience, diligence, meditative concentration, and wisdom—all of the necessary 6 paramitas, or transcendent perfections, that form the basis for spiritual practice and training for the bodhisattva. And we water those seeds of joy—until our lives change even when we aren't practicing.
Lately I've really been wanting to share these thoughts with you. The mind is a garden—tend it well, kindly, and with love for yourself. And never, ever give up.