The Power of the Pause: Letting Go to Move Forward May 30, 2024 12:28

If you prefer to listen to this month's offering, please click HERE for the audio link.

We have lived in our current home for over twenty-five years. When we first moved in, we added a second phone line to have internet service as well as a landline phone. At that time, and because of our location, that was our only option to be connected.

I grew up in the 70s, so having a landline phone was familiar and reliable for me. Over the years, as cell phones became more ubiquitous and essential for everyday tasks, having a landline phone has become obsolete.

We’d hung onto our landline for several years, but the final straw for us came this past winter and spring. It wasn’t unusual for us to have to call a technician at least once a year to replace external wiring that had been chewed by squirrels or mice—or that had become corroded by spring rains.

New houses have been cropping up in our area, and our utility box, which had once been in an abandoned field near railroad tracks, is now an eyesore in some lucky winner’s backyard.

In February, the resident of this new home decided to cut the large wire at the top of our utility box, which resulted in the complete loss of our phone and internet connections. We didn’t have service for a couple of weeks until techs could rig up a temporary solution.

We had relatively stable service for a while—until heavy rains in March did a number on the external wires again.

Over the years, the phone company has changed ownership several times, and each change brought a decline in reliable service as well as creeping increases in service prices.

Honestly, the only phone calls we have been receiving lately have been junk calls from telemarketers, scammers, fraudsters, and opportunists phishing for personal data. It was time—long overdue, actually, for a change and an upgrade.

We already have cable, so we opted to migrate to a cable modem and router and to ditch the landline altogether.

The process took a little time. It began in the Xfinity store lobby while I waited with my husband and son-in-law for over an hour before a young, hip associate helped us upgrade our account and scheduled a technician to come to our home for the installation.

Our son-in-law gave us his modem and router to use, but the tech who came to the house to add the extra line couldn’t connect it. So, I made a trip to Best Buy, and, thankfully, a very helpful and knowledgeable associate helped me select a single modem/router unit.

I went back to the Xfinity store and waited another hour until the manager, who had to contend with an extremely loud and disgruntled customer minutes before me, helped me register this new unit to our account.

I’m not going to lie—this disgruntled customer was over-the-top angry. He was yelling and screaming at the manager, and we all watched and held our breath as he stormed out to his truck and drove away. I was not the only one who wondered if he was going to come back in with a gun. I really thought we were going to be on the evening news.

Thankfully, we all survived, and a few days later, my daughter and son-in-law stopped by to help us set up and connect the modem/router along with a laptop that I had purchased a few weeks prior.

Whew! This whole process of disconnecting from an inefficient, outdated, and unreliable service to connecting to one that is more reliable and convenient required time, patience, and the expertise of others.

I’m so grateful I have my Buddhist practice to rely on. It really comes in handy, even in mundane situations like this. If not, I’d be more like the disgruntled customer ranting and raving in the Xfinity store.


While this technology pause was unsettling; it was also necessary. Honestly, it was the most important part of the journey. It was the quiet gap between old and new, outdated and updated.

This was an important time of reflection and introspection for me. I had more quality time to sit in silence and let go of the usual distractions, obligations, and uncertainties. It was a time of literal and metaphorical clearing away. I deep cleaned several rooms in the house, I let go of other things I didn’t need, and I rediscovered and appreciated the things that I did have. This was an important time to be present and to slow down, and it was the perfect time for an emotional and energetic reset.

Not having access to home internet for those transitional weeks enabled me to practice patience and gratitude.

I thought about all the people who made this access to technology possible—all the minds that had to work together to create and sustain this essential conduit to information. Sometimes interconnection is invisible—but it exists, nonetheless. Interconnection can be very easy to take for granted, too—usually, we realize this when something no longer functions properly. However, realizing and appreciating how much we rely on the skills and knowledge of others is an important practice and habit of mind to develop.

I was grateful to have the ability to write and read emails, to check my bank balance, or to purchase supplies for my business. I wouldn’t be able to do these things without the assistance of thousands of others.

I’m grateful to have the help of my daughter and son-in-law. Not only did they offer encouragement throughout this process, but they also helped me set up my laptop.

I’m grateful to be able to have access to technology anywhere in the house. For years, I worked from a stand-alone computer. I didn’t mind working from my study room, but now that I have a laptop as well, it’s nice to be able to practice a Feldenkrais lesson upstairs or to listen to a Dharma talk in the kitchen while I’m washing dishes. Having agency and choice is incredibly liberating.

Our home is no longer tethered to a landline. Although, I still catch myself glancing at the spot on the kitchen counter where we had kept our main house phone—checking for a blinking red light that signaled messages.

I do miss being able to pick up a line upstairs while Jim picks up a downstairs line so that we can both chat with Elise.

I also miss being able to check the time on the house phone when I have something cooking in the oven.

Even though these are small things that I miss, there are alternative options for all these situations. That’s another bonus for navigating long-overdue changes—exploring options and practicing a flexible mindset.

Releasing the obsolete has been an interesting experiment for me, but it’s also allowed me to practice and appreciate traits that won’t ever go out of style. Additionally, it’s given me yet another reason to protect and develop Bodhicitta, the altruistic mindset of compassion.

I love that opportunities to practice Dharma are everywhere. Even with something as mundane as changing a service provider.

Currently, our landline phones are waiting in a paper bag from Fresh Thyme in the hallway. I plan to take them to a local recycling center where they will serve a new purpose and benefit others in a new way.


What have you had to let go of recently?

How did letting go reveal new facets of your everyday life?

What bumps and obstacles did you have to endure or overcome while navigating your own journey?

These could be questions to ponder in your next analytical meditation session.


What I love about malas is they are a simple form of technology—they don’t require electricity, contracts, or upgrades. They are powered by our own dedication, intention, and practice.

Please visit the online shop to view the current collection of one-of-a-kind designs. If you are interested in a custom design or a quarter mala, please visit the Contact Us page for requests and inquiries.

I hope the month of May has treated you well. I’m looking forward to seeing what the month of June has in store for us.

Until then--


Tying and Untying Knots: Holding Space and Letting Go during Totality April 21, 2024 18:00

If you prefer to listen to this month's article, please click HERE for the audio link.

In a knotted mala, the knots carry an important significance. On a functional level, they help to protect the beads against cracks, chips, and scratches due to friction from regular use. Because the knots hold just enough space to prevent the beads from touching, they also help to showcase more of the surface area of the individual beads.

If the cord breaks on a knotted mala, it won't result in 108 beads scattering across the floor.

On a symbolic level, the knots represent the obstacles and challenges in life. The challenges allow us to apply what we've learned, and they test our capacity for patience, strength, endurance, and compassion.

The beads represent the blessings and beautiful aspects of life. Consequently, a meaningful life requires a balance of both blessings and challenges.

I like creating knotted malas. Even though they require more time and effort, the knots create a sense of steadiness and stability in the designs. They cradle and hold the beads in place. The knots are subtle--they are smaller in size than the beads themselves, and they offer a sense of quiet strength and protection.

Typically, it takes me two to three days to create a full (108 beads) knotted mala. If I try to overdo it and string too many beads in one sitting, I'll pay for it later. I'll experience numbness in my fingers and hands late at night--or I'll run the risk of splitting my thumbnails. They remind me of the benefits of pacing myself--that less is more. There's no need to rush or hurry the process. Slow down. Be mindful. Be present. Pay close attention.


On Monday, April 8th, a large swath of our state was able to view a total solar eclipse. The last time a solar eclipse was visible in what is now Central Indiana, according to a recent Butler University newsletter, was in the year 1205. Indiana didn't even exist at that time.

The next eclipse is scheduled to make an appearance in the Hoosier State in the year 2153. So, it was pretty amazing to have an opportunity to witness a celestial event like this.

What was even more amazing was...the weather. Normally, April in Indiana brings loads of rain, cool temperatures, and gloomy, gray, overcast skies. On April 8th, the skies were clear blue, and it was a pleasantly warm 70 degree day.

Local schools and businesses were closed for this event. Jim and I stayed home. We sat in the front yard on fold-up lawn chairs and kept tabs on the sun and moon while wearing our eclipse glasses.

Jim puttered around doing yardwork leading up to the afternoon event, which gave me time for personal mantra practice. I've been working on refuge ngondro recitations since January, and will continue for most of this year (four refuge prayers--111,111 recitations each). I'm pacing myself and taking my time with this meaningful practice. I sat in the rare, April sunshine and completed twelve mala rounds of "Namo Dharmaya."

I'm glad Jim and I decided to stay home. We could have traveled to big public celebrations in Bloomington, Speedway, and Indianapolis, but I'm glad we opted for a more intimate viewing.

In the months and weeks leading up to this eclipse, I didn't have any expectations or hopes. In fact, I was fully prepared to watch it on NASA's website if the weather was rainy or cloudy.

I finished my recitations, and Jim joined me in the front yard. We listened to tunes on WTTS on a portable radio as the moon slowly slid in front of the sun : "Black Hole Sun," "Dancing in the Moonlight," "Here Comes the Sun," "Blinded by the Light"...

At around 3:00 in the afternoon, we were able to witness Totality. I turned off the radio at this point so we could take it all in. 

The air took on a dark blue, metallic hue and cooled by about ten degrees. Houses in the distance appeared hazy and blurry.

Peeper frogs started to chirp in our ravine, and a nearby barred owl hooted intermittently.

As I gazed up at the eclipse in Totality, I felt extremely heavy, as if I were being pushed into the earth.

Two images crossed my mind during these fleeting minutes. One was an image of a race car crashing into a wall after navigating a sharp turn. It was not a spectacular crash, the kind where the impact is dispersed outwardly, often protecting the driver. It was the "un-spectacular," no-big-deal kind, which is often deadly for the driver, who absorbs the impact of the crash.

The second image was actually a memory. I remembered being very pregnant and walking down the hall of the high school where I taught at that time. It was during a passing period, and students were milling all around me as I was walking back to my classroom. I remembered feeling a sudden, sharp, stabbing pain in my groin, and all I could do was stop, put my hand against the wall for stability, and breathe until the pain subsided.

I did not experience physical pain during Totality, but these images were intense and brought a strong sense of weighted heaviness to my body and mind.

I felt the energetic "impact" in my body--and all I could do was to allow--to hold space--and to accept and receive these images and feelings on each inhalation. Then, with each exhale, send all of that heaviness into the earth to be transformed.

It was an odd sensation, but for three minutes, I was firmly rooted to my chair, completely fixated and sensing the full impact of this once-in-a-lifetime event. I don't know that I would have experienced this if I had been in a large, public setting.

I felt like an energetic conduit, and all I could do in this odd dance of give and receive was breathe--inhaling the full weight of the sun and the moon--and exhaling into the earth. 

Just before Totality ended, and the moon continued to move across the path of the sun, it occurred to me that this experience was like a giant knot in a celestial-sized mala. It simultaneously separated and joined the sun and moon for a brief time--holding them together like a knot separating two beads on a sutra.

The path of this eclipse (which spanned the width of 108 miles, by the way) stretched from Mexico to Maine. This eclipse crossed the continent like a big, beautiful mala-in-progress, and I'm grateful that we were able to witness it.


The knots represent the obstacles, the challenges in life. I'm not sure why I imagined a car crash and remembered a specific pregnancy pain. Perhaps these were simply symbolic images--examples of obstacles.

The knots hold the beads of a mala in place, and they showcase the beautiful aspects of life.

Afterwards, the temperature slowly increased. the heavy, dark blue, metallic sky returned to a sunny clear blue. 

The peeper frogs went silent, and we didn't hear the owl until later on in the evening.

Everything seemed to return to normal. I stepped inside the house and took a nap. I needed a little time to process what I'd experienced. When I woke up, I went to my workspace downstairs and started working on stringing a knotted mala.



April has been a bit tumultuous, but I hope you are navigating the blessings and challenges of your own life with grace and compassion.

If you haven't visited the MMM home page in a while, I've added a few additional designs to the current collection. As always, feel free to reach out on the Contact Us page if you're interested in a custom design to inspire and support your own personal meditation practice.

Take care--




Wise Selfish and the People Pleasing Trap: How Speaking Up and Saying "No" Can Be Acts of Compassion April 20, 2024 13:26


 If you prefer to listen to this post, please click HERE for the audio link.

I recently read a quotation that a friend had posted on her FB page that stopped me in my tracks. I read it over and over. I took time to contemplate it. It resonated for me--and it was exactly what I needed at that time.

"Emotional availability is being present to your feelings and needs and being willing to share them, and allowing the other person to have their own feelings and responses to your needs.

It's vulnerable because we're never sure what's going to happen; we have to let other people have their own experiences in relationship to us."
This quotation was an excerpt from a longer post by EQ School, and the focus of the post was about people pleasing.
This blog article is actually two blogs in one--or, a blog with reframing added. I had posted the original article below in late March.  My intention in sharing it was to highlight one of my flaws--not setting healthy boundaries and speaking up for myself in a timely manner. I had described an incident (and a series of incidents that led up to it) in which a dear friend had helped me to recognize and to work on remedying this self-sabotaging habit. In other words, this dear friend taught me something extremely important, and I was grateful to her for giving me the courage to finally speak up.
I had taken time, thought, and effort to write and later post this blog in March. I had also shared it with my friend out of respect and transparency. We'd had a follow-up phone conversation about it, and everything seemed fine.
Everything was not fine...
My intention was not to harm or hurt my friend's feelings, but the article did. She took it to heart and was deeply bothered by it.
I looked her in the eyes and sincerely apologized to her. I listened to her point of view, and then, out of respect for her, I took the article down, removing it from view.
For weeks, I felt deep shame and regret for having written this blog. I thought I was a horrible person.
I was also conflicted and confused--because, usually, when I am in the process of making a mistake or an error in judgment, I feel it in my body. I'll have an anxiety spike, I'll feel tension in my jaw or shoulders, I'll feel an uncomfortable itchiness in my gut, or I'll feel a sense of doubt or hesitation. When I wrote this blog a few weeks ago, I didn't feel any of those things. All I felt was gratitude.  And when I reread it today, I can honestly say that I stand by every single word.
I'm not sorry for writing the blog--I am sorry that it hurt my friend's feelings.
I am a chronic people pleaser--and, unfortunately, for most of my life, I have been a kowtowing, over-accommodating, walking-on-eggshells, don't-rock-the-boat kind of person. It's embarrassing! 
I have denied my own feelings and the validity of my own experiences. I have put others' perspectives in higher esteem than my own. I have taken responsibility for the feelings of others, which is absurd!!!
I am entitled to my own viewpoints. I am allowed to share my own experiences with others, as long as I express my views with kindness, respect, and compassion.
This quotation that  I mentioned earlier was a healing balm and wake-up call for me! It pointed out that I need to work on my own emotional availability and integrity. It reinforced the importance of speaking up for myself and expressing my views--and to be careful to avoid taking responsibility for others' reactions--or from taking their reactions personally.
During the Q and A portion of a Dharma talk that I heard this morning from Sravasti Abbey, Venerable Semkye said, "Being overly sensitive to feedback is a form of self-grasping laziness."
You know what? She's right!
It's a hindrance and an obstacle that exaggerates the self-- the "I,I,I, me, me, me."
Therefore, taking everything into consideration, I have decided to make my original post visible (see below). I had a valid message to convey, I had a legitimate experience that I wanted to share, and I hope that it will be of benefit to others.
If you are reading or listening to this, know that I am choosing not to take responsibility for your reactions. 
Living in Samsara is not easy--but learning and growing from dear friends makes the journey more interesting and bearable.
Keep practicing and moving forward, peeps!
Much love to you all--
(Photo Credit: Wangphan aka Duy Anh Phan courtesy of Pixabay)
I typed "people pleasing" in the search bar of the Pixabay website, and this image jumped out at me. People pleasers get caught up in their own nets and can be blinded by the opinions and reactions of others when they disregard their own feelings and experiences. 



 If you prefer to listen to this month’s offering, please click HERE for the audio link.

“The stupid way to be selfish is seeking happiness for ourselves alone. The intelligent way to be selfish is to work for the welfare of others.” His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

Sometimes, saying “No” is an act of compassion and wise selfishness. Women, in particular, tend to have trouble with this—we often feel pressured to take on more than we can handle in order to appease, please, and help others.

However, not standing up for ourselves and saying “No” when the situation may be too demanding or inappropriate can be detrimental to our emotional and physical well-being.

I am not a fan of suppressing, masking, or ignoring emotions. I am also not a fan of indulging, lashing out, and bombarding others with them either. Keeping feelings bottled up without acknowledging or processing them usually leads to bigger problems for me later on. Whether it’s because of a single major trauma or an accumulation of several small issues over time, my body will let me know if I’m not paying close enough attention to my emotional well-being.

For example, over the years, I have dealt with the physical consequences of frozen shoulder syndrome, Bell’s palsy, and shingles as either the direct or indirect results of not dealing with my emotions effectively.

According to HHDL, “There is nothing inherently wrong with pursuing one’s own interests. On the contrary, to do so is a natural expression of our fundamental disposition to seek happiness and to shun suffering. In fact, it is because we care for our own needs that we have the natural capacity to appreciate others’ kindness and love.”

One recent, and very mild, example that comes to mind happened recently after a Dharma teaching at TMBCC.  A kind-hearted and devoted sangha member stopped me after the teaching to introduce me to a visitor who was new to the Center.

We exchanged greetings, and he told me that he recently graduated from IU and wanted to attend a Dharma talk. My kind-hearted friend then said, “Teresa is great! She will give you her number, and you can text her if you have any questions.”

Keep in mind, this man was a complete stranger to me. As she was saying this to him, I looked this man in the eye while shaking my head and said, “No…I will not be doing that. I will not be giving you my number. You will not be texting me. I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. If you have any questions while you’re here, please feel free to ask. I'll be happy to help if I can.”

He nodded his head in agreement the entire time I was talking as if to say, “I get it. It’s OK. No worries!”

Now, this response may seem logical and normal, but, believe it or not, it required time, processing, courage, and work on my part to respond in this way, mainly because this was not the first time that this kind-hearted sangha member had said this sort of thing to new visitors.

“Being foolish selfish means pursuing our own interests in a narrow, short-sighted way. Being wise selfish means taking a broader view and recognizing that our long-term individual interests lie in the welfare of everyone.”  HHDL

On a few previous occasions, this same kind-hearted friend had escorted strangers over to me who happened to live in Greenwood, a town which has a population of 65,000 and is an hour’s drive from Bloomington, and had told them that we could ride share, and that I would drive them to the Center. Then, she’d walk away immediately, leaving me to have an awkward conversation with people who I didn’t know.

I’m not going to lie; these rare, unexpected exchanges were extremely anxiety-producing for me. Each time, I felt pressured to do something that I did not feel safe or comfortable doing. (I’ve seen far too many Dateline episodes to know better than to drive strangers around in my car by myself.) In addition, these brief exchanges made me feel resentful and frustrated toward my Dharma friend.

During these previous incidents, I didn’t have time to react or feel anything. I was caught off guard—confused and blind-sided—and I didn’t have the wherewithal to speak up and set a healthy boundary.

In fact, somewhere out there, there is a woman who actually has my cellphone number. My kind-hearted Dharma friend had pressured me into giving it to her, and for weeks, I worried that she would text me and ask me to pick her up to take her to Bloomington. For all I know, she may have wondered if that strange lady she met at TMBCC was expecting her to reach out for a ride to B-town. This may have caused anxiety for both of us.

I can’t speak for anyone else—in fact, that was the root of this problem—someone had overstepped and had spoken for me without my permission or consent, and it took me a while to process the feelings I had about this.

I felt frustrated, not only at my kind-hearted Dharma friend for putting me in this awkward position, but also at myself for not speaking up right then and there.

“Being wise selfish means being compassionate…Compassion and discernment are mutually reinforcing.”  HHDL

Actually, it took some time for me to process these feelings, and processing for me means talking to myself in the car (so, if you happen to see me driving and I’m talking to myself, you’ll know what’s happening😉) or writing about it.

Once I take the time to contemplate, talk, or write about these feelings that surface, I’m able to settle down, think clearly, and then calmly respond to future situations more effectively.

This takes me back to something one of my graduate school professors said years ago, “Feelings aren’t good or bad; they just are.” Or, stated another way, “You have to feel the feelings before you can heal the feelings.” Taking the time to process feelings helps me to do just that!

“Where we DO have control is at the level of motivation in deploying our critical, intelligent faculties—our discernment.”  HHDL

Because this kind of situation had happened before, on at least two previous occasions, and because I had taken the time to acknowledge and process the feelings that had surfaced, this time, I was able to say “No” with conviction and confidence to this most recent visitor, and, in the presence of my kind-hearted Dharma friend. In effect, I was demonstrating discernment, I was setting a healthy boundary, and I was practicing wise selfishness (compassion).

By the way, my kind-hearted friend did reach out to me later that day via text and apologized for her impulsiveness. I accepted her apology, and all is well.

Suppressing feelings—ignoring them—masking them—pushing them down—all of these are just asking for trouble, if you ask me. I certainly don’t need another shingles outbreak or some weird, neurological episode to remind me of the importance of naming, claiming, and effectively dealing with my emotions.

Over the years, I’ve heard several Dharma teachers explain the importance of contemplating, investigating, and analyzing the teachings before accepting them as the truth. It’s essential to take time to digest and understand them before meditating on them.  

Well, this applies to experiences in everyday life as well—especially for those unexpected situations when I don’t have time to think about how I feel until later.

I love my kind-hearted Dharma friend. She means well, even though she sometimes oversteps.

I love going to TMBCC for weekly Dharma talks, and I enjoy meeting the visitors who come for teachings, too.

I especially love being able to apply what I learn both on and off the cushion.

Taking the time to process what I learn and what I feel helps me to hone my capacity for critical thinking, discernment, and compassion.


I hope the month of March has treated you well, and I hope April treats you even better.

Please check out the current Middle Moon Malas collection, and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have custom design requests or if you need to have a mala restrung.

Quotes from HHDL came from the book Beyond Religion.

Photo Credit: Andrys from Pixabay 


Peaks and Valleys of Practice: The Flexibility of Familiarity February 26, 2024 18:35

 View of Himalayan mountain peaks and valleys with prayer flags in the foreground and a setting sun in the background

 If you prefer to listen to this month's offering, please click HERE for the audio link. 

It’s Saturday afternoon, and I’m sitting at a small café table in Barnes and Noble with my daughter. I ordered a cinnamon tea; she ordered a chai latté and we’re splitting an oatmeal raisin cookie. In the background, we can hear the intermittent hiss of the cappuccino machine and the low murmuring of voices at surrounding tables. It’s nice to have time to visit and chat with her. It reminds me of the many hours we enjoyed at Borders years ago—she’d read or work on homework, and I’d grade papers.

February has brought with it many peaks and valleys. Time spent with Elise in a local bookstore is definitely a peak.

Earlier this month, I celebrated Losar, the Tibetan Lunar New Year, with Dharma friends in Bloomington. We celebrated with a purifying smoke puja under freshly hung prayer flags behind the temple. Then, we gathered inside the temple for long life prayers, tea, and sweet rice. Afterwards, we ate lunch in the cultural building and had time to chat with friends.

Losar Offerings in Bloomington

 I enjoyed watching the Tibetan dances, and I especially enjoyed seeing all the little ones in their brocaded chupas and traditional dress. It truly was a wonderful day of celebration and meaningful connection. I didn’t know many of the people who attended; some came from out of state just for this celebration. It didn’t matter—it felt like we were among family members throughout the day. Our love of Tibetan culture and Dharma practice brought us all together. This celebration was definitely a highlight as well.

 Bright prayer flags hang and flutter over smoldering remains of fire puja

  I am very grateful for having a daily Dharma practice. One of the benefits is that it helps me feel connected to others, even those I’ve never met before, in a meaningful, authentic way. A daily practice definitely helps me appreciate these sweet moments of celebration with others.

However, and probably more importantly, my practice helps me to navigate frustrating times, too. This past week, we had to arrange for our cat, Zora, to have dental surgery. She’s an older kitty, and she takes two different medications to manage seizures and a wonky thyroid. I worry about how she’ll do under anesthesia, as well as her follow-up recovery.

In addition to her health concerns, we had someone randomly cut our phone and internet line. There are several construction projects happening in our area, and our line was cut, which interrupted our phone and internet service for a day or so.

Last Wednesday evening, I was navigating my way through an online chat with a Brightspeed robot on my cell phone to arrange for a technician to come out and trouble shoot our outage. I was also in the process of making dinner. While I was chopping onions, boiling water for pasta, and chatting with a robot, the vet calls on Jim’s cell phone, which he left on the kitchen table while he was outside shooting his bow for archery practice.

So, I’m in the middle of trying to do three important things at the same time. Needless to say, I was a bit flustered and rattled, but I managed to stay relatively calm. I didn’t burn dinner, I was eventually able to schedule and confirm a tech visit, and the vet patiently repeated her instructions so that I could clearly process what she was saying.

Afterwards, when things settled down, I looked forward to my practice. During stressful and chaotic times, it helps me to stay calm and steady. The familiarity of the practice is soothing and comforting, and it helps me to focus on something positive.

Later in the week, during the Sunday Dharma teaching in Bloomington, Minyak Rinpoche said something that really resonated with me. He said, “Everything depends upon the flexibility of familiarity.”

In other words, having a daily practice to rely on helps foster a flexible mindset. I have definitely found that a daily practice helps me to navigate unexpected pivots and surprises. It offers a steady foundation in the face of constant change.

I’ve also noticed that it’s during stressful times when I realize how well my practice is actually serving me (and others). It’s also during these chaotic times that I learn how effectively, and mindfully my practice has been. Stressful times also reveal where my weak spots are—and in what areas I still need to grow.

Am I just saying the words and going through the motions of the practice? Or, am I taking enough time to contemplate and analyze the meaning of what I’m reading or saying? Most importantly, am I applying what I’m practicing to my everyday life?

If I can remain calm during challenging times, and in the aftermath of challenging times, I know I’m on the right path. If I get agitated and flustered, I know I have work to do.

Last night, I spent over an hour in the kitchen tending to Zora—encouraging her to eat her food. It’s a slow process. She takes a few bites, then walks away. She comes back around to take another bite, then walks away again. If I walk away, she won’t eat at all, but if I stay in the kitchen, she’ll keep returning.

We have to keep a close eye on Maya, our Yorkie, who is more than happy to eat her food, and doesn’t care that it’s laced with medications that she does not need.

During this hour, I wasn’t stressed. I was present, patient, and calm. I made dinner. I washed dishes. I listened to the news. In between, I pushed her food into a small pile on her plate to entice her to continue eating. This pile slowly dwindled over the course of the hour.

Afterwards, when she finally finished her food, I felt emotionally drained, stressed, and scared. My anxieties about her upcoming surgery resurfaced. I wound up snapping at Jim and stomped upstairs to stress-vacuum the floor.

This is how I know I need to continue to practice—and that I need to continue to fine-tune my practice. I’m currently able to stay fairly steady and calm in the middle of the chaos, but not after the chaos has passed.

Moments like these make me realize how important it is to take quality time--

to sit on my cushion and meditate,

to mindfully recite mantra,

to read Dharma texts or listen to Dharma talks,

 and to engage is some kind of purification practice


Moments like these help me recognize the progress I’ve already made, and I have made slow, steady progress, much like Zora returning to her dwindling plate of food in the kitchen. These moments help me to appreciate how much I’ve changed for the better, and they also motivate and encourage me to continue to keep practicing in order to move forward on the path.

Zora watching snow fall on Buddha statue 

I hope that you are navigating all of the peaks and valleys of your life with skill, grace, courage, and patience. If a beautiful, hand-knotted mala would enhance and inspire your practice, please visit the MMM online shop. Send me a message via the Contact Us page if you are interested in a custom design. I’d be happy to create a beautiful mala or quarter mala design that’s just right for you and your practice.

27 Beads: Even More Benefits of Quarter Malas January 30, 2024 20:14

Close up view of Quartz Quarter Mala

(Image: Quartz Quarter Mala with disco ball guru and dove gray sutra/tassel)

 If you prefer to listen to this month's blog article, please click HERE for the audio link. 

About eighteen months ago, I wrote a blog entitled “Less Is More: The Beauty and Benefits of Quarter Malas.” In it, I described a few practical benefits to using quarter malas.

Middle Moon Malas quarter malas include twenty-seven beads, plus a guru and tassel. These designs are hand-knotted, of course, and crafted with high-quality gemstones, just like the full malas I create. Lately, I have been creating quarter malas for an upcoming event in March. These little-but-mighty designs are very popular at in-person events, which is why I don’t typically add them to the online shop.

However, whenever I post photos of these mini-malas on Facebook or Instagram, people reach out and ask questions about them—and they want to know how they can purchase them, so I thought I’d go into more details about the benefits of quarter malas in this month’s offering, and encourage you to reach out if you’re interested in a design for yourself or a loved one.

Dzi Agate Quarter Mala with Garnet, Picture Jasper, and Dzi Agate beads and maroon sutra and tassel

(Image: Dzi Agate Quarter Mala with Picture Jasper, Dzi Agate, and Garnet beads with Dzi Agate guru and maroon sutra/tassel)


One of my favorite aspects of creating mala designs is collaborating with clients. I love helping people curate malas that will support and enhance their own personal meditation and wellness practices. Quarter malas are ideal for this collaborative adventure because they are an affordable, low-pressure investment. Most of the quarter malas I create run between $40--$50, depending upon the beads that are in the designs. Also, because there are only 27 beads, it’s easier to explore and play with the colors, textures, and patterns of the beads as well as the colors for the sutra and tassel.

I will create layout designs and send photos to clients. Once they agree on their custom design, it doesn’t take long for me to create their one-of-a-kind quarter mala. It takes me a few days to create a full mala, but I can create a quarter mala in a few hours.

Recently, I had a client who requested a quarter mala for her beloved teacher. After listening to her and showing her photos of various beads, guru options, and sutra colors, we were able to collaborate and create a meaningful and thoughtful gift for someone very important to her.

Some clients are wanting a quarter mala for a specific practice or purpose. For example, I have made Lapis Lazuli quarter malas for Medicine Buddha recitations; Jade quarter malas for Tara sadhanas; Quartz Crystal quarter malas for Vajrasattva retreats.

Some clients have specific color or stone preferences—they want a purple quarter mala, or they really like Amethyst.

Not all of my quarter malas are custom designs. Sometimes, I like to play and experiment with textures, colors, shapes, and combinations of beads. If I really like the result, it may become the inspiration for a full mala design.

I recently created a quarter mala from Rhodochrosite and Cherry Quartz beads with a lovely pink lotus resin guru. This inspired the Pink Lotus Mala, a full mala that includes variations on a theme of these beads. This mala is currently available on the MMM online collection.

Pink Lotus Quarter Mala with Rhodochrosite, Cherry Quartz, and pink lotus guru

(Image: Pink Lotus Quarter Mala with Rhodochrosite and Cherry Quartz beads and pink lotus guru with variegated pink sutra/tassel) 



Collaborating with clients also gives me an opportunity to connect with others and share meaningful conversations. Recently, a client (and former student) reached out because she was interested in a Quartz quarter mala that I had posted on FB. Because she is local, we decided to meet at a nearby coffee shop to chat and catch up, and I was able to deliver her design in person.

It was great to hear about her family, about what she’s doing now, and how much she has evolved and grown since her high school days. She also had questions about how to use her quarter mala, and being able to describe that process in person was more relevant than simply directing her to watch a video or reel that I’d posted.

It’s also nice to support another local small business. We met at Mocha Nut, an independently owned coffee shop in Southport.

I typically attend a few in-person events each year as a vendor, and, usually, these events are a bit crowded and noisy. At these events, there’s not much time to interact one-on-one with customers in a quiet space, so it’s nice to have more time to chat with individual customers in person. 

Red Rose Quarter Mala with Black and White Striped Agate, Faceted Onyx, and Matte Mother-of-Pearl beads and red rose guru with black and red tassel.

(Image: Red Rose Quarter Mala with Black and White Striped Agate, faceted Onyx, and matte Mother-of-Pearl beads with red rose guru and black/red variegated sutra/tassel)


Quarter malas are beautiful little reminders to practice, and they are intended to encourage practice. These quarter mala designs are not made to be worn on the wrist all day. I don’t use stretchy cord, and don’t make stretchy bracelets.  My designs are hand-knotted, and the same cord that runs through all of the beads also secures the tassel. Everything is connected and interconnected, after all.

Because quarter malas are portable and don’t take up much space, they are ideal for travel. Also, because they are affordable, it’s possible to keep one at home, one in the car, and one at work. So, if you’ve made a commitment to meditate or recite mantras every day, strategically (and respectfully) placed quarter malas are meaningful reminders to practice.

Having the visual reminder of a quarter mala can be a comforting motivator. Whenever you have a few minutes to practice, or even when challenges arise, they are right there waiting to support you, helping you to stay grounded and focused.

I recently had a conversation with someone at work, and this conversation brought up anxious emotions for me. This particular individual tends to have very strong opinions, and often presents his opinions as if they were facts. Usually, I can let his comments slide, but this time, his remarks were jarring and triggering for me. I could feel the uneasy pull of an anxiety spiral forming in my gut.

I didn’t contradict, challenge, or argue with him. Instead, I sat at my desk, held my mala in my hand, and completed a brief breath practice.

First Bead: inhale


Next Bead: exhale


All the way around the mala.

It took just a few minutes to calm my anxious thoughts. It also helped me detach and not take his comments personally. I was able to let it go and move on.

Elephant Jasper Quarter Mala with gold metal guru and autumn harvest variegated sutra and tassel.

(Image: Elephant Jasper Quarter Mala with gold metal textured guru and Autumn Harvest variegated sutra/tassel)


I hope 2024 is treating you well so far! If you are interested in a Middle Moon Malas quarter mala, I would be happy to create a beautiful design that supports you and your practice.  Just send me an email via the Contact Us page to begin.

Groundwork: Inviting the Shadow to Tea December 30, 2023 13:21

White teacup in shadow. The reflection of the handle creates a heart shaped image

If you prefer to listen to this month's offering, please click HERE for the audio link.

I’m currently reading a book by Rob Preece. He’s a Tibetan Buddhist as well as a therapist (with Jungian leanings). Preparing for Tantra focuses on Buddhist preliminary practices, but he frames them through the lens of a Western perspective. I’m enjoying his book very much, and it is helping me prepare for Sravasti Abbey’s Retreat from Afar starting in January.

One of the major points that Preece emphasizes in this book is the importance of shadow work. He defines the term Shadow as “aspects of human nature that are repressed and held in the unconscious.” According to Preece, acknowledging and integrating the Shadow can be synonymous with groundwork.

In Buddhism, groundwork, or preliminary practices, can be connected to (but not limited to) mantra recitations, prostrations, and water bowl offerings. These rituals prepare the body, speech, and mind for more advanced meditation practices and study.

However, this idea of connecting groundwork to facing one’s Shadow fascinates me. For years, I would joke that I must have gotten turned around and lost in the Bardo and wound up with the wrong family in this lifetime. After reading this book, I no longer believe that.

Shadow memories and dark times have been bubbling to the surface for me recently, which is not unusual given the time of year. Winter is often the season for reflection for many people.

I wasn’t a practicing Buddhist as a kid, but I did grow up with challenging circumstances. I grew up in a home with a severely mentally ill parent. My mother had been diagnosed with many labels and had been prescribed many more combinations of psychiatric meds over the course of her adult life, but through the changing diagnoses and medications, she consistently remained incredibly unmotivated and self-absorbed. She often used her illness as an excuse to not do anything or go anywhere. She also milked it for all it was worth to manipulate family members and to garner constant favors and requests. My stepdad was frequently going to the store for her after coming home from work because she was “too sick” to go herself—and she never went with him.

We all walked on eggshells around her. Her depression took the entire family hostage, and each of us handled the fallout in different ways.

My stepdad escaped through work; he worked long hours and took several business trips to Mexico and Japan during this time period.  My sister and I both took refuge in music; she played the piano, and I played the violin, but we didn’t play together. I also loved to read and enjoyed escaping to the safety of novels and biographies.

Unfortunately, my mother’s illness didn’t bring us together. Instead, it forced us apart. It also didn’t help that I was the odd duck in the family. I was the oldest, and a child from my mother’s previous marriage, so I never felt like I fit into this new family unit (not fitting in is a big part of my Shadow work).

I was bullied at home. My stepdad was extremely demanding and critical with me, and he could be quite condescending and emotionally cruel, especially when no one was around to witness his cruelty.

My sister and I were four years apart in age. Consequently, we attended different schools and had different circles of friends. When we were together, we often argued. She was my stepdad’s biological child (and darling), and he treated her differently—he was much kinder and more patient with her than he was with me.

Both of my parents were emotionally unavailable for me at this time, and I desperately needed loving, compassionate guidance. Unfortunately, I was often left to fend for myself—and honestly—I was a weird kid—awkward, shy, socially clumsy, and hopelessly insecure.

During this time, when I was attending junior high school, we lived in an apartment complex. Unfortunately, I wasn’t just bullied at home—I was also bullied at school, too, mainly at the bus stop and on the bus.

I loved school—it was my safe space—but I hated the ride there and back.

Every morning, I carried my books and violin to the bus stop at the front of the apartment complex. It was a large shelter framed with dark wooden fencing on three sides and a roof, and it was always packed with kids from the complex. Several kids smoked cigarettes in the crowded shelter, and there were some “stoners” who smoked marijuana. I had enough craziness going on in my life; I didn’t need that, so I waited for the bus by the main road, away from the shelter.

I stood outside, rain or shine, by myself. Several kids hooted and jeered at me every morning when I walked by. Some even made animal noises at me. I ignored them, but it was HARD! On the outside, I may have appeared unfazed by their daily taunts, which carried over on the bus ride to and from school—every day—for three years. On the inside, however, I was a mess—a hollow, confused, traumatized mess.

I stood up (and out) by staying quiet, minding my own business, and enduring the daily barrage of ridiculous taunts.

I didn’t know it at the time, but upon reflection, this was my groundwork. This was a significant preliminary practice for me. I was not in a good place physically or emotionally during these junior high years. I did not feel safe, and I was not understood, adequately cared for, or appreciated. These were very hard times—for me and for my family.

Fortunately, things improved when I attended high school (and we moved out of the apartment complex). I got a job at a nearby Dairy Queen, not far from our new house. Between work and school, I didn’t have much time to spend at home, so the bullying subsided there, too.


These painful experiences helped me tremendously and led me to discover Buddhism. They helped me develop empathy and compassion for others, especially after I graduated from college and started my teaching career.

I knew what it felt like to be excluded, so I went out of my way to ensure that my students’ voices were heard and acknowledged. I never taught a class without including journal writings. It was a great way for them to practice their writing skills, and to express their thoughts and feelings.

Groundwork is the foundation from which everything else grows. It is dark soil, rich with rocky potential that requires hard work, patience, and dedication.

When I think about these early years, I realize how far I’ve come and how much I’ve grown, despite how much I suffered. I was traveling on the path before I even knew the path existed.

These dark, awkward times motivated me to continue to read, study, and learn. They taught me the importance of kindness, generosity, empathy, compassion, and joy. They inspired me to embrace connection and understand the importance of interdependence.

This groundwork encouraged me not only to keep going, despite the hardship and loneliness, but it also encouraged me to surround myself with others who were ethical, supportive, and kind.

This groundwork encouraged me to be observant and mindful—to set healthy boundaries—and to communicate clearly about what is OK and what is not.

My life is far from perfect. I continue to falter and make ridiculously stupid mistakes. The good news is, I have a loving family, I feel safe in my home, I have supportive, warm-hearted friends, and I have a meaningful Dharma practice to rely on daily.

I enjoy reading books like Rob Preece’s, I enjoy listening to and attending Dharma talks, I enjoy making time to meditate, recite mantra, make offerings, and do prostrations.

Remembering the dark times helps me to appreciate all that I have now. Those junior high days seem like many lifetimes ago, but I wouldn’t be who I am now if I hadn’t endured those challenges and struggles.

I have invited my Shadow to tea with this blog post, and I realize now that I did not get turned around in the Bardo and wind up in the wrong family. I ended up exactly where I was supposed to be, and I worked hard to cultivate a meaningful life for myself and others. I continue to do that work even now.

We are all works in progress, we all suffer in samsara, and we are all on the path helping each other learn, grow, and thrive, whether we realize it or not.

I hope 2024 treats you well. May you continue to learn, grow, practice, and thrive in the coming New Year. Please visit the current Middle Moon Malas online collection of hand-knotted malas. May they support and inspire your own personal practice. Know that you are always welcome to reach out via the Contact Us page for custom design requests as well.

Thanks for taking the time to read or listen to this month’s offering. Happy New Year!





.Photo Credit: Luca N from Unsplash






Slow Down: Savoring the Practice of Pausing November 30, 2023 10:00

Silhouette of me holding a cup of tea while looking at the November calendar. 

 If you prefer to listen to this month's offering, click HERE for the audio link.


At various times throughout this month, I have received several nudges from the universe to slow down. For example, as I was driving home from school a couple weeks ago, I slowed down while entering a roundabout. I heard a car horn beeping behind me, and from my side mirror, I saw a small blue car. Inside, a cranky man was shaking his fist at me, urging me to go-go-go.

Apparently, he didn’t notice the giant “YIELD” sign to our right—or the three cars whipping around the circle from the left, which motivated me to slow down and pause.


I gestured toward the fast-moving cars—but cranky man just shook his head in frustration. When it was safe, I entered the circle. Cranky man in the little blue car buzzed by me, irritated, agitated, and totally unaware that I was not just looking out for myself, but I was looking out for him and others as well.


Another nudge from the universe came in the form of a poem that I came across by one of my all-time favorite poets, Naomi Shihab Nye. This poem, “Every Day,” is from her collection A Maze Me: Poems for Girls, published in 2005.


Every Day

My hundred-year-old, next-door neighbor told me:

Every day is a good day, if you have it.

I had to think about that a minute.

She said, Every day is a present

someone left at your birthday place at the table.

Trust me! It may not feel like that,

but it’s true. When you’re my age,

you’ll know. Twelve is a treasure.

And it’s up to you

to unwrap the package gently,

lifting out the gleaming hours

wrapped in tissue,

don’t miss the bottom of the box.


Busyness is a habit of mind, and it can be an indication of an agitated nervous system. We are encouraged in American society to go-go-go, do-do-do, hurry-hurry-hurry, constantly chasing the mind as it leaps ahead into the future, leaving the body behind in a state of rattled confusion. The mind screams, “Look how busy I am! I am soooooo important!!!”


Right. I get it! I have certainly been caught up in this cycle. When I taught high school English, there were times when I was hyper-aware of the clock on the wall, and my days were measured in fifty-five-minute intervals, with ringing bells and five-minute passing periods. I remember the constant cycle of planning lessons and grading essays. I remember times when I was so focused on being prepared for anything that I was rarely focused on “what is” and present with my students sitting right in front of me. In other words, I was missing the bottom of the box.


Ironically, running around from task to task, obligation to obligation is just another form of laziness. According to Venerable Thubten Chodron, abbess of Sravasti Abbey in Washington state, “Being super-busy in a worldly way is another kind of laziness because it keeps us from our practice.”


A go-go-go, do-do-do, hurry-hurry-hurry mindset is a limiting one…and an exhausting one. It distracts us from what is most meaningful, and it prevents us from seeing the bigger picture.

Paradoxically, the most meaningful, big-picture moments, often involve taking the time to slow down, notice, and contemplate the small things:

*the rhythm and flow of the breath

*the syncopated sounds of rain on the roof

*a passage from a book or line from a poem that makes you stop, underline it, and read it again

*the sound of a child’s laughter in a grocery store

*watching leaves flutter to the ground

*watching the full moon shift and rise through bare branches

Small things, for me, are my portals to deep awareness.  Small things encourage me to slow down—to pause—to do less and enjoy more—and to notice, really notice, what’s going on around me.


I’ve also noticed that making time for consistent, daily practices (for me, that includes meditation, mantra recitations, and Feldenkrais lessons) increases the likelihood that I’ll notice and appreciate the small things with big-picture potential—these tiny portals of awareness.


The biggest nudge from the universe came the other morning when I made time to visit a dear friend and former colleague. She has survived more than one stroke, has experienced slow, but steady cognitive decline, and is currently recovering from a recent heart attack.

The hospital where she is staying is close to the school where I work as a part-time tutor, and I was able to spend time with her between student sessions.


When I walked into her room, she was sleeping. I talked to her while she rested, describing the view outside her window. I told her about the large, billowy clouds and the streaks of sunlight shining through them. I told her about the air traffic control tower that I could see from the nearby airport, and every few minutes, an airplane would rise up and disappear into the billowy clouds streaked with sunshine.


She was surrounded by gently beeping monitors and was covered with a fleece blanket with turkeys and pumpkins on it. A muted National Geographic program about Egyptian art was playing on the television.


A friend had visited her the day before and brought her a green stuffed rabbit. She hugged it close to her as she slept. The color made me think of Green Tara, and I softly sang the mantra to her like a lullabye: Om Tare Tutarre Ture Soha, Om Tare Tutarre Ture Soha, Om Tare Tutarre Ture Soha, Om Tare Tutarre Ture Soha…

I told her how grateful I was for her friendship over the years, how her mentorship was extremely helpful when I first started teaching.

I thought about all the places she’d traveled with her family, all the stories she’d shared about her adventures, and how much her students admired her.

I didn’t know if she would awaken while I was there, so I made the most of the time I had with her. I was fully present with her.


Fortunately, she did wake up after a short while, and we had time to chat. Her eyes lit up when she saw me; she was delighted to have someone waiting to talk with her when she woke up. She struggled to find words at times, and her mind would catch in cognitive loops, bringing the conversation around to the same topics or questions. She confused me for other friends at times, or one of her daughters, but it didn’t matter. I was happy to have time to see her and to talk with her.


This visit with my friend did not make me feel sad. Instead, I felt joyful and relieved to have a chance to thank her for all of her helpful advice and friendship over the years. I had time to hold space and be present with her while she slept and while she was awake.


Slowing down means savoring the present moment, accepting what is with grace and dignity.

Listening to nudges from the universe, taking in these small moments, and appreciating the joy of pausing—these are the “gleaming hours/ wrapped in tissue.” Paying deep attention to these portals of awareness: this, too, is practice.


I hope you all are finding joy during this Holiday Season. May you be able to slow down and appreciate your own portals of awareness during this time. Please know that I have added several new designs to the Middle Moon Malas online collection, and they make thoughtful gifts for loved ones who have a meditation practice, or for yourself. Please consider purchasing a hand-knotted mala design to inspire meaningful practice and to support a small business. Much gratitude!



Change Is Fantastic! Reframing Unexpected Surprises, Detours, and Obstacles October 30, 2023 18:15

 Close up view of golden yellow gingko leaves on a branch. Fallen leaves are scattered in the background on green grass.

 If you prefer to listen to this month's blog offering, please click HERE for the audio link.


I was driving in the car, headed to a dental appointment a few weeks ago. I was half-listening to an NPR interview with a scientist. I was taking an alternate route due to a massive construction project on I-465 and was laser-beam focused on driving. However, I heard a phrase that made me stop, literally, and pay attention.

The scientist being interviewed said, “Change is fantastic!”

My first thought was, that would make an excellent mantra! What a wonderful way to reframe unexpected surprises, detours, and obstacles.

Hearing this woman’s words changed (for the better) the rest of my commute. I was no longer thinking about the extra time that this alternate route was taking. Instead, I was able to appreciate the light traffic and fall scenery. My trip felt more like an adventure and an exploration than an inconvenience.

Not only did I arrive a few minutes early for my appointment, but I also discovered a new route in the process.


Most of us find change to be an unnerving, annoying inconvenience—sometimes, change can even seem terrifying. We often have a negative reaction to change, especially if we have expectations or attachments connected to the situation.

 We leave for work only to discover our car has a flat tire.

We spill coffee on our laptop.

The power goes out in the middle of our Zoom meeting.

 These unexpected twists and turns can, and do, happen at times, but humans are resilient. We are designed to adapt because we live in a world where change is a constant, unpredictable companion.

The good news is, the more we practice reframing unexpected changes with the mantra, “Change is fantastic!” the more effectively we can navigate even more serious changes like illness, death, natural disasters, and war.


The natural world is a beautiful reminder of the perpetual and cyclic nature of change.

At this time of year, deciduous trees in my town are bursting with color, and I love watching their leaves flutter to the ground. Soon, the air will be cold, and their branches will be bare—there is beauty in bare branches, too.

Change is Fantastic!

Flocks of birds are migrating south. Collectively, they undulate in waves across darkening skies streaked with the bold colors of autumn sunsets.

Change is Fantastic!

The squirrels in my yard are busy collecting and hiding acorns for the upcoming winter months. They, too, are preparing for fantastic changes.


Granted, some changes are easier to appreciate than others.

Celebrating birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and graduations are just a few examples. It’s easy to recognize and rejoice the fantastic nature of these milestones.

I’ve worked in a high school setting for over three decades, and while most seniors look forward to graduation at the end of the school year, each year there are a few who dread it. These students have grown attached and accustomed to school life—the structure, the expectations, the routines and schedules. Even though they may complain about the workload (or the food in the cafeteria), school for them is predictable, familiar, and safe.

Some students are so resistant to change that they sabotage their own future success by failing key classes so they can’t graduate. For them, moving forward into new situations, opportunities, and circumstances is too uncomfortable or frightening. They believe that if they don’t graduate, their lives won’t have to change. Self-sabotage and stubborn stagnation are not effective coping mechanisms for navigating growth and progress. Unfortunately, these heart-breaking strategies aren’t just limited to seniors in high school.


Life is change!

While some changes are more comfortable to experience than others, even the lessons that devastating changes bring can be meaningful and profound.

Changes such as dealing with an illness, a sudden death, violent crime, war, or a devastating earthquake, flood, or wildfire—these are truly fantastic changes—but they don’t feel very fantastic. Instead, they can be overwhelming and traumatic.

These larger-than-life changes are formidable reminders of the importance of compassion and interdependence. Often, during profoundly difficult times, people come together to offer aid, support, and comfort. This interconnection enables us to see that what we do matters, and that our actions ripple and reach, creating an intricate tapestry of connections.

Such dramatic and jarring changes can also lead to equally dramatic realizations, understanding, and the motivation to act and respond in resourceful, beneficial ways. Big changes help us to see the bigger picture and the longer view.

Human beings are both fragile and resilient—vulnerable and strong. By accepting that change will be our constant companion throughout our lives, and by welcoming small changes with a light-hearted, open-minded attitude, these strategies can help us enjoy our current journey and prepare for bigger obstacles that may lie ahead.


As I was walking from the parking lot into school this morning, I noticed that the temperature had dropped by twenty degrees during my commute. The jacket that I was wearing wasn’t quite warm enough for this environmental change. However, the walk from my car to the front door was a short one, and I had a mantra that was just perfect for this situation: “Change is fantastic!”


Thank you for reading or listening to this month's offering. If you would like to embrace the upcoming, fantastic changes in your life with the help of a new mala, feel free to visit the latest MMM collection while you're here. I've added several new designs since Wellbeing Fest. 

Generosity, Stinginess, and Over-Giving: Intention Determines What's Too Much, Not Enough, or Just Right September 28, 2023 08:53

An open hand reaches for trees and patches of blue sky in the distance

If you prefer to listen to this month’s article, please click HERE for the audio link.

In general, most people would agree that generosity is an important quality to cultivate, practice, and encourage in mainstream society. I also think that most people recognize that selfishness and stinginess are polar opposites to generosity. I would add, though, that over-giving is just as counterproductive as miserliness. Whenever giving and receiving are out of whack, stinginess and over-giving can rise to the surface and pollute the pond of generosity.

According to Venerable Thubten Chodron, Abbess of Sravasti Abbey, generosity is linked with wisdom and bodhichitta, and our far-reaching attitude or motivation behind giving to others is extremely important. “The mind is not really giving, if generosity is linked with pride,” she says.

If we give to others and then regret it later, if we give to those who won’t appreciate or need what we have to offer, or if we give in order to flaunt status or to dominate others, our gifts become tainted transactions. Not only do these gifts lose significance and meaning, but they also destroy any possibility of merit because our motivation wasn’t grounded in sincerity, respect, and humility.

When it comes to generosity, everything hinges on intention, and intentions aren’t always obvious or easy to detect from the perspective of the casual observer.

I grew up among family members who had serious baggage around generosity and sincere giving. For example, when I was a kid, it wasn’t uncommon for my mom to give a gift to my sister or me—only to take it back later. Usually, these were small things—a framed photograph, a pair of earrings, a book or a record—but, still—the taking back, usually motivated by regret or attachment on my mom’s part, felt like an “ungiving” as well as a covert power play.

A strange variation on a theme of this occurred many years later after Jim and I were married. My grandmother (my mom’s mom) had died, and my mother gave me a beautiful crystal candy dish. I was led to believe that it had belonged to my grandmother, and my mom gave it to me as a remembrance or keepsake of her mom.

I found out later that this same candy dish was actually a wedding gift that my aunt Christine (my mom’s sister) had given to Jim and me soon after we were married. Aunt Christine lived several states away, and she sent this gift to my mom’s address with the understanding that my mom would give it to us after our wedding.

Instead, my mom kept the crystal candy dish for herself, and then gave it to me several years later (out of consolation, or guilt). She never mentioned that Aunt Christine had given it to us many years beforehand. I discovered this many years later (from my aunt Christine)—and graciously thanked her for her generosity.

When I was a kid, gifts were transactional during the holidays. They were carefully counted, measured, and weighed. Often, my sister and I were given identical gifts to prevent any feelings of jealousy. Consequently, exchanging gifts in my family wasn’t open-hearted, generous, or even sincere. It was often an obligation laced with manipulation.

Withholding gifts and taking gifts back are forms of stinginess, selfishness, and emotional manipulation.

As a result, it took me a while to find a healthy balance between giving and receiving. Early on in my teaching career, for example, I made a habit of over-giving my time, effort, and resources, and I was exhausted and depleted as a result. Giving and doing so much for others while neglecting my own needs was not healthy or helpful.

Over-giving can also be a manipulative power play and a form of attention-seeking behavior. For example, I attended a dinner a few years ago with several friends. We met for a wonderful meal and an evening of camaraderie and connection. At the end of the evening, one of our friends volunteered to pay for everyone’s dinner. He sat at the head of the table and waved the waiter over with a flourish as he whipped out his credit card.

We had had gathered as individuals and as equals around a table, but my friend’s act of generosity struck me as just that—an act. I felt grateful, but I also felt uncomfortable. I wondered what his motivation was—was this an offering of sincere generosity? Was he flaunting his status? Was he claiming some sort of authority? Did he struggle with receiving? Was I being paranoid?

Clearly, I had a lot of questions, and it motivated me to consider my own intentions whenever I give to others. It also motivated me to consider HOW I give to others. For example, I’m a big fan of anonymous blessings and quiet contributions as opposed to showy public displays of generosity. I also prefer to give sincere, occasional compliments as opposed to over-the-top, gish-galloping geysers of flattery on the daily.

For me, one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned is that generosity doesn’t have to be material possessions or money. Time and attention are valuable gifts. Teaching is a generous offering. A meaningful conversation—a heart-felt card, letter, phone call, or text—a genuine smile and warm greeting—all of these can be sincere, generous gifts. What matters most is the intention—if the intention is respectful, kind, and compassionate—and devoid of desires or
agendas, then it is pure, it is valid, and it is more than enough.

According to the Psychology Today article, “Are You an Over-Giver?” Karen Kleiman, MSW, LCSW, asserts that over-giving is not a symptom of ultimate selflessness. Rather, it “essentially comes from an inability to receive.” Over-giving, like stinginess, is an indication that the balance of give and receive are out of alignment. Kleiman claims, “If you are unable to take in love, attention, or help from others and accept it completely, you are giving from an empty heart.” 

In over-giving, the gift is more about the giver than the recipient. In this article, Kleiman also includes a list of common indications that over-giving, rather than generosity, may be present:

1. It’s important for you to be the giver rather than the receiver in relationships.
2. It’s common for you to feel guilty when someone gives to you.
3. You tend to put the needs of others first and neglect your own.
4. You tend to apologize about not being able to give in the way that you’d like.
5. You are unable or uncomfortable about asking for help.
6. Your own insecurities are at the root of your tendency to over-give.
7. You over-give in order to feel loved, respected, valued, or admired.

In other words, over-giving fulfills unmet needs or serves an agenda, as opposed to generosity, which flows from sincerity, humility, and kind-heartedness.

I have certainly been guilty of both stinginess and over-giving many times in my life. I’ve experienced the tight pinch of restrictive stinginess, of not giving enough time, attention, or resources to others in need.

I have also experienced the expansive, controlling gluttony of over-giving: showering gifts or compliments to those who didn’t want, appreciate, or need my excessive offerings. 

Stinginess and over-giving are limited and limiting, and I am mindfully on the lookout for them in my own interactions with others.

Generosity is an important virtue—it’s one of the six perfections, and it’s usually first on the list! At the heart of healthy generosity is openness, kindness, and clarity. What is given is given (for keeps) with the sincere wish to benefit others in a humble, respectful, and appropriate way.

Thank you for taking the time to read or listen to this month’s offering. Please visit the Middle Moon Malas collection. Several new malas have been recently added. These malas make generous gifts for others and for yourself. May they be of benefit.

Photo Credit: Rui Silvestre courtesy of Unsplash

Indiana State Fair 2023: A Celebration of Interdependence August 31, 2023 13:02

Jim and I walking hand in hand at the Indiana State Fair

If you prefer to listen to this month's blog article, please click HERE for the audio link (11 minute listen).

The Indiana State Fair is an annual, month-long summer event in Indianapolis that includes concerts, livestock, rides, games, an assortment of fried foods, and family fun.

I’m not going to lie, it’s not an event that typically appeals to me. I’m generally not jazzed about tractor pulls, midway rides, and large crowds in the unbearable summer heat and humidity of the Hoosier state.

This year, however, my daughter was working at the Newfields booth during an afternoon shift on the last Friday of this year’s fair schedule, so Jim and I decided to meet her there for dinner after her shift ended and to experience some family fun, first-hand.

Our first (and really only) obstacle was navigating rush hour traffic and finding a parking spot once we arrived. On our way there, a semi nearly missed plowing into our vehicle on I-65. The driver hadn’t been paying attention and didn’t notice that traffic was slowing.

Fortunately, we lived through that close call only to wait in line for 45 minutes as we inched our way toward a parking spot at the far end of the sandy infield of the fairgrounds.

We arrived just in time to see the fair parade, led by the famous Clydesdale horses and Budweiser carriage, followed by a marching band and several tractors pulling hordes of waving sponsors, farmers, and fair princesses with glittery pink sashes.

Clydesdale horses pulling Budweiser carriage in parade at Indiana State Fair 2023

Elise had wandered into the parade line and met us near the grandstand. We waited in line for ears of fresh buttered sweet corn. Elise enjoyed deep fried Oreos, I chose chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick, and Jim selected pork riblets with a Lemon Shake-up.

The weather was perfect! It was breezy and slightly cool with very low humidity, which is extremely rare for this time of year.

After “dinner,” we wandered into various livestock buildings and visited sheep, goats, alpacas, horses, and pigs.

I'm connecting with an adorable goat in the petting zoo


A large goat is vying for Elise's attention while we chat with a little goat

beautiful Belgian horse in one of the livestock buildings at the Indiana State Fair 2023

We sat in plastic Adirondack chairs and listened to an up-and-coming local band. The band members couldn’t have been any older than the high school students I currently tutor.

We circled around the fairgrounds on a shuttle pulled by a large tractor. The long bench seats allowed for easy access on and off during the various stops.

What does all of this have to do with meditation practice? Well, the old me (the version of myself before I dedicated time to a daily practice) would have been very anxious in a crowd full of strangers, disgusted by the mingled scents of exhaust fumes, fair food, and livestock manure. The old me would have worried about the time, even on a Friday night. Honestly, the old me would have never made it to the fair to begin with—she would have insisted that the near miss with the semi was “a sign from the Universe” to just go on home.

The present me, however, was just that—present.

Jim was a little antsy as we inched our way to the infield parking lot, but I was calm and content. We had the windows rolled down and could hear the sounds of cicadas along with the gleeful shrieks coming from people on the midway rides.

The present me wasn’t worried about being late—or the time at all. I enjoyed spending time with my family and taking in all the sights and sounds without judgment, worry, or fear.

I enjoyed interacting and connecting with the animals in the livestock barns. From patting the bellies of the milk-drunk piglets to stroking the soft noses of the sheep, goats, and horses, connecting with the animals was soothing, and being with my family was comforting.

The present me even found connecting with strangers to be enjoyable. I was relaxed and at ease in the crowd. At one point, as we were walking near the midway, I met eyes with an elderly woman in a wheelchair. I smiled, said, “Hello.” Her eyes were bright and welcoming.  I didn’t know her, but I felt connected to her, nonetheless. I felt connected—and interconnected with the thousands of others who were milling all around us, sharing the sights and sounds and space of this beautiful summer night.

The present me appreciated the efforts of all the hearts and hands of all ages, races, and backgrounds who came together to make this event possible: from those directing traffic in the parking lot, those preparing and serving food, those maintaining and monitoring the grounds and rides, those driving the tractor shuttles, those making public announcements, those tending to animals, and, of course, the animals. This evening was a celebration of interdependence.

My practice has changed me for the better, and it’s events like these that most clearly reveal and showcase some of these positive changes:

  • Remain open and receptive to new opportunities
  • See the familiar with a fresh set of eyes
  • Set aside past associations and perceptions
  • Remain calm and relaxed—even under pressure
  • Release tension after danger has passed
  • Prevent unexpected obstacles from spoiling the rest of the evening
  • Remain content and patient while waiting
  • Enjoy the company of loved ones and strangers
  • Feel genuine love, compassion, and joy for others
  • Remain focused, alert, and present without expectations
  • Cultivate gratitude for others’ skills, gifts, and efforts


This is what daily practice has done for me. Over time, it has enabled me to allow, appreciate, and enjoy this precious human life.

Do I feel this connected all the time? No. However, I do feel like this more frequently than I did a decade ago. My practice has improved the overall quality of my life, and, by proxy, it has improved the lives of others around me.


I’m reflecting on this topic at a time when yet another mass shooting has occurred in our country—this time, in Jacksonville, Florida. The contrast of these two events: an enjoyable evening with my family at the fair, and yet another tragic shooting motivated by hate, ignorance, and racism—is jarring and unsettling.


One of the biggest benefits of my personal practice is that it helps me to navigate this paradox—and it motivates me to continue to practice without being discouraged by the hatred and anger of others.  I can’t change other people, and I won’t allow the destructive actions of others to deter and distract me from appreciating moments of connection and presence. Despite others’ choices and actions that intensify suffering and despair, compassion, connection, interdependence, and gratitude—these are the necessary antidotes that a daily practice fosters.

I firmly believe that when enough people cultivate compassion and connection for others, meaningful change can, and will, occur. However, it must begin with individuals before the ripple effects can reach, progress, and improve society.

The Indiana State Fair may have come and gone for this year, but there will be many more opportunities to celebrate and practice interdependence by this time next summer.

Jim, Elise, and I on the tractor shuttle at the Indiana State Fair 2023



My hope is that this article inspires and supports you and your own practice in some way.

May you be well. May you be happy. And most importantly, may you continue to practice…

 While you're here, don't forget to visit the Middle Moon Malas home page to view the current collection of hand-knotted malas and quarter malas.



Sudden Storms: Navigating Whirlwinds of Change with Daily Practice July 28, 2023 17:10

Dark storm clouds swirl and churn in a form in turbulent sky

If you prefer to listen to this month's blog article, please click HERE for the audio link.


“O, I have suffered with those that I saw suffer.”

                                    Miranda from Shakespeare’s  The Tempest

This summer has been a whirlwind of activity—literally and figuratively. In late June, a pop-up tornado ripped through our neighborhood. It uprooted giant trees, tore off roofs, obliterated detached garages, barns, and fences.

We weren’t given much warning that it was coming. Storm sirens in our area had sounded earlier in the afternoon, but had stopped. It wasn’t raining or hailing at the time, and television meteorologists were focusing on areas to the north and south of us.

The first indication that something wasn’t quite right was our cable went out, and our TVs were blasting loud static on snowy screens. I was going upstairs to turn off the TV when Jim yelled from downstairs, “Get down here, NOW!”

I looked up at the skylight in time to see limbs of trees blowing sideways.

I hurried downstairs, closed the front door, and headed toward the bathroom in the interior hall. By the time I’d reached the bathroom, the storm had already blown past us, and we stepped outside to assess the damage.

Fortunately, our damage was minimal. We lost a cherry tree that had fallen across our driveway and some large limbs from a walnut tree in the backyard. We also had debris from various neighbors’ properties strewn all over our yard. Our house was intact; our barn was not damaged; our two big oak trees had not fallen over (and I was very grateful for that).

However, nearby telephone poles and lines were down. One pole had broken in half and was lying across a two-lane street at an odd, unstable angle. I thought it would be days before our power would be restored, but within eighteen hours, the power was back up and running.

Our neighbors behind us lost three vehicles due to fallen trees. Our neighbor to the south of us lost every single tree standing in his backyard. The damage all around us was devastating, and our community sustained a tremendous amount of damage in the span of 90 seconds. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt, thank goodness.

Jim cut up the cherry tree that had fallen across our driveway with a chainsaw, and then he went to our neighbor’s house to help with their roof.

Neighbors helped us pull their mangled trampoline out of our pine trees, and all of us spent hours picking up limbs, sticks, and branches, carting them into burn piles or dragging them to the ends of driveways for pickup.

This storm was so unexpected and fast-moving, we didn’t have time to be scared.

Neighbors did make time to come out and help each other, asking if everyone was OK.

While Jim was helping out our neighbor with his roof, I picked up sticks, branches, and debris in our yard, and used it as an opportunity for practice.

I chanted, “Om Mani Padme Hum” for hours while I worked. I thought about our neighbors who has sustained far more damage than we had—who lost beautiful trees, who sustained roof damage, broken windows, crushed vehicles, mangled fences, garages, and barns.

I picked up sticks and branches, whispering, “Om Mani Padme Hum.”

Coiled springs from our neighbor’s trampoline—“Om Mani Padme Hum.”

Shingles from a nearby barn—“Om Mani Padme Hum.”

A book cover (Love Story) from someone’s patio table—“Om Mani Padme Hum.”

Arm floaties and bits of pool noodles—“Om Mani Padme Hum.”

Pieces of plastic and siding scraps—“Om Mani Padme Hum.”

We worked for hours, each of us doing our part to clean up the debris and patch things up in the best way we knew how.

We eventually settled into our dark, quiet homes, some of us with candles and flashlights, a few of us with generators.

We rested…and waited for morning.

I’m not going to lie, I had trouble sleeping that night. My body was tired and sore, and my mind was racing with “what if” scenarios—a post traumatic response and an indication of a dysregulated nervous system.

Another opportunity to practice had presented itself. This time, I mentally recited “The Heart Sutra” in Sanskrit (see below for video link).*  It’s something I practice daily, whether there’s a tornado or not. It took me three years to memorize it, and about seven minutes to recite it each day. It’s an important part of my practice, and I’m really glad I took the time to commit it to memory. In this instance, it really helped me to calm down and relax the tight muscles in my jaw, shoulders, back, and legs.

I was also able to steady my restless thoughts and drift off to sleep. Our house was so dark and quiet. The stillness and this practice helped me find much-needed relief.

This is one of the most useful benefits of a daily mantra practice, and I don’t have to be sitting on a cushion or holding a mala for it to be effective. In this case, I was moving slowly around the yard, sweaty, dirty, and sticky from picking up sticks and debris in the heat. I had been focused on what was right in front of me—this stick—this branch—this broken board, etc. On a daily basis, these recitations keep me grounded and prevent me from spiraling into my own storm clouds of “what if” and worry. This practice offers the comfort of “do what you can…from right where you are.”


As I’m writing this today, it has been a month since this storm blew through our neighborhood.

Today, I can hear the sounds of cicada songs, lawn mowers, along with the echoes of hammering from roofers replacing shingles on nearby homes.

Trees have been cut down and cleared away. Small, brightly-colored flags in yards mark where new fence posts will be installed. Many of us have very different views from our porches, patios, and driveways. We can see more of the sky and more of each other’s homes.

I still pick up small bits of debris—pieces of tarp or scraps of shingles—as I walk down our long driveway to get the mail.

Each piece is a reminder of what we endured—and they are also reminders for us to be kind, to be tender with each other.

We all weather storms of various kinds and with varying degrees of severity. Some are visible and create tangible damage; others are hidden and create emotional chaos.

Regardless, this experience has reinforced that finding time to practice daily (before an emergency strikes) not only helps me to regulate my nervous system when obstacles do arise, it also reminds me of the importance to be compassionate toward others--to be aware of the suffering of others—to offer empathy and aid whenever possible—and to be grateful for this precious life.

 I hope you are happy and well—and staying cool in this blistering summer heat. If you haven’t viewed the current collection of malas and quarter malas in a while, I invite you to click the Middle Moon Malas link here to see what’s new or what might speak to you in order to support and inspire your own practice.

  * Here's the link to "The Heart Sutra" video that I listened to many, many times until I finally memorized it. Vidhya Rao has a lovely voice, and listening to it may benefit your practice, too. 

 Photo credit: Egor Yakushkin courtesy of Unsplash

The Heart of the Practice: Spiritual and Health Benefits of Mantra Recitations June 24, 2023 17:05

Photo of myself standing in front of a brick wall in a colorful dress. I am peeking through the heart shape with my hands and wearing a quarter mala on my left wrist.

If you prefer to listen to this month's blog article, click HERE for the audio link.

Did you know that reciting mantras can be good for your heart?

I love it when I can find science-based articles that support concrete benefits to a regular meditation practice, and I found an article that addressed the benefits of mantra recitations, specifically.

I recently read an interesting article from an online medical journal (National Library of Medicine). It concluded that reciting mantras can have a positive effect on heart health and respiration.

This article, by Luciano Bernardi, an associate professor of medicine, along with several other researchers, physicians, and professors, conducted an experiment that analyzed the heart rates and breathing patterns of twenty-three healthy adults during periods of free talking compared to sessions of reciting the Ave Maria prayer in Latin and the Om Mani Padme Hum mantra.

The title of this article is “Effect of Rosary Prayer and Mantras on Autonomic Cardiovascular Rhythms.” Feel free to read the details of this study, if you like.

Ultimately, what these researchers found is that reciting the prayer and mantra slowed the respiration rate to six breaths per minute. Recitations also enhanced heart rate variability and baroreflex sensitivity.

Apparently, a slow respiratory rate has favorable effects on cardiovascular and respiratory function. It increases the oxygenation of blood in the body, it increases a sense of calm and wellbeing, and it improves irregular breathing patterns.

This study also concluded that reciting the rosary or a mantra is not only an important spiritual practice; it is also a beneficial health practice.

Additionally, Bernardi, et al, happened to mention in this article an important historical connection between the prayer and the mantra.

According to the article, the rosary was introduced to “Europe by the crusaders, who took it from the Arabs, who in turn took it from Tibetan monks and the yoga masters of India. This supports the hypothesis that the similar characteristics and effects of these mantras and of the rosary may not be a simple coincidence.”

This detail points to another relevant benefit of a daily recitation practice—one that fosters a sense of interconnection and community with others.

I attend weekly Dharma teachings at TMBCC in Bloomington. Typically, before the Dharma talk begins, we chant prayers together, and after the talk, we chant dedication prayers. It’s the only time during the week where I have the opportunity to chant with others. The rest of the time, I’m on my own with my personal practice.

Even though these prayers are relatively brief and take just a few minutes to recite, having an opportunity to share a collective mantra/prayer practice with others fosters a sense of interconnection and community with other sangha members.

It’s a soothing, calming, shared experience, and it’s a beautiful way to frame Geshe Kunga’s teachings.

Compared to the monasteries that we visited in India, our temple is very small. Our voices may not echo and reverberate in vast temples with high ceilings and polished marble floors, but we are joining together in a communal, shared practice—reciting, reading, and breathing together in a shared, sacred space.

Some of us are very familiar with this weekly practice, and some may be first-time visitors, but all are welcome as we recite these prayers together.

I’m grateful to be able to travel to Bloomington for these weekly teachings. I’m also grateful to have been able to travel to India a few months ago where we visited beautiful monasteries with high ceilings and polished marble floors (Drepung Gomang Monastery in South India, and Namgyal Monastery in North India).

Listening to hundreds of monks chanting together, filling these beautiful spaces with cadences and rhythms of sacred sound in Tibetan and Sanskrit was an amazing, meaningful opportunity. Their voices lulled us into a peaceful, tranquil state and fostered a strong sense of connection, interconnection, and community.

 If you don't have a daily mantra practice yet, I highly recommend it. A daily recitation practice will not only benefit your physical health, but it will also benefit your spiritual and emotional wellbeing. Om Mani Padme Hum is a wonderful mantra to recite on the daily, and if you need a mala, I have several  to choose from in the current Middle Moon Malas collection.

I hope you are enjoying this beautiful summer season, and I hope this month's  article was beneficial in some way. I look forward to sharing another article with you next month.


Take Care--