Honoring Those Who Have Come before You June 1, 2016 08:00
My introduction to a meditation practice was not dramatic, by any means. My japa roots are humble ones; I fell into this practice by a combination of happenstance, intuition, and luck. I didn’t have a guru or a spiritual teacher to show me the way. My spiritual teachers were found mainly in books and Sounds True courses on cassette tapes (later CDs): Louise Hay, Alan Watts, Marianne Williamson, Eckhart Tolle, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Don Miguel Ruiz, Caroline Myss, and Carl Jung. Each book, each lecture was like an individual bead on a sutra—one following the other—each one connected and interconnected—leading me to exactly where I was meant to go…and be.
I started to meditate when I was pregnant with my daughter, Elise. At the time, I was naïve enough to think that meditation would help me transcend the pain of childbirth. I never dreamed that it would become a lifelong habit that would help me navigate the joys and challenges of life, and that it would become an absolute necessity for the demands of parenthood.
In the winter of 1994, I made weekly trips to a small home in Broad Ripple that had been converted into a meditation center. I remember our shoes lined up in neat rows by the door, the faint smell of jasmine incense, sunlight streaming through partially opened blinds, and that purple maternity Barneyesque sweat suit that I wore (It was the only thing comfortable enough for me to sit and meditate in). I was full of hope and purpose, and I was eager to welcome a new life as well as a new practice into my own life.
I persisted, sitting every evening in front of a small votive candle on the floor of my daughter’s freshly-painted nursery. After she was born, sitting in meditation became more sporadic, but it still happened—and life also happened. However, I found new teachers to lead the way—poets, this time: Li-Young Lee, Jane Hirschfield, Gary Snyder, Dorianne Laux, Ted Kooser, Rita Dove, Charles Simic, Rumi, Dōgen…
I bought my first mala before I knew what it was for—or how to use it. I knew they were sacred, like the rosaries I had seen my mother and grandmother use, and I knew that they were connected to meditation and spiritual practices, but that was all. I was drawn to the black specks on the creamy white bodhi seeds—a Moon and Stars Mala. It called to me, and I answered. For a long time, I kept it in my home office; it shared space on a table with a small candle and a statue of Kwan Yin. I liked the feel of the seeds between my fingers—and sometimes I wore it to school.
Eventually, all of the pieces of the puzzle came together with the help of many more teachers. This time, real-live human beings were coming into my life to enhance my practice, and I was very grateful for their arrival. I was able to link my meditation, yoga, and mantra practices together, integrating body, mind, and spirit.
What started as naïve curiosity had blossomed and deepened into a sincere, heart-driven practice and a desire to share this practice with others. I love creating and designing custom malas for others, never forgetting how my own practice began, and honoring the teachers (literary and real-life) who helped me along the way. My meditation practice started before I gave birth to my daughter, but what I didn’t realize is that, all along, this practice was helping me awaken, helping me realize my potential, and helping me serve others in a meaningful way.