Personal and Public Practice: Striking a Balance June 14, 2019 12:27
I love my personal practices (meditation, mantra recitations, somatic movement), but I also enjoy sharing a common space with other practitioners, too.
Whether you're an introvert or an extrovert, ideally, a healthy spiritual practice requires a blend of both private and group settings in order to foster personal growth and social connections.
Benefits of Personal Practice
Privacy and Agency:
I begin each morning with a sadhana practice that my teacher gave to me. I sit in bed in my jammies while my dog and cat sleep on either side of me, and I recite, chant, and visualize the practice in the privacy of my own home.
If I'm at school, and I have a few minutes between student tutoring sessions, I'll walk around the track and chant mantra. Adding movement to a japa practice with a little fresh air and sunshine is a great way to boost my energy and stay focused and sharp for my students.
I also like to chant if I'm in the car alone on a long commute. It helps me to stay focused while I'm driving, and it's also a great way to ward off stress and anxiety during rush hour.
In the evenings, I sit on a cushion near my altar space to meditate. I'll light a candle or a stick of incense and practice for an hour. If I'm tired, sometimes I'll practice lying down on the floor. I have options--and I've learned the importance of being gentle with myself and taking care of myself as I practice.
Recently, I've discovered some wonderful Feldenkrais lessons online. I love ending each day with a movement lesson. I'm on a circular green mat in my living room. The lights are dim--the TV is on mute, if it's on at all, and it's just me, myself, and the movement practice.
Having the space and time to deepen and explore my own practices on my own terms and in my own way is nourishing and delicious to my spirit. I absolutely need the privacy and the time to practice every day in order to function properly.
Benefits of Public Practice
Connection and Support:
There's something really beautiful about sharing the practice and the space with other meditators or movers, too, however. In the last year, I have attended three, week-long retreats at a meditation center in Colorado. Meditating in a large group is very different from a session in the home space. Not only are you sharing a common physical space, and typically you're sitting very close to one another, but you're also holding space for each other in a communal practice setting. In this environment, you pick up on the subtle energies of the location and on the other practitioners around you.
The last time I was in Crestone, I kept getting images of eyes--close-up, huge, luminous eyes--of horses, of people, of cartoonish animated characters--big eyes everywhere! I'm not sure whose energy I was tapping into, but I was accessing unusual images and cultivating opportunities to sit with these differences in a non-judgmental way. It was interesting...and challenging.
Practicing in a group also lends itself to learning new ideas and strategies, too. I saw so many creative prop arrangements for seated meditation when I shared the space with 100 other meditators.
I recently started attending somatic movement classes. It's been nearly two years since I practiced in a group setting. I used to practice and teach yoga at a local studio, but I've since become a "reformed yogi" and prefer Feldenkrais lessons and other alternative movement modalities. I've missed the camraderie and friendship that practicing in a group environment can bring, and I'm so glad that I've found a local somatic group that I can practice with and feel safe. They are warm-hearted, friendly, and accepting. Having the courage to step out into a group space again has been a little unsettling, but it's important to nudge yourself beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone every once in a while.
Practicing with a group is great, if the group dynamics are supportive and healthy. It took me some time to heal and deepen my own personal practices before I was ready to join another group, but I'm really glad I did. That supportive connection with others is so important.
The closest I've come to chanting in a group setting is when I've attended an occasional kirtan event. Chanting and singing Sanskrit mantra with musicians in a group setting is a blast! It's an uplifting way to connect with others and clear away the energetic cobwebs. No one leaves a kirtan event depressed or angry.
I've also attended pujas and ceremonies at TMBCC in Bloomington where Tibetan monks have chanted prayers, sometimes for hours at a time. The energy of the temple is transformed when a group of a dozen or so monks are chanting. It is an energetically moving and powerful experience.
Introverts will gravitate to their own personal practices, and extroverts will undoubtedly be drawn to the public ones, but it's important for everyone to engage in both personal and public practices in order to benefit themselves and share these rewards with others.
For more information, or to view the online mala collection, visit www.middlemoonmalas.com.
Making Your Personal Practice Personal with a Custom Mala Design May 10, 2019 15:34
I love it when customers contact me to create a custom design; it's one of my favorite things to do. I usually dive in right away, losing track of time as I sort through bead options and carefully arranging them on the tray that my husband made for me (a large, rectangular tray made from aluminum sheet metal that contains 108 center-punched divots for the beads to rest in comfortably).
I've mentioned on previous Facebook posts and in conversations with people that I create custom designs, so for this blog post, I'd like to explain the process in more detail, in case you'd like a custom mala design for yourself, or you might know someone who would appreciate their own personalized mala design.
After all, it's your mala, and you have agency in every step of the process.
Step 1: Reach Out
Send me a message on the Middle Moon Malas Facebook page or through the Contact Us page here on the online shop and let me know that you're interested in a custom design.
Step 2: The Consultation
We can either chat by phone, email, text, or FB Messenger to discuss your design. Some people know what specific gemstones they'd like in their design (Picture Jasper, Goldstone, Aquamarine); others may not know the names of the stones, but they have specific color preferences (blue, green, earth tones); others are more interested in the significance of the gemstones since they'd like a design that aligns with a specific, personal intention (connection to earth, grounding properties, creativity, abundance, healing energies, etc). We also discuss bead size. Some prefer 8mm beads; others, 6mm; and some like a combination of 8 and 6mm beads. Some like counter beads in their designs (extra beads that function as resting points in a japa practice). Others just want 108 beads, which is fine, too. This initial communication is so important. Once I understand what your preferences and intentions are, I can begin to do a little research and offer specific bead options. When you're happy with those bead options, I create a layout design and send you a photo.
Step 3: You Choose Your Guru (and Sutra/Tassel Color)
When you're happy with your mala layout design, I will share photos of potential guru options and sutra/tassel colors to choose from. The guru is the "teacher" bead (sometimes called meru, or "mountain" bead), and since this will be a knotted mala, the sutra color is important since it connects and brings together the design, and a tassel of the same color will spill from the base of the guru or meru bead that you choose.
Step 4: The Finished Design
As soon as you decide on your guru and sutra color, the fun begins, and I can start stringing your custom mala. Most malas require two or three days to knot, string, and tassel. When your design is complete, I will share a photo of your completed design with you before making arrangements for payment and delivery.
All Middle Moon Malas are unique designs. The malas available on the online shop are one-of-a-kind creations. However, with a custom design, you have a say in every aspect of the mala-creating process. It's your mala; it's your practice. Make your personal meditation, japa, or yoga practices even more personal with a custom Middle Moon Malas design.
(PS--if you like this particular design, it is available on the online shop--it's the Cuprite, Blue Goldstone, and Picture Jasper Mala)