27 Beads: Even More Benefits of Quarter Malas January 30, 2024 20:14
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
Tying Loose Ends While the World Is on Hold December 21, 2020 15:32
If you prefer to listen to this blog post, please click here.
This past Tuesday, I had a COVID-19 test because of an indirect exposure to the virus. My husband had a colleague who tested positive after exhibiting symptoms, so we both booked appointments at a local Immediate Care center.
Two days later, my husband was able to view his results online. Fortunately, his results were negative. However, when I tried to access my results, it said my birthdate information was inaccurate.
So, I called the Immediate Care center and waited...and waited...and waited...I was #12 in the queue, and after listening to the same ten bars of plinky, tinny, and very annoying hold music for well over an hour, an LPN finally answered my call.
She was able to access my results quickly, and she also fixed the error on my records. Fortunately, I was also negative for COVID, and after a very tense hour of waiting, was quite relieved.
The universe had t been testing my patience big time on this day, and, I'm not going to lie, I was struggling to keep it together. I'm glad I did. It was well-worth the wait--but it certainly was not easy.
This year (2020) has not been easy, either, for many of us around the world. Some have lost their businesses, their jobs, their homes, their health, and even their loved ones to this pandemic.
This Winter Solstice is an especially important one. There is hope on the horizon--vaccines are now available to combat this virus, a New Year, (and a new administration) are quickly approaching. Even planets are aligning, literally, in the sky at this time.
The Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn will be the closest since 1623, and the closest to be observed since 1226! This celestial phenomenon, occurring on the Winter Solstice, and welcoming the return to light, feels like a hopeful blessing after an extremely difficult and challenging year.
Earlier this week, I posted a short video on the Middle Moon Malas Facebook page about the significance of tassels in a mala design.
The sutra, or cord, that runs through all 108 beads, that creates the knots between each bead, and that eventually connects to the guru bead at the base of the design, is the line that holds everything together. The sutra represents the Cosmic Creative Force that supports or sustains every being in the universe.
The tassel, then, is an extension of the sutra which binds the garland together. It represents our connection to the Divine, or Source, or to the earth, as well as to all other living beings. It is a reminder of our Oneness and Unity. We are all connected and interconnected to each other and to the universe.
This is why, to reinforce the importance of this connection, I make each tassel by hand, using the same cord as the sutra in each mala design. I also bind and wrap each tassel by hand using this same cord.
As a result, each part of the mala is intricately connected and unified.
I'm not a fan of attaching pre-fabricated, factory-manufactured tassels onto my designs. They may be beautiful, but they can't capture the essence of unity and connection that is so important in a mala.
It takes time, effort, dedication, and patience to make and then join the tassel to the garland. I don't mind (unlike being on hold for an hour on the phone).
The process is satisfying and meaningful to me. It gives me a sense of purpose to create a design knowing that it may benefit someone's personal practice and make a positive difference in their life.
Creating malas is not a chore or an obligation for me; it's a joy to create these one-of-a-kind designs. It may not be easy, but it is certainly worth all of the time, effort, and patience required in the end.
May the skies where you are be clear on this Winter Solstice evening. May you be able to witness the bright light of the Great Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, and may 2021 bring you joy, health, success, peace, and much-needed relief from this extremely trying year.
By the way, the New Year is also the perfect time for renewing your personal practices with a new mala. Please consider visiting the current online collection here--or send me an email through the Contact Us page for custom design inquiries.
Unlikely Offerings September 15, 2020 15:52
If you prefer to listen to this blog post, click HERE.
It's early morning. I light a stick of incense, grab a Granny Smith apple from the bowl by the fridge and a scoop of birdseed from the bag near the front door. I pick up Maya with my free hand (which is a challenge because she's jumping up and down in excitement) and slip into a pair of sandals.
With both hands full, I carefully open the storm door with my left elbow and walk toward the small garden in the front yard.
The tip of the incense stick is glowing bright red in the early morning light, and white smoke that smells of juniper wafts around us.
I am thinking about my friend's dog who recently passed away. I am also thinking of another friend's son-in-law and a former colleague's brother--both of whom have died within the last few days.
I carefully place the incense stick in a small metal bowl at the base of a tree stump and sprinkle the cup of birdseed into the open palms of a concrete Buddha statue.
Maya and I walk down the driveway looking for a few acorns that have fallen from a nearby white oak, and I also pluck a few black-eyed Susans that are blooming near a mulberry bush.
I place them on the tree stump near the Buddha statue, along with the green apple.
We do this twice a day, this simple ritual of offering. It's dedicated to all sentient beings: insects, animals, loved ones, strangers, celebrities who have passed away in the last 49 days (in Buddhism, the intermediate state, or bardo, can last up to seven times seven, or 49, days). We make these offerings so that these beings may navigate their way safely through the bardo in the hopes that they find happiness in their next life--so that they may be of benefit to others in their next incarnation.
I offer a brief prayer to the outdoor altar, and then Maya and I make our way back to the house.
This is an example of a traditional offering: flowers, fruit, incense. However, offerings don't have to be traditional to be meaningful or valid.
Offerings can be very simple, subtle, and sometimes...unlikely.
Anything given with an open heart and from a spirit of kindness and generosity could be considered an offering. Here are just a few practical examples:
* Sharing home-grown veggies from your garden with friends or neighbors.
* Helping someone who's having technology issues or a friend who needs help with a home-improvement project.
* Letting someone enter the flow of traffic, especially when traffic is heavy.
*Offering kind words of encouragement.
* Acknowledging and thanking a cashier or clerk by name at a grocery store, bank, or gas station.
* Wearing a mask and honoring social distancing guidelines during a pandemic.
Offerings can also be a blend of the traditional and everyday common courtesy.
I often practice japa when I'm driving. I use a clicker counter or knitter to keep track of the recitations (and it's safer than using a full mala for me). Often, when I'm reciting, I offer the benefits (or merits) of the recitations to the drivers, passengers, and pedestrians around me:
* May they arrive safely to their destinations
* May they be happy
* May they be well
Even during a more formal sitting practice or during a sadhana, it's not unusual for miscellaneous memories or sudden flashes of people I haven't seen or thought about in years to pop into my head. Instead of viewing this as an annoying distraction to resist or push away, or interpreting this as evidence of being an undisciplined meditator, I briefly acknowledge them and wish them well:
*I see you
*I love you
*I remember you
*I forgive you
*I honor you
Usually, when I take the time to witness and appreciate these "surprise visitors," they dissipate fairly quickly, and it opens up even more space for my practice. In fact, I see acknowledging and honoring these memories and flashes as an important part of my practice.
So, what are the benefits of making daily offerings, whether they are tangible objects, courteous acts or gestures, or meditative thoughts?
* They encourage generosity and selflessness
One of the quickest ways to bust out of an "I,I,I...me,me,me" mindset is by considering or giving to others instead of thinking about yourself.
* They foster connections and interconnection with others
Offering words, thoughts, or things with a kind-hearted spirit helps dissolve feelings of separation or disconnection toward others.
* They inspire a sense of purpose and meaning
On an individual level, offerings can add a little structure and motivation to a practice. When the intention is right, and when the desire for recognition is absent, it feels really good to do charitable things or offer kind words of support to others.
Offerings can strengthen and bolster compassion for self, for others, and for the planet.
By the way, supporting a small business is another wonderful way to make a meaningful offering. Feel free to visit the Middle Moon Malas online shop (here) to purchase a one-of-a-kind mala for yourself or a loved one. These beautiful designs are intended to enhance your own practice, and they make wonderful gifts....or...offerings.
Pandemic Haiku: Finding Hope and Healing in Seventeen Syllables May 1, 2020 14:09
(If you prefer to listen to this blog post, click here)
We're all coping with this strange new normal as best as we can. I've certainly done a fair amount of yard work (for me, that means picking up fallen limbs and branches and throwing them onto the burn pile), stress cleaning, organizing, and experimenting with new recipes as a way of managing my own concerns and worries.
However, I've also found another effective coping mechanism for dealing with the uncertainties of lockdown lifestyle: writing daily haiku.
5...7...5: Three lines, seventeen syllables! It's the perfect form for staying present and honing in on a specific event or moment.
Since the middle of March, I've spent a few minutes every evening focusing on a specific image, memory, or happening from the day and attempted to capture the essence of that moment.
It started as a lark, really--a way to lighten the mood, and decompress from the onslaught of depressing news coverage, but after 40+ days of documenting my experiences in bite-sized poetry, I've discovered a few surprises.
Surprise #1 These poems have become important reminders that spiritual practices are not limited to the cushion. Actually, they are extensions of meditation, contemplation, and study. In a way, they are nuggets of attention, intention, and practical wisdom.
Full Pink Moon (4.7.2020)
Blushing in the dark,
she shimmers, while peeper frogs
cheer from deep ravines.
Imagine Leaving an Imprint (4.16.2020)
in warm sand, uncooked
pastry dough. Skull. Ribs. Pelvis.
Vajrasattva Recitations at the Laundromat (4.30.2020)
Linens tumble dry.
Quarters, green numbers mark time.
Fluff. Fold. Purify.
Surprise #2 Much like an archaeologist digging for ancient artifacts in the sand, these poems are clues to what matters...what really matters right now (family, humor, nourishment, safety, nature).
Vegetable Soup (4.3.2020)
Slow-cooked leeks, carrots,
potatoes fill the house with
the scent of normal.
Sock Monkey Bandana (4.10.2020)
Wore it as a mask
on a Target run. You thought
it was underwear.
Terrier Vs. Dandelions (4.27.2020)
She runs through tall grass
snatching heads of suns and moons
between sharp, fierce teeth.
Surprise #3 Finally, these poems are evidence of connection and interconnection. They are reminders of the importance of compassion for others, gratitude, and thoughtful reflection.
Bright Spot (3.18.2020)
She waited in line
at Fresh Thyme, cradling yellow
tulips like a child.
Online Zoom Class (3.19.2020)
rise, flow, soar, sway, transcend space
from small square boxes.
Miumiu and Paulo: “Fly Me to the Moon” (3.26.2020)
Two guitars, one voice.
China and Nashville share a
masterclass in grace.
Storms and wind brought them:
body twitching, head thumping
hard against wood floor.
The Early Bird Gets the Clorox Wipes (4.17.2020)
Noon brings empty shelves:
vinegar, lemons, vodka—
Sleeping in has perks.
To date, I have written 40+ pandemic haiku. I don't know how long this sadhana practice will continue, but as with every meaningful practice, motivation and intention are much more important than rushing to completion. Taking a break from frenetic busyness has many blessings and benefits. This haiku project, for me, has helped to recognize and appreciate them.
To view the mala collection, click here to access the Middle Moon Malas online shop.
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.
One, Two, Three: Counter Beads and the Purposes They Serve September 6, 2017 18:20
What are counter beads, and why do some malas have them? A standard mala contains 108 beads; however, some malas include counter beads as well. These beads aren’t randomly placed extras. A japa practice is similar to a road trip, and counter beads can play an important part along the path of this mindful, meditative journey.
One of the primary purposes of counter beads is they act as rest stops or pause points in a meditation practice. Just like the brief pause at the peak of an inhalation, and the suspension at the base of an exhalation, counter beads can act as natural pauses in the recitation practice. They give practitioners a moment to hold space and take stock of the quality of the practice in that moment. The point of a japa practice isn’t simply to barrel through 108 recitations of a mantra. It’s not a race, and there isn’t a trophy waiting for us at the end of the finish line. A mantra practice is about training the mind; it’s about aligning and elevating our energetic frequencies so that we can become our best selves, and experience a sense of connection and interconnection with others and our world. There needs to be a balance between effort and rest, so in our practice, when our inner world is calling, counter beads remind us, “Please hold.”
Another important purpose that counter beads offer is they act as mindfulness markers in the practice. Much like street signs or mile markers on a highway, counter beads remind us to stay present, focused, and alert in our practice. They encourage us to drive safely and to stay on course as we navigate the circuit of our mala. They help prevent our minds from wandering away from our intentions, and they prevent us from getting caught up in a tangle of mental chatter. Counters help to gauge both time and distance in our practice, and they can ease the restless monkey mind when it asks, repeatedly, “Are we there, yet?”
Finally, counter beads can add a little bling, shimmer, and character to the mala and to the meditative journey. Much like fuzzy dice, a bumper sticker, or fancy detailing on a car, jazzy counter beads add a little bit of extra sparkle to help bring balance to the design of a mala. As a designer, I like to add counter beads that are different sizes, shapes, colors, or textures to break up the pattern of the design. Sometimes, it’s just a single counter bead after the 54th bead, or midpoint. Some malas include counters after bead #27 and #81, marking the first quarter and the last quarter of the design. For other pieces, I incorporate three counters, dividing the mala into four equal segments. Counters can be aesthetically pleasing to the eye or to the touch, offering visual or tactile interest to a design, which, as an added bonus, can inspire a meditator to practice, or simply make the journey more personalized, pleasing, or fun.
Whether you prefer a mala that includes counter beads or not, a japa practice is a meaningful journey, and having a mala that motivates you to practice and that reflects your intentions will help you grow and enjoy the ride.
Anatomy of a Mala: Why Each Part Matters May 2, 2017 11:41
I recently had a friend of mine ask if she should include a tassel on a mala that she had created. I explained to her that the tassel is an incredibly important component of a mala, and that I have never designed a mala without one.
Each aspect of a mala has a specific, significant role. Together, these parts create a holistic system and tool for generating awareness, bliss, and peace. Understanding the role that each part plays can add more meaning to your personal japa, chanting, or meditation practice.
A mala is much more than beads on a string. It’s a garland that doubles as a metaphor for life in our universe. Every bead represents a truth or principle, and over time, the beads absorb the energy of our focus and attention. Just as we infuse each bead with our intentions with each recitation, we create the life we live by infusing each moment with our thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs.
The Thread: "Sutra" is the Sanskrit word for thread or line that holds everything together. The thread or cord running through the mala holds and supports the beads. Consequently, it represents the Cosmic Creative Force that supports or sustains every part and every being in the universe.
The Beads: The 108 beads collectively represent the universe itself, but individually, they represent the beautiful aspects of life--the good times--beautiful sunsets, grandchildren, hot chai on a rainy day, loyal and supportive friends. These beads are arranged on a never-ending circle, creating a circuit of positive energy that drives life forward into hope and gratitude.
The Knots: The knots between the beads make the mala stronger. They prevent the beads from rubbing together and cracking over time; however, they also represent life's challenges—a flat tire, an uncertain medical diagnosis, the loss of a job or a loved one. These knots fall between the smoother, more beautiful aspects of life. They also signify the Divine link present among all beings in the universe. Though challenging, these knots remind us that all aspects of life are connected and supported in the universal sutra of life.
The Guru (or Meru) Bead: "Guru" means teacher, and "Meru" means mountain in Sanskrit. The guru or meru bead is often the 109th bead that is connected to the tassel, and it represents the state of transcendental consciousness or awareness, the central goal of meditation practice. In order to reach this supreme state of understanding, one must be brave and courageous enough to stay the course--perhaps completing many cycles, many repetitions along the sutra of life--encountering both blessings and challenges along the way. These blessings and challenges lead us to find our ultimate teacher and climb that intimidating peak of awareness one step, one bead at a time.
The Tassel: On a mala, the tassel is an extension of the string or sutra that binds the garland together. It represents our connection to the Divine (whatever that means to you) and the interconnectedness of all beings. It is a reminder of oneness and unity--that we are all connected--and regardless of the challenges that we face or the rewards that we reap, we're all really traveling together, and we have something beautiful to look forward to at the end of our journey.
Consequently, a mala is much more than a collection of beads strung together. It represents the compass on your journey as a meditator or practitioner, and it connects you to all other beings who are finding their path, in their own way, one moment, one circumstance, one bead at a time.
Visit our online shop for one-of-a-kind mala designs: middlemoonmalas.com.
One Breath, One Bead at a Time. July 4, 2016 16:04
The Zombie Apocalypse is real. For 25 years, I taught high school English. For many of those years, I felt trapped in a perpetual cycle of planning lessons, creating tests and essay assignments, grading papers, and attempting to manage and meet the academic needs of students crammed in over-crowded classrooms. I often felt confined by the clock and by the ever-present and perpetually-increasing demands that a data-driven system thrives on—the almighty standardized test scores.
I felt stressed—all the time—and I spent very little time in the present moment. This constant striving, doing, rushing, pushing, and grasping for the future or ruminating and worrying about the past kept me from meeting the needs of my students and taking care of myself. It also kept me out of the present moment, and it prevented me from enjoying my life. My students never really knew who I was—and neither did I.
For a quarter of a century, I was caught up in a trance, and yoga and meditation gradually helped me break the spell and encouraged me to find balance and purpose in my life.
My first experience with yoga and meditation occurred when I was a freshman at Butler. A guest speaker came to our Physical Education/Health class. My fellow classmates and I were crammed into a small classroom/storage room, and many of us giggled our way through the guided meditation followed by a brief asana practice in the gym. This was not an ideal environment to explore the benefits of meditation and yoga, and it certainly didn’t leave a lasting or accurate impression on me.
I revisited meditation when I was pregnant with my daughter in 1994, and in 2000, started regularly attending a yoga class at a local gym. Progress was glacially slow—but gradually, very gradually, I started to find a respite from the 10,000 distractions and thoughts that blocked my path, and I started to connect and reconnect with myself.
Stilling the constant mental chatter in meditation was a big challenge in the beginning—and still can be at times, even now. But with consistent practice, and, ideally, after an hour of asana practice, it’s much easier to climb inside the present moment. Memories, thoughts, and feelings still rise to the surface, but it’s easier now to briefly acknowledge them, allow them to drift away in order to make room for the spaces between thoughts.
Yoga, too, has helped. It has helped me focus on my breathing—and to bring my awareness out of the mind and into the body—even for just a little while. Yoga also allows me to sit more comfortably when I’m meditating—and to sit for longer periods of time.
In recent years, I have added a mantra practice with malas to enhance my meditation and yoga practice. Using a mala gives me a tactile anchor that keeps me rooted and grounded in the here and now. Each bead becomes a fresh focal point, a new beginning, ushering in a new moment. Each inhalation, each exhalation, each repetition of the mantra welcomes now, and now, and now.
Ultimately, my yoga and meditation practice has saved my life—it has helped me find balance and perspective, and it has prevented me from falling off the precipice of perpetual busyness and disappearing into the abyss of the living dead.
I’ve since retired from teaching full-time. I still tutor part-time, and working with students one-on-one allows me to give them my undivided attention—to be fully present. I also teach and practice yoga, and along with running a small business, I still remain very busy, but I am no longer a slave to busyness. I am living my life on my own terms, and I am living my life one moment at a time—one bead at a time.
Enduring the Knots....Celebrating the Beads December 5, 2015 17:35
A mala is a metaphor for life in our universe. Every bead represents a truth or principle, and over time, the beads absorb the energy of our focus and attention. We create the life we live by infusing each moment with our thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs.
The Thread: "Sutra" is the Sanskrit word for thread or line that holds things together. The thread or cord running through the mala holds and supports the beads. Consequently, it represents the Creative Force that supports or sustains every part and every being in the universe.
The Beads: The 108 beads collectively represent the universe itself, but individually, they represent the beautiful aspects of life--the good times--beautiful sunsets, grandchildren, hot chai on a rainy day, loyal and supportive friends.These beads are arranged on a never-ending circle, creating a circuit of positive energy that drives life forward into hope and gratitude.
The Knots: The knots between the beads make the mala stronger; however, they also represent life's challenges--a flat tire, an uncertain medical diagnosis, the loss of a job or a loved one. These knots fall between the smoother, more beautiful aspects of life. They also signify the Divine link present among all beings in the universe. Though challenging, these knots remind us that all aspects of life are connected and supported in the universal sutra of life.
The Guru (or Meru) Bead: "Guru" means teacher, and "Meru" means mountain in Sanskrit. The guru or meru bead is often the 109th bead that is connected to the tassel, and it represents the state of transcendental consciousness, the central goal of meditation practice. In order to reach this supreme state of understanding, one must be brave and courageous enough to stay the course--perhaps completing many cycles, many repetitions along the sutra of life--encountering both blessings and challenges along the way.
The Tassel: On a mala, the tassel is an extension of the string or sutra that binds the garland together. It represents our connection to the Divine and the interconnectedness of all beings. It is a reminder of oneness and unity--that we are all connected--and regardless of the challenges that we face or the rewards that we reap, we're all really traveling together, and we have something beautiful to look forward to at the end of our journey.
Grandmother Spider May 17, 2015 17:44
This morning I watched a beautiful corn spider sitting in the middle of her web in our front garden. She waited patiently among her carefully arranged silken cords, her intricate yellow and black coloring contrasting sharply with Hosta leaves and white rhododendrons.
To the Hopi, Grandmother Spider is an earth goddess. To the Cherokee, she is a bringer of light. Ancient Egyptians believed that the spider was a spinner and weaver of destiny. Grandmother Spider is Thinking Woman. What she thinks about, manifests, and we are all connected to this universal source of creativity.
Our lives aren't simply an assortment of random happenings. For each of us, there is an underlying pattern and design, and, to some extent, we have a little control over our lives. With our thoughts, with our actions and reactions, and with our words, we determine, to some degree, our future and our possibilities.
The word "bead" is derived from the Anglo-Saxon words "bidden" (to pray) and "bede" (prayer). We all have access to the creative silk that resides within us. Where will it lead us? We are constantly assessing and reassessing our lives, taking stock, making changes, making mistakes, making discoveries, correcting, and second-guessing, but in the end, it all leads us exactly where we were meant to go.
One bead at a time, one prayer at a time, one breath at a time, each moment is a small flash in time that eventually leads us to the larger picture.
This beautiful garden spider reminded me that everything is linked; everything is connected, whether you are stringing beads, stringing prayers, stringing thoughts, words, or numbers, we are the architects and designers of our own lives. As long as we are authentic, as long as we honor our own creative endeavors, as long as we work to build a life full of meaning, our lives will, in fact, be beautiful, interconnected, and meaningful. It takes trust, it takes courage, it takes forgiveness, it takes commitment, and it takes patience, but in the end, the larger picture is well worth the journey.