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--




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.