Embracing the Benefits of Fall: Learning to Let Go October 29, 2022 14:06
If you would prefer to listen to this month's blog offering, please click HERE for the audio link.
This autumn season is blazing with color in Indiana. The maples and oaks are letting go of their leaves in brilliant red, orange, gold, and sepia colors. Nature is throwing a party, and everyone is invited.
While I'm enjoying this colorful season, I'm also grappling with an undercurrent of anxiety. A few factors are contributing to this mild, but steady uneasiness.
1. I have a trip of a lifetime coming up in mid November. A group of dharma friends and I will be traveling to India in a few weeks. We'll be attending an important ceremony at a monastery in South India, and then we'll be headed to Dharamshala to attend a live teaching with H.H. the Dalai Lama.
I have been fussing with the details and preparations for this trip for months: securing a visa, arranging for required vaccinations, thinking about what to pack (for two climates), downloading necessary travel apps, etc. I have been navigating feelings of anticipation and excitement as well as the worry of uncertainty.
2. This trip occurs during a time when I usually attend an important event as a vendor. Because my mala biz is online, and I don't have a brick and mortar shop, attending events like Indy Holistic Hub's Wellbeing Fest in Indianapolis helps to boost my success and sustainability, and it also allows people in the community to see and purchase my malas in person.
As a result, I've been grappling with uncertainties about my business. I've been questioning and ruminating about whether what I do is relevant. I've been worrying about where I can find those who appreciate what I do--and where they can find me, so that they can use these malas to not only benefit their own personal practice, but they can also be of benefit to others.
I've been grappling with feelings of doubt and of not feeling worthy or relevant.
3. I recently attended an event earlier this month hosted by Shades of Becoming a Mom, Inc. It was a wonderful, meaningful ceremony dedicated to women and families who had experienced pregnancy, infant, or child loss.
In preparation for this event, I had created several quarter malas made with gemstones suited for dealing with grief and healing from loss. I was grateful to sell a few of them, and I was also very grateful to be invited to participate as a vendor at this event. I met some kind-hearted, gracious people.
However, those seeds of doubt and worry surfaced again. I was comparing this event to the Wellbeing Fest from last year, which is not a fair comparison at all. The audiences and intentions of these events are completely different--and making comparisons only makes me spiral into hopelessness and dread.
4. I am still trying to overcome my conditioning to believe that being busy and productive are marks of success. I taught English at a large high school for nearly twenty years. In this environment, I was frenetically, frantically busy--too busy, really...
too busy to think
too busy to enjoy what I was doing
too busy to have time with my family
too busy to have any kind of restorative personal practices
too busy to effectively take care of myself
This level of chaotic effort was not healthy or helpful for me or anyone around me. In many ways, I felt like a useless failure during this time.
Thankfully, I transferred to a smaller school in the same district, and things did improve, at first. I wasn't as stressed, and I felt like what I was doing (teaching young people to think and write and reflect) mattered. Even though I was teaching in a smaller school, and the work environment was more healthy and supportive, it didn't take long for the commitments and pressures of teaching--the endless initiatives, the daily meetings, the constant stream of collecting data and proctoring various standardized tests--all the things that interfered rather than enhanced teaching--all of these things took over like kudzu--and I felt that stranglehold pull of stress, anxiety, and doubt once again.
About ten years ago, I transitioned to a part-time tutoring position at this same small school. Once again, things improved.
I had more time to help students one-on-one. Because this is a part-time position, I also had time to take care of myself. I had time to read, to spend time with my family, to practice yoga and Feldenkrais lessons, to travel to Bloomington for dharma talks, to create malas--and to start my mala business. For the first time, my life felt balanced.
Fall is a season of facing and celebrating change. Each year, month, day, moment is different from those that came before, and I have a choice about how to approach these constant changes.
Instead of planting seeds of doubt and worry about traveling to new, exciting places, not selling malas, missing an event that I can attend next year, I am taking inspiration from these beautiful fall leaves and giving myself permission to let go of expectations, attachments, patterns, behaviors, and thoughts that no longer serve me.
I don't need to be so busy that I can't think clearly or take care of myself and others.
I don't have to sell X number of malas or put unnecessary pressure on myself to feel as though I matter.
I don't need to do more or exert unnecessary effort in order to feel productive or relevant.
This fall season is speaking to me, and the trees in my front yard are modeling what I need to do--to let go--to rest--to restore.
They are encouraging me to recognize and acknowledge the wisdom and confidence that I already have within me--and to have faith that a new growing season is coming.
They are reminding me to trust that the right people will find me and the malas on my online shop.
They are validating that what I do matters in a quiet way--and that what I do will encourage others to find their own paths as well.
Creativity can't be forced, and endless effort is not productive. It often leads to burnout and exhaustion. This fallow time is necessary, and it's giving me more time to devote to other interests and adventures.
I am embracing change during this beautiful season. In a couple of weeks, I will be going to India. I have never been there before, and I don't have any expectations or comparisons. I am open to having an adventure with my dharma friends and receiving any benefits that may come our way.
I am leaving my worries, doubts, and neurotic musings behind. May they drift to the ground like dry leaves and drift away with the wind, or sink into brown grass and nourish the soil underneath.
I look forward to sharing more details about this trip with you soon.
In the meantime, if you feel compelled to purchase a mala from the online shop, now is actually a good time. I am more than happy to send them your way before I depart.
May you reap the benefits of this beautiful season as well, and may these words and malas be of benefit.
Oops! Mistakes as Opportunities for Practice October 20, 2020 15:45
If you prefer to listen to this blog post, click HERE.
I've been working on a mala design for a friend who will be opening a new studio in January. It is a Tiger Eye mala with alternating 8 and 6mm beads.
When I finished stringing the 108th bead and brought the two ends together to attach the guru, I noticed that something was off...WAY off. The beads weren't lining up correctly, and with different bead sizes, this is particularly critical.
I tried tugging the mala on one side to even out the difference, but no luck. When I counted the beads again, I realized my mistake. I had miscalculated the midpoint of the design, so the balance of the entire design was off kilter. If I had attached the guru and tassel, the beads wouldn't have lined up properly, and the whole design would have been a little wonky. Five hours of steady work and time wasted....or, maybe not.
I resigned myself to starting over with this mala. As I was snipping each knot between every bead this morning, I realized that mistakes offer valuable insights, blessings, and opportunities.
*Opportunity to Revise:
To revise means "to see again." When I taught creative writing at a local high school years ago, I encouraged my students to revise their poems and stories. The first draft is rarely the best draft--it is merely a starting point--a beginning to something even better.
This is true for other endeavors, too, even designing malas.
I have a work tray that I use to layout potential designs, but this tray isn't foolproof. Errors can still occur--as they did with this Tiger Eye mala. However, it also gave me an opportunity to reconsider the original arrangement of the beads, and the possibility to substitute a few different beads to add more visual interest to the design.
This mistake actually gave me the opportunity to improve this mala for my friend, to make it even better than the initial design.
*Opportunity to Practice:
It's not unusual for me to practice mantra recitations while I'm stringing a mala, especially when I know in advance who it will belong to.
Often, when I'm working on a custom mala design, I will recite a mantra while I'm working and offer the merits of the practice to the recipient of the mala.
Restringing this design will give me even more time to devote to my own practice, and it will allow me to dedicate even more benefits to my friend and to the success of her new business.
By reframing this mistake, it allows me to see it as a blessing rather than an inconvenience or burden. It also gives me something to look forward to, and it adds purpose to the work and time required to complete this design.
*Opportunity to Generate Kindness
I am my own worst enemy when it comes to making mistakes. I can be extremely self-critical and unnecessarily harsh with myself.
I can be kind, forgiving, and compassionate with others when they make mistakes, but quite brutal with myself, even with minor errors.
My inner critic can be quick to lash out over the smallest mistakes: misspelling a word in a Facebook post or comment, forgetting something (phone, wallet, etc) when I leave the house, screwing up a dinner recipe, or remembering something ridiculously minor or stupid that I said or did many years ago.
Practicing self-kindness is just as important as practicing kindness toward others. Making mistakes give me an opportunity to demonstrate LESS judgment and criticism and MORE tenderness, gentleness, and compassion toward myself.
I've carved out some time later this afternoon to work on this new-and-improved mala for my friend. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to revise and improve, to dedicate time and effort to the future success of her biz, and to direct much-needed kindness, patience, and compassion toward myself as I restring her mala.
Thanks for reading or listening! If you haven't checked out the MMM online collection in a while, click here. Several new designs have been added recently. Do something nice for yourself or a loved one, and support a small Hoosier business, too.
(Here is the revised mala design. I wound up changing the sutra and tassel color--from navy blue to honey flax)