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.
Less Is More: The Beauty and Benefits of Quarter Malas July 30, 2022 10:36
To listen to this month's blog article, please click HERE for the audio link.
Lately, I have been inspired to create a series of quarter malas. Quarter malas include twenty-seven beads (1/4 of 108) plus a guru and tassel.
Practicing with a quarter mala, as opposed to a full mala, has several benefits, and in this month's article, I'd like to share what some of those benefits are.
One benefit of practicing with a quarter mala is it's portable and easy to use while traveling. They are convenient and store easily in the console of a car, a carry on bag, or a desk drawer at school or office workplaces.
Construction delays and traffic jams are perfect opportunities for mantra practice in the car in order to keep calm and carry on. I also keep one at school in my desk drawer. Sometimes, between student tutoring sessions, I'll take it with me as I walk around the track--moving mindfully and chanting mantra is a wonderful way to take care of myself during the work day and squeeze in a little practice time.
The quarter malas I design are intended for practice. Sometimes, people will ask if I can make "stretchy bracelets." I don't--for a couple of reasons. One, I'm not able to create a knotted quarter mala with stretchy cord--and the knots are an important part of the design. They represent the obstacles and challenges we face in life. The beads represent the beautiful aspects and blessings--and a balanced, meaningful life requires both.
Two, stretchy bracelets break fairly easily, and it's too easy to slip one on and go about your day without thinking about practicing. Having a knotted quarter mala that you keep in a place where you'll see it or can find it easily will remind you to practice. They serve a special purpose, beyond that of a pretty bracelet. Consequently, they aren't designed to be worn throughout the day. So, for those of you who were wondering, that's why I don't make stretchy bracelets.
*Reciting Longer Mantras
Saving time and cultivating a consistent daily practice are two additional benefits of quarter malas. This is especially true when reciting longer mantras. Some sadhana practices, for example, include lengthy mantras, and reciting a 100-syllable mantra 27 times vs.108 times can be more practical and efficient.
Not everyone has time to (or wants to) chant mantras all day long. Family obligations and work-related responsibilities are important priorities. Carving out a few minutes each day for practice can be challenging at times, and working with a quarter mala can help establish a necessary balance among work life, family time, and self care.
This "less is more" approach (chanting 27 recitations as opposed to 108) makes it easier to cultivate and maintain a daily practice. It's easier to stay present and focused with each recitation, especially with longer mantras. On really busy days, taking time to practice with a quarter mala makes me feel like I've accomplished something important and meaningful--that I've done something to help myself, and others.
I recited the Long Gayatri mantra daily for several years. I actually used a half mala for this practice, but looking back, a quarter mala would have really come in handy. I've also used quarter malas for Vajrasattva and Medicine Buddha sadhanas. I created a specific quarter mala for the Vajrasattva practice, and another one for Medicine Buddha. Know that it's OK to use the same mala for different mantras, but I like to use one, specific mala for a each corresponding mantra practice.
Another benefit of quarter malas is that they are perfect for safe keeping on home altar spaces. They don't take up much room on a small altar, and they are beautiful reminders to practice.
*Gifts and Offerings
Quarter malas also make meaningful, thoughtful gifts for fellow meditators, practitioners, yoga friends, and teachers.
I've been very fortunate to have had ethical, kind-hearted, and knowledgeable Dharma teachers, and I have given many of them quarter malas as gifts of appreciation.
I've also given them as gifts to loyal customers over the years for their continued support.
Quarter malas also make beautiful offerings for special events and pujas at Dharma centers and temples. Generosity is a practice in and of itself, and offering quarter malas to others with an open heart is a beautiful way to give.
Finally, quarter malas are perfect for practitioners on a budget. Most of the quarter malas I create are between $40--$50. I take time and care to create beautiful hand-knotted designs with high-quality beads in the hopes that they will inspire practice (this is just as true for quarter malas as it is for the full malas).
Whether you are a beginning practitioner who is just starting on the path of a daily mantra practice, or a seasoned practitioner who is looking for more opportunities to practice throughout the day, quarter malas are beautiful, convenient, affordable, and meaningful tools to assist you on your personal journey.
Although I try to keep a few quarter malas in the ever-changing collection on the MMM website, they tend to go quickly. Please know that I can also create custom designs. For example, if you would like a quarter mala, but there aren't any available on the online shop, please reach out through the Contact Us page. I would be happy to create a quarter mala design that's just right for you.
Feel free to visit the home page to view the current collection of mala designs. Until next month, keep practicing!