Mala Shop

Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Years Eve Elves and Fairies



Blythe doll with New Year sentiment courtesy Janet at Spiegelhouse.




Dear Ones,

I wrote this on my Facebook page:
"So long, 2009, sayonara. Don't let the door hit you on your way out."

I do have some complaints about 2009, it wasn't easy. But it was full of growth opportunities and new friendships. All in all, a very good year for change and setting goals. And art! I'm ready for a change. Let's see some new things in the world in 2010.

This photo is for Nancy, who couldn't receive it through email. It's a rough shot of three happy little custom malas that couldn't get through because of Full Moon elves and fairies. You can see tape on the amber one, holding it together in case we decide to change to a crystal guru bead.

May you all be well! Next holiday is...Valentine's Day? (If you don't count the President's Day shenanigans.) I have some little "Love" pocket malas in the works.

All blessings to you.

Laura

Sunday, December 27, 2009

"Recognize the dreamlike qualities of life..."






A Buddha at HomeGoods Store in Encinitas, seeing all but letting it come and go...


This time of year I always have a beautiful chance to reflect, as the year teeters on its last legs, veering towards its end and the beginning of the New Year. It's my chance to write, listen to music, be sort of a slug, and go within. A reevaluation goes on—where am I and where am I going. Am I still standing in the way I want to in this life? For some people this might feel heavy, for me it's unpacking. Wherever I am each year, whatever I'm doing that year, my mind draws me back to this centering exercise. It's quite lovely feeling.

So many changes this year, for so many people! I can't help feeling that we're reorganizing our way of existing as a species. Our old feelings of security based on money and social status just don't work right now. It's hard to feel the same when you've watched the restructuring of the banking institutions and watched thousands lose their homes. And I've watched my family restructure, too. This Christmas we visited Mom in her new board and care home, then we went to Dad's to hang out with the cousins and my sister's family. It was kind of strange not to have Mom there, yes. But we decorated the tree, exchanged presents, made each other feel loved. Wonderful, really.
So everyone is okay, but things aren't the same.

Now I'm digesting all the rich food that passed through my lips over the past week. I feel like eating nothing richer than miso broth and broccoli for about a week. Anyone else feel like that after the holidays? The world must consume so much butter between Thanksgiving and New Year's. Way, way too much butter. Poor overworked cows.

This morning I awoke thinking about crystal malas, as symbols of clarity and purity, and as inspiration for letting go of the old. Crystals cleanse the palate, especially plain old quartz crystal, the simplest of crystals but by far the most beautiful. For me they enhance the awareness that, real as this life feels, it is but a dream.

"Always recognize the dreamlike qualities of life and reduce attachment and aversion. Practice good-heartedness toward all beings. Be loving and compassionate, no matter what others do to you. What they will do will not matter so much when you see it as a dream. The trick is to have positive intention during the dream. This is the essential point. This is true spirituality."

Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche in Life in Relation to Death

Life sure seems dreamlike to me these days. The right people and situations appear for our growth, as if by magic. The loving qualities of the universe show themselves readily. And right now, I am so thankful for what has appeared in my life, this Dharma, these friends, this online community.

Bless you!
Laura

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Merry Happy Hanukkah Christmas Solstice Kwaanza


Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice, Happy Kwaanza, and everything else.

I would write Happy Hanukkah too, but I'm a day late.

There was a rousing discussion on Etsy recently about whether people in the U.S. have become so P.C. that they're afraid to say Merry Christmas. It made me think about so many things. I always say Happy Holidays because I don't know what beliefs the person I'm greeting has. I'm such a blend of beliefs and backgrounds that I have the utmost respect and sensitivity to those of other religious backgrounds to my own, so when I say anything, it's usually Happy Holidays.


Isn't it delicious that tomorrow the nights will start getting shorter? I LOVE Winter Solstice. It has always been the time when my family rings bells and lights candles. I love the Jethro Tull song Ring Out Solstice Bells. It is so joyful. Leave it on while you go about doing your things.

I've been playing Etsy holiday elf for the past couple of weeks. It makes me so grateful for all the hard workers out there who put our holiday gifts together. Holiday elves, wherever you are, Thank you!

Merry Happy Hanukkah Christmas Solstice Kwaanza.

Wherever you are, ring a bell tomorrow.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Festival and Playing with Extension Beads



Custom mala-makers have all the fun. Really we do. Here are some of the beads I pulled out to show a customer who wanted a little something special in his mala. There's some amber, a carved eternal knot, art glass, different silvers...the choices can be endless.

But eventually all designs come together. I just thought you might like to see this photo of a design "in process".

Isn't everything in process all the time?

Today is my big prep day for showing the malas, (my little family of prayer beads), at the Olivenhain Arts and Crafts Festival. It's from 9-4 on Rancho Santa Fe Road in Olivenhain—which is in Encinitas, California.

It's a lovely place to hang out for a day, a large lot covered with eucalyptus trees, with a couple of historical buildings. There's a meeting hall that used to be a church. That's where I sat last year, but this year I'll be outside with Elsiee of Etsy. She's a craft fair queen and it will be a lot of fun to show next to her dharma and internationally-inspired jewelry.

Come on by and see us! You're not busy, are you? It's not far...

"If you ever plan to motor west,
Travel my way, take the highway that is best.
Get your kicks on route sixty-six.

It winds from chicago to la,
More than two thousand miles all the way.
Get your kicks on route sixty-six.

Now you go through saint looey
Joplin, missouri,
And oklahoma city is mighty pretty.
You see amarillo,
Gallup, new mexico,
Flagstaff, arizona.
Don't forget winona,
Kingman, barstow, san bernandino.

Won't you get hip to this timely tip:
When you make that california trip
Get your kicks on route sixty-six.

Won't you get hip to this timely tip:
When you make that california trip
Get your kicks on route sixty-six.
Get your kicks on route sixty-six.
Get your kicks on route sixty-six."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Movie Recommendation—Michael Jackson's This Is It





As I go to movies throughout the week, I often think "Oh, I need to tell folks about this one on my blog."

Then I double-think it and end up not doing it. Why would anyone read a Dharma blog with a movie review?

Well, I would, so here it is!

This week's Movie Recommendation:

Michael Jackson's This Is It


I wouldn't have thought it would be so good, but my guitar teacher fiercely suggested I must see it. It was extraordinary.

Back in the mid-80s I lived in a basement apartment beneath a house owned by a family with two elementary school boys who became completely enamoured with Michael Jackson. They first began to visit our home, wearing their one glove each, and tell us in song and dance how cool he was. It began innocently enough, but after a while it became a full frontal assault. Ding and dash and "beat it" blaring out of small boomboxes outside our front door. It didn't end well. Before it did, we retaliated by blasting Tibetan chants from our tiny tape player. So much for being subtle. Not my finest moment, and it didn't help anything, and the whole thing was both terrifying and funny.

Partly because of these small terrorists, I skipped the whole adoration of Michael thing. Until last night.

Alone with strangers in a crowded theater, unbelievably crowded for a Tuesday night, with my hand deep in popcorn, I watched as this genius (there, I said it) directed musicians, singers, and dancers in stage rehearsals for his upcoming world tour. He directed them as if there was no tomorrow.

Fred Astaire came to mind as I watched him move. Gershwin came to mind as I listened to the chords and vocal arrangements. The jazz scat singers were raised from the ground as Michael scooted up and down and sideways in the vocal scale, always holding back so as not to strain his voice.

He was translucent and commanding. He didn't look as if he would die soon—his dancing showed great stamina and grace, although he was as thin as a man could be.

What this movie does that a world tour might not have done is show an artist at the pinnacle of his talent at work with other artists. It was quite moving and very inspiring. It is a movie that makes you want to dance and practice dancing, that makes you want to sing a phrase over and again until you get it just so, just as he does onscreen.

I didn't expect to be so moved. At times I just couldn't eat popcorn. My throat was constricted with sadness that this talent had been lost.

But maybe there's a bigger plan in all this— there must be if you believe in that sort of thing, as I do.

It made me think about blame and forgiveness. Now that he's gone, I personally want to give him the benefit of the doubt and honor the greatness in him. We'll never know what really happened on Neverland Ranch with the kids. I hope they are all okay. Who can know how to judge? But there should be more to his final story than the sensationalized version we've been fed by the media for years. There should be an acknowledgement of what's he's done artistically.

****
Go see it. honestly, you'll come home wanting to create and listen to more music. There's a message in the stage production about saving the planet, love, and worship that I think you'll enjoy a lot.

What a high note to end a life on. Sorry that he's gone. Rest in Peace.

Video link is Here.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Turning Happiness and Suffering into Enlightenment



(The third Dodrupchen Rinpoche—1865-1926)

My last post was something I hesitated to write, but I got so many responses from others who are going through the same sort of things I am. People pondering life at the tail end of this uncertain and seemingly perilous year.

Thank you so much, blog friends, for writing your thoughts!

Actually, it was a turning point to write that post and be prodded by the responses.

I decided that no matter what, I'm going to keep turning towards the light and not get stuck in fear, distrust of events, worry about specific or non-specific things. As a Buddhist I've always thought that renunciation was important. Not to get stuck in expecting the things of this life to last, wanting happiness to arise from within, as His Holiness the Dalai Lama advises. True happiness, lasting happiness, comes from within and isn't dependent on external things.

But if you take that logic too far in the wrong way there's the danger of being nihilistic, thinking that things on the outside don't matter, and they do. Oh so much. You have to try to be happy, to not suffer!

How do the Buddhist views of non-attachment reconcile with the idea of visualizing happiness? How would the great Kadampa masters (the ultimate Tibetan compassion warriors) respond to "The Secret"?

I've been thinking about this all week. People can be attached to their own suffering in a self-negating, masochistic way, and that doesn't help at all ever, especially when things get tough. We have to be our own best friends, as my teacher says. We have to be as kind to ourselves as we try to be to other sentient beings. When we meditate and practice and pray, if we dedicate it for all beings, we are included.

My little study group read from the text "Turning Happiness and Suffering into Enlightenment" today. It just puts everything into perspective. According to this Tibetan text you should try not to get stuck in happiness and good things that happen, trying not to be attached to them but using happiness as a basis from which to practice. When bad things happen you should try to see them as reminders to turn to the practices of compassion, meditation, and renunciation, among others. In this way everything that happens helps us on the path. That's the briefest of explanations, but the logic and beauty of this text brightens things up a lot.

This attitude truly seems like the key to real happiness.

These are the thoughts occupying my mind lately. What's on yours today?

Take care,
Laura

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sometimes life is just an 11-month-old border collie giving you the staredown




Has this been a crazy, mixed up, intense year for you? Or is it just me?

I wonder this as I read the news and analyses, people's blogs, and talk to people.

Anyone who says this has been an easy year is either independently wealthy or living with a bag over their head, although I doubt that would really be easy.

In keeping with my normal tell-the-truth-and-it-will-set-you-free attitude, I have to let you know that this has been both the worst possible year and one of the best for me.

I bet you can guess what the best things have been—meeting customers and bloggers, designing malas for people to use throughout the world (thereby hopefully helping to increase positivity EVERYWHERE!), my growing and lovely children, my 20th anniversary with a great man, and my growing and lovely new dharma center.

Among the worst things have been—getting a cuddly, fuzzy border collie puppy that turned out to be Cujo with bad teeth (although she is improving her manners daily), listening to the sad stories of people who've lost jobs and homes, being part of the care team for my mother, whose health has gotten worse and worse this year. Finally, to round out this recent thoroughly miserable part of the year, we lost a brother-in-law, an old friend (Goodbye, Sinesia), my parents' cat, and the partner of a dear friend—all died within two weeks. I'm not even mentioning the additional deaths that affected other people I'm close to.

So lately it's been a real test of faith and patience. I just can't stand it when people suffer, so I try to pray for them, and I know it helps but sometimes you want to SEE the positive results. Only raising the dead and curing the old and sick would be the type of results that would satisfy me, and I'm not there yet. So it's been time to endure, go deep, perhaps to the bottom, and slowly emerge refreshed.

Talk about dark night of the soul.

But refreshed is how I feel now. I have a new feeling of being lighter and accepting all that I can't control. Each day is sacred. I figure if I'm lucky I may have 30 years left and I want to take total advantage of living them Exactly the way I want.

Which means just what I've been doing—a daily practice, creative spiritual work, art, motherhood...

But it means less of the feeling of dread and responsibility. Because none of that helps.

Again, as the post title says, sometimes life is just an 11-month-old border collie staring you down. (You know they're just one step away from being wolves.)

*******

Next exciting stop, The Olivenhain Craft Fair in Olivenhain California on November 14th. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. I don't do many craft fairs—this is the only one in a year, so it's pretty special to get to talk to live customers and friends. Come on by if you're in the area. I'll let you know in pictures how it goes!

Sincerely,
Laura

Monday, October 26, 2009

What's in a Miracle?




Someone I know asked recently "Where are you in your experience of miracles today?"

A very good question, especially as lately so many people have been experiencing loss, stress, and hardship.

I thought about it as I meditated and then made a mala.

A small hawk came to perch on the fence during my meditation. It never happened before, only as I thought about whether I'd ever experienced a miracle. It fanned out its tail feathers in search of an insect. So close, and I get excited when I see them far up in a tree. But this one came close to visit.

I see miracles in everyday life, not just in life-saving experiences.

The miraculous is all around us if we look, like an artist, poet, or mystic does. The very expression of life and growth, even of decay is a miracle. The fact that change and even loss can happen is proof of great possibilities, both good and bad.

How about looking into the eyes of a child or an old man or woman and seeing the love within them? The very existence of love is a miracle.

The very fact that we can love and create and help others is truly a divine gift, whether we choose to call it that or not.

When I was eight I ran in front of a loaded, lit canon. It was on the other side of a fence I was playing behind, and as I ran out in front of it I heard, I felt...nothing. The grownups gasped, but the canon had misfired.
Surely an angel was with me that day.



Peace,
Laura

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Blessing and Offering A New Mala



What do you do after you get a new mala?

You've acquired a mala, either through purchase or as a gift. Maybe it's a special custom mala you have designed with a mala maker, or perhaps you have made it yourself. What now?

Sit down in your favorite meditation place, settled into or on your seat.
Set your intention—be it to settle your mind, come closer to peace, or all of the above—and think about generating compassion for all sentient beings, including yourself.

As you begin your recitation you might feel you're not resonating with your mala. Even if  you ordered it with enthusiasm and chose the stones for their significance to you, sometimes it takes awhile to feel connected with the beads.

You can try offering it in your practice and blessing it that way. Getting a mala blessed by a qualified master is wonderful, if you get a chance. But on your own there's quite a lot you can do. You can simply offer it to whatever sacred higher power you feel a connection to and dedicate the mala. You can think of compassion, of benefiting all beings, and you can pray that whatever meditation and mantras you do with it will be blessed. If you work with crystals you might be familiar with this process of offering something and receiving blessing gently into it.

Just hold it in your hands while you say a blessing prayer. Or you could hold it in open hands in an offering gesture. You could hold it with your hands clasped to your heart, eyes closed. Your way will be your own.

I often say the mantra, "Om Mani Padme Hung" as I go around the beads of a new mala.  This seems to me to dedicate the mala to compassionate use, as it is the mantra most connected with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. But any mantra will work!

After using it repeatedly, with the power of your practice, your mantra will remind you even more of your intentions and it will develop an energy that will bring you back from your wandering thoughts as you meditate. It will become a good companion and a tool for developing mindfulness, awareness, and compassion.

I just used the word "intention" quite a few times.  It seems that this is the main thing about using a mala, whether you use it for prayer and mantra, just to come back to center and refocus, or mostly enjoy wearing it to remind you to stay positive. Intention works. And remember, a mala is just a string of beads until you use it. Your energy and motivation are what bring it alive.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Some More Gorgeous Art and Jewelry on 1000Markets-"Moi" Included!

Featured Merchants: Oct 9 - Oct 15


Featured on 1000Markets in the Asian Inspirations Market

Really, if you haven't visited 1000Markets, you'd like it. As I've said before, the layout and overall richness of the photographs of independent craft and art are really well done. It's a whole other look and feel than Etsy, which is already beautiful, noble and good. (I'm a huge Etsy supporter and sell there.) I'm one of the featured sellers in the Asian Inspirations Market this week. If you visit, you'll see work by:

lemachidesigns, who features jewelry, mixed media art, and ACEOs (artists collectible cards). Beautiful pinks and oranges—abstract designs mixed with inspiring Asian images.

Elephantdreams, a wonderful photographer who does some color alterations to her work. She features, among other things, photos of Buddhas and everyday scenes from Asia. Gorgeous.

And me, Laura of Heart of Compassion Malas. I make "Artistic Malas That Inspire". Prayer beads of semi-precious stones and wood to support your meditation and prayer practice and even to wear to connect you with mindfulness and a higher power. Custom malas are a big part of my work. (I'm "compassionmalas" on Etsy.)

Just a thought about online shopping. It is vital to support the shops where one lives. But it's also nice not to have to drive around and find parking spaces and wait in line. When you shop independent art online you are giving work to wonderful artists and allowing them to continue to do the work they love. And the work you buy is high-quality, unique, and personal.

Peace to you, whatever you do!
Laura

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A New Way to Work...And a New Jade Mala



Now Playing, Bird On the Wire by Leonard Cohen

My friend Jan at Awakened Living, who has started a blog for "women on the path to awakening" recently told me how she prepared to work at the computer. I think it involved candles, music, and tea. Not just any music, but mantras set to music. Isn't that a good idea? When we sit down to the computer we become so over-stimulated, things just rush in. There seems to be no beginning or end to our work. It's a fun way to work, very creative, but after trying her method (with my own music—the blues right now) I've discovered it works much better. There's a much more peaceful and vibrant quality to computer time when you set it up mindfully.

About peace and tranquility, I created this new jade and moss agate mala to bring that. My own mala is new jade. I wanted to make something for others that was really rich and glorious. There are nephrite jade beads, moss agate (darkest green), new jade, and vermeil bead caps. It was created in a spirit of joy. Jade is supposed to bring joy and good energy, healing chi. Hope you enjoy the pictures.

Stay well, stay happy! Take a mindfulness moment now and then.
Love,
Laura


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Kind of People I Know...

Jewels of Saraswati's Arjuna Earrings of Smoky Quartz

In this internet jungle we've carved out a space for ourselves, we who create, do yoga, meditate, and try to keep our faces turned towards the light.

Amazingly, or perhaps not, I meet the nicest people on the www. It's like having penpals. When I was a child a had a penpal in Uganda. It wasn't the best time to be growing up in Uganda, so I frequently wonder whatever happened to Cossie Namokasu. I hope she's been able to follow her dream of studying astronomy. She was a lovely writer. We were both about 12. Maybe she'll see this post.

Now my penpals come mainly from the world of blog. I "met" Lauren of Jewels of Saraswati in an Etsy forum. You have to love someone who makes jewelry as beautiful as hers. She describes herself as "Professional flutist, pedagogue, jewelry artist, etsian, aspiring yogini." She makes some lovely avante garde music with her group. She also has a beautiful blog. Check it out.

She was kind enough to write about Heart of Compassion Malas (compassionmalas on Etsy) recently, but that's not the only reason I'm pointing her out to you. The photos she takes of the jewelry she makes are perfect. We should all be so gifted.

I'm busy planning to go to a meditation retreat after Thanksgiving, and there's a craftshow I'm preparing for. Since so many of the malas I make have been highly personal custom orders lately, I don't have a large supply of malas. I've been making them as orders come in. For one thing, it's a lot more fun to know who I'm making it for. And it doesn't seem to slow down shipping more than a day. I still want to build up a supply for when things get busy this fall. So that's what I'm up to today—designing and making, making, making.

So far, keeping on top of things. Hope your Fall days are full of crisp air, nice views, and happy preparations.

Yours Truly,
Laura

Professional flutist, pedagogue, jewelry artist, etsian, aspiring yogini.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Happiness is...

My grandfather's player piano

Happiness is sitting down to play the piano on a fine Sunday morning in early Autumn, finding the notes to something sweet like Moonlight Sonata while the border collie drops the ball on my feet again and again, asking me to stop and play ball.

Happiness is seeing some new flowers in the backyard—a peep of purple and some yellow mixed with orange, some new growth in the lawn, the bud of a gerbera daisy poking up out of the center of a plant that I think is lost each summer, but which always returns.

Happiness is eating the biscuits that someone special made this morning.

Happiness is sharing these random moments with you.

Have a nice day.
Laura

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Back From Seeing the Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama Photo by Dan Winters

Dear Friends,

Just back from two days of teachings by His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama in Long Beach, California. Wow. What do you say? For those of you who haven't been to a teaching or public talk by him, it's an intense experience. There are so many people there, from so many backgrounds. There are Bahai, Yogis, Buddhists, Jews, Christians, and Hindus, just to name a few of them. This time there were Chinese, Vietnamese, and Tibetan monks and nuns on the stage beneath His Holiness' "throne". They took turns chanting the Heart Sutra (Prajnaparamitra) in their own languages plus Sanskrit.

It was an incredible event.

His Holiness is very fit and healthy looking, full of the sparkle and seriousness that are his trademarks. But this time I got more of a sense of the work that he does, touring and teaching, being so politically active, constantly on view as a world figure. The security for this event was almost like going through an airport. The Long Beach Police Department was in full show—their strongest members guarding the doors and all around. The FBI was represented, too. Keeping the Dalai Lama healthy and safe is a huge responsibility.

I saw more malas in the past few days than I have for a year! The winner in terms of most worn mala bead was definitely Sandalwood, followed by dark rosewood, then Rudraksha and Bodhiseed. Many people were wearing them around their necks with the guru bead behind their heads, I don't know why. (Maybe someone can tell me.) The Tibetan people wore their traditional robes and dresses and many men carried their malas hanging down from one hand, saying mantras on them as they walked. I only saw one highly decorated mala, and it was of rose quartz with many rose quartz pendants hanging down. It was gorgeous. The most beautiful mala, though, was a dark green aventurine mala with metal counters on a short Tibetan man. I had to stop and admire it.

So many ways to use them, yet it all came down to the wonder that so many people were in Long Beach saying prayers to generate compassion together, each in their own way. His Holiness is very clear that he doesn't want anyone to change religions, that people should stick to the religion they have. He explained over and over how to think of what he was teaching (ethics, emptiness and other things) if one was Christian. It was really wonderful. Mainly his attitude is, if it helps, use it. If it doesn't, don't let it become an obstacle. He promotes harmony between religions, not divisiveness.

The flavor of the event was serious, but the crowd was like a large group of people in a very large marketplace, slowly following one another in lines to get to seats, see vendor's displays of art and jewelry, to bathrooms, and to get food. Everyone was very friendly and calm despite the crowdedness. It was a great example of people getting along.

I came away with so much. I know only a little, my meditation is questionable, I don't understand half of what I could if I actually studied, but I love this path and the people on it. It's truly a blessing to be able to pursue a path that suits one. How lucky we are to have freedom of religion and the freedom to gather! It was sad that it's possible to go to this kind of event here in the West but not in Tibet now. Maybe if we pray for the Tibetan cause and support the International Campaign for Tibet, some positive change can come about.



Take care,
Laura


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

So Little Time to Chat Lately!

Swirly New Jade, Carnelian, and Etched Tibetan Agate Mala Held Gently by a White Wood Buddha

Well, we got Mom into a nursing home last week and she's adjusting. She's finally out of urgent medical care and into the rehab part of her recovery from some serious medical setbacks last month. So much has been going through my mind! And so many miles have gone beneath my tires as I drove to the hospital and back.

It's times like this that really make you ponder life. I realize the importance my mother has in my life and how much I intend to keep helping her and my father. I see the importance of beauty, friends, and taking good care of yourself as you inhabit a supporting role.

Once again, I register a complaint with the universe at the whole design of this life thing. How come a person can live a good and honorable life and then end up falling apart like a rusty clock towards the end of their lives? Some Buddhist masters say that every bit of suffering is like a broom that sweeps away bad karma. Does it work this way if you aren't a Buddhist and don't believe in karma?

Ponderings such as these keep me awake sometimes. They can be endless. Sometimes I have to just focus on something else.

My high school friend asked me if my studies and practice of Buddhism has helped. I said yes, really yes. It's helped so much to have studied impermanence and the law of cause and effect, the value of this human birth, and the pervasiveness of suffering. Sounds a bit depressing, but life is actually pretty saturated with these things, so studying it just makes sense. The flip side of all this suffering and responsibility is that the possibility of escape from suffering exists, if we practice a "graduated path" of study and practice. Uh Huh. That's what the masters say. Enlightenment in one lifetime is possible, and failing that, enlightenment at the moment of death really happens.

One thing I haven't lost sight of is how joyful sitting in my garden and saying my prayers and mantras is. It's the one time in the day that's all for me—but really it's all for everyone—dedicated to the well-being of all. It's the most beautiful thing in the world to have a steady practice, really a gift from my teacher, who asked it of us long ago. Come hell or high water, it's what I do, a mala in hand.

I haven't had time to visit my usual blogs because of all this, but I know that I will in the future.
This work, these blog friendships, my Etsy and 1000Markets shops and customers—these all bring such joy.

I hope I can bring a little joy, too.

Much love,
Laura

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Asian Inspirations Market on 1000Markets—A Vibrant Bunch of Creative Sellers



Indian Folk Art Painting Hatha(i) Yoga Lochana Devi in Warrior III by Indira of DhamaKarmaArts

Asian Inspirations Market on 1000Markets

In my ongoing striving to keep my malas accessible on the web, I joined 1000Markets a few months ago. It didn't make sense anymore to have all my eggs in one basket. It's very practical to have shops in a few places. 1000Markets had a beautiful layout and design and easy way of listing new items. I'm still a newbie, but I just like being there. So far it's been a place to meet people and get a nice wholesale order, which was very nice. I just love the way my shop looks there. It's small but cozy.

When I was invited by Indira of Dharmakarmaarts to join a market she was creating representing "products that draw upon Asian influence either in materials, techniques, belief systems, ideas or culture", of course I accepted. The art of making and using malas comes from India and was transplanted to Tibet, so I feel very akin to Asian sensibilities. They're my roots, though I've never studied in an Asian mala workshop. At least not in this lifetime!

Indira has gathered a group of exciting artisans who are all inspired by Asian themes artistically, and she's begun to write about them on 1000Markets. I just wanted to point this group out to you because I'm so proud to be among them. As you begin to think about your holiday shopping, take a look at their gorgeous work.

1000Markets is a really unique venue. To show there you have to submit your shop for approval, and sometimes people try several times without being accepted. But the "jurors" are kind enough to offer feedback about your photos and other things. Photography on 1000Markets shows up large and vibrant, because they don't limit your photo size as much. And their layout is spectacular. For all these reasons I'm happy to be there.

Featured artists this week in Asian Inspirations Market are:

Dye Diana Dye (incredible hand-dyed shibori clothing, more intricate than I can describe!),

DharmaKarmaArts (showing India inspired arts, adornment, and accessories—you won't believe the shapes and colors.) and

The Excessary Store (brilliant modern jewelry and stationary in the essence of Eastern craft traditions)

Here's a big shout out to each of you for your beautiful work. Long may you create!

Have a wonderful day,

Laura

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Beach in Laguna Beach-Rejoicing



Zen and the art of bodyboarding by rocks in high surf

This month I got to go for a getaway up the coast to Laguna Beach and actually spend some time on the beach with the hubby. It was a glorious day—hot and clear. The surf was high, so I didn't go in, but my husband went in and bobbed in the incoming swell. It was lovely to see him so weightless.

There was a man with a body board who waited for waves just beside this rock. When I first saw him I was alarmed—some crazy guy, I thought—watch out. Blood and an emergency rescue to come. He took off on waves and rode them right by the rock, cutting in towards it halfway towards the beach to catch the best curl of it. It was scary! But my husband just laughed to see how wired the guy had it. When the dude finally got out we could see that he was a middle-aged man who'd obviously done this so many times he could do it in his sleep. To me, untrained in body-boarding by rocks in high surf, it looked suicidal. But he probably didn't skip a beat. The lifeguard just watched as if he'd seen it all before.

What makes some people take some risks and others enjoy another kind? It's funny, isn't it? I'm listening to Three Cups of Tea on audiobook. After a disastrous attempt to summit a mountain in the Himalayas, Greg Mortenson saw that the village he stayed in had no school, only a determined group of kids who gathered in rain, snow, and sun in a dirt lot to study. He decided to build a small school in this remote village in Northern Pakistan. Eventually he went on to build many schools. Nothing deterred him, even being kidnapped for a week and held in captivity by a group that suspected he was anti-Muslim and a member of the U.S. armed forces. He gradually won them over by showing respect for their tradition of prayer and explaining his great desire to build schools. It's an amazing story and all true. What gave and gives him the courage?

Where do these drives come from?

I have the opinion that we're born with jobs to do. There's a place for us in this world that we were born to fill, no one else can take our part. Whatever our religions or creeds, if we keep our hearts open we can find a combination of vocation and avocation that sustains us and gives to the rest of the world. Maybe we're to be stay-at-home parents and give to our families and communities. Maybe our call is to be a greeter, giving smiles and hellos at work and everywhere else. Maybe nursing is our true call. Maybe making beautiful things is part of our place in the world. Maybe constructing homes, or building roads.

We can never give up on chasing our dreams, nor can anyone else find our role for us. Only we can figure it out by listening intently to our souls.

This is the way we can give to the world and make it a better place, by being all that we can be and offering it. Listening to the sometimes still, silent voice inside, and obeying it. And when that voice screams, we'd sure better listen!

Just like the fellow I watched chasing the rock in Laguna Beach in high surf. Again and again he came close enough to be seriously messed up by the abrading lump of earth—and again and again he escaped in the joy of the wave. In some way I can't imagine but can only appreciate, he was fulfilling his destiny. And I was fulfilling mine just by observing him.

Peace,

Laura




Thursday, September 10, 2009

Arghhh...Need More Water!



A Puddle in the Sierra Mountains

Arghh, It's hot in Southern California. Too hot for the grass to grow, especially when it's denied its usual water amount. We're on water rationing. Odd numbers are supposed to water on Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday, and even numbers are watering on Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Or something like that. I'm odd. My family can also never remember when we're supposed to water, so sometimes we don't. The good news is that water consumption in San Diego has dropped enormously. If you fly over it you see San Diego as the dry place it was before watered landscape, and the threat of wildfire is very visible.

I'm thinking of installing astro turf. But it doesn't cool down a yard. The other idea is a fluffy, durable ground cover. It's not a large yard, but it does give me that nice chill feeling when I'm meditating.

I've written through the year in my blog about how much I enjoy meditating outside. To be surrounded by space and sky, to see trees, birds, and the occasional mad ransacking border collie really opens my meditations. All the Buddhas and enlightened beings are there in the openness of the true nature of mind. And I'm sure that if I have their images in my mind (from gazing at paintings and drawings of them through the years) they appear spontaneously wherever I meditate. Or wherever anyone meditates, after all. And isn't that the point? To be able to invoke the embodiments of wisdom throughout the day, wherever we are? At Target, at the beach, and at the doctor's office? How often are we going to be really challenged at home in front of our shrines? Okay, I admit that's the most challenging place of all. But I mean the struggles of daily life need to be buffered by the presence of compassion and wisdom.

So I call upon the Buddhas in my dry Southern California backyard, with the bright blue sky above and the fading pink flowers of my tall hibiscus trees. The border collie chases around the yard, occasionally destroys a plant or cushion, comes to sit beside me for a moment, and she trains in quietness. My mind trains in equanimity and compassion. And all is good.

Peace! And if you get a second, leave a note for me about where you best like to meditate.
I did not want to post a photo of my dead lawn, so here is bend in a gentle creek in the Sierra Mountains. I can aspire to bringing its beauty into my yard eventually.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Search for the Mystery Bead!

For months and months and months I've been searching in vain for more beads like this 14-mm swirly acrylic bead in the back of the photograph. Why? I like its swirls of gold, green, and black. It's come to mean something to me. My friend Rosemary gave me all her beading supplies last year when I started on Etsy, and this was in a necklace she made. At first I thought I'd never use it, then after I made this mala with

Poppy jasper guru bead
horn oblong
brass bead caps and
yellow cotton tassel

I was hooked. At first I thought no one would like it except me. It was made for those brighter meditations, the ones when we're slightly sleepy, maybe slightly down, to perk us up! (I am never sleepy and never, ever down.)
Someone ordered it, then someone ordered another one, and whoosh—no more swirly beads in my box.

I begged the nice live help lady at Fire Mountain to find me more, I've been begging all over town. As soon as I give up I will find it, of course.

Meantime, the first person to let me know they've found something like this (acrylic or glass), will receive my undying affection and gratitude. And maybe a little something extra.

I'm not attached, I'm absolutely compulsive. Is that the same thing? Anyway, I offer my search and hope that somehow it and these malas will be a small part of the positivity in the world.

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Love,
Laura

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Blogging and Custom Malas—Julie & Julia


Boy, I'm so tired. To get anything done without interruption I stayed up until 2 am last night. It was a happy time finishing a few custom malas. Here's one made of picture jasper, nice turquoise, mottled new jade, rose quartz, silver findings, a green aventurine Kuan Yin medallion, and pewter medallions—one of an angel and one of a mermaid.

This one took an email collaboration that lasted a couple of weeks, but in the end I'm really satisfied. My customer says she likes it, too. It's very personal! I post it here because it's so different than the traditional Buddhist malas I usually make and I like the combination of stones and pendants. It just goes to show you, prayer beads can be as individualistic as you want.

I found two of the pendants at beadlady's shop on Etsy. They come from Green Girl Studios, an incredible pewter designer and caster. I'll definitely use Green Girl's work again! And beadlady was a quick and responsive seller. I absolutely love buying from independent shops on Etsy.

This month was sooo busy with custom orders. I think I altered something in my shop announcement on Etsy so that Google finds me in custom mala searches more easily. This is great, because I enjoy this work. Hello Google!

On another note, I'm sure many of you have seen Julie & Julia by now. I just saw it tonight. It was about following your passion and writing. What's not to love about that? I admit, when the Julie character found out she had 50 comments, I had a pang of jealousy. (But it wasn't serious.) She was blogging about making a different Julia Child recipe every day. At one point both she and Julie Child said "I've finally decided what to do with my life!", which rang a nice bell for me.

About this little blog: Unfortunately I can tell when people read it and when they don't. (Ha Ha!) And I've found out conclusively that people only read when I write. So I am forced to write, and write, and write. And take a lot of pictures. It's as if I was being trained by animal trainers. Thanks again.

Peace to you.
Laura

Woman with Red Shirt in Laguna Beach, California




I love this photo. I don't know exactly why...
Maybe it just looks like this girl is about to have way too much fun wherever she's going. She's walking by some expensive art galleries on her way to lunch or a good nap. Maybe a swim in the waves a block away. Only she knows, but she's pretty happy about it.

I started shooting photos by holding my camera to one side and not looking through it. It's sort of the secret spy technique. Lots of fun. Not working with composition, so anything that happens is an odd accident. What people around me are doing is so intriguing, but I don't want to disturb them by pointing a camera their direction.

If this is you in the photo, thank you very much. I'll send you a copy if you add a comment.

Peace, stay very cool today.

Love,
Laura

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A lifetime...rushing by, like a torrent down a steep mountain.






The Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind from Samsara, from the Longchen Nyingtik Ngondro.

Part of the foundation practices of the Tibetan Buddhist Nyingmas. Inspiring and beautiful, so I post it here for you to savor.


Free and well-favored human birth:

This free and well-favored human form is difficult to obtain
Now that you have the chance to realize the full human potential,
If you don't make good use of this opportunity,
How could you possibly expect to have such a chance again?

Impermanence:

This existence of ours is as transient as autumn clouds.
To watch the birth and death of beings is like looking at the movement of a dance.
A lifetime is like a flash of lightning in the sky,
Rushing by, like a torrent down a steep mountain.

Karma: Cause and Effect:

When his time has come, even a king has to die,
And neither his friends nor his wealth can follow him.
So for us—wherever we stay, wherever we go—
Karma follows us like a shadow.

The Suffering of Samsara:

Because of craving, attachment and ignorance,
Men, gods, animals, hungry ghosts and hell-beings
Foolishly go round,
Like the turning of a potter's wheel.

(...so turn the mind towards your practice and cultivate good actions.)

Love,
Laura

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sooo Happy Today-August 26th



It was twenty years ago today, in a small with 60 of our closest family and friends, that I married my best friend. In the intense heat we exchanged the promises that have kept us together: I let him surf whenever he wants, he lets me go to retreats and bookstores as needed. This foolproof marriage vow has meant that what he's into I support and what I'm into, he supports.

That's it for now. I just thought I'd pass along my little tip for a healthy marriage. Time ages the body, hardships age the mind, but the commitment to love and support another person and be their best friend goes on forever.

At least for another twenty years. Then maybe we'll have to renegotiate. At some distant point we'll be looking into assisted living and he'll have to support my efforts with a senior dance group or something. His surfing may turn into laps in the pool. But the principle remains the same—instead of obeying, we encourage. It seems to be working out pretty well so far.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bead Show Day

Just back from Mammoth Lakes, California, where I tried to capture some of the beauty. Here's Devils Postpile. A lot of pressure built up in the earth and came up through a layer of basalt, causing hexagonal cracking. Quite amazing! It was a wonderful short vacation and I'm back at work filling orders in my Etsy shop.

Today's the twice-yearly visit to the local bead show. Aisles and aisles of your favorite gems, semi-precious beads, wood beads, and findings. I know right where I'm going and what to get for a couple of very special custom mala orders. I'll search for some 10 mm rainbow moonstone, some swirly new jade, some variegated carnelian (maybe I made that name up, but that's what I call it), and some more wood beads.

I'm creating some simple wood mala-bracelets for my Etsy shop. Wood has such a wholesome feel and beautiful look. I'm inspired by living through the 60s and 70s and the whole back-to-the-earth hippy era. They also have a slightly Rastafarian feel. I want these to be touchstones that draw people (like me) into mindfulness throughout the day, and beautiful little pieces of the earth to wear. I have some colored glass beads to use as guru beads. Here is one that I finished. It's made of walnut wood from a rosary supply shop.

That's it for now. I appreciate your stopping by, you're in my thoughts and prayers always (whoever you are), and thanks to my customers for your amazing support throughout this first year selling malas online.

Peace!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mothers and Mother Love



Lately I've been helping my mother a lot. She's the beautiful 1950s era debutante.

Mom's a woman of the 40s, 50s, and 60s. I hit my prime 25 years after her. We’re really different! Still, we've read a lot of the same books and we both like to dance to Harry Belafonte. She taught me to dance, paint, design, and play with color. All things change, though, and she's not dancing much anymore. She does the slow shuffle more than anything, and not by choice. I'm looking into day care facilities for her with my dad, hoping that will provide support and enrichment for her life. She has so many health problems: asthma, COPD, balance disorders, memory loss, etc.

I have learned over time about the power of positive thinking. Recently my 86-year-old friend underwent hip surgery and bounced right back afterwards. His wife says that the prayers of his friends were very powerful. He is too, but I’m sure the prayers helped! So I'm asking right now, can you say a little prayer for Mom? Her name is Betty. And if you don't pray, observe a moment of blessing her in whatever way you do best and most comfortably.

She believes in beauty and nature and love. I'm sure it will help her and Dad. And me and my sister, too.

There's another picture of my daughter and me, snuggling at a lunch date. That's just how we are. It's so good to have that daughter-love! I hope that I'm nice enough to her that someday she'll guide me gently towards having the care I need, aided by her brother, who I also love dearly.

And then there is the statue of Kuan Yin, the bodhisattva of compassion. She is related to Avalokiteshvara, who is the Tibetan bodhisattva of compassion, and to the Buddha Tara.

She loves us all and protects us from pain and suffering. She's especially invoked by women giving birth.

Wherever you are, have a nice day, do something creative and meaningful, take a breath now and then, and thanks for being there.

Love,

Laura


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Two Malas Made Like Rosaries

My friend is a nun in South Korea. She recently made a lovely set of prayer beads that follow a rosary-looking pattern. She kindly said that I could try making it for a customer. (Thank you, friend, and thank you, Return to the Center, for the photo!) So I made these two. They have a green aventurine Kuan Yin...you can't photograph the detail of it because it's carved. But I like it. It uses a barrel knot that I learned off a Catholic rosary-making website.

So these malas are coming closer and closer to that broad-based spirituality I love, where different traditions are learning from each other. Many of us are realizing that when you dive into center, into the holiness of prayer, it doesn't matter what your religion or language, just that you intend to be whole and helpful. Still, for me, it helps to follow one tradition carefully. That way you can absorb as much as possible and develop some sort of cohesive and strong practice.

I found a lovely description in Sogyal Rinpoche's book, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, of a compassion practice. The term "heart of compassion" figures prominently in it. It talks about practicing compassion with the dying:

"Working with the dying, I have experienced again and again, gives all who do so a direct opportunity to practice compassion in action, and in the situation where it is probably most deeply needed of all.

Your compassion can have perhaps three essential benefits for the dying person: First, because it is opening your heart, you will find it easier to show the dying person the kind of unconditional love I have spoken about, and which they need so much. On a deeper, spiritual level, I have seen again and again how, if you try to embody compassion and act out of the heart of compassion, you will created an atmosphere in which the other person can be inspired to imagine the spiritual dimension or even take up spiritual practice. On the deepest level of all, if you do constantly practice compassion for the dying person and in turn inspire them to do the same, you might not only heal them spiritually, but perhaps even physically too. And you will discover for yourself, with wonder, what all the spiritual masters know, that the power of compassion has no bounds."

Powerful words. Hope you enjoy them. That's really where I'm coming from with this name, "Heart of compassion". It's so big that it holds infinite possibilities! And it's attainable in this life.

Lots of love,
Laura

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Gratitude Post-My First Mala

Kuan Yin Head Statue with Picture Jasper Mala (not my first mala, but a nice photo)

When I first met my teacher in 1984, I had no idea I'd become a Buddhist. I wasn't trying to become an anything, I just wanted to learn how to meditate better and avoid some of the pitfalls of trying to do it alone. I walked into a little bookstore in Del Mar, California (Earthsong Books) and saw a flyer for a talk by a Tibetan lama. I'd just finished reading Alexandra David-Neel's book, Magic & Mystery in Tibet, and I was intrigued by Tibetan mysticism. I went to the evening talk and a short, robust, youngish lama walked confidently into the room and greeted the small crowd with some jokes and laughter. I was hooked on Sogyal Rinpoche from the moment I saw him. :-)

After attending retreats for about a year I decided I wanted a mala, a string of 108 beads used to count prayers and mantras. Little did I know that one day I'd have a mala for every mood and day of the week because that's just how I am. I walked into that same bookstore, where I'd become good friends with the owner and his girlfriend, and he showed me the bodhiseed mala in the case. Perfect! I brought it home with me and we've been good practice friends ever since. For a while I wore it more than practiced with it, because I was a young hippie-punk chick just deciding how I wanted to be. But gradually it became more and more of a formal practice. The Ngondro, the set of "preliminary practices" in Vajrayana Buddhism, has been my focus for all these years. I may never finish it. Well, I will, but it's going to take a long time. But there is so much richness, joy, and compassion in it that I will always be complete. :-)

My friend helped me restring the bodhiseed mala when it broke, and when more malas came into my life I sent them out now and then for restringings. (They break when used properly! I mean, when they don't just sit on a shelf, they do wear out.) Finally I started restringing my own malas and making them from scratch. Now I have a happy little mala shop on Etsy (see sidebar for link) where I sell malas of my own design and offer restringing and custom work. It just feels right. I've met like-minded people throughout the United States and the world through this work (play) and blogging. It's shown me how wonderful this life can be if we focus together on prayer for all beings, each in our own way, regardless of our religions or backgrounds. Because malas aren't just for Buddhists anymore. See Kimberly Winston's blog, Bead One, Pray Too, to learn more about how many types of people use and make prayer beads.

It's been a happy path that started with my first mala. I'll never be a one-mala kind of gal, but I'm devoted to their use and to the devotion that they help kindle within me during my practices.

Thanks, Jan at the wonderful spiritual blog Awake is Good, for the mention and the support. May you be well.

Lots of love,
Laura

Monday, August 3, 2009

Unmistaken Child-the Movie

The Story of Tenzin Zopa's Search for the Reincarnation of his Master

Unmistaken Child is a wonderful movie. Many of us have heard the stories of the search for the Dalai Lama. It involved dreams, prophecies, and a test involving objects belonging to the previous Dalai Lama. But you don't hear too often about modern searches for masters' rebirths. And when you do, sometimes it's hard to imagine. This movie takes you on the journey of Tenzin Zopa, a Tibetan monk who spent most of his life serving his master, Geshe Lama Konchog. When Lama Konchog died, His Holiness the Dalai Lama asked him to search for the new incarnation. You get to see every emotion on Tenzin Zopa's face as he accepts this overwhelming job. After consulting with high lamas and even a Buddhist astrologer, Tenzin Zopa travels to the region he was born in to find likely one-and-a-half-year-old Tibetan boys.

I won't give away much, but the relationship that develops between the incarnate child and his devoted disciple is really heartwarming and funny. He calls him "Big Uncle", and Tenzin Zopa slowly assumes more and more responsibility for the boy's care and upbringing. The scene where the boy gets his head shaved for the first time is both sad and sweet.

It's a terrific movie about reincarnation, something that seems very foreign to Western culture. By the end of it I was engrossed and deeply touched.

The filming was beautiful, it was edited very well, and I think anyone would enjoy it.


And the website, with an interesting discussion of reincarnation.

Showtimes in the U.S. are here.

For some reason, maybe the heat, I saw a movie almost every night last week. And this is the one that stuck with me and moved me the most. It's a real feel-good movie. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll remember it. If you see only one movie this summer...this would be my choice.



Friday, July 31, 2009

The Old French Clock and the Dharma Center



300-Year old French Clock for Sale-"Theodore Lepin a la Trinite"

No, this isn't Craigslist.

To support our local Rigpa Meditation Center, my friends donated a French clock that's been in their family for 300 years. It's a beautiful clock with intricate carvings, free from the damage of rot or insects. It's amazingly preserved, made of beautifully carved wood with an ornate metal clockface frame showing a happy courting couple. It will be an adventure finding the right home for it.

It was a ton of fun photographing it with my friend Emily's help.

What must this clock have seen! If it was created in the 1700's it's seen a lot from its elegant face. If only clocks could talk. Instead of simply tocking. (Oh, I couldn't help it.)

If this clock is meant to be in your home or you know someone who would enjoy having it AND benefitting a worth Dharma center, please let me know.

My Puppy's Dentist Works on Lions-True Story with a Photo




Dr. Brook Niemiec, DVM will perform two root canals on my 8-month old border collie tomorrow morning, at about 9:00 a.m. California time.


Isn't life an adventure? Here's a photo of Dr. Niemiec working on a thoroughly anesthetized cat. Nice kitty, don't wake up yet.


All prayers are welcome tomorrow, although I'm not concerned about the safety of my pet in this expert's hands.


The thing is, the dental care this lucky animal will get is better than what most Americans can get, and that does make me sad. I hope and pray that all people can obtain the medical care they need. And while we, as a nation, work towards that (in a great and confusing dialogue), I am glad that this type of care is available for animals.


Why I didn't go into animal dentistry instead of art and mala-making, I'll never know. Perhaps I could be driving a jaguar and drilling the cavities on a jaguar in the same day. But my calling is to create beauty that soothes, and Dr. Niemiec's is to soothe the beauties that roar, and bark...and purr. Nice kitty.


It's late now. Goodnight and bless you and yours.