Thursday, December 31, 2009
Blythe doll with New Year sentiment courtesy Janet at Spiegelhouse.
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.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
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.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
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
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
And oklahoma city is mighty pretty.
You see amarillo,
Gallup, new mexico,
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
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
(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?
Thursday, November 5, 2009
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!
Monday, October 26, 2009
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.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
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
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
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.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
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,
Monday, September 14, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
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
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
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.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Free and well-favored human birth:
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
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.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
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.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
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.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
Friday, July 31, 2009
300-Year old French Clock for Sale-"Theodore Lepin a la Trinite"
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.