*May all beings have happiness and be free of suffering.*
This morning in my backyard meditation time, my eye was drawn to two doves that flew to the fence and perched together. Then they walked a few steps apart, then back together. They were so peaceful that my mind instantly went to a quiet place. I thought, "Hmmm...maybe they mean something about peace." I've always liked doves. They have such a still calmness to them, whether they're in flight or just sitting.
The rest of the day was pretty busy. Then the news came about Farah Fawcett's death, and then a few hours later I heard of the passing of Michael Jackson. It always takes me a while to know what to think. Death seems like a change, from a Buddhist point of view, a migration of the mind. A letting go of the body. It's said to be full of the potential for enlightenment at the moment of death, so I don't immediately feel sadness. The sadness has settled in as I've heard of the world's reaction and of those of the families.
Farrah was the embodiment of feminine sensuality and beauty when I was in high school. She suffered so much in her later years but seemed to always be searching for her own truth. Michael was always in the soundtrack of my life, not front and center, but always there. He was obviously one of the most talented entertainers we've ever had. I'll leave it to others to memorialize them. I will say my prayers for their smooth transition to the next lives.
Two birds, two sweet souls. May their creativity and perseverance inspire us.
Go to any blogspot and leave a message. First you have to decipher some wavey red letters and type them into a little box, right?
I've noticed more and more that these letters have humorous similarity to real words. And the words are pretty funny. For example, and this is a subtle one, unlike many I've seen lately, today while leaving a hello on spiegelhouse.blogspot, my entry to commenting was:
Now how much does that sound like Immolate? I ask you, is this a coincidence? Really, there are better examples, but this is the one that I encountered today.
Anglo people who drink gin. Now how obvious is that one?
It makes me wonder, is this a random cycling of letters into passwords or is it really,
(obligatory drumroll) a purposeful attempt of google code writers to interject humor and even serious comment into our daily cyber-lives? I'm thinking that these people are deep observers of humanity. They may even know our inner states as we attempt entry to blog comment areas. Although the theory breaks down here because I neither set myself on fire nor drink gin.
Okay, enough depth. Enough border-line conspiracy theory. I'm off to finish balancing the checkbook...
Chop wood, carry water. Interluderetreat explains the saying: "There is a Zen saying, 'Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water.' What’s the difference? The tasks are the same. The need is the same. What about the frame of mind? Who is chopping? Who is carrying water?"
So, after the enlightening experience, or even after meditation, come the same old daily tasks. Walk the dog, take out the trash, contemplate bodhichitta and world peace, wash the dishes, make the dinner. Read a blog, use a mala, pray a little, leave a blog comment.
I'd heard there was a really funny dog in this Disney flick, so I went. Didn't expect much, but it had me within the first five minutes.
Disney's Up has a wonderful combination of things: a unique elderly hero, a cross-generational friendship, a cute dog, mythic story, and great animation (the 3-D is something I enjoyed at first and rapidly forgot about later, although for a while it was sooo beautiful). I thought it was noble of Disney to create a believable elderly character with semi super-hero qualities.
I don't want to give away anything, but watching him drag his floating house by a garden hose reminded me of the Greek myth of Sisyphus. Sisyphus was condemned to roll a huge boulder up a hill, watch it roll down again, and then roll it back up for the rest of eternity.
Kind of like life, you know?
There was so much symbolism in Up. I think they came close to James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with the depth in this very good film.
I cried, I laughed, I cried, I ate chocolate. It was a great hour and a half. You'd like it too. And the dog was hilarious and so true to dogness.
5mm Garnet "smallamala" with fluted quartz crystal markers.
The post title kind of reminds me of "chop wood, carry water". This is the same idea. Integrating meditation and life. After the meditating comes the same old task you were doing before. In my case, making malas and selling online (mostly).
Wow, just when you want to be peaceful and complete a few orders, your online e-commerce site goes bonkers.
I and millions of other craftspeople, vintage, and supply sellers on Etsy recently protested the change of how Etsy listed our items on Google. If you searched Google for any of our items it came up like (for my malas) "handmade everything else on Etsy" before the name of the mala and my shop name. This happened in April and really reduced sales for many sellers.
So a sit-in was organized in the forums, led by several activist sellers. I joined in support. Although I'm a card-carrying pacifist (I would try not to swat a fly), it doesn't make me passive, and I thought it was important that we all stand together. One week after the beginning of this, four days after the sit-in began, Etsy responded that they would take their tag off of our titles.
It took four days to get a response.
The discussion and protest made the community stronger, and Etsy is restoring itself to being the cool place to buy arts, vintage and supplies.
I know, I know. Any of you who wander onto this blog want peace, tranquility, inspiration, and beauty. Me too! But sometimes you have to fight for it and stand up and be counted. This doesn't come close to the huge importance of the fight in Iran over the election, but it is still important that an online venue not make huge decisions without the input of its members. People make their livings off their Etsy incomes!
Can you tell my grandfather was a teamster? I was raised to not cross a picket line. He was a sign painter.
This mala is super dark maroon garnet with fluted crystal markers at the 21st and 56th spot. It was a joy to make. I first made it for a dear spiritual friend and have remade it for several people. It's tiny enough to coil in your pocket, not big enough to wear. Garnet is symbolic of creativity and prosperity, which is what I wish for all "Etsians" and indeed, for Etsy itself.
I suppose what happened to me a few years ago was a kind of rebirth. In ones mid-forties things can kind of fall apart beneath the weight of all the responsibilities one has willingly and unknowingly taken on. I was plodding along my spiritual path, taking care of the family and doing some painting. Then suddenly two things happened to "disrupt" my road. My teacher started a three-year retreat that could be followed either in the main center in France or at home in local centers, and my mother decided to have a major spinal operation at the age of 72 in a city far from home. She has severe scoliosis. I am the nearest daughter.
Mom's operation was in August of 2006, one month after the beginning of the three-year retreat. I had to learn to balance assisting her with my committment to more meditation practice and caring for the family. It was grueling. She could have died, but hung on with a will made of steel wire. But she never quite recovered fully. Instead, she became progressively weaker and more forgetful. Ten-hour operations are traumatic for older people.
In my sadness and outright despair I turned to my faith, of course, and I also reached for a book written by Martha Beck, The Joy Diet, and then another called Finding Your Own North Star. I'd found her through a weight loss program, and her philosophy was vehemently cheerful and outrageously joyful. She suggested writing down all the things that made you happy—all the things that made you sad. I did. I discovered that yoga, playing guitar, and being on retreat with my teacher were my happiest activities.
So I scheduled guitar lessons, enrolled in a local yoga school, and continued my home retreat.
Started to see the light. The stress lifted more and more.
Then Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Eat, Pray, Love, hit the stands, and I fell in love with her and her search. Her determination to follow her bliss, not even knowing at the beginning of it what her bliss was, was heart-warming and encouraging. I started to try things I'd never done before to see if I liked doing them.
I started a blog and I started making malas for others, which I'd always done only for myself.
I love, love, love, doing both. Meeting all the wonderful people I've met online and through making malas has been, well, wonderful. I see more and more how connected and well-meaning we all are.
Since then I have followed my own lead and learned to do more of what makes me happy. My teacher says "learn to be your own best friend" and I have done that.
So when I write that I am so happy and so grateful, it isn't that I'm shoving anything beneath the rug or trying to psych anyone into thinking I'm perfectly adapted, it's just that:
I still get mad, still make stupid mistakes, still crave chocolate and coffee and way too many books, but there's more equilibrium now. It has been a rebirth of sorts.
Seems like this year my mind has been wholly preoccupied with the four thoughts.
Joyful human birth
Impermanence and death
Cause and Effect and the law of Karma
The Sufferings of Samsara (Being caught in the "cyclic existence" of birth, old age, and death.)
These are called the "Ordinary Preliminaries" of the Longchen Nyingtik, a foundation practice in many forms of Tibetan Buddhism. You can read more about them in The Words of My Perfect Teacher. (I know this isn't for everyone. But I love it and it's a fundamental text in Tibetan Buddhism.)
Last week I contemplated Impermanence. A lot. Now I'm dwelling less on that and more on how lucky we are to be alive.
We have all of these chances to "get it right".
Sitting in the garden today by my newly-planted little patch of posies, I am grateful. The border collie puppy (Penny Lane) pretty much destroyed the yard after we got her in January. She killed the grass and dug out our plants. We didn't care that much because we were too busy trying to train her not to bite us, either in play or when she felt disobedient and angry. And she had horrible dental infections that probably came from chewing on rocks, bricks, and cement. Luckily she was highly motivated to please us and learn, so she rarely bites now. But now she's dealing with a long term soft tissue infection in her jaw. Poor suffering beast! That really brings home how lucky we are to be born human. We can say where it hurts—we can ask for help. But, strangely enough, she gets better health care than many Americans, which is quite sad. The vet spends an infinite amount of time explaining her condition to me, more than any other doctor I've ever met!
After Penny decimated the yard, we put in another lawn and planted some posies for my daughter's high school graduation celebration. A few years ago it seems I was nursing her, now she's on her way to college. Now I can sit in my favorite place, the garden, when I meditate. So my home is restful again, for which I am, yes, GRATEFUL!
I also have many of the advantages that can come with having a human birth: that of being able to practise Dharma, having been born in a time when a Buddha has taught, having met a qualified teacher, being able to understand and appreciate the teachings, and many more.
The teachings are all about taming the mind and developing compassion. The more I learn how to do that, the better I seem to be able to handle everything that happens, "good" or "bad", and turn it into a growth experience. "Taking all obstacles onto the path." I just get happier and happier, even when metaphorical rocks are falling on my head. It doesn't matter so much, everything being impermanent and somewhat illusory in nature.
So, yeah. I'm grateful. So everlastingly grateful. Life couldn't possibly be any better, whatever happens.
Etsy is having a YART sale. Yard plus art equals Yart. I am joining in by offering 10 of my favorite malas at 10% off through June 14th. This red aventurine, turquoise, and Tibetan agate mala is one of those with a lower price. The prices in my shop are already low in an effort to make things affordable for people during the recession.
Speaking of the recession, are there signs of growth? The news seems to be better. Hope things are easing up for those of us who've been suffering. We've all been stressed and pushed to our max, let's hope that we have a summer of relative prosperity and tranquility.
Red aventurine is good for helping determination. It's the "I can do it!" stone.
Although malas are a serious meditation tool, every now and then I have to make one just for the sheer fun of it. This mala was an End-of-Spring, Beginning-of-Summer celebration to make. Made of lilac stone, which is a natural quartz, rainbow flourite flower beads, sterling silver flower beads and rings, dark amethyst beads, and a green aventurine guru bead, making it was a joy. Can you tell? See it here on Etsy.
I have to confess, I don't like to be quiet when I have to. Only when I want to.
This made my recent personal retreat and vision quest difficult. I planned to go to a quiet retreat land and stay in a personal cabin and, you know, wrap my mind around impermanence and the joyfulness of human birth and all that. I'm usually happy to do that for hours at a time. Then I want a tea break and to have a nice chat with friends or, well, with anyone. I'll talk to a park bench if I'm in the mood. But at this retreat land there was a group doing mindful walking and maintaining complete silence for an entire week. I wasn't even encouraged to walk near them. No one on the land would "hang". It wasn't that my ego was hurt, it was just that there is a genetically-based need in my psyche to enjoy companionship, to study together, to share space.
One morning after several days there I went to sit at a sacred site on the land while the group was practising quietly, slowly, ever-so-mindfully walking up and down their own six foot spot while gazing at the ground. The energy was intense, it was really as if they were discovering everything about what it meant to be feeling the air around them. But it was boring and somewhat exclusive. So I left. Yep, I bailed. I blew out of that retreat land so fast it made the trees bend.
Now the next night a marvelous teacher, Mingyur Rinpoche, was teaching about meditation at the Rigpa Fellowship center in San Francisco. So I headed up there and joined my fellow sangha members in enjoying this radiant being's teachings. And we had some lovely chats before and after. I guess sangha is really the third jewel for me. I take refuge in the Buddhas, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Not in one without the other. And thank the Lord my sangha likes to socialize, in the breaks between silent practices.
After San Francisco I debated where to go. I had time on my hands and wasn't expected home for several days. So I found a hotel on hotels.com right on the cliff in Cambria. After a lovely meal and a glass of wine (by myself but with Mingyur Rinpoche's book, Joyful Living), I ended up walking along Moonstone Beach with my camera, capturing these last rays of sunlight through the waves.
It was the end of a lovely day and the climax of an unexpected series of lessons about where I belong.
Call or write if you have mala questions, need a mala restrung, or want a custom mala. Always happy to help.
And this little Mala went all the way to Hong Kong
I'm thrilled. Heart of Compassion Malas' first mala sent to China and second to Asia! This feels big because the tradition of malas comes from Asia. Who am I? Some Buddhist Caucasian girl (woman) in California who loves to make malas. But in Asia they have malas down! So many styles and traditions of malas exist in Tibet, India, and throughout Asia. My mala is happy to go join its new owner in Hong Kong, where it will get to see the sunrise a half a day before I will every day. Maybe it will do early morning practice, which I never do.
It went with its own set of turquoise mala mantra counter beads.
This mala was first designed for a friend in my local sangha. It is made of rosewood that is unvarnished and natural, with marker beads of Tibetan agate, moss agate, and a guru bead of carnelian. My friend uses it when he does prostrations, which is really asking a lot from any mala. It hits the floor as he does. I commend his efforts! But for prostrations I recommend a 22-bead mala on stretch cord worn over the hand. Very convenient.
Ah, the technology of practice. Think of prayer wheels and prayer flags! So many meaningful ways to spread and be surrounded by the blessings of the Buddhas. And we can sure use that in this crazy world.
I suppose this week it's hitting me more than on other weeks, although this year's been particularly good about reminding me that things don't stay the same forever. The meager 401K got tinier, we changed presidents, my parents continue to age in ways that I find difficult to watch, my son grows an inch and a half in a week (I think), and finally, this week my gorgeous daughter graduates from high school. Sigh, so little to grasp onto, so futile and painful to try.
This photo was taken on my recent trip to Santa Cruz and San Francisco. It's of the eroding sands on the beach in Santa Cruz. Erosion is my number one most favorite metaphor for impermanence. If nature can change continuously without kicking up a fuss about it, surely I can too.
I also took some lovely pictures of feathers and dead birds. You can see where my mind was!
I've been meaning to start a blogger blog and now I have. The main reason is that Tumblr, although easy and, well, easy, doesn't allow anything like a blog roll. Now one of the main reasons to blog is to reach other people. A blog that falls on its own in a forest isn't heard. Is it really even a blog? I don't know. Blogrolls are big good. They allow all five of ones readers to find the other people who you like to read. I'm really looking forward to this and to enlarging this readership.
I was born with a desire to create...mud patties, music, acorn mush, strange cookies...and as a teenager, young adult, and adult, I wanted to share my creations. Some people think this is odd. To me it's the blood flowing through my veins. I'm really interested in what I can make, how people can use it, what they think about it, what THEY make, how I can use it, and the whole dialogue. I'm really excited to live in a time when this is possible not just in little clubs and classes, but with people all over the world!
So...this is a blog about stuff I think about and want to share. It won't always be good. I'm not interested in literary quality or even cohesive ideas all the time. It's not really an online journal, more a series of tiny little essays on what's rocking my world in big and little ways.
I was really inspired by Eat, Pray, Love when I read it just over a year and a half ago. So inspired by her determination to find what her bliss was and pursue it that I started forming little ideas to do that too. In a meditation one day a little voice literally spoke up and said "make malas." The voice of my higher self, I suppose. Sometimes I'm daunted by the thought of making something so seriously-intended. But more and more I feel a relaxed joy at the thought of these limited design problems--what materials, what colors, how tight, for whom, how quickly to ship, what to pray while I make it. And I love "meeting" my customers from all over the world.
I guess for me it's a complete fit right now. I sell them on Etsy as "compassionmalas" because Heart of Compassion Malas doesn't fit into their user name requirements. But Heart of Compassion Malas will remain the name because it says what I mean: these malas are made from my heart with an intention to invoke the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for everyone. The Heart of Compassion means, among other things, the deepest soul's wish for enlightenment for the sake of all beings. It is the deepest love. And that's what I'm striving for in my imperfect way to express and share.
Some days there are glimpses of ease in it. Many days it's very hard. But it's a great trip.
Walk along with me.
To visit my old blog and its many posts about life, meditation, malas, and border collies, visit: