Mala Shop

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.

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.