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,