Mala Shop

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