Mala Shop

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

THE Cure for Holiday Blues-Goodnight My Someone from The Music Man



I'm sure everyone has their own cures for too much fruitcake, not enough exercise, and the pressures that inevitably come with a favorite holiday...

Here's one of mine. Last week when my mala shop got blessedly over-busy, and everything else I needed to do piled up so much that I kind of, yes, gave up, I put the soundtrack to The Music Man on while I was working.

I'd put on a bead, listen to "Pick a little", make a tassel and listen to "Lida Rose-Will I Ever Tell You", and the stress just drained right out of my brain and my fingers.

It brings back such good family memories to listen to this corny but gorgeous soundtrack. I'm sure there's deep significance, but I haven't analyzed it. All I know is that I love it and it keeps me in my happy place.

I'd love to hear what music does it for you!
Blessings, all.
Laura

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mister Lincoln, You Smell So Sweet


Years ago, my mother helped me find the
sweetest-smelling roses. I chose St. Patrick, a pale
yellow rose, and Mister Lincoln, the deepest,
most true red rose around.

And now, in the middle of December, when I go out
in the backyard or look out the bedroom window,
I see him. He stands tall, lanky, even, stretching
towards the light, completely unfertilized and
unpruned, yet sending out large red, remarkable
blooms.

They greeted me when I returned from my
life-altering retreat a week ago. Life-altering because we studied the Tibetan Buddhist teachings on the moment of death and the transition
between lives in the bardos. If that doesn't blow your mind to study, absolutely nothing will.
They're beautiful teachings, if you ever have a chance to hear or read them.

My hours in the backyard are limited now by blessed hard work in the Compassionmalas Etsy mala shop and by weather sometimes. It's my favorite place to meditate. After the retreat I went out into the back yard, saw the roses, and went over to smell them. Their fragrance is lofty and sweet like an old-time, ladies boudoir. Like old perfume, but not cloying. Just intoxicatingly gorgeous. Not a light sophisticated smell, but an old-fashioned, red rose smell.

You can get Mister Lincoln at many rose growers both online and nurseries. It's rated 8.3 out of 10 for reliability. That means that you can't go wrong with it if you have some sun. I certainly ignore and mistreat mine, yet still, Mister Lincoln smells sweet.

Dear old soul.

If I don't have another chance to write before the holidays, have a wonderful time whatever you do, wherever you are, whoever you're with. Joyful to have, such a human birth, difficult to find, free and well-favored, as the Buddhist prayer goes.

Peace to you and yours.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Watching Dandelion Seeds...

Is there anything more lovely
than dandelion seeds floating in the wind?
Watching them fly, I ready myself to leave.

Who invented these wonders?
Tiny seeds suspended from gossamer webs of thistle
blowing, traveling, breezing by.

No future, no past, no planning
Just suspension, resting in the pure, present sky.

Laura

Monday, November 22, 2010

Kyanite, ruby, mooonstone, and fluorite mala






A mala and a milestone.

Rough-cut kyanite rondelles,
two sizes of round rubies with stars,
moonstone with blue fire,
and a sodalite guru bead with garnet and ruby as end beads. A tassel of French silk that I made.

Gold vermeil bead discs around the marker beads.

And fluorite in between the rondelles to make it "handleable".

This mala was intended to be one that you could go around very slowly, saying slow or longer mantras. It almost worked! It's on its way back to the drawing board. I'm going to remove the fluorite because they confuse my fingers. They aren't different enough in size from the kyanite.

It is still beautiful and inspiring, just not quite right yet. C'est La Vie!

Today was a special day. My Etsy shop reached a milestone. I never thought, when I put my first five malas in a "shop" on Etsy, that they would sell. But someone took a chance on me as a new seller and bought a picture jasper mala. Since then I've sold over 500 malas and counter bead sets on Etsy (as of today). I guess it goes to show that people are interested in things made with love, and that there are a lot of very spiritual and inspiring people in the world. Oh, the people I've met! People from France, Korea, Denmark, Hong Kong, Canada, Australia...everywhere, including California.

I am so thankful to my customers, to Etsy, and to the Buddhas. It's been an amazing way to put my art degree and my spiritual self together and create work that means something. It has become "right livelihood".

I'm looking forward to making these prayer beads for many more years. My next goal?
To learn to work more ergonomically and stretch every half hour so I don't curl up like a little mala-making snail. But it's been soooo worth it.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Be well,
Laura

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

About Malas and Mantras


A customer asked me what books to read about malas.

The books I recommend are about mindfulness, compassion, and meditation.
I especially like the books by the Dalai Lama, Chagdud Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse, Thich Nhat Hahn, and Chogyam Trungpa.

A lot of Hindu books may talk about mantras. In Buddhism they accompany practices, but they aren't the main focus. So if you read about the practices of Avalokiteshvara, it may speak about the Om Mani Padme Hum mantra. The same with writings about Tara, Guru Rinpoche, and all of the other Tibetan practices.

The way I was taught (it's different in different disciplines), is that you hold the mala in your left hand, close to your heart, and with the thumb and pointer finger you pull the bead towards you. When you get to the three-holed guru bead (or large bead, in your wrist mala), you turn around and go the other direction. You don't say a mantra on the guru bead.

It's a way of calming the mind and invoking the qualities of the deity in that particular practice. These qualities are Love, Compassion, Wisdom, and things like that. You focus loosely on the mantra, relax, and let the mantra flow quietly. Or out loud, it doesn't matter. You can keep track of how many you say in a little book or by hanging mala counters on your mala.

Here's the wiki article.
There are good links there.

And here's something I wrote about blessing and using a mala.


Hope this helps, it's not intended to be advice or overwhelming.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tending the Mental Garden


Every spiritual writer through the eons has used the analogy of thoughts as plants in a metaphorical garden.

For me, this metaphor works very well, so, since I think about it nearly every day, I'll share some blooms and weeds with you.

Thich Nhat Hahn says "Water the seeds of joy." It means, what you pay attention to and encourage, will grow. So grow the good thoughts and actions!

I noticed this when I first put some plants in pots in my meditation area outside. Practicing calm abiding for a period of time every day by looking at a variegated begonia, I also began to care very much about the begonia. Since it supported my practice and allowed me to project all my mental patterns on it while it just sat, it became a dear and trusted friend. So I removed its dead leaves and kept it just moist enough—not too moist. After about 6 months of this the plant was very large and beautiful! I did the same with a columbine plant, then my eyes moved around the garden. Soon I was probably doing more gardening than meditation, but Hey, it was peaceful. I'd say mantras and prune the roses, remove the dead bird of paradise spears, and pull weeds.

When my mother, a locally renowned garden writer and teacher, became sick, I left my gardening behind for a few years and tended to her. Our relationship blossomed even as her body withered. She spoke of being able to accept the naturalness of plants aging and dying, even as she fought to stay strong.

After she died, people came out of the woodwork to tell my family what her garden advice had meant to them. My sister and I inherited garden books galore, along with the implicit, unmentioned idea that we should, we must continue to garden.

I came home and took a good look at the weeds, the stumps, the deadness of plants that hadn't been watered or fertilized all winter. I began slowly with weeding and tending some epiphylums I brought home ("airlifted") from my parents' house. I was rewarded by a giant epiphylum blossom within weeks of her death, followed by a rare daylily's bloom. We had a very large earthquake during that period, but I didn't feel it because I was standing on the earth, pulling weeds and trimming overgrown lavender.

If you hate gardening as much as I once did, your eyes glazed over a while back and you're probably checking your email. If you are a gardener, you may be chuckling at the tale of a novice gardener getting hooked on plants. If you, like me, are turning to your garden unexpectedly during this time of turmoil and hyperactivity in the world, you understand. A garden takes so much, but it never pushes or demands. It lies dormant until the time you have the energy and feel the need to shape it up.

Like our minds! Our minds wait, accustomed to our patterns of thought, until we begin to notice those thoughts. In Buddhism we call it mindfulness and awareness when thoughts are observed compassionately but dispassionately. And once you find the state of your mental garden, you can begin to chose how to shape it!

Most meditators, or those starting a contemplative practice of any kind, want to pull the weeds right away. Shocking how many of our thoughts are angry, envious, judgemental of ourselves and others, and how creepingly lazy—like ivy, they are. We decide we don't want a weed, we pull it out, and lo and behold it pokes up again above the surface. Don't give up, we've been told. So we pull the weed again—this time grasping as much of its root as we can and pulling strongly and gently. Victorious, we relax.

You know, next time we look, the weed is back with many friends! At this point our frustration at having to live with this blight for eons feels intense. But we try something new. We don't pull the weeds until after a rain, and they come right out! Easily.

Over the weeks, months, and years that we tend to our gardens, be they mental or true yards, we learn patience and endurance. We get a sense of the vastness of the chore. We find humor. And we observe that those weeds become fewer, smaller, and more manageable over a long time of care.

Simultaneously, we plant the beautiful seeds of love for all beings; generosity, discipline, patience, diligence, meditative concentration, and wisdom—all of the necessary 6 paramitas, or transcendent perfections, that form the basis for spiritual practice and training for the bodhisattva. And we water those seeds of joy—until our lives change even when we aren't practicing.

Lately I've really been wanting to share these thoughts with you. The mind is a garden—tend it well, kindly, and with love for yourself. And never, ever give up.

Love,
Laura

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Compassion Malas mentioned in Etsy newsletter!


There's a great article on Etsy right now about custom work...a "how to do it" for sellers. My photo of a custom picture jasper mala with a metal lotus guru bead was featured along with my comment that every custom mala is created out of a short but nice relationship with the customer.

Not only is it a nice "how to" but there are exquisite offerings. Seriously, how come there are so many good photographers on Etsy? It's amazing.

The article made my day.

Thanks, Etsy, for everything. Even though sometimes you're nutty, I love you. Without you, sigh, I'd be nothing. Not nothing in the Buddhist way...I'd just be lugging boxes of beads to farmer's markets instead of strolling along buying organic Swiss chard and Kahlua bundt cake, like I did last Sunday.

I love Kahlua bundt cake and Swiss chard.

But because of Etsy and blogger and Tumblr, I've met many wonderful people from around the world and made malas for them. Truly a blessing.

What do you love?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Recommendation # 385—Tricycle Magazine

Mother of pearl mala on a photo of a stupa in Tibet.

For all you Buddhists and non-Buddhists out there, I have a recommendation. I always like to pass the neat things I find along and let you know they're out there. This one is for the ever-popular tricycle magazine.

First, know that I'm not a big reader of Buddhist text. I do my homework, but when it comes to reading I'd rather read my book club material, which is usually terrific fiction. But this latest copy of tricycle, with Jeff Bridges on the cover, makes me squirm with delight. Really. It's that good.

Every article is thoughtful but interesting (those two don't always go together), well laid out and designed, and the whole things presents so many different views and insights into Buddhism and meditation that the articles are like the lights cast by a prism. One insight alone is enough to inspire and delight your day.

The art work alone impresses me. And the editing is flawless. All in all, this is a good read to pick up if you're wanting something a little positive in your day. It's another way to call yourself back to mindfulness and remind you of the principles of compassion. I read mine while I eat lunch, in between stringing malas and caring for the house/dog/family.

And the best thing? It's available through school magazine drives now. So if you know a kid who's trying to support their school by selling magazine subscriptions (this is the time to find one—it's an early back-to-school activity), grab the kid and sign up. Then let the kid go, because really, you don't want to have to care for and feed someone else's kid for very long.

Okay, that was recommendation #385—tricycle magazine. (Okay guys, can I have my free subscription now? Or at least a tricycle mug?)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Far From The Maddening Crowd

An Idyllic end of Summer stroll in the hills!
A grove of red manzanita trees...


Manzanita bark used to be used as tea.......Unidentified small red flower....manzanita berries...









The gentle end of Summer and beginning of Fall. A walk, a hike, no...a photo stroll down the Idyllwild hillside with our cameras. The smell of...nothing. No cars, no perfumes, no food, just fresh. And then the afterlayer of pine smell. Gentle, fresh breezes. Living creatures. A butterfly, dragonfly, and hummingbird take turns circling us and zipping on their merry way.

A blessed afternoon, a moment of refreshment. Ah, late August. Is there anything at all better in the world?

To interrupt my poetic reverie, I have to say that for our friends south of the equator, late August means something else entirely. A friend in Australia right now is eager for Spring to begin!
Begin the beguine.

Summer has always been my favorite time of year.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Oh Joy!


Oh Joy, Oh Bliss!

Two nice things to share tonight. First, I finally found a yoga class that I can get into.
There's an Ashtanga studio in downtown Cardiff (little beach town in San Diego) that had the healthiest vibe of any I've been to lately. No one was putting any "shoulds" about how far to bend, what knots to tie oneself into, or how young and fit one needed to be. There weren't any religious or mystical overtones. It was just full-hearted, exerting, beneficial, happy yoga. Yoga is spiritual enough, if you tune into what your body and mind are sharing with you as you practice, without a teacher having to add anything! Breathing and stretching–two sacred movements.

I've loved my time in other studios in the past, but this really felt like, finally, "Boom", I'd been dropped in the right slot. And I've been looking for a long time, every since my hot hatha studio imploded. It was a scandal right out of a novel. I'm done with drama and heavy-handed yoga. I. Just. Want. To. Practice.

JOY number 2:

See the above photo? That's a little girl poised at a power spot, one of my happy places—middle Emerald Pools at Zion National Park. It's a shelf on top of a waterfall where a little set of pools gather before they spill over the side. Last time I was here, about four years ago, I found frogs, tadpoles, water bugs, dragon flies, butterflies, and hummingbirds there! And just sitting and watching I felt myself become one with all of creation. Really quite beautiful and completely spontaneous. It is such a beautiful place that it expresses the joy of the world, so you don't really have to try to meditate there!

So, the theme of today is doing good things without trying to do them. Just being with things that are wholesome, healthy, beautiful, and inspiring. Just being part of the goodness of life. I think there's a whole lot of benefit for me and for the natural world when this quietness and joining happens. I think that by being part of the natural world we can heal ourselves and the earth.

Namaste.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

And the winner is...



This Turquoise, Lapis, and Cinnabar Wrist Mala and...

Me! For the most uninspired blog writing of the week! Eight days with no entries.
I'm sorry, I read somewhere that you're "supposed" to write everyday. That will never happen. I do aim for twice a week. It all depends on what's on my camera and how quickly I transfer it to my laptop.

Right now there are simply gorgeous, awe-inspiring, life-altering photos from my recent vacation at Zion National Park and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. But I've been, well, doing things. Important things. I can't think of what they were, but the time has sort of drifted by. So this note is a teaser, a hint of things to come. Because I really do want to show you those pictures.

In the meantime, here is a photo of a turquoise wrist mala with lapis lazuli and a red cinnabar bead. Cinnabar, not Cinnibun. Cinnabar is made of coats and coats of lacquer. It's quite beautiful and reminds me of a white, lacquer lamp with scenes from China that my family had when I was a child. It resonates with me and I'd like to find more of it to use in my malas. It whispers of the past, when Asia was called The Orient.

This mala was a special gift from one sister to another. Turquoise is supposed to aid spiritual connection and communication, and lapis lazuli is good for meditation and connection to the divine. My friend Chris designed it and it really shows her love of color. Should I replicate it for my shop or should it be a one-of-a-kind? I'm not sure right now. Chris wants me to make more.

Be happy, be well. If it's gray out, make your own sunshine. If it's too hot, create a gentle inner breeze. Stay cool, calm, and happy, if at all possible! And if you can't, try try try again.

Laura

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Loving This Novel...


The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall

I am loving this book so much that I frequently find myself unable to put it down. There were long stretches of time last week (on vacation) when I was glued to it for chapter after chapter. I. Could. Not. Stop. I'm not going to tell you about it, just recommend that you buy, borrow, or download a copy! (Please don't steal!)

Brady Udall's great-great grandparents were Mormon polygamists and he comes from the great political family that included his great uncle, congressman and presidential candidate Morris Udall. He has written a thoroughly entertaining, thought-provoking novel about contemporary polygamists that isn't sensational in the least.

Last week's vacation was through Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. When I go anywhere, I read about the history and current events of that place. In Fiji I became fascinated by the history of those previously-named "Cannibal Islands" and in Southern Utah, I read about Mormon history.

I suppose if I went to the South Pole I'd read about Shackleton's explorations, but for now I only seem to go to hot places.

Why, oh why wasn't history this interesting in school?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Oh the Gloom! And a Few Flower Friends...





Coastal Southern California has been covered by a dimming blanket of fog for most of the summer. Up to last week, there have been 12 days of sun! This just isn't normal. We get "June Gloom" every June, but it's not supposed to last through July. I hum "Here Comes the Sun" wishfully on most days. It's really been other-worldly. I mean, you just wouldn't put on a swimsuit and go to the beach if you haven't made vacation plans to go there. It's been sort of, sigh, blah. It's as if someone sucked the sun right out of the sky.

In Buddhism there's a saying that the sky is always there, waiting for the clouds to disappear. That means that our true nature is always present and only "obscured" by thoughts and habits. Boy, have the obscurations been thick lately.

I took these two flower photos during a sunny break last month. My mother was a terrific flower photographer and I've been inspired to point my lens at them lately. There's your basic red gladiola (thank heaven for glads) and an unusual but easy-to-grow Peruvian Lily that looks like it's from outer space. The Peruvian Lily was a gift from Mom several years ago, and it comes up again and again without any prompting. Bulbs are quite miraculous, aren't they?

Speaking of miracles, the sun has now been out for about four hours. Blue skies with little puffy clouds. You can cast a shadow on the ground! Still no heat, though...which means it will arrive in full force either in August or September-October.

How's your weather? Really, I want to know!
All the best,
Laura

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The world as my iPhone types it

Just for fun I thought I'd type a blog entry on my iPhone. This is semi-unedited. It has a pe uliar way of not recognizing what my fingers tell it. Since most of my emails are written on iPhone, sometimes the most hilarious things come out. I'm too antsy to sit at a computer and write emails- I answer them as they come in—live in teal time. Sort of. For those of you who've seen my emails, this may explain somethings.
Practically the only problem is with any word with i or o, e or r, or t or r. Mostly. Other problems occur, too, but the funniest thing is when I sign my name "live,Laura.". Or say, "I live that!". I bet it right only half the time. (To over-explain, i is next to o and r is between e and t. B is right beneath g. But you know that.)
Also, referring to a friend and his two teenage "sins" cracked me up recently. Good thing I caught that one.

Sigh. I asked my friend Carolyn the other day if these new gadgets were good or of the devil. (Hyperbole—I don't really believe in devils.) She said it was a fine line, a razor-thin line. As we started to giggle I added " use your powers for good!" And it went downhill from there.

We returned to out gadgets—she to her kindle and I to my nook reader.

Brave New World, isn't it?

Take care!
Live,
Laura

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Chocolate Brown Yoga Treasury




My Etsy friend Lauren (JewelsofSaraswati) included my bodhiseed and rudraksha mala in her treasury, which is peaceful AND reminds me of chocolate!

Lauren and I traded malas once. She took a picture jasper pocket mala from me and I chose a black agate mala with silver links—so peaceful. I have to admit, I love receiving malas from others who infuse their creations with positive vibes.

Now, I simply must find another yoga class! I went to one last week at a medical center...it was so rejuvenating. Now I want to find one that combines peace with a bit more athleticism. Kind of like an Ashtanga class on Valium? :-)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Joy



Children...they become completely absorbed in whatever experience they have. At what age does that change?

This photo of my niece in my parent's yard shows that absorption to me. She still is one of the most joyful people I know, a few years after this photo was taken.

I've been thinking of that old saying:

"Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, now is a gift—
that's why they call it the present."

The first person who I ever heard say a version of that was a wonderful yoga teacher. As we bent to touch the floor, legs spread wide while we imagined touching the tops of our heads to the floorboards, he would laughingly talk to us about non-striving. "Today is a gift—that's why they call it the present.

It made me smile and relax every time.

I'm in search of the perfect yoga class. It must be warm but not too hot, energetic without the external athleticism of gym yoga, and taught by someone who encourages but doesn't push!

I may find the best studio is here at home. We'll see.

Peace.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Buddhaful Treasury of Meditative Art and Craft



Aren't the colors in this Etsy meditation treasury by meredithdada beautiful? She really has a way with color—check out her shop to see. My carnelian and moss agate mala is included.


Happiness to you, enjoy your day.

Laura

Thursday, June 3, 2010

And Then You Get to Take Photos!



Red Aventurine Half Mala with Tibetan Agate and Turquoise Markers

As bad and difficult as things were yesterday, today was equally light and airy and wonderful. Go figure. Just pure joy all day. I got out the camera late in the afternoon and was surprised by the connection between this red aventurine and a nasturtium flower from my garden. They were made for each other!

Every single color in this photo is from nature, except the tassel. Can you believe that nature can produce such vivid tones? Turquoise is one of my favorite stones, and these are really "roots" beads. Blue-green with small brown veins, they are exactly the color of turquoise I like best. Okay, the robin's egg blue turquoise from the Sleeping Beauty mine isn't bad either, but it's totally out of my price range.

Half malas generally have 54 beads. They're useful when you don't want to carry a full mala. They fit nicely into a deep pocket. Not really for wearing, they convey all the meaning of a full mala and work just as well for "collecting" prayers and mantras.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Why? Creativity, Practice, and Grief

Photo taken at Green Valley Falls, San Diego County.

When a person you love first dies you are full of adrenaline, half way between normal life and death. Then later, you begin to just feel that they are missing, and that the amount of time you spent with them before is filled now by all your own activities—not by anything dealing with them.

I practiced for Mom intensely during the 49 days after her death on March 5th, and I felt I was done. Now I am just practicing to get Ngondro done, which really aggravates me. I want to keep remembering all the people who need prayers.

I’m also realizing how much I was driven to create my mala business last year and the year before by Mom’s illness. Every mala I made came with the additional prayers I said daily for her. All the prayers I say daily go into the malas I make, not just the ones said while I make them, which is when I’m focusing on getting them arranged right. Now that she’s gone, I feel lax, listless, and sort of dull about making. It’s not urgent anymore. Making them was a practice for me.

I even made malas by Mom's bedside in September and August when she was very sick.
She was part of why I made malas. Now how do I reconnect with my creativity? Such sorrow, such loss. Sometimes you feel like a boulder is resting on top of you.
*****
Why do we practice? Why accumulate mantra? Why work on approaching a deity through visualization and mantra practice? To me the answer is because they are the face of the divine. They are part of the universal, loving ground of everything that is. Because if we sit and open slowly in mantra practice, even if sometimes it’s boring, even if it's about as much fun sometimes as having a wood-grating tool scraped against our teeth, it brings us closer. Tibetan tradition says that to repeat a mantra over and over again, 10,000 or 100,000 times or more, develops us by calming and relieving our negative karma. We strip away layers of unnecessary habit and “stuff”, bringing us closer and closer to our true nature. By combining this type of practice with meditation (alternately), we can learn to rest in the nature of our own mind. The nature of our mind is not separate from the nature of the Buddhas’ minds. It is open and clear, vibrant and loving. There is nothing more powerful or beautiful. (The Tibetan Buddhist preliminary practices are called Ngondro. That's what I'm "working on" daily in my meditations. It's not easy, but it's wonderful.)

To come closer to this true nature is why we practice, because in difficult situations, there’s nothing that can help us more than being in touch with the Buddhas and our divine nature. And at the moment of death, it is what will guide us safely through the bardos, or states between our death and our next birth.

It feels nearly impossible to make mantra practice a priority at times in this culture, where emphasis isn't usually put on long-term spiritual practice. Still, for those of us trying to do it, it is a worthwhile activity. The rewards come slowly and aren’t even to be expected. We just do it.

So that’s the answer to why to accumulate mantras. I don’t have an answer to why to make malas. The only thing I know is that I use one every time I meditate. I just want to keep making them for others to use during their sacred moments. That's my primary motivation.

Getting to play with semi-precious stones, nice woods, and special seeds is just a side benefit of the work.

Peace!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Elephant Wisdom Turquoise Wrist Mala

A work in progress...

I photographed this unfinished wrist mala before I shipped it, but I wanted to show it anyway. It was a very personal custom wrist mala for my friend. It includes 21 turquoise beads with a turquoise guru bead, quartz crystal spiral bead at the 11th spot, and a sterling silver elephant charm on the cotton tassel. The elephant symbolizes all the wisdom and strength of elephants.

I wish I'd photographed this after it was finished, but the darned elephant was in a hurry to get to its owner, so I tossed it into a little box and then into a padded envelope and on its way. I've heard he (she?) is happy in the new home. Thanks, Jan.
****
Hello Holly!

My wonderful sister Holly actually works at a museum in Hemet, California, (Western Science Center) that features mammoth and mastodon bones! More elephant wisdom.
****
New Artfire Shop—

I opened a new online shop on Artfire in order to make more malas for people who enjoy them. It's a fun site— lots of creative energy and artists/artisans— a friendly set up. Check it out if you have a chance. Also, there's now a way to purchase malas right on this blog—you can see it on the right. It goes through Paypal, so no one keeps any personal information or account numbers. You also don't have to sign up with any sites.
****
And that's all the news that fits to print today. Enjoy your days and nights. Take some time to meditate and create.



Friday, May 21, 2010

A New Window in San Francisco

Unakite, Coral, and Silk Mala

The buyer for the gift shop at The Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco recently invited me to send some malas to show there. I feel honored to be represented with other artists and artisans who make spiritually-oriented art from all over the world. It will also be a great excuse for a field trip!

I'm excited about helping the museum and its mission of creating cross-cultural education and awareness of the dispersal of Africans and African culture throughout the world. I've always loved Africa, ever since I was in sixth grade and had a teacher who taught in Kenya for a couple of years. He brought back movies of the dancing and singing, and musical instruments like thumb pianos. Watching the dancing really affected my dancing style as a teenager; the top of the body holding still while the hips and legs shook and waved. Lots of fun trying, even though I couldn't do it right. So...even though I'm not planning a trip to Africa anytime soon, I feel closer.

This was also a great excuse to create a group of wholesale malas. These will only be available through retail shops, not in my online shops.

Thanks, MOAD! I can't wait to go visit.

*****
About the new dog—boy, she is a sweetie. She's so calm for a three-month-old lab puppy. She likes her "sniffs" on a leash around the neighborhood, but doesn't go far. She's enjoying her puppy class. She's a definite chow hound, very food-motivated. She's all black, so when she goes in the backyard at night she disappears completely. She is complete sweetness, a great dog to hug. It's lovely making malas as she lies by my feet, looking out at the flowers in the garden. And of course, I talk to her all day long. She also lets me do my morning meditations. Yay!

Peace to you!

Monday, May 10, 2010

"Stella!"

This is Stella. She is three months old. You can't see her in the dark, but boy can you hear her at night!

She's an English Labrador. She'll grow up to be strong and a bit stocky—slung lower and broader than an American Labrador.
She has the funniest, most gentle disposition. The breeder called her Miss Personality but as soon as we saw her, we called her Tank because she is built like one. She's very playful. But Tank isn't a respectable girl's name, so Stella popped to mind.

Like that scene in Streetcar Named Desire where Marlon Brando stands at the bottom of the stairs and bellows "Stellaah!" Ladies, take a minute to watch this. Really, you need to.

Ah yes, Stella is here. Night times are not just for sleeping anymore, but for caring for the baby.

All this is good. Yay! Oh yes, it's good to have another mala dog. And this one lies still for a while.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Ash Cloud and Interdependence

The view of clean air and ocean from SRF Fellowship in Encinitas, California

Just a quick note about the ash cloud in Europe.
I've had one delivery slowdown because of the ash cloud in Europe, apparently. Boy, does this ever make you aware of how interconnected this world is! Something halfway around the world affects you, wherever you live, in so many ways.

I'm sure the delivery won't take too long, but I find it fascinating that the USPS told me that deliveries were stopped for a while and resumed on about April 22nd because of the cloud.
What else could they do? You can't fly in that stuff.

A few years ago, San Diego county had a second really bad fire. People from all over the county, thousands of people, were evacuated. Even those on the coast had to leave. The feeling of disruption is intense during times like this, and everyone has lots of extra adrenaline. It was a very good time to pray and meditate, and I felt especially close to the Buddhas and my teacher during that time.

I guess the point of this post is that I send lots of love to that region and the people living there. I hope that the air quality isn't causing too much suffering for those with asthma, COPD, and other lung conditions.

And it just goes to show you, it's easier to relate to other's problems when they affect you in some way directly. Which is kind of sad, isn't it? But I guess otherwise, we'd all walk around feeling terrible all the time. How to let in enough empathy to feel connected with suffering without being overwhelmed? What Would Buddha Do? Or Say?

Bless those little packages on their way to waiting hands. Bless those hands

Amen.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

More Than You'll Ever Ask About Wearing Malas

Garden Buddha Wearing a Peruvian Opal Mala

From my mala shop profile:
There are different beliefs about this depending on who you ask. It's really up to you. In many Yogic tradition it's very common and considered positive to wear malas. In some Tibetan Buddhist traditions, if you use a mala for sacred practice it's customary to treat it sacredly—not necessarily to display it. However, His Holiness the Dalai Lama wears his around his wrist when not using it, and he always looks so happy. He's practicing constantly in everything he does, so I think that's a good example.

If your practice is more informal, or if you just want your mala to be jewelry that reminds you to have a sacred or positive outlook, then I say please go ahead and wear it. Even if it's used only as a necklace or bracelet, I've put lots of good energy into making it and it will serve to remind you to stay focused and positive.

When in doubt, ask your teacher or close spiritual friend, if you have one.And follow your heart. It won't lie to you.

Peace! Much Happiness to you on this gorgeous Sunday.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A rant about bad dog breeders. Don't buy from them!




This is a sad story. Penny Lane, our border collie puppy, was smart and loving, but she had an uncommon problem. She would go full-tilt wacko and bite people unexpectedly. As two peace and animal-loving people, my husband and I dealt with this for a whole year, but finally, on the day of my mother's memorial, our dog attacked a kennel worker, drawing blood. She didn't want to be leashed. We started (again) working with a trainer, and on the trainer's second visit, my dear puppy lunged and attacked, jumping and biting. And on Easter Sunday Penny Lane attacked my husband, the one person who was above her in the pecking order. Now before you call me a horrible pet owner who shouldn't have even contemplated getting a border collie, contemplate backyard breeding. People who shouldn't be doing it but need the money badly are breeding cute little AKC-registered dogs that go home and become nightmares for their owners. We're talking $5000 in dental work before the first birthday. This was a border collie puppy with massive inbreeding from bad breeding decisions. They tried to breed too fast, too many, with some bad biters thrown into the mix. Border collie rescue of Southern California won't even take dogs from this breeder because of how many volunteers have been bitten badly.

It made us really sad. We had to put her to sleep. What else can you do? The vet called it a mental illness. We put everything into this dog—lots of training.
It was, however, a valuable learning experience and I'd love to help educate people about how to buy good dogs. But maybe I'm not the best-qualified. All I can tell you is what not to do. Don't take a puppy home from a breeder who is obviously disorganized, can't find shot records, and has a dirty home and kennel. You're not rescuing the dog—you're submitting your family to the worst possible attachment to an animal that's not going to be healthy. Probably adopting from a shelter is a good way to get a dog, but the ones I visited had unhealthy dogs.

Of course we were there with our dog when she was euthanized. We stroked her and told her we loved her and that she was a good dog. It really wasn't her fault and she didn't mean to have bad breeding. It was sad.

Sigh, samsara is an ocean of suffering. Please pray for Penny and all animals like this.

But the trainer has helped us to locate a very reputable lab breeder, and on May 8th we're going to go up and see if one of the 6-month old males wants to come be a part of the family. Labs are lovely and I had one as a child. We're looking forward to all of the challenges of puppyhood without the idiopathic aggression. And this breeder has a guarantee. Seriously, folks, if you have a dog that bites people and there's no way to keep it in a large pasture all the time, don't torture yourself if you have to euthanize. Sometimes it's in the pet's best interest too. A biting, aggressive animal is an unhappy one. I'm not talking about a dog that is triggered by certain things in its environment, necessarily, but one that goes crazy periodically with little warning.

Thanks for listening. This was indeed a rant. But I don't care if it offends someone if it only helps one other family. And maybe, maybe we could get some laws passed about breeding dogs for sale. I think we owe it to the animals.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Busy, busy, busy—and an Anglican Rosary for a change



Anglican Rosary for New Jade (Serpentine), Marcasite, and Sterling Silver

Lately it's been so clear that all that matters is love. Sure, you have to pay the bills, get the tires rotated, take care of the garden, and do the laundry, but ultimately, the only thing that brings lasting satisfaction is the growth of the soul. And that's connected with feeling love, compassion, and equanimity.

I'm planning my Mom's memorial with my friends and sister. It will be on Sunday in a meadow between some hills at a garden she used to visit when she was healthy. I don't know who all will be there, but I'm playing guitar and singing with my friend and guitar teacher Cindy Lee Berryhill. My mom always encouraged self-expression and was a tremendous music lover! My sister is bringing a mountain of delicious cookies, my father is bringing photos and scrapbooks. I think it will be okay. I have purchased several beautiful vintage hankies on Etsy just in case anyone needs them.

So, love and compassion. We talk about enlightenment, about being on the path, but I don't think we go anywhere until our hearts soften. When we have been stunned by life into submission, our hearts often have to open.
Sogyal Rinpoche says that when we have suffered, we can understand the suffering of others, and our hearts simply open.

***

I know so many people who have experienced loss lately. Friends have attended the memorials of their own family members. Friends have discovered their own illnesses. I've had to say goodbye to my dog, due to health reasons. But the heart is resilient, it grows towards the light. And to greater and greater love in this life.

***

This pretty little new jade Anglican Rosary was made for a very special woman. She designed it with me over a period of months, never wavering in her patience. We found the handmade silver cross in a shop based in Greece, the marcasite and silver beads and the new jade beads in the U.S., and the tassel is French. It's supposed to symbolize and evoke patience and peace. For me it really did. Just making it was a meditation. All malas should come together like this—really special.

Peace to you! May you be well.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Springtime at the Self Realization Fellowship Gardens



Spring Flowers at Self Realization Fellowship—A Pilgrimage


It's been a while since I left my mala-making table and my busy life with family, to visit the gardens at the Self Realization Fellowship in Encinitas. A few weeks ago Jan, author of the Awake Is Good blog, posted some photos and comments about visiting there with journal in hand, to meditate and be at peace. I thought to myself "why am I not going there to sit under a tree? I live about 4 miles from it." It's a gorgeous place, usually full of meditators, families, and tourists who come to see the immaculately tended gardens kept in honor of Paramahansa Yogananda. It's always fun to see people on dates there. That would be a nice way to start a relationship, wouldn't it?

So I went with my camera. It was so refreshing to get out of the house and slowly walk the grounds, smilingly meeting peoople as we enjoyed the pond of giant koi and the flowers. Soooo peaceful. What great altruisum the monks have, to maintain this garden for the public.

I ended up half meditating, half dozing, beneath a large palm tree in the sun. Supposedly this was a place Yogananda enjoyed meditating at. If you go, it's right by the empty swimming pool he used to take a dip in. Another wonderful place to let go of your cares.

Sigh, it's so blessed there. Thank goodness for all the teachers and all the spiritual traditions. There are as many types of genuine teacher as there are sincere students.

Peace!

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Mala for Creativity, Strength, and Low Stress




Garnet, Bloodstone, and Rutilated Quartz Wrist Mala

A special customer asked me recently what kind of stones would be helpful with creativity, strength, and reducing stress. I did some reading and came up with a list of stones for each quality she wanted, and she chose these three. Garnet helps with creativity, bloodstone with stress, heart and courage, and rutilated quartz aids with strength. You can't see it very well in photos, but the quartz has thin rods of rutile. The colors are very low key and deep. A silk tassel finishes it and it's strung on stretch cord.

Bloodstone is interesting because in a strand of beads you will find reds, greens, and greens with red specks.

The way colors come together in malas is always surprising. I try to stay open for these surprises.

Be well, be happy!

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Special Lady


Mom and me—2006

These past three and a half years I've had the privilege of helping my mom with the things she couldn't do on her own. As she aged and succumbed to physical difficulties and illness, I got to help her with her lists of things to do. Usually it was the laundry, lunch together, an errand, a doctor's appointment...you just never knew. Sometimes I'd get tired and just want to hang out with her, but she was a pretty goal-oriented person. So we enjoyed the time together, doing things.

In the past six months my mom became very ill. I wrote about it a little here. It was such a journey to watch her go through it as a family, all of us doing whatever we could. Finally, her time was up. Last Friday, March 5th, she died. It was peaceful and she was surrounded by love. I am eternally grateful to the hospital staff for their kindness and sensitivity. She showed dignity and strength, compassion and hope, up through the very end.

She was my mother, my friend, my mentor. She taught me design rules when I was little. She taught me about plants and fairies, about music, singing in harmony, and how to dance. My smile comes from her.

I am so grateful to be her daughter. My sister, father, and our entire family will miss her but keep her in our hearts.

To all mothers and daughters out there, rejoice in your love for each other. Enjoy your time together.

I'm sure my mom's on her way to a good place. Your prayers are welcome.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Like a Hillside in Arizona Seen Through Thick Spectacles


How many little blogs like this are floating around in the ether? It feels like they take up space, but do they? Just because something shows up on the computer monitor doesn't mean it takes up any space at all, does it?
What about psychic space?
My shop has been running on overdrive lately and I've been putting along making mala after mala. Trying to stay mindful and present as I make each one. These past two and a half years online have been so educational—teaching me mainly about society and it's expanding boundaries. The definitions of what friend and stranger are seem very elastic in this day and age when you can "meet" people with such similar interests all over the globe.
I'm currently working on a mala made with a combination of red aventurine, carnelian, red banded agate, and serpentine. The feeling is of variegated oranges and reds, very natural. It looks like a hill side in Arizona seen through thick spectacles! Here's a photo of one like it, but the one above doesn't have the carnelian and red agate, so it's not quite as varied looking.
So much fun to decide where to put each bead to get the right pattern of reds and oranges.

Enjoy your weekend. I hope to get my camera out and take some interesting pictures soon, but the rain might put a damper on that. :-)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Amazing Hunk of Quartz in Laguna Beach



I found this amazingly large and beautiful quartz crystal in Laguna Beach at a crystal shop. It was up the canyon towards the art school. It's the largest crystal I've ever seen.

If I stood beside it it would reach above my waist, and I'm 5' 5"!
At first I was sure it was rose quartz, but the owner explained that it was a clear quartz crystal with a layer of iron, making it rose-colored. Nonetheless, I think it embodied love and compassion the way rose quartz does. Who knew quartz crystal could disguise itself?

When I find the name of the shop I'll pass it on. They specialized in very large, rare crystals, meteorites and such.
Quite amazing for a geology buff like me.

But you'd have to see it and feel it in person, this photo doesn't show how grand it is. So go to Laguna Beach, California, (I realize this is quite a trip for some of you!) drive up the canyon where the Festival of the Masters is, and just past that a bit is a crystal shop on the right, (south side). You won't be sorry you went out of your way to see it. And while you're there, play in the ocean.

Peace!
Laura

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Game Etsians Play...Treasury-Making



Click to enlarge the photos above so you can see them better.

Here's an Etsy treasury that Etsy seller Knotworkshop made. Looks pretty Valentiney, doesn't it? My quartz crystal mala with blue lace agate is in the bottom right corner. I have to add that Knotworkshop has quite a wry sense of humor.
All the artists represented in it have very unique work.

When Etsy sellers aren't making beautiful and unusual things, sometimes they make these treasuries. I haven't done one yet, but I love to look at treasuries others curate. Thanks, Knot!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Burning up the Highway



Surfer Dude With Abandoned Sports Car—Circa 1975?


Well, I shouldn't listen to the news. Not very much, just enough to know what's going on. These constant reminders that my Toyota Corolla needs a new gas pedal are a bit much. I've been doing a LOT of driving lately. Burning up the highway between my home in Encinitas and my parent's town inland. I got the **&%# car ('scuse the language) because it looked so reliable, so dependable, so safe and comfortable.

Dang. That's how Samsara is. You head for comfort and safety and you're out of luck. It invariably ends up with me getting into more trouble. Might as well not even bother.

You know what that word Samsara is? It's a Buddhist term (Buddhist blogger here) for the circle of life and death. We supposedly go round and round again and again, suffering and creating and purifying karma until we've somehow learned—after lifetimes of work— enough to let go and become enlightened. "Samsara is an ocean of suffering, unendurable and unbearably intense", goes the line in a Buddhist prayer. We're supposed to be motivated by this to use our lives well. Sometimes it gets a bit heavy, though. You have to think about the other accompanying thoughts of joyful human birth, impermanence, and the law of cause and effect for it all to work out conceptually in a useful manner. These together are called the Four Thoughts, and they're the entrance to the Buddhist path.

Sigh. So I'm driving down the freeway in this Toyota listening to the radio—NPR and its constant reminders that my car is being recalled along with millions of others. It's not the most reassuring feeling. I know to put the car into neutral and gently apply both feet to the brake. I watch its acceleration. I drive way too slow.

But as I drive through coastal chaparral and past gentle hills and river valleys, I just try to keep it all in perspective. This too will pass. I just look at the clouds and the the sun on the land. Say a little prayer for everyone on the road and keep on driving.

Lots of love,
Laura

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lapis and Quartz Crystal Pocket Mala with Pewter Oak Leaf





with the help of another fantastic silver charm from Green Girl Studios...

How's the weather where you live? Where I am, in San Diego, it's been raining and raining. We're almost to the point where we will be out of our drought, which is wonderful. It's the kind of weather we don't always get—you want to curl up by the fire and read a book. Lovely. Of course, we're not used to it and can't drive in it very well and the street lights go out, but that's because we live in an arid environment.

Here's a little pocket mala made for a customer from the dark lapis I like so much. It's dark with some pyrite sparkles and a few calcite streaks to keep it entertaining. It has quartz crystal markers every six beads and a three-holed guru bead of quartz—finished with a matching navy blue silk tassel. On the tassel is a little pewter oak leaf charm designed by Green Girl Studios. Oh, how I love this artist's work. So unusual and individually unique. Mermaids, fairies, crosses—she makes everything. Makes me want to work with metal casting. Ah, in another life perhaps.

This pocket mala is on stretch cord so it can be worn, but usually a pocket mala just travels with us during the day or sits in a special place to meet us when we're ready to meditate, center, or pray. Any prayer will do, even just focusing on one breath at a time to calm down. What a lovely practice this is.

All the best, stay warm and dry!
Laura

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hearts for Haiti—Etsy Sellers Helping Doctors Without Borders

This is so exciting. If you look just to the right of this post, you'll see a couple of rows of photos. These are snapshots of items for sale on Etsy to benefit Haitian relief through Doctors Without Borders. If you click on any item, you'll be taken to the shop where hundreds of craftspeople and sellers of craft supplies and vintage items are selling products, beautiful things.

Watching this effort start, grow, and succeed has been heart-warming, to say the least. Today I cried a bit when I found out my rose quartz and rhodonite "Immeasurable Love" mala sold. Every penny of each sale, minus some small Etsy and Paypal fees, goes to Doctors Without Borders, who authorized the shop to use their name. It's being overseen very, very carefully following the rules and guidance of Etsy about charitable shops. It all began when one seller posted a question on the Etsy forums asking how to coordinate sellers' efforts. So far, over $8500 dollars have been raised.

So, in the midst of the sadness I feel over the suffering of the people in Haiti, this little flower is born. And it has become an actual bush of roses, soon it will be a rose tree.

I'm not going to say anything oversimplified or philosophical about this, except for one thing: you really see the best come out of people in times of need.

That alone makes me very, very happy.

Bless you!
Laura

Saturday, January 16, 2010

New Avatar






Finally changing my avatar for Etsy and this blog. I liked the little golden Buddha with beads around his neck and a pink background, but after a while it began to feel too cartoony, too solid. It doesn't reflect how I feel about meditation, it's sort of a "look at me, I'm a gold Buddha against a pink background" kind of avatar. Sort of static. Monumental, although it's so small. Sooo...

Here's my new one. It's a photo my husband took of a Buddha statue near a burning candle. I don't know how he made it so glowy. It is more about the pursuit of truth, more about the path, more about devotion. It shows how I feel about ALL of this and about myself...that it's all a process. Not finished, not expert, not "old student", but someone sitting and watching the light, trying to become more and more one with it.

On Etsy it won't really be readable as a Buddha and candle, which is okay. I like the shapes and colors even without a direct meaning.

How do you like the new one?

Take care!
Laura

Monday, January 11, 2010

How Quickly They Grow...






Penny Lane, Just Over One Year Old.
The funniest dog ever.

No, she doesn't make malas.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Blog and a Good Book—Awake is Good



Tara Statue


My friend Jan Lundy writes the blog Awake is Good about bringing spirituality into life. She's the author of Your Truest Self: Embracing the Woman You Are Meant to Be. A few months ago we traded a mala for some of her books. I love, love, love the book. It's one of those special, personal books about bringing spirit and soul into life that only come around once in a while. It is full of interviews with women who show how to do this: Joyce Rupp-OSM, Jan Phillips, Iyanla Vanzant, Dudley Evenson, Sue Patton Thoele, Daphne Rose Kingma, Doreen Virtue, Naomi Judd, Michelle Tsosie Sisneros, Joan Borysenko, Frances Moore Lappé, and Mari Gayatri Stein. You may not know each name, but their voices come through so intimately in the book that you know them a bit by the end. I like to hear about other people's thoughts on their journeys and I found the simple exercises in the book to be opening and enriching.


The book is on Amazon—the blog is here: Awake Is Good. And today, January 11th, she's hosting my thoughts about keeping meditation free from hope and fear and why I use a mala. It's a very personal post. So stop on by and leave a comment. You'll like it there.

*****

On another note, thank you to all the wonderful customers who've ordered malas from me. Thank you particularly to the unexpected, small surge of Canadians who've been dropping by. It's been fun shipping north of the border.

Take care!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Two Movies—a Must See and a Maybe

Every now and then I promise to give a little movie review on this blog. It's been hard lately, nothing has hit me as good enough to write about. I only want to recommend special movies that I think give something extra to a viewer.

A couple of nights ago I went to see Up In the Air with George Clooney. It was fantastic. In tone and story it told the story of a man's disconnect with any world except the one he experienced as he traveled. In essence he was a modern-day sailor, only happy on the high sea. Only in this case, it was the high skies. Painful to watch in its portrayal of modern alienation and isolation, but very powerful in bringing that message home. You develope such sympathy for the main character—for all of them, actually. And it made flying look like the most relaxing thing in the world, a tough thing to do these days. Truly only happy with a business class seat and a beautiful woman, George Clooney's character was practical, soft, and distant. Really, you have to see it. Sad, poignant, and it makes you want to run and hug the people you love!

On the other hand, my viewing partner (all right, my daughter) and I were unanimous in our dislike last night of Nine. If you love musicals, you might like this ambitious movie. We thought it would have been a great movie if they would have left out the dancing and singing. I love dancing and singing as much or more than the next person, but it just didn't fit into a movie about Fellini's love life. The photography was great, the acting was really superb (Daniel Day-Lewis, Judy Dench, and Nicole Kidman had me believing they were their characters, not famous actors), but the songs sounded like they were written in the 80s about the 60s and were pretty cliche-ridden.

The film didn't make artistic sense. To me. Now I have to rent some Fellini movies from Netflix and wash this movie out of my mind. Sorry, if you loved it please let me know. That's just my take on it. I nearly walked out, sad to say.

So...Up in the Air is a Must See, and Nine is a Maybe

That's it for the movie reviews. We love our escapism, don't we? What a gift movies are.

Take care!
Laura