Mala Shop

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Pause to Discuss Fruitcake

I just have to take a moment to talk about fruitcake.

Not that loaf that you can get from the supermarket, saturated with corn syrup and preservatives, full of candied cherries and green jellied citrus. That's not what I mean at all.

Here's a photo of what I think of when I say "fruitcake":

 Dark Fruitcake from Fannie Farmer,  borrowed from "The Family Kitchen" Blog

When I was about eight, my mother let me at a fruitcake recipe. I put in about five pounds of dried fruit, and it was so hard to stir! With a little help from her I lined the bundt cake pan with brown paper.  I overcooked it a little, but to me it was the most delicious thing in the world! And mom loved it unconditionally, as she loved me and my sister.

I suppose there's enough southern blood left on that side of the family to make fruitcake, swiss chard, and grits almost biologically attractive.


I don't understand the universal dislike of fruitcake in the United States!


Please, someone, write to me and tell me that you, too, love the rich, moist, rum-infused yumminess that is fruitcake.


Since I've been up to my ears in mala-making, I haven't gotten past buying the luscious dried fruit for my intended fruitcake.  This happens more often than not, year after year.  Best intentions but little actual time to cook. But I think it will be fine to make it in the New Year, wrap it for a couple of months, dousing it in liquor now and then, and wait until late spring to eat it. I really want to!

Bless all moms and dads who let eight-year-olds into the kitchen to make huge messes and create the unusual.

Have a very happy holiday, whatever you do!








Saturday, December 3, 2011

How to Care For Wood Malas

Nepalese Bodhiseed Mala

Wood Mala Care-

Every now and then someone asks me how to take care of their bodhiseed, sandalwood, or other wood mala. It makes sense to ask, since if wood gets wet and dries out it cracks and looses luster. Sandalwood can loose its fragrance. And the patina of wood grows more beautiful from the oils in our skin. How do we protect that?

We know that all things are impermanent and we shouldn't cling to things as they are, but here are a few guidelines.

Without any treatment, wood mala beads will grow in beauty. They'll darken and become a little bit glossy from contact with skin. But if they get wet and then dry out, they may loose some of this patina. So don't swim in your mala! They don't need a wash. If it has become wet and looks dry, handle it a lot–now is the time to say many prayers and mantras to get natural skin oils back on the beads.

This is all I would do. I wouldn't use an oil–the smell of it might not fit the sense of your mala and you don't know if the oil has chemicals. Perfumes in lotions and oils wouldn't be good either. If you have found an oil that works on wood without scent, just use a tiny drop on your fingers; don't apply it to mala directly. But I wouldn't bother treating it with any oil. The last thing you need is an oily set of wooden prayer beads,

Caring for sandalwood:
Sandalwood is wonderful. The smell of a sandalwood mala brought me right back to the present moment yesterday when I was working. To bring the scent back if it dissipates, store it overnight in a ziplock bag. That's it! No aromatherapy needed. I'd actually avoid using aromatherapy oils directly on any mala. If you wear a bit on your skin or have just had a lovely massage, I think that's fine for the beads. They'll take on the smell for a long time, so be sure you want them to be affected before you put them next to well-oiled skin.

Another thing that can happen to wood malas if they're stored in a box or drawer away from air circulation is that they can actually start to mildew! It's strange but true. If you look very closely at the picture of the mala, you can see some mildew patches that I'm cleaning off by rubbing gently. So keeping your wood malas in a place that doesn't tend to be at all damp is really good. In my house that means they can't stay in drawers in certain rooms.

These are my simple tips for caring for wooden malas, including bodhiseed ones. The main thing is to use them everyday and handle them a lot with love. And if your custom is to wear them, that's helpful, too. (Just don't tug them when putting them on or taking them off or you'll wear out the cord faster. If your mala breaks, find a mala-maker like me to repair it.)
(Semi-precious stone or pearl malas, on the other hand, can be very adversely affected by perfumes and chemicals. Be very careful not to spray perfume, sun lotion, or hairspray near them, especially with softer stones like amber, chrysocolla, and turquoise.)

Malas, like any powerful meditation support, take on the power to bring you to mindfulness. This is through your own loving intentions and aspirations. Holding them can bring you right back to a deeper reality and calm if you love and care for them. And that calm and peace can spread through your family and community, affecting the whole world positively.

Be well and happy!
Laura


Friday, November 25, 2011

Tiger Ebony Wood Pocket Mala


27-Bead Wood and Poppy Jasper Pocket Mala

Sometimes the simplest things are the most special.

"Tis a gift to be simple,
tis a gift to be free,
tis a gift to come down
where you ought to be"

from "Simple Gifts", the Shaker dance song.

Partly because I like to keep things simple, you can only find Compassion Malas in my online shop. I don't sell to stores right now. That may change some day, but for now it means that when you order, you'll be getting your mala straight from the hands that made it—mine. And that keeps things simple and sweet. I get to know each customer just a little bit. And I like that.

Bless you and yours!

Monday, November 21, 2011

His Holiness the Dalai Lama - Moved by Compassion

Even His Holiness cries. Moved by reports of nine Tibetans who set fire to themselves recently over Chinese governmental oppression, he wept. This photo is from the blog TibetSpace.

What good can come out of seeing this?

It's a reminder that when Chenrezi (Avalokiteshvara) cried over the suffering of beings, the tears falling from his eyes created lakes from which rose White and Green Tara to benefit beings. The Dalai Lama is considered to be an incarnation of Chenrezi in human form. So these are tears not just of sadness, but of infinite compassion. The writer of TibetSpace explained this so eloquently.

His Holiness is human, yet he embodies and teaches compassion. We can learn to open our eyes and hearts to those suffering, and to help the Tibetan cause we can visit Tibet House to donate and find out the facts as well as read about Buddhism and meditation. You can also write to your representatives to support Tibetan rights and the preservation of their culture.

Sometimes a sad picture opens your heart.

Peace to you.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Lion and the Lamb


My lion and my lamb...

The lion is the one on the left. The lamb is the luscious lab baby on the right. Usually, by day, Gidget the cat fends off Stella the dog with hisses and scratches. Since Gidget is Stella's main company during the day, Stella doesn't take no for an answer. Her friendly ways have apparently won Gidget over. At least at night they're starting to look like best friends.

And no, they don't help me make malas. They stay away from the beads and beading table so that your malas will be free of allergens. I do my best.

But they're lovely company.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Italian Butternut Squash Casserole


From the Garden of Eden CSA this week I brought home a wonderful-looking butternut squash.
Round at the bottom, tapered towards the top like some gourds; it looked promising.
The only problem is, no one in my family eats squash except me.
Last night, when the refrigerator was pretty empty of anything "real" to cook, I took a stab at the squash.

Okay, there's not a whole lot that's Italian about this casserole, unless you count oregano, garlic powder, olive oil, and French bread. Still, I have to call it something. Here's how I did it. Please try it and let me know how you'd change it.

Laura's Italian Butternut Squash Casserole

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake one butternut squash whole for one hour at 350 degrees after stabbing repeatedly. (Do this to get your aggressions towards eating healthy food out at the very beginning, if you like.)
3-5 slices of stale French bread—toasted
Splash of olive oil
2 eggs or 1/4 cup egg plain substitute
a splash of milk or soy milk
About 1 and 1/2 cup grated cheese of any kind—maybe more
oregano and garlic powder—1 and 1/2 tsp each
1/2 large jar pasta sauce of your choice, so long as it's tomato-based

After squash is soft and cool enough to work with, remove seeds and discard. Then remove flesh from the squash and mash. (You don't want any peel.) Add two beaten eggs or egg substitute, a splash of milk, and herbs. Mix together until moderately smooth. A few small chunks aren't going to hurt.

In a small but relatively deep casserole pan, pour some olive oil. Place a slice of toasted bread on it.
Put a layer of cheese on that. Spoon some squash mixture onto this, keeping to the shape of the toast. A little spillover is okay, but you want this to be a bit like a layered loaf or lasagna.

Put another slice of toast on top of that, followed by a layer of cheese and another layer of squash mixture. Keep stacking until you've run out of bread, and put a layer of squash on the top of all that. Sprinkle some cheese on that, gently pour half a jar of pasta sauce, and cover with a light sprinkling of cheese.

Bake with foil lightly covering but not touching the top for 40 minutes; remove the foil for the last 15 minutes. Test with a knife to make sure the squash has set to a medium texture—not as soft as before, but not as firm as a cake or souffle.

Remove, cool slightly, and slice with a serrated knife. Try to serve so that the layers are preserved.
Can be served with hot sauce.

Okay, that's my first effort at squash casserole. Even my extraordinarily picky 17-year-old son ate some, and so did my husband. They both said it was good. I like it, although it may need sausage or more olive oil. As far as I can tell from reading about butternut squash, my family is now protected forever and ever from getting colds and diseases. That's how powerful squash is.

And that, even more than its taste, is probably why we should eat it.

Bon Apetit!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Something a bit different in prayer beads...half malas



Have you tried half malas, or 54-bead malas? They're perfect for tucking away in your pocket or purse during the day. Here's one I made with picture jasper, rainbow fluorite, and green aventurine.

I love how nurturing and grounding picture jasper is.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sadness on the Passing of a Great Man





I must have been the last to know that Steve Jobs was dying. I just figured he was taking some time away from the stress of running Apple. After all, the guy had been through cancer treatment, invented the iMac, iTunes, iPod, iPhone, iPad and iDon'tknowwhatelse. I just thought it made sense—he must have realized there was more to his life than work and that now he could take a break, maybe study Tai Chi and enjoy a sunset. Maybe he was working on something even more extraordinary that he couldn't talk about. Maybe he was just enjoying his family. Maybe he had become a serious meditation student—he probably already was; his mind showed that kind of great clarity and insight.

So when I received the text about his death as I ate my burrito bowl at Chipotle yesterday I was instantly blown away and started to cry. He meant that much to me. As he may have meant to you, or maybe not. You kind of had to be one of the converted to think of him as family, as the big brother you didn't have, the one who was a crazy but benevolent genius and sent magnanimous birthday and Christmas presents. He fit into the small group of men I could of but didn't marry (in that fantasy universe): Prince Charles being one of them, back when he was just young, rich and kind of cute.

But I digress.

Surprised tears penetrating my face at Chipotle and at Trader Joe's where I stopped for a soothing dark chocolate candy bar. Life felt more dear and fragile. I felt again how related we all are.

This post isn't about Steve Jobs. This post is about my own experience of his loss, and about love for the computer I'm typing on and the man who helped invent it. It's about my love for the graphics interface system—not having to type commands, but being able to "double-click" on a symbolic icon. It's about my love of the internet and all those, including Al Gore, who made it possible. I love Steve Wozniak, too, who really deserves much more recognition for being an inventor of the Mac than he gets. Here's what he said yesterday:

Jobs "gets a reputation for being a strong leader and for being brash. But to me he was always so kind, such a good friend." (USA Today)

And to me, that's how Steve Jobs came across. As kind, brash, and such a good friend.

For the record, I started computing back in the early 90s on a hand-me-down Apple IIe with floppy discs and a black screen with glowing green letters. I graduated to bigger and better Macs. I most loved it when everything was less internet-biased and there were fewer ads, when you had to do a little bit of programming to run a checkbook, when you had to get under the hood and de-conflict the thing for all it was worth when it stalled out.

Now that it's easy and everyone loves them, it's easy to forget that back in the early 90s I was told by a CompUSA salesman not to buy a Mac because the company would be out of business within 6 months. Now CompUSA no longer exists. (I hope all those employees have found good jobs.)

Steve Breen in the San Diego Union ran a cartoon today of Steve Jobs in heaven being greeted by Einstein and Edison. Such an apropos image.

May he truly rest in peace after his short life. He was a brief, shooting star. He came, he brought gifts, and he left. Maybe that's what he was meant to do. I will miss him, as will many—even Bill Gates. The things he helped bring into this world truly do help it be a bigger, better, more compassionate place.

May YOU be happy, may you be well. Hug somebody today. Look at your technology as what it is—a tool for expression, creativity, and communication, whether you're a Mac or a PC.

Thank you, Steve.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Radiant Rose Quartz Necklaces

SparklingSistersSJ on Etsy just made this rose quartz treasury.  I thought I'd share it because every single necklace on it is beautiful! My rose quartz "Immeasurable Love" mala is second from the bottom on the lower left.


Everyone have a great day and enjoy the early, early fall weather.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Combat Sadness and Fear with Joy- "Watering the seeds of Joy"

A moment of joy on an island—"Watering the seeds of joy"



This post is hard to write.  I've been very aware for months that today would be the 10th anniversary of 9-11.  I've been trying to integrate my feelings about it with my actions and what I read and hear on the radio.  I'm aware that on a very deep level we've chosen today to feel so much of the grief and loss that we've lived with for ten years.  I think all of us feel sad—for those who were lost and those who loved them, for the years of war we've lived with since then, and for ourselves.

It feels like ten years ago we truly lost our innocence. My children don't know of a world when we weren't at war, just as as a child I didn't know anything other than a world with Vietnam constantly showing bodies on the TV news. But horrible as that was, this feeling of a loss of safety has lasted longer.

What do we do with this change in the world?  What have you done? So many people have started vibrant things in reaction.  Meetup.com started in response to 9-11. (Here's the founder's blog entry about their start.)

I attended a retreat with Thich Nhat Hahn shortly after 9-11.  For five days he spoke of how to regain our feelings of safety.  In his way of thinking, we were wounded and needed to comfort ourselves.  Deep listening and deep hearing were two tools he taught.  We learned to listen to our own pain and comfort it, and we learned to listen and truly hear the feelings of others.  Only through this, he thought, could we achieve peace in the world and in ourselves. Instead of focusing on everything going on, he taught us to "water the seeds of joy".  Only by strengthening our minds could we become happier and more loving; more and more able to accept events with a calm outlook.

I thought of that today, meditating in the garden.  I planted pink zinnias last week to encourage the weak little zinnias that were coming up from seed, struggling as they were.  Water the seeds of joy. You can't just accept all the bad things that happen in the garden...you have to plant beauty.

We have to have courage to live more in love and less in fear.  Even if this takes conscious effort and a daily time set aside to "notice" our emotions and generate positive ones, we have to.  If we don't, we go the way of heart-breaking despair and disillusionment. 

You may find something objectionable in the way I've written this.  It's very easy to be sensitive to anyone's ideas about 9-11.  I hope not.  I'm just trying to suggest a way that leads to inner contentment and peace.

That can only help everyone.

Be well!






Wednesday, August 31, 2011

It's All About Blue—Vintage Glass and Silk!





Pocket Mala with Blue Vintage Glass

36 Beads for Yoga and Meditation

Hand knotted with Love!




















Thursday, August 25, 2011

Crazy About Wrist Malas, Mala Bracelets, Prostration Malas, and Wrist Mala Prayer Beads

Red Ceramic Wrist Mala with Turquoise Howlite



Green Czech Glass with Shell Guru Bead


What's been happening in your neck of the woods? Keeping up with your wish to meditate now and then? I have found that during the hottest, busiest times, it helps to dive into that peaceful spot of meditation. Once I can get the crazed thoughts to die down (by noticing them briefly but not too intently and refocusing on the breath or an inspiring object, mainly), I find that resting in the true peace of my own nature is the most nourishing feeling.

This is not to say I haven't battled the "thoughts rushing by like water in a waterfall" stage! But on the other side of that lies peace, tranquility, and insight. Not every time—it's always different. But enough that it's rewarding.

This blog entry was supposed to be about showing the bright new wrist malas I've designed; here they are! I was inspired by the summer colors in the garden, of course. The red matches a geranium out there, and the green is late-Summer-lush-green. A new Crayola color!

If you drop by my shop you may see some odd-looking titles for the malas. In order to make it easier for buyers to find what they want, Etsy has shifted to a "relevancy" search. This means that sellers have been frantic to discover what keywords people find them by, and put as many keywords in their titles and tags as possible.

It's a lot of work! But sort of fun, in an experimental writing way.

Rather than creating the poetry of randomness, all these similar words crammed into titles makes for rather Ebay-esque reading. Pop over there, enjoy how easy it is now to find "shea butter" or "spiral silver earrings", and give the sellers some love.

Until next time, enjoy the end of Summer and your own meditations, whatever kind you practice.

Nangka wood wrist mala w green Czech glass


Friday, August 12, 2011

Long Life Wishes From Thumper


Thumper wishes you good health and success with this yummy glass of carrot, celery, and apple juice. Thumper cookie jar *Disney* from the 1940s.

Is juicing really all that good for health? I don't know, but if it gets me to eat more veggies, I'm all for it. It's the most delicious thing ever on an August afternoon.

It replaces that afternoon cup of coffee for me and doesn't interfere with my sleep.

Be well!




Thursday, August 4, 2011

Of Butterflies, and Birds That Leave the Nest


Brown Butterfly on Mom's Hat
The little birds, they grow and then they fly off! How true this metaphor has been for our family this week. We drove my eldest away to her college town—such sad, sweet joy to see her embedded in her new town with good friends, about to start at a new school.

I can't help remembering myself at 20 and her as a small child, and as a baby.

I've been at home with the kids since they were born...only working the kind of job that I could do from home. It just wasn't in my nature to go away and leave them. (There were jobs like cake decorating, painting, and copy-editing I could do.) So I don't have the feeling of "where did the time go?" I can see it all on my face and feel it in my bones—every day, every blessed minute with them.

And the blessings have included plenty of us all yelling at each other as well as bonding around a Thursday-night TV lineup. There have also been all the family barbecues with grandparents, some of whom have moved on to other realms, to gardens in the sky.

Today, as I looked out at the sunny garden, I saw a brown butterfly doing loopy circles. One day long ago, two of these brown butterflies landed over and again on my mother's garden hat. I always wondered how a person could be still enough to allow a butterfly to land on them. She was besieged by butterflies that day! Today, I took a stab at trying. I sent love and mantras of "Om Mani Padme Hung" to the butterfly and slowly held out my arm. It landed on it and sat long enough for me to see its tattered wings. So quietly, we sat together, just for a moment.

And then it flew off into the sky.
Everything changes! Best to catch a bit of pleasure and appreciate it while it's near.

Take care,
Laura

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What I've Been Thinking

Bowing Stuffed Crane at the Natural History Museum in Balboa Park

I was doing hot yoga last night, not too hard, but still intense enough that sweat dripped off my face, and I realized something like a light was going on in my head.

It's about love. I love my mala customers. Each and every one of them. They've given me such a gift, the gift of trust that I could make something that would be special and meaningful for them.

I started this mala-making gig in February of 2008, right when there were whispers about the economy. I just needed to put something out there, and looking at my skills, mala-making was the one that floated to the top. I tried other things but nothing clicked. I listed a few malas on "Compassionmalas" on Etsy and forgot about them, selling a few off of a tumblr blog at first. (Thank you, Roy and Lynn for being my first customers!) I went away on a retreat, came back and sold a mala in the Etsy store, then another. Strangers found me. It was the most amazing thing.

Through that Fall, the malas slowly took flight around the world and I expanded my shop. Gradually it became what it is now, a very serious yet fun business.

The thing is, I remember so much about so many of my customers. Some of them I've had the chance to really correspond with a bit and become friends with. And let me tell you, people who are looking for malas online are very special people. It's such a specific thing to want, such a soul-touching thing. I learn so much from each of them. I'm renewed and inspired by you all!

Even if I haven't "talked" much with a customer, I'll often remember their name when they return.

So it's been a perfect job...matching my need to create meditation materials with people who pray, meditate, or just want touchstones. I can't say how grateful I am. Yet I will: I am so grateful.

And that's what the bird in the photo is, a grateful bird, bowing its (stuffed) head in love and gratitude.

Thank you so much.

******

Next up for me is a Fall collection of malas made with aquamarine, sardonyx, green aventurine, and other yummy stones. And I'm taking actual jewelry-making classes where I heat and bend metal (copper right now), saw, flatten, and insert stones into settings. I've discovered how to cover my fingers with protection when I use the diamond saw (that was learned the hard way, by slicing into a finger.) There's something amazingly satisfying about forming metal...I think I'm coming out of the Stone Age and into the Bronze Age. I'm not sure when my jewelry will be ready for others, but I'm having a blast learning to make it.

Lots of love, stay well. Be creative!
Laura

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Internet Holiday


"Cinderella" day lily

My internet suddenly wouldn't work a couple of days ago. You know how it is. You spend what seems like an hour on tech support doing silly things to your modem, then they make you an appointment for the soonest time, which is always at least two days from now. You clear your schedule for the upcoming four-hour appointment window
.
Gradually, as the days pass before the appointment, it dawns on you how much you do on the internet. Sure, most of it is time-wasting—you have lots of things you need to do but you end up reading all the updates on Facebook—things like that. You watch your online shop—like watching a pot boil, it doesn't when you watch it. You realize that you can only pay bills online, you can't look up phone numbers in a phone book anymore, and you can't watch the video someone's strongly suggesting you should watch right now if you love them at all. Ahem.

We're sooo internet-dependent. I don't know about you, but I move through cycles of trying to enjoy my imposed internet vacation and getting really frustrated.

Today, I act as if the service tech is my new best friend—I can't wait to see them. I call ATT to make sure they are actually coming. I clean my house for the visit. I make malas. Finally they come and fix it by selling me a new and "much better" modem for $62.00 and we spend a few minutes talking about dogs. All very friendly, and now the internet is frighteningly fast. I'm back to doing a million important and unimportant things one after another on the keyboard.

But do you know what I did while it was down? I sat in the backyard with a book and my iced coffee. I looked at the plants, searching for the the new buds of shoots and blooms that are popping up everywhere. I almost literally watched my plants grow more every day.

This is useful, isn't it? I think so. I think being off the internet for awhile and watching plants grow is a valuable contribution to humanity. I highly suggest it.

May you all be happy and well.

Sincerely,
Laura

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Introducing Janice Lundy and the Buddha Chick Training


I first met spiritual writer and teacher Janice Lundy when she dropped by my blog several years ago. I drifted over to hers and found her book, Your Truest Self, which I found a lifeline to well being and sanity. Her voice, both written and spoken, is sweet, wise, and comforting. Through the years we've been mala friends and I've learned a lot from her. She inspires me with her can-do, compassionate approach. Today she's answered my questions about her work.

Janice Lynne Lundy is the woman behind "Buddha Chick™" and the creator of "The Mindful Makeover Kit." She is an educator, interfaith spiritual director, retreat leader and celebrated author of 6 personal/spiritual growth books for women. Visit her at BuddhaChick.org and AwakenedLiving.com

The giveaway part: She's generously offered to give one reader a copy of her course, "The Buddha Chick™ Mindful Makeover Kit", which she describes below:

"The Mindful Makeover Kit empowers women to live physically calm, mentally clear, openhearted lives, handling life's challenges with ease. 12 hours of downloadable recordings, Workbook, Buddha Chick™ Affirmation Cards, and private mentoring support. Nothing short of a complete life makeover with mindfulness and self-compassion."

Over the next day or so, she'll drop by and read and answer comments—leave a comment and you'll be entered into a drawing for the course.

And she's giving everyone an online, stay-at-home retreat you can follow in one day on your own schedule. Just click on the link with the photo of the woman with her feet up to get to the retreat--------------------------->

Welcome to all. Let's enjoy our conversation!

*****
Janice:

Laura, thank you so much for inviting me to be a guest on your blog today. And hello to all of your lovely friends! It’s pure delight to be here. Let’s string some beads of wisdom together, shall we? Malas of mindfulness and compassion.


Q: What’s your “job description” at this point in life?

A: Oh, my what a question! Transparently, I do see myself in the mentor stage of life. Old enough to know “some stuff” that is worth sharing; young enough to feel great passion around supporting others on their spiritual journeys—and having the energy to do it!

I was a classroom teacher for many years and am back doing that—online this time, which is great fun because it is borderless and you get to meet so many kind people. I’m a Spiritual Director and love serving as a companion to someone who is on a path and wants to live with greater calm, clarity and wisdom. I adore writing and developing creative projects so that “job” never feels like work. In fact, I would like to have more time to write. I have so many books in me!

Last year, I gifted myself with a 30-day retreat in the tropics. I planted myself under a very old banyan tree (Bodhi tree) and not unlike the Buddha, “sat” for a month. Though most of my sitting time ended up in writing. I was in heaven.

I am also a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister and friend. To be present to each of those roles and the people I love brings me great joy.


Q: Who do you emulate or admire greatly?

A: Powerfully, peaceful people: Gandhi, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, my own teacher (in the Vipassana tradition of Buddhism) Sylvia Boorstein. Most of my adult life, I have longed for inner peace because it eluded me. I often say that I inherited worry genes from my father’s lineage and anxiety genes from my mother’s. I was a nervous child and a fretter. That’s why I resonate so deeply with Sylvia’s work and why she is my spiritual director and teacher. She is a recovering “fretter” and always startled easily. Me too! To find personal peace has been my passion and path for the past 20 years. (My next book by the way is aptly titled, Pockets of Peace. )


Q: What are you trying to establish in creating Buddha Chick™ and Dharma Sisters Circle? Can you describe them both?

A: Both of these efforts are the result of my passion to provide women with a safe place, a sanctuary, where they can explore and get in touch with their true selves.

Buddha Chick™ is the culmination of my life work: a mindset, a process with a set of practices, a lifestyle, and an interspiritual community that promotes living from our essence (through our basic goodness) for the benefit of all beings. At BuddhaChick.org, through classes, retreats, and training (especially “The Mindful Makeover Kit”), we breakthrough all that prevents us from embodying our innate peace, love, joy, generosity, kindness, and more.

To do this good work within sacred community is powerful. We can support one another. No one wants to journey alone. And with so many of us being non-affiliated spiritually, or living far away from practice centers, the internet can provide a positive space to do this. I created BuddhaChick.org and its programs for this purpose. I love connecting with women, sharing and growing together.

DharmaSistersCircle.org is an online membership community. We practice Buddha Chick™ principles, sit at the feet of wonderful guest teachers (in June it will be Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche), and convene in groups of special interest: “Mindful Moms”; Khanti (“patient endurance”), a healing circle for women with ongoing health issues, etc. Everything we do at both sites is rooted in mindfulness, loving-kindness and compassion. It is very exciting!


Q: What inspires you and gets you going in the morning?

A: Beauty. Natural beauty may be my greatest inspiration. I am very blessed to live on a gorgeous Bay. To be greeted by water every morning is pure joy. And I have an enormous perennial garden in my backyard, so green things lift me up. And also my husband, he inspires me. He is my beloved, a true spiritual partner and my creative partner too. I love knowing that when I get up in the morning I will do what I love the most—to write, connect, journey with others. I am very aware how lucky I am to be able to live in this way. It’s a simple, contemplative life. I say “Thank you” a lot!


Q: What helps you sleep at night?

A: I do Metta! Loving-kindness (meditation) practice. I am pretty faithful about it. It is, for me anyway, the antidote to everything—anxiety, insomnia, worry, self-doubt, a closed heart, you name it. I learned Metta from Sharon Salzberg and Sylvia. I studied it privately with Sylvia for two years. Last year, she encouraged me to begin teaching it and I offered my first Metta retreat in Michigan. Metta has been my lifeline and my invitation. Plus, the Buddha himself promised that if we did Metta, we WOULD sleep peacefully and have peaceful dreams. It’s true! If I could suggest one spiritual practice to everyone, regardless of faith tradition, it would be Loving-kindness practice. It will transform your life if you let it.


Q: What are you proudest about?

A: Being alive. Surviving and thriving through some very difficult times. Coming out the other side with dignity and grace. And, now, on most days anyway, a peaceful heart. Knowing that, as His Holiness the Dalai Lama reminds us, just to live is a precious gift. “This one precious life,” is a mantra I often repeat to myself.

And what will I do with that precious life today? What will YOU do?



Monday, May 23, 2011

East Meets West in Hula Mala


Hula-Inspired Mala

Okay, I have the nicest and most interesting customers ever.

A few months ago a customer approached me to make a special mala to honor the hula tradition she's studying. She requested lava stone, sandalwood, and koa wood with a yellow tassel to match the Lehua Mamo blossoms of a Hawaiian tree. The guru bead was to be red aventurine.
The symbolism was rich and very personal for each bead.

We ended up using black obsidian instead of lava and here's the final result.
The customer took this beautiful photo and let me use it, but she wished to be anonymous.

It was a very special custom mala. Combining the traditions of hula and meditation—what could be better?

Monday, May 16, 2011

epis gone wild

Each May I look forward to seeing these cacti bloom. These epiphyllums (yes, I look it up every time I write it!) are stunningly beautiful. Here's a double bloom, two on one stem, with a yellow Kuan Yin statue behind it.

Now if only I could get them to bloom forever! But then they might not be as special.

Impermanence makes everything so precious.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Me and Mom...

Happy Mother's Day to you all! Since you've all, according to Buddhist thought, been my mothers throughout countless lifetimes, I honor and thank each of you.

May you have a joyful day, whatever you do.

Love,
Laura

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Still Here!


Okay, Okay, I know. I never call, I never write.

I've been pretty busy. It's been sort of a (shhh, don't tell) personal retreat time for me. With everything in the news lately I figured it was time to not just do something but sit. So it's been nice. Not much to offer in terms of advice or inspiration, but I remember what my teacher said about a student of his who, when her life seemed to be falling apart, started to put practice (meditation, visualization, study) back in the #1 spot. And her life started to work again. That's pretty much what's happening here. And it's been marvelously restful!

The photo you see is of a strength, courage, creativity mala. There are several different stones in it. If you can guess what they are I'll send you a wrist mala that fits your size wrist. I know no one will guess, so if you even figure out most of them you'll be doing well! (Hint: most of these are stones I use in malas on my Etsy site.)

Lots of love,
Laura

Monday, April 11, 2011

Multi-Colored Semi-Precious Stone Mala

Multi-colored semi-precious stone mala

I've wanted to make one of these for awhile, and a customer special ordered it last week on my Etsy shop. It's a little bit like a patchwork quilt, when different left over pieces of fabric would be sewn together...these are the bits and pieces of different malas that I don't have enough of to make full malas of, or that haven't made it into new malas. But the stones that I have lying around, Oh my gosh, they are so special.

There are rhodonite, citrine, yellow (undyed) jade, genuine rough polished turquoise, rainbow fluorite, rose quartz, clear quartz, lavender jasper, green aventurine, lapis, blue lace agate, and serpentine. If I make it again the mix will be similar but different.

I finished it with a green aventurine guru bead and green cotton tassel.

I love light, happy, playful malas!

What have you created today?
Peace.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Stones Into Schools-Promoting Peace Through Education

As I drove my teenage son home from school and we talked about his day, I felt momentarily sad that kids in the U.S. aren't as excited about learning as the kids Greg Mortensen talks about in Stones Into Schools. For years, Greg and his group CAI have been building schools for kids in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the middle of the war and up against Taliban members and heroin smugglers, they negotiate with community and tribal elders and build sturdy but primitive places to hold classes. To many families in these countries, educating their youth is a high but unattainable priority. The kids are dying for walls, books, safety. Literacy is the highest good. The communities are desperate and eager for these schools.

This book blew me away. By the end of it I was crying to hear how a school was successfully built before winter came in the high Hindu Kush mountains, materials carried by yaks, walls erected by villagers during 14 hour days.

I explained it to my son and he completely understood. It's just not quite as exciting to many American 16-year-olds to study high school subjects like algebra 2 and chemistry.

Wonder how they'd feel if all they'd known was war and poverty and a school was their first and best means of escape and rebuilding what their towns needed.

It's just not the same here.

I highly recommend this book and the one before it, Three Cups of Tea. They show a peaceful way of establishing rapport between cultures.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Spring is Blooming and I got to see Devo Again


Writing is funny. It's a process of recording events as they're lived, taking "mental snapshots" as we go along so that we can share them or put them down for posterity.

How do I translate the vividness of this pot of cymbidium orchids I snapped at Self Realization Fellowship Gardens recently? I saw it as I walked down the shady brick stairs; it sat on the north side of the walkway, a large ceramic pot of spike after spike of pale lavender pink orchids. A joy to see.

My garden is full of blooming nasturtiums, ranunculus, geraniums, freesias, and a mexican rose—all waving to say hello. Pots full of epyphillum cacti form flower buds on my garden table, waiting a couple of months to bloom. (You can't write about plants without talking about how they "want" to do this and that. Flowers easily take on the characteristics of people and animals.)

Another Spring occasion: I got to go see Devo last weekend! Here's a photo my husband took:

They rocked so hard. No matter how middle-aged they get to be physically, they just get better and better. Excellent musicians and show. I got my dancing in—dancing lifts the heart so much! "We're through being cool", "It's a beautiful world we live in"

It's been a good week. Quiet, a bit homey, but very peaceful. Certainly it's been a welcome respite after days of fixating on the turmoil going on in the world lately. I care so much, but I just can't watch CNN much right now. It's just too disturbing.
Instead, I pray and donate what I can to Save the Children. I believe in activism and public service, but right now this is all I can do—nurture what's in my family and my own backyard.

Peace to you!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Countering Stress and Depression | The Office of His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Countering Stress and Depression | The Office of His Holiness The Dalai Lama

This article is so good, about the fundamental way of looking at suffering that Buddhism teaches.
I thought some of you would really like it.

I'm looking forward to His Holiness' public talk in Long Beach on May first. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster, if you want to go.
If anyone embodies sensibility, compassion, and deep humanity, it's Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama. May he live long and teach often in perfect health.

Namaste!
Laura

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pleasant Memories of Trip to Japan

The Daibatsu, Giant Buddha in Kamakura, Japan

Memories of happy days in Japan. In 1989 I was lucky enough to visit Tokyo and Kamakura for a week. It was a work trip for my husband, but since the work was for the skateboard magazine he worked for, it was all casual, youth-oriented, and fun. He's a photographer and I love taking photos. We shot many photos of Buddha statues and shrines in Tokyo. Tokyo was the most different-to-where-I-live place that I'd ever been to. You didn't eat or drink on the street. It really felt completely different culturally than Southern California. I loved it. From a bar at the top of our hotel, we looked out across nighttime Tokyo stretching endlessly all around. It was limitless.

For a side trip, we took the train with our friend Nisi to Kamakura. We visited the giant Buddha statue in the photo above. You entered through a door at the base on the side, walked down a few stairs, and you were inside the giant metal Buddha. I tried to remember while I was inside that we're always inside the Buddha, especially if we practice that idea. If you're not Buddhist, that's not meant to sound preachy, but it's a little bit like the idea of God being everywhere. So since then I've carried the image of myself, small and relatively young, in the interior of a large, enveloping Buddha. It's a reminder of how I want to feel now—protected, loved, able to send that feeling out to others.

On the train, as we passed giant heads of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas built into the Japanese hills, I thought how wonderful it was to create massive religious art. In the U.S. it relates mainly to the giant memorial crosses on hills in this area. I just wish we could have images from all religions erected as reminders of our inner lives.

So right now, I have a vision of prayers going from all those praying throughout the world, radiating like light to all the statues and shrines in Japan, sending them even more power and strength than they already represent. And they in turn, radiate power, love and strength throughout the country. They come alive with rainbow light.

Peace.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

How To Use A Mala—One Meditator's Views

How To Use a Mala—This Meditator’s Views

Many people haven’t heard of malas, and many are just starting to hear the term. A mala is a set of Buddhist or Hindu prayer beads with a set number that’s symbolic in many ways.

A person who practices meditation with a mala will usually use it to count prayers, mantras, or breaths. That’s the traditional use, but of course, in these eclectic days when we’re all inspired by each other and trying new things, many people use them as spiritual jewelry and sometimes combine this with crystal energy work. This is can lead people into a deep spiritual practice.

Prayer and mantra practice brings us face to face with the divine. Just by contemplating Buddhas and other deities, we awaken their energy in ourselves, receiving blessing and overcoming negative karma. Mantras bring their energy deep into our psyches.

Another way I think of malas and mantra recitation is as a way to focus, come back to center, and recharge. I set an intention (that all beings may be happy and free from suffering), and then say the mantra I’m trying to “accumulate” a certain number of. While I repeat the mantra, I hold the prayer beads in my left hand, usually by my heart to bring the energy of the mantra into my heart—but often I hold my hand in my lap, which is fine, too. I try to rest my mind and not get “caught up” in how many mantras I say—the mala will keep track and I can relax fully. At the end, I dedicate my practice to the well being of all sentient beings. All of them, big and little, seen and unseen, easy and not easy to get along with—it doesn’t matter.

Many people visualize a particular holy image as they say the matching mantra.

One of the most loved and well known is Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion embodied in human form by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In Buddhist images, Avalokiteshvara is shown with many hands, sometimes even 1000, which shows that he has many ways to help beings.

While contemplating him, the mantra is Om Mani Padme Hung, pronounced Ohm Mahnee Paymay Hoom.

Other mantras you can search and enjoy are the 100-syllable mantra for purification and healing, the Tara mantras, and the Vajra Guru mantra of Guru Rinpoche. There’s also a mantra of the Medicine Buddha! Many of these mantras are recorded and available on the web, and they’re beautiful! The Vajra Guru mantra is available from ZamAmerica’s bookstore online (http://zamamerica.stores.yahoo.net/) on a beautifully chanted CD.

Prayer and mantra repetition with or without a mala is a great way to relax, come closer to our “true nature”, and feel the presence of benevolent, holy beings. You don’t have to sign up or be an expert, although learning from a teacher or attending a teaching, seminar, or retreat is a really good idea.

Many malas have special beads at certain places like 7, 9, 21, 27, and 56 to let the user know when to stop repeating if they’ve decided to only say that many mantras. A full mala is 108 beads, but many will have 3, 5, or 7 marker beads to make 111 beads total. These numbers differ according to what discipline or tradition you follow. There are also 21-bead wrist malas, 27-bead pocket malas, and half malas with 54 beads. Malas can be used to count the many prostrations which many Tibetan Buddhists practitice.

Wearing a mala isn’t acceptable in some Buddhist traditions, yet in many others it is fine.

It’s more common to wear malas in yoga traditions. The main thing, I think, is to treat it like an object with a sacred use—gently and with respect.

Whether you choose to wear it or not, keeping it close in a mala bag throughout the day is a great way to remember your practice. Padmasambhava, or Guru Rinpoche, the Tibetan “second Buddha”, said to keep it close and warm at all times! Wearing a wrist mala is another way. And finally, tucked away in your pocket, a 27 or 54-bead mala can help you stay calm, peaceful, and positive when things get rough at work or in daily life. Just remember your positive intentions whenever you touch it.

For more information about using a mantra, I recommend The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche. This easy-to-find, wonderful book talks about mantras in the chapter on meditation (chapter 5) and also in the Appendix.

I hope this helps inspire you to use a mala. It is truly a wonderful spiritual tool that becomes a close friend during practice.

Peace!


Friday, February 25, 2011

Meditation = Compassion


Little Buddha in Meditation
Just lately it's been hitting me...the connection between making space during meditation and what compassion really is. I like the word "bodhichitta", which essentially means compassion in Sanskrit. The Buddhists use it to mean something deeper and richer than our English word compassion. You can just dip into the Dalai Lama's books or those of Thich Nhat Hahn and Sogyal Rinpoche to get a taste of what bodhichitta means.

But to me, bodhichitta is an essential part of meditation. You can start by wishing that all beings have happiness and be free from suffering. Then you can sit and do whatever type of meditation you're familiar with. During your meditation at a certain point your thinking mind might get a little tired of running the show and it might relax for a moment. You might experience a spaciousness, or just a little relaxation. It always feels different for me. (Not that the thoughts go away—far from it. They just stop being the main focus.) There's also a feeling of expansion during this letting go. And hand-in-hand with that expansion comes a feeling of love that isn't separate from the relaxing. It's really as if our true nature, beneath the thoughts but not separate from them, is love and compassion!

Compassion isn't the thought "I must be nice, I must be good."
It's also a feeling arising from who we really are—the essence of which is loving.

And when you finish you can wish that the meditation you did benefit others.

And you can remember the spaciousness, little taste of freedom, and love and compassion you felt during your sitting throughout the day. Nothing can take it from you.


Peace,
Laura

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Stimulus for Creativity—Patti Smith's "Just Kids"


Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe

It's so rare that a book like this comes along. Patti Smith takes us back to the late 60s and early 70s, when she was part of that rarified group of hipsters living and creating art and music (punk rock) in New York City, with Robert Mapplethorpe, her devoted boyfriend, always at her side.

What's a book like this got to do with a mala maker? Hmmm...before I was a Dharma student, I, like so many others, was sort of a punk rocker. When I met my bemused teacher in 1985, my dyed blonde hair stuck out because the only shampoo I had was a bar of soap. My torn, hand-altered, safety-pinned t-shirt spelled revolution. I think Rinpoche (my teacher's honorific name) had a field day with me. Slowly, like most twenty year olds, I settled down—Dharma practice guiding me away from experimentation of the external kind and into the wonders of internal exploration. The mind is an incredible place, and with Rinpoche's guidance, I've been able to learn and grow so much. The marriage, mortgage, mini van and then Prius, and two kids followed inevitably. Life now is nothing like it was then!

But reading "Just Kids" brought those days back, days of being twenty-something at the beginning of the 80s, all the richness and craziness included.

What's amazing is Patti's voice. It's no wonder that she won the National Book Award. It's a story of two people supporting and loving each other, never accepting that either would do less than their best artwork and music possible. And that's why almost everyone should read this book. It shows the wide variety of artistic influences that made both Mapplethorpe and Smith great artists, whether you enjoy their subject matters or not. And Mapplethorpe's subject matter was indeed controversial and edgy, to say the least. Smith's gentle story of how she nurtured Mapplethorpe and he cared for her, guides this small book.

It's like that small, quiet voice of creativity that's been voiced over on the Etsy forums this week and in my own mind. People have been discussing 'How do you avoid burnout? How do you create anew? How not to get stuck?"

I put down the book yesterday refreshed. And after having put everything else aside to read it for a few days, I slowly picked up a pile of clearest, crispest quartz crystal beads and began to create malas again. Their real beauty and meaning was clear in my mind and I was reconnected with my purpose in making these lovely strands of prayer beads.

Because after all, to me and many people they aren't just beads, they're not just pretty—they mean something deep and holy.

And that's why I create: to combine beauty with the sacred and to share that.
I love a book that helps remind me of this.

Namaste!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Trip to Tucson Gem Shows

Landscape between Gila Bend and Ajo, Arizona

I just got back from a bead-buying trip/pilgrimage to Tucson, Arizona this weekend. Arizona's one of my favorite places. Talk about big sky! I wasn't sure what I needed, but I couldn't miss one of the largest bead and gem shows (they're all over town for a couple of weeks) in the U.S. Add to that the fact that I wanted to meet up with my good friend Lynn and meet my online Etsy friend Brian of QuietMind and BeadinAroundtheBlock, and I had a lot of good reasons to go.

As we drove the almost 8 hours to Tucson, I thought about how you can get from one whole country in Europe through one or two others in the same amount of time. The U.S. is so vast. On the way back we took the long, scenic drive from Tucson through the old Papago, now Tohono O'odham, reservation and Ajo, an old mining and railroad town that was quite picturesque.

My dad came with me and we stayed with his geologist friend. I got to pick his brain about mining and minerals. Here's a specimen of Garnierite he showed me. It's a nickel-rich mineral related to Serpentine, which I use a lot of in the shop. ** At the gem shows I found rhyolite, garnet, pyrite, lovely carved black onyx, kyanite, and citrine among other things.


One last thought—we fixate on rocks and beads, but looking around at the desert buttes and washes, I realized again that the sculpture of the natural earth is so beautiful. The earth shows off so much in the Southwest. Please visit the four corners region sometime!

Love,
Laura

Thursday, February 3, 2011

JoyousWorld



I found Joyce of JoyousWorld in the Etsy forums and was attracted by the simplicity and beauty of her jewelry designs. And how could a shopkeeper called "compassion" anything stay away from a shop called "joyous"? I’ve gradually collected quite a treasure chest of her earrings and necklaces. She’s made replacements for lost earrings and custom designs for me. I’ve given her work to my sister and friends; I absolutely love it! Read on as she tells about her inspiration.


Q: How long have you been making jewelry? How did you start? What inspires you? What else do you enjoy when you aren't making jewelry?


Joyce: I have been making jewelry off and on for decades... I recently found a

pair of earrings I made when I was about 12 out of some kind of

industrial wire and wooden beads. I've had a lot of creative interests

all my life and I have made things out of necessity and desire. When I

would see something that inspired me .... whether it was clothing , a

craft item or jewelry.... I would attempt to create my own take of the

inspiration, rather than go out and buy it. Sometimes it would be

wonderful and sometimes not . .... but always it came from a pleasant

place within. (hence my joyous world)

My inspiration , most of the time, comes from my love of vintage

items.... Items that have age and beauty also have interesting character

and a history. My emotions are inspirational and are always very close to

the surface, and beautiful things inspire me ... the tangible as well as

the intangible..

In addition to making jewelry .... I also have a long list of things I enjoy doing. Just a few are....

Gardening and the plant world ... It intrigues and interests me almost as much as jewelry. I worked for many years in a green house, and was able

to be very creative working with plants. I love antiquing and spending hours getting lost in interesting places full of items living a long life. I love family time with my hubby of 29 years and my young adult son and daughter, and my extended family and close friends... either all together or individually... it is strengthening for me to spend time with my loved ones.... especially those that love me unconditionally...


Q: Can you say what techniques and materials are your favorites for jewelry making? And a bit about your silver smithing?


Joyce: I have a desire to always be learning and improving so I took up

silversmithing again about a year ago. It is currently my favorite thing to do. . My projects start with an idea, but elements of the design often may change during the process. I like to play it by ear and let the creation evolve .

My material of choice is vintage sterling silver. I scour the antique and thrift stores for old sterling silverware, chains, old jewelry. Anything that catches my eye and sparks ideas for using the parts and pieces in a

new piece of jewelry. Then I set out sawing and cutting things apart and

soldering together.... in a different and new piece.

With the beauty of the antique patterns in the silver and the timeless

quality of the metal , I am happy to create something new with a previous history.


Q: Do you have any words of wisdom that you’d like to share?


Joyce: My words of wisdom... have been said before many times... "stay true to

yourself," and I will add ; when you are true to your self and follow your own dreams and wishes....this is when there is the potential for happiness.


Thank you, Joyce!

And may all of you have a joyous world today.


I'd love to hear your comments about Joyce's work and inspirations.