Mala Shop

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 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.


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.


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!


Thursday, February 3, 2011


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.

Garnet and Amazonite Necklace—I'm Not Quitting My Day Job

Garnet, Amazonite, Silver, Pewter, and Sterling OM Necklace Trio
I recently had a day off with no family around. What to do? The novel was waiting, the garden wanted weeding, I could have exercised or gone to the beach, but a pile of garnets was calling my name.

"Laura, come help us!" the said. So I obeyed.

First let me tell you that making necklaces is hard! Designing them, sticking the things together so that the necklace is nice and tight but supple and won't fall off—all these things are better left to professionals—but I gave it the old college try.

It was fun, challenging, and I do like the colors and materials a lot. There are three separate necklaces. One is a sandalwood mala with garnet and amazonite. I spent all morning and afternoon making these. It must get faster. Somehow people make a living making jewelry, but all I have to say is: if you have a favorite jewelry seller, support them! They deserve every cent you pay them and more. Jewelry-making is QUITE a skill.

Now that I've made these, I feel free to cannibalize them for other projects. I might keep the sandalwood strand.

Tomorrow I'm going to introduce my friend and personal jewelry maker, Joyce of JoyousWorld. Her work is fantabulous and yummy.

Have a lovely day. Please leave a comment. Maybe you've tried making jewelry and would like to share about that. Or maybe you have a genius jewelry maker who you support. I'd love to hear about it.