Mala Shop

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Still Dreaming of Fruitcake...

Still dreaming of fruitcake!
My original post  is here.

I have the candied fruit in the cupboard. It's dying to come out and be baked! Since I don't plan to add any liquor to it, it should be alright to bake this close to Christmas.

I will even include the citron, because that's just the right thing to do.


(I was reminded of this old post by a commenter who recommended BB Goddards Fruitcake. It does look wonderful. Thank you.)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Apologies for the Delay

Sunflower & Seaweed - Cardiff Beach October 2012
Poor forgotten little blog

I do love you.
Just because I don’t visit often doesn’t mean I don’t.

It’s just that I’ve found less time to write, as Compassion Malas became more of a job.
Add in the metalworking class (Oh, such fun to cut, solder, and join), the family, and my spiritual practice, and there isn’t much time left for you, my poor little stepchild. I can barely make it to Pilates three times a week!

Yet you started as the star in my eyes! All my poetic thoughts about mala-stringing were to go into you! My photos; my perusings.  It went stunningly well for a while. (See Tumblr blog for the really inspired postings.)

Then, yes, I began to notice that I’d never have 100 readers. (More like 10-15. Not that quantity matters! Because these are quality folks!)  Not unless I wanted to write what people wanted to read. I’ll never be able to figure that one out.  I think people want to read about Apple vs. Microsoft, Romney vs. Obama, China vs. anything…and I don’t write us vs. them stuff.

All I care about is unity, beauty, and goodwill. Living with the golden rule in mind: to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you", and to throw in a photo of a sunset or a snappy phrase now and then.  None of which makes for very pertinent reading, unless you have time to relax and take in someone else’s viewpoint.

None-the-less, I do love you, little blogspot blog.  Not as a place for promo or social networking, more as a collection of bits and bytes, inconvenienced electrons as someone put it, which shows my random thoughts—search-engineable to all on the world wide web.

(Sometimes it is really funny to google myself and see the odd thoughts I’ve thrown up here. Very incongruous when viewed against “real news” and professional writing.)

Peace to you all who visit! And carry on, little blog.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The End of Summer Reading Review

The end of summer

Or at least officially, since it’s defined as June, July, and August in the Northern Hemisphere. But here in San Diego, we still get a couple of warm months. Some of our hottest weather is often in September and October.  The good news is that the tourists head home after Labor Day and the beaches and campgrounds are ours again! (Not that we mind sharing, it’s just a lot harder to park.)

During these extra days of summer, I suggest heading to your favorite, beautiful spot with a book.  Preferably a nice, big, juicy book.  How about a saga?

I recently enjoyed reading Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.  Truly a multi-generational saga with a genetic twist.  The hero/heroine is born a female and becomes both a man and a woman physically during puberty, needing to learn how to identify him/herself and what kind of life to live.  It’s fascinating culturally and emotionally. Not only is it thought provoking, but also the history of Greece in the beginning of the book is fascinating, watching his unlikely grandparents escape the Greco-Turkish war.

One message of the book is simple, though the plot is complex: keep your heart open; you can never know from the outside what someone is going through.

It was a very entertaining read about a serious subject.

I also enjoyed the first book of the Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart: The Crystal Cave.
All about magic (described as mainly observation mixed with Merlin’s knowledge of math and science) and a made-up-for-the-book history of Merlin finding his father as a preteen, it had all the mist, horses hooves through the forest, Druid rites on secret islands, and standing stones you could want in a book.  It managed to skip the very metaphysical, romantic descriptions that books about magicians, kings, and queens usually have. It was also not a very violent or graphic book, so might be good for those with weak stomachs or for preteens and teens.
It was a beautiful, engrossing read and I’m looking forward to loosing myself in book two, The Hollow Hills, about King Arthur.

Finally, I’ll tell you about a book that’s worth looking at, though it doesn’t qualify as a saga. Breakfast with Buddha is a novel about a middle-aged man who works in publishing who gets conned (by his past-life-reading sister) into driving a Tibetan Buddhist Rinpoche (a title for a teacher) across the Midwest.  Except he wasn’t really Tibetan, but from another, less well-known Himalayan region. It started strong, but reading every single thought in the very intellectual main character’s head got tedious after awhile.  Less talk, more action please!

The main character’s description of learning meditation and trying yoga, what they do and how they works, the message about looking for more than just a good life, these were worth reading. I recommend it just for that. It really was thought-provoking.

So I guess I like books with magic, but not too much magic, about thought and spirituality, but not too much thinking, and about cultural change and character drama!

How about you? Do you have any book recommendations for me or to share with others? Leave a comment.  A book is a fast, cheap, and exciting way to change your mind and “escape reality”. And being addicted to reading never hurt anyone.  So enjoy your late summer reads!


Friday, August 10, 2012

Staycation - San Diego

The Arboretum at Balboa Park

Koi fish

Water Lilies
How I spent my summer vacation...

This year we stay-cationed, spending time in spots that tourists flock to in San Diego.  Balboa Park was one of them. It was great because we made a schedule and actually stuck loosely to it.

Balboa Park, especially the gardens and botanical building shown here (the Arboretum) is one of the most relaxing places to stroll through in the world.  The reflecting pond, with its turtles, water lilies, and koi fish, is so beautiful. I never tire of photographing it and seeing the ferns, orchids, and begonias inside the shady building.

I hope you're staying cool!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Traveler's Parable - A Hike In San Clemente Canyon, San Diego

While walking through the wilderness, the smart traveler does well to stick to the center of the path, avoiding plants that encroach upon it.  Like this poison oak:
The wary traveler also does her best to stay out of small but attractive patches of grass, where ticks may lie in wait for the chance to crawl up a pant leg and attach themselves to skin.
(No picture to show, but it did happen.)

Sometimes a traveler may get weary.  A shady glen offers a well-built seat, but sit in it at your own risk, for it is surrounded by poison oak!
Finally, it helps to have a wise and knowledgeable guide...
(Paul from the San Diego Native Plants Society.)
. help unlock the treasures of the wild.
(A thistle.)
Namaste! Wear long pants when you hike!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Soundtrack For a Revolution

Aren't we all experiencing a revolution these days?  Everyday when we awaken, we have the choice of how to behave and react—how best to use our good hearts.

I'm watching and listening to "Soundtrack For a Revolution", a 2009 movie about the civil rights movement and the glorious music that fueled its energy.

"We Shall Overcome", "We Shall Not Be Moved", "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around". Songs like these were sung by protesters even in prison.  No one could make them stop singing. The songs kept fears at bay.

Unbelievable that at one point in our recent history, racism was systematically accepted and cultivated.

What segregation still exists?

What are we each willing to stand up against?

How do we practice non-violent means of changing things? What is effective?

Basic, highly personal questions.

I'm finishing some malas tonight and shipping them tomorrow, so glad to live in a society with as much freedom as we have. I'm looking forward to more freedoms in the future. Perhaps soon my gay friends can marry legally.

I'm all about people accepting each other, looking past differences, and seeing the equanimity of all beings. It might seem a jump from gay rights to say that, but in Buddhism, all lives are considered equally precious, even animal lives.

Watch the video.  It will lift your heart and remind you, as it does me, of what's possible.  Change does happen.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Lot of Dharma Bloomin' in San Diego!

It's been the most incredible few weeks here in San Diego. There's been a lot of Dharma bloomin'!

I may have told you that I got to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama speak at the University of San Diego recently, always a huge pleasure.  He just fills the heart.

My bookclub just finished reading his newest book, "Beyond Religion".  It was very good, very healing, and had lots of guidance about how to learn to catch negative emotions as they arise before they do any harm to ourselves or others.  His main focus now seems to be education; if we can pass on real, humane values to our children, then the world has a chance.  He is very optimistic.

He seems so relaxed and happy.  As an elder, he seems to be relaxing in his true nature, aware of all the problems in the world, but able to rest now.  I can't help but think that letting go of his governmental responsibilities was a good move for him, not that I can judge.  But he deserves to rest and now he can continue to inspire us.

Here's a link to "Beyond Religion".

And this week my Dharma group got to host a lecture and book signing by Tsoknyi Rinpoche.  I'd heard about him and know people who had heard him teach, but I'd never seen him live.  He is so young (yet old enough to have a twenty-year-old daughter) but sooooo wise.  And he has the cleverest, silliest, wackiest joke style of any lama I've seen.  They all have a good sense of humor, but his is downright off-beat.  He even said it was "edgy".  He had the audience laughing from their bellies.  Guffawing.  I was slapping my seat mate and crying.  That's how funny he was.

But at the same time, if you looked closely at this short, slightly rounded lama, you could see the lineage of his masters sitting with him — in him.  Such a wise, deep, and loving presence.  I really found it to be healing.  Lots of stress and patterns can be let go of when sitting with these accomplished meditators, as their light spreads into the hearts of those who listen.

His new book, "Open Heart, Open Mind", is proving to be very immediate, very personal, and full of the energy of his public talk.  He speaks about unknotting the parts of us that are stuck in negative patterns, like fear.  His example of his own battle with fear of heights and his compassionate conquering of it was very inspiring. I highly recommend the book.

I'm not a big Dharma book reader.  In my spare time I read lighter, more entertaining books.  But these two books are both backed by study and practice, yet light.  There is no feeling of intellectual Buddhism in them. For this reason, they work well for people like me who feel very busy and like to relax when they read.

What has come to me after seeing these two masters and reading their books this month, is an awareness of how stressed out we tend to become in this culture.  And it limits how good we can feel and blocks us from feeling good with and towards others.  Part of this has always been built into our lives, perhaps from the beginning of time, but part of it is, I think, resulting from the economic and political-cultural stresses of the past decade.  Since 9/11 we have felt under siege and unsafe.  And in 2008 we lost another kind of feeling of security; economic.  We've all dealt as well as we could with this— many of us have lost our homes, jobs, and belongings.  But all of us, collectively, have been scarred.

Following the advice of these great teachers can really help us, and help me, bounce back into our natural good humor and health.

That was a lot to say in one blog entry! I guess I'm saving up all my thoughts and doing twice a month blog-drops.  I hope you understand and enjoy some little bit of what I'm writing.

Namaste, may you be well!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Morning Note From Norway

Little Red Coral Mala on Norwegian Buddha

This morning I awoke at my usual California time, hours after most of the world has been awake.  There was an email from a customer in Norway saying that her malas had arrived and that she loved them.

She ordered two of the more unique malas in the shop: the bamboo coral with cinnabar guru bead mala and a rosewood mala that uses carved carnelian, red jasper, horn, brass, and even acrylic beads in an homage to joy and lightness.

This one:

My Norwegian customer said that she had loaned her coral mala to a Buddha to take the picture at the top, and he returned it to her.

I love the photo because it has a simple grace.

And that's what I wish for you, tonight and always: Simple Grace.

May your days be auspicious, may your nights be auspicious, may you be happy and well.

Thank you again for your patronage of Heart of Compassion Malas -  Compassionmalas on Etsy.
It means so much.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The blog post that got away AND World Book Night 2012

Last week I wrote a lovely (to me), heartfelt post after I saw His Holiness the Dalai Lama at USD in San Diego.  I quoted him from my notes talking about compassion, patience, and above all optimism.

Today, all things being impermanent, I accidentally hit delete on that post.  It's gone for-ever.
Say that like a Real Housewife from New Jersey: "For - Evah!"

So trust me, it was a lovely and heartfelt post about a life-changing event.  I can only say, he's coming to a town near you this spring, and please don't miss him! I'm reading his newest book "Beyond Religion" right now and it's right on.  Spot on.

Today at the coffee shop (Pannikin, Leucadia shout out goes here) I saw a paperback book in the free newspapers and magazines pile.  Three copies of "The Absolutely True Story of a Part-time Indian" by Sherman Alexie, actually. Well printed.  I picked one up and saw the National Book Award emblem on the cover.  Hmmm...these weren't just author-printed freebies, which are great enough.  These were part of the "WorldBook Night".

A little research over coffee came up with the info that volunteers are TODAY giving out copies of about 15 books, which the authors agreed not to be paid royalties for and the publishers created low-cost editions of.

I know, never end a sentence with a preposition.  Sorry.

These copies will be given out at hospitals, homeless shelters, bus stops, juvenile detention centers, even coffee shops today, April 23, 2012.

Is this not a joyous event?  A wonderful day?  Yes, it is.

Enjoy it.  Read a book.  Start two and read them both slowly.  Read a really good one fast.  Next to meditation, I think there's no better way to make thoughts disappear and seem smaller and farther away.

Viva le book!  (Someone can translate that into French for me - I have to go make malas.)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Bloodstone and Garnet Mala Finds Nice Home

Bloodstone and Garnet Mala
Have I mentioned already about a thousand times that I have the nicest customers in the world?
Well, it's true.  And now you've heard it again.

I love the internet, as a way to encounter people who share similar interests and as a medium for creativity - writing, photography, and more.

A customer who is also a blogwriter recently wrote in about a mala I made for him, and I really enjoy reading his posts.  He's writing from the inside out about what it feels like to try to allow change in thought and being to develop.  It's very personal, enthusiastic, and well, I just love it. I think you might too. It's the kind of writing that inspires me.

Honestly, it's people like this that just make my day.

Take care, now!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A New Website About Malas & Prayer Beads -

Photo from

Recently I was alerted to a new website about malas and other types of prayer beads,
I'm really excited about it!  Prayer beads from many faiths are included, with lots of well-written and insightful background material about each.  The writer explains the difference between some types of malas, and she was lovely enough to include this picture jasper mala in the section on Hindu/Buddhist malas.

I feel greatly honored to have my work included in this blog.  There is a list of stones for different symbolic uses, information about prayers and mantras, and a bibliography of great books with which to follow further into the subject of malas, rosaries, and subhas.  I was intrigued to find the section on what kind of stones to use in malas for work with certain chakras, because I know a lot of people really want that information.
 When you have a moment and can read for awhile on it, please check it out.  It was created as a labor of love, obviously!  And I really enjoy the respect of different faiths and enjoyment of all things prayer bead included on it.

I think you'll love

Picture Jasper Mala with Bamboo Coral, Turquoise-colored Howlite, and Poppy Jasper

Monday, February 13, 2012

Farewell to a precious being

Gidget - 17 years old - Rest in Peace

There is no such thing as a being who isn't precious.  Not in the ideas of the Buddha, who taught that the lives of beings are all considered sacred.
But we all have favorites. One of my most special friends through the years has been this cat, a calico cat names Gidget.  To say she was strong and feisty is an understatement.  She outlived all other pets for 16 years.  One day I came home and she had a young cat cornered in a bookshelf, where he had been for hours, judging by certain signs. When we chose her from the shelter, she was an adorable young cat taking little nips at her brother in the cage.  They weren't playful nips, they were her fierce way of keeping things in balance.

After we got the labrador last year (Stella's hiding in the shadow in the top photo) the two animals gradually reached detente, but Gidget was the dominant one.  She ruled the roost. Over the months the two became close, finally sleeping together on the dog's bed.

One day Stella the lab came to me and cried quietly.  She's not a cryer.  If it's not mealtime or time to let her out or walk her, I never hear her cry. I went over to the cat, finding her groggy and subdued on the dog bed. Later the vet diagnosed serious kidney infection, probably with other medical problems.  We treated the infection, but she just got worse and worse. She had a nice week when she was well enough to go out and lie in the garden, but then she dwindled. 

In the final week, Stella the lab gave her bed entirely to Gidget, watching her constantly.  

We had to euthanize her last week, which was a very difficult decision.  I wanted her to pass at home, but she was in too much suffering.  So the kind vet helped her out with us nearby. Vets have the hardest jobs in the world, I think. What compassion.

Now it's very quiet in the house.  Stella sleeps a lot.  Her little buddy isn't here to hiss at her and tell her to back off, and there's no one to sleep with.  It felt amazingly sad, but she was an older cat whose time had come.

Not sure what else to say.  My prayers and best wishes go out to you if you've lost a beloved pet.  Time will heal and the memories will remain. 

Please, take as any photos as possible of your pets, so you'll have visual memories of their beauty.
May all beings enjoy happiness, be free of suffering, and discover their true natures.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What it Takes...the Agony & the Ecstasy of Mala-Making

Bodhiseed Mala with Different Possible Focal and Marking Beads
(a quick photo of choices for a customer)

It seems that it would be easy and maybe take 20 minutes tops to string 108 beads on a strand of cord or bit of wire.
It's not.  It takes hours sometimes!  

Here's why. (And if you make malas or any kind of prayer beads, you'll understand.)

Things have to feel right. I have to be able to sit and focus for awhile without fidgeting, without becoming too distracted.  That's harder than it sounds, as I am a world-class fidgeter. 
More than that, I try to have a gentle feeling about the beads and the customer receiving the beads.  Starting with a compassionate intention and joining it with artistic standards, one ends up doing painstaking work.

Each bead needs to be right.  No cracks, few irregularities (and only if the rest of the bead has an ultra-interesting pattern), and it has to be the same size as the other beads. I have a digital caliper next to me and measure a bead that looks a bit small or large.  I'm not aiming for absolute perfection; that's not possible.  But I'm aiming for creating something beautiful that will be a lovely tool.  Each bead needs to be a worthy part of a whole.

When creating a new design, I use the same ideas I would use designing anything: do the textures of the main beads, marker beads, and guru bead look and feel good together?  Do the minerals seem to complement each other?  For instance, it's very hard to pair semi-precious stones with woods.  Some minerals seem that they'd be perfect, but when I try them it just doesn't look right. So I use a lot of carnelian, turquoise, quartz, moss agate, and turquoise-colored howlite for markers in wood malas.  Surprisingly, Czech glass goes really well in wood malas, so that gets used a lot.

Once the beads are out on the table, and all the tools are spread out, and things "feel" right in all of the above ways, I can start to string.

Here's where it can get tricky.  If what's going on around me is too distracting or interesting, I end up putting an extra bead here and leaving one out there.  Restringing because the number is off gets old fast. So I generally answer any questions from family (when they're around) with something like "twenty-nine, thirty, thirty-one..." just to let them know I'm counting. It's kind of odd, but they get the message.  I can talk to them when I get to 108 or 111.
I'm always counting.  I'm always praying.  I'm always trying to get them right and make them better.

I guess that's what keeps me challenged. This is simple work, but each choice brings in a new color, texture, or feel.  It is endlessly interesting to make malas.

Yes, you'd think it would take half an hour to forty five minutes to string a mala.  But it takes so much more than that.  

The same thing goes with communicating with customers, writing letters about malas and the materials in each one, and packing the malas for shipping. There are also the hours behind the scenes looking for the best materials for the best prices.
Each task gives me another chance to be mindful.  That alone, is reason enough to love this work.

Thank you for your support of Compassion Malas! It's been a wonderful, interesting, and surprising four years since it began.
Peace and Love,