Mala Shop

Sunday, August 4, 2013

About Favorite Malas

My Favorite Mala - Amethyst, Rhodonite, and Rose Quartz

I've restrung my main mala over and over again.  It started out over ten years ago as 108 hand-carved, slightly irregular 7mm amethyst beads. I bought them individually at the local bead shop -beautiful beads but overpriced. The shop had to pay the rent, after all.

It was made following a dream I had of an amethyst mala with citrine and fluorite markers. The marker beads I bought were very odd shapes - rectangular boxes, ovals, and flowers.  

It worked very well for me. During one Bodhichitta retreat (focusing on practices of compassion), the wire finally began to fray.  Time for a restring.

I waited awhile. Months. The next incarnation of my mala was with clear quartz crystal and dark amethyst 10 mm rounds.
It just never felt right.
I couldn't get into using it.
It looked right, it was simple and elegant, clean even - in total keeping with the idea of unadorned malas used in traditional practice.
But it felt cold and detached.
I think I was trying to hard to be traditional.

I know somebody out there is wondering what this "feeling" of stones means.  To find out for yourself, go out to a natural place and pick up rocks.  Some will attract you, both because of their shape and the look of them (their mineral compositions and formations), and some you may pick up and later discard. Some feel nice and some don't. Many rocks are friendly. Those, you keep.

Stones do have a great deal of energy, all on their own. It's something you have to play with and not force. And I don't think books are the best place to learn about this. Just be a kid and pick up rocks some sunny day with no goal in mind.

Over the years I've strung a ton of malas with rhodonite and rose quartz in them. To me, and according to many stone books, they symbolize love and compassion. Rose quartz is more embodying the feeling of love, and rhodonite is associated (funny word, right?) with altruism and love going outwards.

I simplify the idea and combine them in malas that evoke love and compassion - two of the four immeasurables.

So I went out on a limb and combined them with my amethyst beads, making the mala you see above.
Guess what? It works.

It works wonderfully.
It feels soothing and loving and clearing, all at the same time.
I don't have to think about it, it just sits in my hand counting mantras.
It's a very grounding practice.

So I thought I'd share it.
I know that favorites is something we all play.

So now to you, what's your favorite mala? And why?
(If you'd rather leave your comment anonymously, that's certainly alright.)

Big smiles to you.  Be well!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Thoughts on Malas - Have They Become Too Much of a Fad?

Mala Style? Bodhiseed and African Trade Beads 

Are Malas Too Much of a Fad? (And What Malas Can Really Do - at the end)

This question has been running around in my mind a bit for quite a while.
It’s wonderful to find that so many people now resonate with the ideas of mindfulness, compassion, and meditation, and that wearing or using malas (Buddhist and Hindu prayer beads) helps.

Surprisingly, this "fad" has proven to be durable. Meeting mala-lovers worldwide in my mala shop has given me great hope for humanity, which seems to be going through a painful adolescence and needs all the help it can get.

This genuine spirit of change, hope, longing, and renewal seems to be growing.

Malas in Hollywood
It was with amusement that I again watched Julia Roberts' rudraksha mala beads swinging in Eat, Pray, Love, which was a superb book and a pretty good movie.

And a while ago, in a fit of having to get away from work, I went alone in the afternoon to see Wanderlust, the movie with Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd. They were a couple leaving their big city life and moving, abruptly and hilariously, to a utopian commune in southern Georgia.

I did laugh a lot, but several annoying things kept dangling in front of me.  The yoga guru-cad character adorned himself with several malas around the neck and many on his arm. I thought, how funny, how beautiful they are, but...
How strange.

Here this movie was, showing me that Hollywood's idea of a stereotypical yogi-hippy dude must wear some malas with bedraggled tassels to make him appear both trendy and laughable. Jennifer Aniston's wrist malas were bunched in groups of three and four on her arms. I love the look, I love the feel, but the fact that this was a satire made me uncomfortable about how malas were used.

The Beginning of the End?

I hoped that this didn't mean the beginning of the end; that people would continue to believe in their malas, these small bits of stone and cord that symbolize our best selves calling to us, representing connection with the divine.  I hoped that as a culture we could move beyond simply believing animistically that rocks bring us power, or that seeds hold blessing simply by existing. Do we really think that a necklace will make us both cool and immortal? Yes, many people do. But there’s more to a mala than the power of its “ingredients”!

I hope we survive this cultural movement, that people move beyond the trendy and deepen their yoga and spiritual practices. Because we need beliefs and practices that can sustain us through change and even turbulence.

What Can a Mala Really Do?

Malas can help focus and guide us back to our true selves, to our centers, and to union with the divine in whatever positive form that takes for us.
Let the beads be free–free of cliché and free of superstitious expectation. Let them be our companions and remind us of our true selves. May all being be happy and free of suffering.

(First published in Meditate Like A Girl)

Friday, May 10, 2013

Three Little Bunnies and Mother Earth

Earlier this month, on a beautiful sunny day with flowers bursting open in trees, two woman friends and I walked through Balboa Park in San Diego. Our goal was to share exercise and communion with each other. We walked quickly for about an hour, talking the whole way. Finally we reached a grassy hillside with old crooked trees and I asked them if they'd like to sit and meditate a little. They happily said yes.
We sat quietly. Listening to the rushing river sound of the freeway below.
Birds flew above in the blue sky and eucalyptus trees. There was a feeling of being completely united with each other and with the world around us.

As spring opens the flowers and sends new shoots from the stocks of plants, it's easy to remember that the earth is our mother.  We rest gently on her surface and feel nurtured and protected whenever we're near trees, mountains, or the vast view of the ocean.
 She doesn't ask for much, although sometimes I think she cries. It's hard to feel the wars on her surface. She hurts when people suffer. She gives and gives; the minerals beneath her skin harvested; the waters from her body harnessed, channeled, and polluted. Yet she holds us like any good mother, unconditionally loving.

My first memories are of walking through plants that towered over my head. Even before I could speak much I had the feeling of being happy in nature. My mother was a master gardener and taught landscaping for years. Her excitement was contagious. My father and she loved to drive through the southwest. We visited Native American Indian ruins and the Grand Canyon.

My mother has been gone for three years and my father is recovering from heart surgery. But even in stressful times, when I'm near the quickening of plants I feel tranquil. I experience the sense of belonging to the earth; of being part of it. And I feel that we are loved.

What can we give back? Protection? Mindful stewardship of resources?
Even offering cornmeal or tobacco to the earth, as the Native Americans did, is an offering. Anything offered with love is a meaningful and effective offering, and I'm sure it helps heal Mother Earth.

As my friends and I meditated this month on the hillside above the freeway, three small bunnies hopped in front of us. Joyfully reflecting ourselves back to us, they bounced high into the air in sheer play.

Mother Earth loves us with such bountiful and infectious love, it's hard to imagine!

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Long Drive Home

"We're All Buddhas" J. Grant Brittain

Today I get to drive down through the great Central Valley of California from San Francisco to San Diego.  I've taken almost a week to attend meditation classes and see friends in the city.  It's been a wonderful time, full of slightly acidic hipster coffee and gigantic views of the city.

It's so beautiful here.

Driving home will be a great time to relax and talk about whatever comes to mind with my dear husband.

He took this photo of me years ago.  His photography shop is JGrantBrittainPhotos. Even though he's an experienced professional, he didn't manage to focus the camera quite right in this shot.  LOL.  Kidding.

It's a beautiful, sunny day in California.  I hope you enjoy your day, wherever you are!
Bless you.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What's in a Mala?

For over twenty years I've had the time to paint, carve, sew, photograph, or create whatever I dreamed of.  It just never happened.
Unless I was in a class, working with other people, part of that exciting sharing environment, I didn't create much at home. A painting now and then, a collage, projects here and there. But even though I've had the time and space, studied art in college, and have a complete mental backload of creative projects that really mean a lot when I look at them, I've realized through this mala-making job that I am not motivated to create simply for visual or conceptual reasons..  

This came to mind as I strung a mala, thinking about the simple fulfillment of connecting with a customer who wants one, about the constant flow of malas going out of my hands and into the world. (Sure, this is hyperbole, but since it's a philosophical post, it fits.)

The Shakers had it right about creativity: "making something well is in itself, 'an act of prayer.'"
Form follows function. A beautiful, simply made chair has it's own elegance and sacred nature.

In my own esthetic I am totally devoted to making beautiful, useful items. The malas have few adornments, since that is the Tibetan ideal in prayer beads. Other things I create are more decorative, but the malas are simple.

I am motivated to brighten up those little spots of life that might need the colors of a rainbow of stones, the cohesiveness of the curve of a mala, the stability of stone and wood. 
Stones, shells, and wood remind us in a deep way of nature. Nature reminds us, of course, of our true nature.

It's all about coming home.

Be well.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Lepidolite, Moss Agate, and Kyanite Custom Mala

Custom Lepidolite Mala Being Created (Tassel Choices!)
I really enjoy making custom malas. It's so interesting to hear what stones and combinations people have in their "dream" malas. As a long-time mala user, I know how personal a mala can be and I appreciate the endless variety that customers design.

Here are two photos of a recent custom mala.  The stones were very hard to find in the right colors. She wanted lilac and pink lepidolite.  I was able to find both on Etsy.

We spent a lot of time dialoguing about the design.  She came up with this unique pattern, which has never been made before and I'm sure never will be again.

She's happy, and I am too.

So if you have a special mala in mind, let me know. I'd love to work on it with you. My shop is "Compassionmalas" on Etsy.
Oh yes, and Happy New Year!

Finished Lepidolite, Moss Agate, and Kyanite Mala