Make a beautiful prayer bead necklace made from semi-precious stones to wear and meditate with. Set an intention through a guided meditation, and learn how to make your very own mala!
Workshop in Washington D. C.
I was living in DC and teaching weed friendly yoga and painting. I published a workshop for making malas, and waited to see what came out of it. This was to be the first one that I'd taught on my own, and I had doubts about how well I would do. A person named Terry Shine signed up as a participant, and a friend of his contacted me through Facebook and asked my permission to could come take pictures of him during the workshop. I told her I didn't mind, as long as she shared the resulting content with me.
The night of the workshop, after I had led the participants through the meditation that I'd created, we sat around the table and I gave instruction on the process of tying off the prayer beads. After a short learning curve, most of the group set off on making their own. Since it was an intimate sized group, I decided to break the ice and asked each participant what made them sign up for the workshop. There were various answers, and most were there out of curiosity and the opportunity for making their own mala. Terry said he had looked up different activities in the DMV area, and had been attracted to aspect of the activity being weed friendly and yet spiritual. He said he had been to the Brookings Institute the day prior, and that they served a free lunch to the attendees. We joked about going to the various speeches in Washington just to get fed.
Progress on the malas was being made by everyone else, but I noticed that Terry was struggling with his. He asked for my help. "Take the right end, and bring it over the left. Then pull both ends until a knot forms in the middle". He would begin, and then somehow half way through the process, he would lose his grip on one of the ends, and the cord would never make it over and under the opposite side. Every time he tried to tie the knot the whole operation would end up in a disheveled pile in front of him. For a while I tried to use my words to help him. Then I tried having him mirror my actions. "Do it with me, right over left, then grab the ends of the cord...". Somehow he managed to botch it up halfway through each and every time. I was getting frustrated. (If he drops the ends again. I'm going to wring his neck!)
I consider myself a good teacher and I was taking it personally that he wasn't getting it. I observed this in myself and paused. Evidently I wasn't teaching him in a way that he understood, (and knowing myself as a hot headed type that needs to stay on top of her temper) I decided the healthiest call I could make was to stop trying. "You're just going to work with it, and see if you can figure it out on your own " I told him. The blood under the skin in my face was burning. It was time to energetically and physically distance myself so I could regain my composure. I excused myself to change the music in the other room.
Once disengaged and upon returning, I noticed that the atmosphere of the class had shifted. I wanted to brighten it up again, so I went back to our previous conversation. "So Terry, you selected a bunch of activities around the District? That's interesting. What made you decided to do that? What's the purpose?" I asked him.
"Because I write for the Washington Post. I'm doing a piece about the different activities that I've been trying out".
Gulp! Okay.... (and here I was, wanting to strangle you!)
Now it all made sense. The "friend" that wanted to take pictures. The feigned incompetence. (Or was it genuine? Terrance seemed like a very good-hearted fellow. It was clear that he was intelligent, but the man couldn't tie a simple knot to save his life. I'll never be sure what was actually taking place there). His friend Kate showed up and took lots of pictures, and Terry eventually got going with his mala. The class ended on a positive note, and at the end of class my sister from Cincinnati arrived with my pug.
My First Mala
My first time making my own mala was significant. When I saw the invitation, it struck a chord. I was drowning in my personal life and I needed something to help claw my way back to the surface for air. Even though I felt stuck, and helplessly addicted to the relentless cycles of trauma and drama disguised as "love", deep down I knew that I needed help. I had to find the strength to get myself out of there.
After I signed up and received the catalog from which to select my stones, I spent several days trying to decide which would be best for me. I couldn't really settle on any, and kept changing my mind.
Then I had a dream where I was wearing a mala. It was made from matte stones that were a light gold color, with a teal cord and tassle. Neither of those had been even remotely close to the real-life list I had been making. I figured that a mala that showed up in my dreams was as good as, or probably better than anything else, so I went through the catalog and found what most closely resembled the mala in my dream.
His car screeched out of the driveway. Revving his car engine while literally giving me the finger, he peeled away. Feeling every inch the pile of garbage that his actions and cutting words to me implied, I went back into the house and gathered my things. It was time to go to the mala workshop.
I arrived at the venue, and did my best to swallow the shredded layers down as far as I could and "show up" for the class. Luckily, no one seemed to notice my ragged edges. (Either that, or they were too polite to comment on it). At any rate, I was happy and relieved to leave the my drama outside, even for only a short time. We mingled downstairs in the drawing room, and then the entire group was invited upstairs to the ballroom were we received our stones and were prepared for the meditation.
Ky, our beautiful instructor for the workshop, guided us through an inspired and for me personally, a transformative mediation, the repercussions of which are still reaching down to me as I write this.
With her guidance and inspired imagery, we made our way to a safe space where we could visualize letting go of what no longer served us in our lives. Quite unbidden, I saw my attachment and love for him rising to the surface and evaporating into the atmosphere. I saw the drama, the pain, and the ceaseless emotional violence disperse into clouds.
Then, Ky guided us through visualizing bringing in what we desired. She said for us to see ourselves manifesting our intention. In the prep materials she had sent prior to the workshop, she had mentioned to start putting thought towards what our intention might be, but until that moment I hadn't really known what mine would be.
In the meditation I saw Marijuasana. The vision for my company. I saw my classes, my website, and the fulfillment of what I had wanted to do for several years but had never dared to put into words or actions. I saw it, and it was real. With all my heart I knew I wanted it to bring it into the world. So I put that intention into the stones I was holding in my hands at that moment and breathed.
After a demonstration, we sat around the table and began to construct our malas. At my table were seated 4 women. A mother and her teenage daughter, and 2 women that were obviously friends. We settled into our respective tasks, sometimes chatting, and always busy with our work. I felt safety and acceptance even though I did not know any of them prior to this evening. The beauty in that feeling was intoxicating. I felt compelled to finish my entire mala within the given time frame in order to capture the some tone in that environment into the necklace. Intuitively, I didn't want it to be degraded by the toxicity that I was heading home to after the workshop.
I wore my mala out and the event host Elaine, stopped me on my way out to say goodbye. "How brave that you came here by yourself!" she said. It struck me that thought that. Being there didn't feel like courage.
Attending the workshop had gotten me locked out of the house. My calls/pleas and knocks on the door to gain admission were being ignored. After several futile minutes of attempting, I slumped down and wept. My thoughts were going down the well worn path of how I should be sorry for going out instead of being home when he arrived, and admonishing myself for failing to obtain his approval. I should have known that I was in the wrong.
Sitting there, I noticed a package addressed to me from my mother that had been delivered. I opened it, and inside was my grandpa's old paisley patterned satin robe. When he wore it we would tease him saying that he was trying to look like Hugh Hefner. He would smile and laugh. My mom had sent it to me with a note saying that he would have wanted me to have it. I wrapped the old robe around me and tried to feel his presence. I longed for the time when I was still lovable.
With Papa's robe wrapped around me, my new mala had found it's way into my hands. The process of making my mala, being in community with those other women, and seeing what I truly desired in meditation, had stirred something.
You are not unlovable Stacey. You are worthy of acknowledgement. Of kindness. In fact, you are worthy of love. Unqualified love. No matter the circumstance, or whether it is recognized by the company you are keeping. Whether or not you believe that you deserve it. Your value has not changed. You are worthy of love.
A sort of calm came over me. Yes, I breathed. I held my mala and affirmed again, I am worthy of love. This was my new mantra. Not fancy Sanskrit, not complicated. Simple. Bare bones. Meaningful.
I am worthy of love.
It was the beginning of a process that would end up taking several months.
Japa is the practice of repeating a mantra and using your mala to count repetitions. To meditate with your mala: you grasp a bead between your finger and thumb, say you affirmation or mantra, and then use your thumb to pull another bead into place. This is done until you get all the way around your mala until you get to the guru bead and turn around.
I had been practicing japa and inspired to keep making more malas. I had ordered more kits from Ky, to make for Christmas gifts my sisters and mother. Making them gave me a reason to separate myself from my domestic situation and partake in a non-threatening activity. It brought me joy and happiness to put my love for my family into an object they might wear. The idea was that we would all be connected through our malas, even though we lived far apart. After a while I had made several malas. A few more for myself, and had given the others away as gifts. I started wanting to teach others how to do the same.
By then my life had changed to being virtually unrecognizable from the way it was when I made my mala. It had taken several months, but my affirmations were penetrating deep enough into my subconscious that after an especially vicious discarding from him, I had finally had enough. I could manage resisting the thought that I was in the wrong for not showing more forgiveness and understanding. When an opportunity came that allowed for me to put entire continent of between myself and him, I seized it.
I approached Ky to ask if she would teach me to teach others. She interviewed me to find out why I wanted to teach. I shared with her about how my mala had changed the landscape of my internal and external life, more than I'd ever thought possible. I told her I wanted to show other people how to do this for themselves. She agreed to teach me.
We worked it out so I could apprentice with her to learn how to teach mala-making. I was fortunate to complete my training with her right before I moved.
Tying it together
Identifying an intention, imbuing stones with it, and then using the stones to create a physical object that I then wore and meditated with created meaning and significance for my consciousness. It gave me a kinesthetic connection to a higher belief every time I felt the weight of the stones in my hand or even noticed their color.
My mala helps me stay on track during the times when my brain and my mala are at odds with each other. When I lapse back into the thought pattern that I’m not worthy, and that I should just give up. It serves as gentle contradiction the opinions of those that don't love me. The fact that it exists, shows me that there is hope.
It is a beautiful practice that I am still sorting out my first experience with. Since my first mala, I have made several. While the initial idea was to sell them as a source of revenue, nearly all have been given away as gifts to friends who I felt should have them.
When I held my first workshop, I was still extricating myself from a situation that wasn't in my highest good. I put myself out there, and did my best with what I was working with at the time.
It's a little cringe-inducing for me, because I see how much I've changed and grown since that time. I'm grateful that I'm finally in a safe emotional space where I can express myself authentically, and offer love to all the former versions of myself. Not only do I recognize that I was, and still remain worthy of love, I see that I need to be able to continuously and consciously extend it to myself. If I'm in a situation where that isn't feeling possible, then I need to remove myself from those circumstances and move on until I find something that aligns with my affirmation. (Tough and as heart breaking as it may feel at the time).
I continue to offer workshops, and will make malas for as long as I can.