Breaking Mala

merry mala 013

Last year I went to Durga Puja, an annual celebration in honor of the Divine Mother, which is celebrated around the world. I was in Kashi Florida with my Swami and friends and we danced around the Ganga with torches, ate marvelous food and generally had a most excellent time.

The previous February I’d made a mala of ebony and skulls. This is when I learned how to make malas. I knew exactly what I wanted in a prayer bead design and I couldn’t find it. I could find ebony malas and there were an abundance of skull malas but nothing that was exactly right. I took it upon myself to learn how to make prayer beads and it was such a gift that I wasn’t able to find exactly what I wanted because now I am a mala wallah.

It is this same mala I have around my neck on Sunday afternoon following Durga Puja, after more delicious food prepared by a certain Swami Rudra Das, when I am packing my things for the return trip home. When I pack for a yoga weekend I am not messing around with a light duffel and make-up bag, not when sequins are called for on Saturday night. I have plenty to track down and stuff into my large suitcase, which I manage well.

Etsy Mala and Halloween 016 Upon appraising the scene I see that I’ve got most everything together. I lean down to retrieve my yoga mat bag and in the leaning over my mala explodes. Now you might say, “Prana Devi, come on now. Malas don’t just explode…” and wag your finger at me like you’ve caught me in a lie.

I say this to you; malas most certainly do explode. Also, sometimes they’ll slide off your neck like a lazy snake and hit the floor. That could happen too. But on this occasion I mean this thing blew off my neck and scattered across the floor like it didn’t want to leave the property when I drove off in my Dodge. I had black ebony beads caught in my hair that I shook out like victory. Skull beads fell out of the hollow of my collar-bone into my yoga mat bag. It was pandemonium and very exciting!

I scoop up what I can find. I place the  sad tassel on the bed with the remainder of the beads and wander off in search of a plastic baggy. A very nice lady is in the kitchen. She looks up to see me tap dancing in the doorway. I explain my situation.

She clucks at me while she finds the bag. She is sorry for me that my mala has broken, she says.

But no! I tell her it’s my understanding that when a mala breaks it is a most auspicious event. I liken it to getting enough coins in a Super Mario game and getting to level up, energetically perhaps, but it’s a good sign. Perhaps whatever the theme of your sadhana (practice) has been while working with that mala has come to fruition or there is new or stronger energy coming in to support the practice in a different way (when I got home I emailed Swami just in case).

I am not the one to ask about specifics of how this works exactly, but it is grand news, if not a little sad that my favorite mala broke.

The lady is excited at this news, too, as she says she always looked at a broken mala as an inconvenience at best. Well now you know. She kindly agreed to place any errant beads left behind in a prayer room in the house, which pleases me greatly.

When I got home I placed the beads in a glass bowl so they may rest. I had another mala to work with and I didn’t know what I was going to do with the broken one. I even thought of making it into something else by using pieces of it for a necklace or bracelet. Then one day I walked by the bowl and beads and felt this urge to re-string them NOW!

So I did. I have a working mala made of ebony beads and skulls that I’m going to take with me to Durga Puja again this year. I’ll dance around the Ganga with torchlight reflecting on the water and I’ll eat delicious prasad when the night concludes.

I was inspired to write this post because breaking is part of a malas job. It holds energy and then lets it go. It’s a tool of transformation if used with that intention. When I make a mala for myself, a friend or to sell in my shop it is with the greatest care for the finished design and the components while I work with them. I focus on crafting meditation tools that are able to stand up to long use, however, they are not meant to last forever.

I am adding a restringing option to my Etsy shop so that folks who have broken malas littering their altar drawer or kitchen window (sunlight is an excellent way of cleansing stones) can see their malas back up and running. If you would like them made into bracelets or another commemorative piece of jewelry we can talk about that too.

If you have purchased a mala from me and it breaks within 60 days of receipt I will restring it for you at no charge and guarantee it for another 60 days following its repair. If your mala breaks after the 60 days the fee will apply to restringing your mala.

Bonus! Care and feeding of your mala:

Please keep it dry to the best of your ability as wetting the cord, whether hemp or silk, will weaken and stretch it over time. Malas are typically worn as a necklace. Wearing your mala wrapped around your wrist for extended periods of time weakens the material. I love to sometimes wear my mala around my wrist for special classes with my Teacher and this is fine. Just be aware that it can cause strain. It is also nice to have a mala bag or box for the storage and transport of your mala. It depends on your preferences.

I am also a fan of sleeping with my mala. I like to place it near my bed or tucked under my pillow. Sleeping with your mala around your neck can be hazardous to yourself and your mala, especially if you are a busy sleeper. Keep that in mind and perhaps make or buy a little satchel in which to stow your mala beneath your pillow. Sweet dreams!

Your mala loves sunlight and moonlight (gemstones have their own preference). Cleanse your mala in the sun or beneath the silvery moon periodically. Repetition of holy names helps keep your mala clear as does taking it to darshan and kirtans 🙂 Have your mala blessed by a holy person if you can; if no holy person is available may I suggest having your cat sneeze on it.

Message me with questions. Is there anything I forgot on mala care? How do you take care of your mala?

shiva moon

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Throwing Shade

Last night at the restaurant, I served a table of eight people of varying ages. Whilst grating cheese upon a large portion of pasta, I overhear (I overhear a lot whilst grating cheese) “so and so….blah blah….throwing shade….blah blah…”

More than half the restaurant is closed now, so there are plenty of tables upstairs for servers to await their last tables’ desert orders and conversations to conclude. It’s a long hard process, this. I join my co-workers and without preamble ask, “What does it mean to throw shade?”

One woman in particular with an especially expressive face stops chewing her casserole and looks up at me through thick lashes. I wonder if she is doing it now, so I might experience it.

From behind me I hear, “Is someone messing with you?” It’s Sam, tall dreamy and about nineteen.

“Not that I know of.” I reply, but wonder what hornets’ nest I’ve stepped off in by asking this question.

The woman, now resuming attention on her casserole, explains between bites that throwing shade is when you give someone a backhanded compliment in an effort to be a complete asshole. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter if that person knows you’re throwing shade or not, if one’s intention is to shade the situation with ass-holery then the deed is done.

To tell you the truth, what I thought it might mean wasn’t very far off. I thought it meant to cut your eyes at someone in such a way as to diss them; diss is a term used in the eighties and nineties meant to besmirch someone, or in essence, rudely “dismiss’ them. In my imagination, throwing shade included creative use of one’s eyelashes, not backhanded compliments. Kids these days, totally missing an opportunity to use their eyelashes the way God intended.

Today I am at my sister’s house where I have commanded my niece to demonstrate what she has learned in color guard practice. Because it is completely impossible to command a thirteen year old to do anything, she is standing in the yard and holding her purple flag, looking at me like I have lost my mind.

“Gimme that flag.” I command. She obeys this time. I proceed to dance around the yard, high stepping like any decent majorette. I also sling that flag around the yard like it’s a Samurai sword. I snap it to attention, swing it around, toss it into the air where is spins, spins, twirls and lands like it is thus magnetized into my waiting hand.

I am explaining how she needs to look more intense. Make those gorgeous Egyptian eyes sizzle! This is her time to stomp the yard if ever there was one. This is her moment not to be shy but to be awesome, purple flag and all. I snap the billowing flag’s pole to my hip and tell her to throw shade on the field.

I am imagining creative use of eyelashes and not backhanded compliments when I give her this instruction.

My use of modern slang floors my niece so much she nearly smiles. “Do you know what that means?”

“To be mean to someone.” I answer, choosing to use the loose interpretation I got from my more knowledgeable co-workers the previous night. I look at the tree to my right, whimsically thinking of its generous and cooling shade.

“Mom, I can’t believe she knows what that means.” My niece says to my little sister who then commands her thirteen year old daughter into the house, flag and all.

A little while later she asks if I know how to use my new Instagram account and offers to show me how it works, if I want her to. I take a rather long sip of my coffee and avert my eyes, not wanting her to know how grateful I would be for the tutoring.

Let me tell you something, in case you should look up @electricmala – the first picture I uploaded was of my cat. It just felt right. And the only reason I really got involved with it in the first place is because I want to promote my Etsy shop and see what those crazy yoga cats are up to. So there.

Be warned, yogis. Instagram is not for people who think # is still a pound sign. You will be greatly disappointed. In fact, this is now a litmus test for how old you are; whether you call # a pound sign or a hashtag. I don’t even know what that means!

Also, Instagram is not for people who want to read articles. They have no articles on Instagram, though  I did see a few motivational memes I’ll share this week to promote my class @URUYOGA

See how good I’m getting at this already? Apparently, @ still means one is “at the place to which they refer in the post”. See, not so scary after all. As in, I’ll be @URUYOGA tomorrow teaching at 4:30 and 6 o’clock.

And the best thing about Instagram? #catlady is a real thing.

 

Your Labor Day Homework

RuPaul-You-better-work

I like to  follow the weekly posts on the Kabbalah Center. Of course, the information and language is wrapped in a culture I’m not entirely familiar with, so there are somethings I don’t all the way understand. That doesn’t matter, necessarily – Many paths, one God and all…

On Labor Day I’m teaching a special class. I normally guide two classes, the first at 4:30 is an open level class and the second at 6 pm is a grab bag class. Sometimes we’ll clear the chakras while moving into and out of yoga poses and sometimes we practice restorative yoga. I have been known to teach handstands in there, where even the most reluctant yogi gets a little lift off!

It’s a holiday schedule this week on Monday, so I’ll teach one class at 5:30 pm, preceding Tara’s bon voyage class at 7 pm. If you’ve never had a class with her, this is your chance before she moves away!

I was thinking in what way I might make this Labor Day class a little different. I thought about a play list that started with Working in the Coalmine and ends with RuPaul’s You Betta Work! (which is the inspiration for the class title, anyway).

While I’m thinking of fun stuff to do in yoga I catch a glimpse of the news. A great heaviness drapes round my shoulders and it’s a sad sick feeling. In that moment I felt a little weak and very ineffective. I had to sit down and breathe deeply for a few minutes.

In this breathing I had an idea. It’s small and simple and I can’t take credit for it; it totally came from The Kabbalah Center. But it’s good. It’s Reinforcing the Good!

Our assignment is to list talents and abilities that we’ve been given to do good in the world. Talents and abilities we’ve been given to do our WORK! What gifts do you have that make you an effective instrument of the Divine right this second in your small corner of the world?

List these talents and attributes, shine the light of your awareness on them, and bring forth that radiance and share it with folks. They will shine more brightly because of you, and the ripple of goodness that starts small can carry its currents of Grace on directly to those who will most benefit from it, maybe circling all the way back to you.

We’ll talk about this tomorrow, it being a homework assignment and all. You won’t get graded on it, of course, but we can talk about it if you want to. I figured homework on Labor Day is acceptable.

I asked Google what Labor Day is about, and it told me that it’s a holiday held in honor of working people. Well whatdya know? A Yogi’s work is never done! This class title is going to fit in nicely, after all. We’ll work on moving with the breath’s current during yoga practice, even when the practice is hard, you’re up-side-down and rolled neatly into a salty pretzel. This will be great practice for remembering all your special talents and abilities in those moments in which it is so easy to forget, so your Light will shine even under pressure.

“We are all pieces cut from the same cloth.” We all have similar desires, similar hopes, and dreams. And we are all looking for the same Light. – Karen Berg

Timeout

About a week or so ago I visited my middle sister, known as Aunt B, and the kids. For a while when I’d visit I took a box of Dunkin doughnuts and I was the best aunt ever. Because of my affiliation with the health and wellness crowd, I had to have a talk with myself about advocating weekly dozen doughnut night. Now, I take fruit and feel much better about it.

The youngest, Maxwell, requested straw-da-berries and apples. It’s an unfortunate fact of produce that what we want isn’t always sitting awesome on the shelves. Such was the case with straw-da-berries.

Listen, I dug around in the stacks of plastic baskets containing the dark cranberry hues of fruit on the down slope. There were brownish stems capping the pitiful lot, black gorges in their sides as though some went out with great fight, sidearm swinging and gallant. This isn’t fruit one takes to a sweet little guy like Maxwell.

So he gets apple slices and grapes. Because I know I’m showing up without the coveted straw-da-berries I go all in with both white and red grapes.

When I arrive at the house, Maxwell runs across the hardwood floor, throws both arms around both my legs and explains, “I missed you!” Sigh.

I begin unpacking the fruit. He’s dancing around the kitchen because this is what we do. I take him stuff and we dance about it. Eventually my niece, who is thirteen, joins the party though she is somewhat sullen and pretending at turns not to be interested in what we are doing.

I pull out the apple slices. We like those, and want them on a plate to carry around. This pleases me. “Straw-da-berries?” The mighty three year old with the compelling eyes inquires, looking up at me through a sheet of thick black eyelashes.

“They didn’t have any.” I lie. Aunt B and I decided it was better to tell this one fib than explain rotten fruit.

“Straw-da-berries?”

“Grapes!” I smile.

His lower lip starts to slip past his chin, his jaw hanging lower as his gaze rises to his mother.

“Do you need a timeout?” Aunt B says to the disappointed child. I look at her like the alien invasion has officially started; I witness it first hand.

In response to his mother’s inquiry, Maxwell becomes more excited. He dances side to side with an apple in one hand and and inquiring gesture reaching up towards me with the other, “Straw-da-berries?”

“I didn’t get any.” I tell him, my own face growing long and dejected.

He whoofs out something that sounds like, “Ah HA!” but with such a down beat I know tears will follow.

“Do we need a timeout?”

I slice my hand between my sister and myself as I lean against the kitchen counter, “No! Girl, I can’t take that today. Absolutely not. I can’t….”

You know how timeouts usually go. If not, just watch an episode of The Super Nanny and get back with me. The kid is acting out then ends up in time out and before we know it, tears, snot, toys and all hope for a restful evening have been trod upon by the maligned wishes of a toddler.

Call me selfish, but my nerves weren’t up for a timeout this evening. My sister looks at me like I’m the one who has been body snatched, with a You Don’t Know Me snear. She scoops up Maxwell and back we all go to the bedroom. I march behind because I feel responsible, not having brought the much sought after end of summer straw-da-berries.

“Have you ever seen timeout?”

“Yes.” I say, but not at this house. Aunt B runs her house sort of like we grew up, when we just hung out until it was time to do stuff. I don’t recall a high intensity day to day as a kid. So this timeout business is more than I expected.

“Here, let’s take a timeout Buddy.” She says.

My heart rises to my throat. I think about landing in the corner with him, noses at the wall together in solidarity.

My sister pulls the sheets and comforter on her own bed back to reveal icy cool sheets, refreshing and smooth. She places Maxwell carefully on the wrinkle free surface of the bed which I suspect has a pillow top mattress. She places his melon head on a stack of pillows before drawing his special blakie up the length of his long baby body. I see tension draining out of his face as timeout begins.

Aunt B pets his head, draws the covers up to his chest and turns the television on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, which is recorded and readily available for situations just such as this. She clicks the side lamp off. “Stay here and rest. I’ll be back.”

I find myself suddenly very envious of Maxwell’s timeout and wish someone would do the same for me. She looks at me as we leave the room, “He just needed to get quiet for a few minutes and compose himself. What the hell else do you think time out is for?”

Right.

This evening I was in hot yoga at Uru2. I know, can you believe it? And right in the middle of this hot as the noonday sun class with one of the nicest yoga instructors I know, I remember that timeout I witnessed and see the comparison between yoga and Aunt B’s prescription for whatever ails you.

Yoga practice is like cool sheets and a nice episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in the middle of a stressful situation, like Publix not having a decent straw-da-berry selection. We will be visiting this correlation in my classes, along with variations on savasana (end of class relaxation pose better known as corpse pose) and bringing the benefits of timeout into the world using breath and the meaningful art of hesitation. We’re gonna have a great time.

Teachers in Training

Well, we’re approaching one of my favorite times of year. If you know me, you might think I’m talking about my cat’s birthday or Halloween, which are also two of my favorite times of year. I am not talking about my own birthday or the celebration of when Hazel came to live with me, either.

I am talking about the day when the yoga teacher trainees at Uru Yoga and Beyond begin to teach yoga. I love it when that happens.

I’m a mentor in the teacher training program. I got to be this lucky because a special fantastic lady, Caroline, had been taking my yoga classes and decided she wanted to do the program last year. Uru’s owner and director developed the mentor program, in part, so my friend and I could work together. It was a most special fantastic time for us both. Now we both teach at the same studio. Check the schedule and go see her, too.

So here I am, doubly blessed because I’m in the second year of being a mentor in the training. These folks learning to teach yoga spend the first five months learning about technique, flow, sequencing, postures and alignment (not to mention all of the personal growth that begins immediately). In the fifth month of training they start practicing on the public.

It’s not unlike beauty school when the public can make an appointment with a beautician in training and get their hair done, for good or ill. Except in the case of new yoga teachers there’s no risk of chemical burns to the ears from perms gone wrong or messy side bangs accidentally cut to one’s hairline.

Being a mentor is its own practice and I still can’t believe how lucky I am. I’m a very new teacher myself in the whole scheme of things. Even so, I get to watch teachers form from the bones of devotion to practice. As they take shape as instructors their own maturity adds flesh to their shape. Confidence, shining more brightly after every moment they practice the art of instruction, becomes the luster and glow of their complexion.

That’s the news folks. The teacher trainees are taking the reins in my classes at Uru (but only for a few poses, just to practice). Everyone who attends a class in which a teacher trainee works contributes to the development of them as future yoga instructors. Just like I wouldn’t be able to do the work I love without the sweet souls who attend my classes, these women wouldn’t be able to do the work of becoming instructors without your attendance.

This is special and sacred work and we’re all in this together

Here is an Image of Ganesha, the Lord of Obstacles, both creating and destroying them for our highest good. May He continue to guide you on your way.  Namaste and Good Luck Teachers in Training.

Ganesha om

All Shook Up

When I was twenty one-ish I worked in a salon doing nails. This was not my first job doing nails but it was my favorite. I had a pretty full book at Arriba Salon and Day Spa and I loved the ladies I worked with. Every single one. I am not kidding.

The client who gave me my gift certificate for four yoga classes – just to get me to try it – with Sudevi Linda Kramer was a client at Arriba. You can see how that worked out for me (Hi Sudevi!) and if you’re not sure how that worked out why don’t you come take one of my yoga classes and find out.

I got my hair license while I was working at Arriba. Some of the girls came to my graduation hair show where I tortured some of my favorite people by doing their hair and making them walk on stage. I tried my first foils for money at Arriba. I ruined my sister’s hair at Arriba about eleven and a half years ago.

I also quit working at Arriba. I had a plan, you see. I had this boyfriend and it was all serious and I was going to move in with him and play house and be a big girl. I was going to do hair in a big box salon and get experience.

I never regretted leaving that man, but Arriba came to mind often over the years. I see some of those former co-workers often, one even comes to my yoga class sometimes. I am not so much of a hairdresser now as I am someone who does hair. I never got the business side of it but I like the relationships I have from it. I have gotten to know fellow yoga teachers better by doing their hair.

So what am I trying to say, exactly?

The salon where I work is closing at the end of the month. I think the owner will benefit from this decision but I was in a pickle. No, my clients and I were both in a pickle.

I call the sister whose hair I ruined eleven and a half years ago and tell her what I just learned – the salon where I work is closing.

“So you can go back to Arriba?” She says. It makes sense, the way she says it. Like she’d been waiting to say it.

After a couple of emails with one of the Divas, I’m happy to say I’m going back to Arriba.

It also makes me happy to say that I’m on Stay-cation this week. I planned to go see my Teacher in Atlanta. I had subs for my classes and gas in the car, but I decided today that I just want to be home for a few days. Maybe it’s all been too much, from the hectic holidays to the post New Year’s malaise when the trees are down and it’s just cold, but I felt homesick before I even left.

Maybe my life has just been like a snow globe that someone shook up real good and I just want things to settle back down and I need to take time to be able to do that. After all, when I return from Stay-cation I will be moving from one salon to another, maybe returning to where I was meant to end up all along.

Sometimes, where we are meant to be takes us down a circuitous path. Tonight I thought about everything I’ve done and the life I’ve had since I left Arriba. I was so young and I thought I had a plan. Today I’m only sure that I don’t know much at all and that the last thing I ought to do is tempt the Universe by trying to come up with a plan on my own. I know I’ll land where I’m supposed to, it’ll usually be a surprise and lots of Grace is involved.

I believe that’s how I ended up with Swami Jaya Devi, my Teacher. I believe that’s how I ended up working at Uru Yoga and Beyond. That’s how I got trained at Dragonfly Yoga during the largest teacher training group they’ve ever had before or since. I didn’t plan on any of these things happening in my life, but I’m so so grateful.

Also, all this (trying) to go with the flow is exhausting. So, for the next two days I’ll be home, resting and practicing yoga with the cats.

Monday, enjoy Amber’s instruction at Uru Yoga and Beyond at 4:30 pm and 6 pm. She teaches all levels with lots of patience and skill and you’ll really like her.

3:30 pm on Tuesday at Chip’s 24 Hour Fitness Center try the stylings of Caroline, who will work you out with such finesse your muscles will be trembling and you’ll be smiling at the same time. She is fantastic.

I’ll be back on deck Thursday at 4pm for Intro to Flow and 5:30 pm open level practice at Uru Yoga and Beyond and at Chip’s on Friday at 3:30. This weekend is a big one at Uru Yoga and Beyond with visiting instructor Michelle Baker. Check the website for more workshop details and class descriptions. Until then, you can find me here…

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Featured Cat Yogi: Witch Hazel McCackle practicing one of the most challenging principles of yoga – contentment. Looks like she’s doing a great job,