Friday, 17 April 2015

Magical Malas - So what are they???

I began creating Malas, in the form of wrist mala, about 6 years ago as part of my 'Immerse in Elen' Retreats. Having practised yoga for a number of years (although off and on more recently) I had learnt the art of Mantra and Mala Beads as an aid to meditation, plus I’d always loved Chant as part of my Pagan/Spiritual Path. Knowing that quite a few religions use prayer beads/rosary I decided to devise my own. I wanted attendees of the Retreats to be able to take home some daily devotionals; tools they could use simply to connect with Elen. So over the course of the weekend we make ‘Elen of the Trackways’ wrist malas and learn Her devotional Mantra together.

Mala are generally made from different materials such as tulsi (basil) wood, sandal wood, rudraksh seeds or crystal. Each type of material has certain properties which subtly affect the subconscious mind of the practitioner. In the construction of the Elen Mala Bracelet I wanted to incorporate natural things that I strongly associate with Elen. So I created the bracelet from wood (oak), amber and antler. It can then be worn as a wonderful accessory to meditation, which when used regularly with a personal mantra, absorbs the vibrations of the practice. It becomes like a close friend or a comfortable piece of clothing.

Meditation can be quite a tricky practice because the mind is like a naughty child. By its very nature, the mind tends to wander off during meditation practice. If ones energy is low at the time of meditation, falling asleep can result. If the energy is too high, fantasy and distraction become the barriers. At such times, the mala provides the much needed anchor. The mala beads are moved in rhythm with the breath and the mantra, so that both-sleep as well as excessive mental distraction-are prevented by this action upon the beads.

So wrist malas, the Retreat and personal practise was as far as Magical Malas went for a few years. I’m one of those arty/creative folk who has one of those ‘to make’ note books, a place where I can scribble down any inspirations or ideas I get, but don’t have the time to do them right then. Full 108 Malas sat on that list for a number of years, until last year. I got in a bit of a creative funk (technical term) over the winter of 2013/14 I was flat, miserable and very teary. I still can’t tell you the whys, triggers or reasons it just was…..I was taking supplements, vitamin D spray in case it was SAD…all sorts but just couldn’t get out of it. In the end  my Deer friend Suzi Edwards Goose of inkwitch333 gave me a bit of a kick up the bum….said I need to do something different, said I needed to challenge myself, suggested I try something new….she asked me to go through my ‘to make’ note book and see if anything took my fancy. When I mentioned the full malas she got all excited and bounced ideas around with me about the different themes I could make, an Elen one obviously, Tundra and Cerh came next. So I sourced some materials and started practising the knot working….not as simple as I thought but it challenged me none the less. It took some practise but I got there in the end, by having a knot between each bead it gives space to move the beads and also means should your Mala ever break you won’t lose loads of the beads. SO......

Why 108?

On a traditional Mala there are 108 beads….there are so many suggestions and reasons for the reputation use of 108…..too many to list here. But if you look into this  website there is a huge list from many religions, cultures and studies. 108 has been used for an awfully long time so who am I to argue with this! Here are a few a like though….

9 times 12: Both of these numbers have been said to have spiritual significance in many traditions. 9 x 12 = 108. Also, 1 + 8 = 9. That 9 x 12 equals 108.

Heart Chakra: The chakras are the intersections of energy lines, and there are said to be a total of 108 energy lines converging to form the heart chakra. One of them, sushumna leads to the crown chakra, and is said to be the path to Self-realization.

Time: Some say there are 108 feelings, with 36 related to the past, 36 related to the present, and 36 related to the future.

How Do I Hold/Use Mala?

The mala is traditionally held in the right hand and used in two ways - In method one; the mala is hanging between the thumb and the ring (third) finger. The middle (second) finger is used to rotate the mala by one bead towards oneself with each repetition of the mantra. In the other method two, the mala is hanging on the middle finger, with the thumb used to rotate the mala just as explained - one bead at a time. Either way, the index finger is never used to touch the mala. 

Method 1

Method 2 

What’s a Guru Bead?

So as well as the magic 108 beads each Mala has a ‘Guru’ bead, on my Magical Malas these can be made up of a number of things depending on the theme of the Mala itself. The deer related ones tend to have a piece of antler, some have a larger bead or a silver spiral and some recent ones have fossilised ammonites’. The Guru bead is said to represent the student-guru/deity relationship and this is where you start your practise, it’s a contemplation point, the place to breathe and focus before you start working your Mantra/Chant.  

Why a Tassel?

Magical Malas come with a coordinating tassel on the end; I create mine using 21 binding threads. Most of my Malas are made with a combination of 3 wooden beads and 1 gemstone, 3 x 7 = 21 hence why I use 21. The significance of the Tassel is purely decorative; although on a practical level once you reach the tassel you know you have completed the practise. The more you use your Mala the more embedded with your intentions and energies and the Tassel picks up those too, so once you have completed your round you can touch the Tassel to your 3rd eye and heart space silently giving thanks.  

All my Mala themes and accompanying Mantras are of my own design. Inspiration comes from the Land, Deities and Animal Guides; and the call to make a particular design can come from a customer commission or seeing a fox/heron/hare whilst out walking. The call can come at any time and I have to create it! Every Magical Mala comes with its own hand painted natural cotton pouch, instructions and art card with Mantra printed on it. If you’d like to know more please comment or check out Magical Malas Facebook page.

Thanks for reading xxx

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Talking to my Inner Critic - Part of my SheStory

I'm currently part of a writing group called SHE Stories mentored by the lovely Lisa Lister from The Sassy She. It’s an arse kicking 28 day cycle of getting our book out of our head and into an actual hold in your hand book. I'm a struggling author....with a horrendous self-critic! I have oodles of fab ideas for writing, blogs, posts, articles and my self-critic is a dick! 

Now as part of the SHE Story course we have to talk to our self-critic....the nitty gritty business.....I've journaled with this for a couple of days now....but have decided to post it here. Now please don't take this blog as me looking for support or looking for 'bigging up', because it’s not. It’s a journey I can only do on my own if I want to write in any decent way....but I think to tackle my self-critic and take it head on....I need to put it here! So here goes........

My self-critic is snappy and quick, like a Jack Russell snarling through a fence. She jibes and digs, a pointing finger jabbing at my shoulder. When I think about writing she tells me I'm no good, that I'm not academic enough to write on any professional level. She says my grammar and spelling are rubbish! She makes me procrastinate the what if's. She tells me that nobody wants to hear what I’ve got to say and I can’t back it up either….so therefore I’m just airy-fairy.

She tells me I should get a ‘proper job’ or that rather than sitting writing or making my Magical Malas I should be cleaning the house. I’m not contributing enough to my family by doing what I’m doing self-employed. She tells me I’m disorganised and that I don’t use my time effectively.


I AM good enough!!!!

I might not have a degree, but I do have lessons to share. So I didn’t go to university, but I spent years at college, I improved my grades. I studied and trained to become a forest school teacher. I’m running a home, raising kids and doing my damndest to do it as best as I can!

I worked a shitty job that I hated and made me miserable for 11 years. That is no longer holding me back! I have the chance to do what I love, to chase my dreams and leap after the life I want!

Accepted, I may not be a Stepford Wife house proud type, but I cook wholesome fresh food,  I keep my kitchen and bathroom clean, so what’s the problem?  Just don’t look at my dust or judge me over my unmade bed. And whilst we're at it…..I don’t iron! Life too short for that shit!

So there you have it self-critic! I’m gonna write this bloody book if it’s the last thing I do! And you and me missy are gonna live with it ok??? And as regards to grammar, spelling and layout…..that’s what my editor is for yes??? 

Monday, 13 April 2015

This Land Knows Me

I suppose my journey to the Inchnadamph Bone Caves, in the Highlands of Scotland, began this time last year. I had travelled to Dartmoor for one of Carolyn Hillyer's Shaman Weavers women's workshops. That particular weekend we journeyed deeply with Tundra....with Reindeer, Blue Ice and the tribe people who walk that Land. One of my fellow Tundra Sisters spoke deeply with me about our love of The Highlands and how she was visiting in the summer and would be specifically visiting The Bone Caves, I shared with her that I planned a visit too, but it wouldn't be till October. As we left Dartmoor, said our goodbyes and hugged she whispered to be me "I'll tell The Caves you are coming."

A similar tale can be told involving a Deer Sister Michelle. She too was heading to The Highlands in the summer, whilst there they sang Elen Chants and mentioned I was coming to visit. Those poor caves that hold so many tales, must have raised their eyebrows, metaphorically speaking.

I had read a little about the place itself and the finds that had been excavated over the years. Within the caves the bones of Reindeer, Wolf and Bears have been found including a Polar Bear! It's a beautiful limestone valley carved out from the Ice Age melt. The glen sides are full of Red Deer and the majority of the walk is following a very free running river which further on becomes a dry river bed. The river itself is fed from natural springs; these can be seen on numerous occasions bubbling up in the river and pools. It is deliciously icy cold to drink from and refill bottles at. The whole landscape is amazing but nothing prepared me for the caves themselves, so awe inspiring and the ancestor energy is intoxicating at times. I sat in different spots within all the caves and each definitely has its own feel and energy, I'd love to know if the different bones were found in the different caves. One in particular drew me to take out my Cerh Mala and practise Her chant.

Cerh Mala in the Bone Cave

After spending a great deal of time in the Caves we started our walk back. I felt a real pull on my heart and solar plexus, tears started to flow and a song sprang from my lips. I can only explain the moment as a gift from the Land, a place which knew I was coming and had heard my name.

This Land She Knows Me,
She Calls my Name.
This Land She Knows Me,
She Calls my Soul.
This Land She Knows Me,
She Calls my Name.
This Land She Knows Me,
She Calls my Soul.

And She Breathes Out,
And I Breathe Her in.
And She Breathes Out,
And I Breathe Her In.
And I Breathe Out,
And She Breathes Me In.
And I Breathe Out,
And She Breathes Me In.
And She Breathes Out,
And I Breathe Her In.
 I Breathe Her In, Deep Within.

If you'd like to hear the song actually sang, you can hear it here on YouTube. *She mentions bravely* I'm hoping to post more chants and Magical Mala practises via YouTube in the future.