Making malas for Haiti

Yesterday I got together with my amazing partner in the Global Seva Challenge, Christy (www.christy4haiti.com), and the lovely Carol of Coco Yogini, to make malas. Christy and I decided that we would make handcrafted malas with a unique design that invokes Haiti and the seva challenge journey, as part of our fundraising efforts. They will be more meaningful than t-shirts or other products we could sell, especially because we’ll be making them ourselves.

You can’t buy these beauties yet, but I wanted to give you a little preview of our mala-making adventure. Christy and I both consider ourselves to be pretty crafty, and I did quite a bit of jewelry-making and metalwork when I was younger, so I was thrilled to dive right in. Carol, who sells beautiful hand-knotted crystal and pearl malas online and in local boutiques, was kind enough to donate her time for the lesson. We worked hard, but had some laughs and a lovely time chatting and knotting, knotting and chatting.

Christy fashioned a bracelet, I created a smaller mala, and Carol worked her magic on a larger mala with some custom touches. Here’s the gorgeous mala prototype that I created:

And here are Carol and Christy, hard at work on their creations:

By the way, in case you aren’t familiar with malas, they are a form of prayer beads, used in yogic and Buddhist meditation practices to count repetitions of a mantra (a word or phrase that is repeated as part of the meditation). A traditional mala contains 108 beads, symbolizing a sacred number in Hindu spirituality. Check out this web site to learn more about malas and the meaning of 108. Malas also just make beautiful jewelry!

Look for Malas for Haiti, coming soon to a web site or boutique near you!

Waking up to being

My yoga practice is a work in progress. For me, the most important foundation of this practice is being yoga. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. This is also the part of my yoga practice I am least likely to perfect in this lifetime, no matter how many times I come into handstand or hanumanasana, no matter how many deep breaths I take. These things help, of course. But being yoga – off of my eco-friendly rubber mat and out of the serene setting of a yoga studio – is so much more.

Being yoga means awakening fully to our inner wisdom – that all-knowing divine teacher within. When you find this guide, you become more attuned to others and the world around you, the impact of your every step, and the ways in which we are all connected. There is no other, there is just “we.” And every breath I take affects the breath of my neighbor next door as well as my neighbor on another continent, worlds away from my daily existence.

This is a bit of a scary proposition, I know. You’re probably thinking, I can hardly worry about myself and what I’m going to eat for lunch today. How do you expect me to think about the impact of every decision on every other human being on the planet (there are nearly 7 billion of them, by the way), let alone trillions of animals, plants, and the earth itself? It’s just too much.

I said it was “practice,” remember? We won’t all get it right most of the time. But if we don’t try, I’m afraid we’re all doomed. Let’s start here. Margaret Mead’s famous quote rings true: “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

This blog marks the beginning of an old yet new journey for me. Over the next 8 months, I will work with committed people in my community of friends, yogis, activists, and citizens to raise at least $20,000 as part of Off the Mat, Into the World’s Global Seva Challenge. If I succeed, I will have the opportunity to travel to Haiti early next year to put seva – conscious, spiritual, selfless service – into action. OTM’s challenge is an extraordinary chance to help the people of Haiti, working with grassroots organizations on the ground to help rebuild that country in a sustainable way.

But I am also not ashamed to admit, this is an incredible moment that the universe has set before me, to practice yoga in a new way with each breath I take for the next 11 months. There will be opportunities for very practical experiences – overcoming obstacles to make large fundraising events come to life, regaining some of my forgotten french-speaking skills, learning about the history and culture of a troubled yet vibrant country. But there will also be countless occasions to step back and consider the impact of my own suburban yogi lifestyle on people I have never met but with whom my existence is inextricably intertwined.

There is a lot more than money standing between me and this trip of lifetimes. I fully expect to face down my own fears and demons on a daily basis, whether manifested from within or in the voices of others. But I’m armed with love and community and ready for whatever lies ahead. There will be a lot of yoga, and a lot of breaths, between here and there.

Please visit this space for much more about my journey to Haiti, as well as musings on yoga and living awake through a mindful and sustainable lifestyle.

“The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never have otherwise occurred. . . unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would come his way.” ~ Goethe