The beginning of this story may not be a pretty one to most. It may be a story many people can relate to, with some dark feelings and hard paths to overcome. It most definitely is a tough one for me to revisit and share. However, this story helps me reflect on the incredible journey I have gone through that opened up the beautiful doors to yoga, movement, meditation, metanoia, and Mala creation.
Several years ago, I attended a weekend Meditation retreat with the idea that I would learn to manage the perseverating thoughts taking up space in my head. The thoughts ranged anywhere from what to make for the family meals, to the meaning of life – or my life to be exact. There were heavy thoughts and feelings related to the many losses I incurred in a very short time. During that time, I witnessed deaths of loved ones who left this physical plane too soon. Observing the impact these deaths had on the immediate family, and myself was heartbreaking in so many different ways. This heartbreak made me feel powerless and frustrated because I knew, from a psychological standpoint, that grieving is a personal issue that is best to be observed, rather than interfered with.
Concurrently, I was becoming an empty nester and although I didn’t readily admit that I was experiencing an emotional pain deep within my soul, the heaviness of the change in our family unit was weighing on me. There was conflict within myself. I raised my children to be independent, yet it was difficult for me to see them leave. I felt I had to stand tall but at the same time the grief was taking up space in my head.
Also, I was closing my private practice for several reasons, during my empty nesting shift. This was a difficult decision to make but taking care of myself at the time seemed principled. The stress began to physically impact me in a negative way, which took a toll on my body. My body began to react in ways that were very uncomfortable. I was in physical pain. However, I am not one to complain, so I held that inside, which only exacerbated the issue. Bottling up my emotion did nothing to relieve the overriding thoughts renting space in my head.
Through my hardships during that time, I unfortunately started to lose family members who thought walking away, scapegoating, lying and making disparaging remarks would assuage their vulnerable state. Feeling out of control through grief is not an uncommon state, but for some it is unchartered territory, which cause people to project unwanted feelings onto others as a natural consequence. I found myself on the receiving end of some of this with family members walking away, making up stories and leveling untrue judgments. Questions of how I could’ve changed this, what I could’ve done differently took up more space in my head. It was getting crowded in there. I began falling in on myself with grief.
My grief takes on personae of an angry child and like a volcano I spewed. I spewed for a while too. If I were to have observed myself during that time I would tell you that projections from most of my life came out. This was one time in my life I hit bottom and I mean rock bottom. Not wanting to cry because I felt I would be perceived as a victim (I know, but I came by this naturally) I wrestled with my feelings. It became a struggle just to deal with that. But, life does have a way of continuing.
I opened up to those I felt closest to and discovered an interesting phenomenon. Some people I felt close to used this time to level hurtful, unsubstantiated comments my way. It gave them power they must have felt they didn’t have. I didn’t like it and I let them know. I confronted them, and then walked away. The drama was too overwhelming, the loss suffocating. The friends left by my side are the tribe I want anyway – those that lifted me up when I needed that helping hand. I needed to get the questions and negative thoughts out of my head as they were having damning effects on the overall feelings I had about who I was. I needed to find my footing again and find balance or I was going to self-implode.
I attended my first Meditation workshop by myself in a remote part of California with several people and for three days became very quiet. I sat in stillness for hours on end but my mind was having trouble catching on. It was difficult for me not to concentrate on the crows squawking to one another, the kids in the pool, the heavy breathing of the man next to me and my own deteriorating thoughts.
Meditation takes practice they said. It takes time to develop a quiet mind. Even one minute is good. It wasn’t until the last day that I discovered what a blessing a quiet mind is. I wanted more so I developed a daily practice where I became quiet. Some days it was for a minute and some longer. I can now sit for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. But something was still missing so I took a Meditation class with my cousin who taught me the value of breath work with Meditation and focusing on an object while quieting the mind. I was going deeper into my practice and beginning to experience some normalcy in my life. Adding the breath work not only cleared my nose and lungs, it also opened up space in my head. The negative thought patterns began to fade away.
It was then that I decided to begin a yoga practice and entered into a 200-hour yoga teacher-training program. Here, I not only learned the ins and outs of a yoga practice, I began incorporating movement with breath. The combination gave me space in my head. The results were amazing! Ironically, through Movement I learned to slow down. The process was a quiet one, a very personal one.
During the yoga training we learned how to make a Mala. A Mala is defined as a garland made up of 108 beads used as a tactile guide as you sit in silence through meditation and the counting of mantras. My Mala project was put together by an astrologer in Denver. The astrologer utilized my birthday, time of birth, place of birth, and a reading to determine the gemstones needed. The gemstones used for my Mala were defined as ones that would protect me from the dark energy of others and that would absorb the negative energy taking up space within me. This was just what I needed.
The process of making a Mala includes tying a knot between each bead, while reciting a mantra. The results of this process were amazing. I truly began to notice the thoughts and feelings locked in my body and soul. With each mantra I recited I began to diminish negative energy that was crowding my ability to grow. I started an uplifting journey that gave me the safe space to search further into myself. This search helped me distinguish what was ultimately real and what was made up, due to life circumstances, as well as, unrealistic beliefs about myself. After distinguishing the aspects, I needed to uplift myself, toxic people began to disappear just as rapidly as they showed up. My tribe was encouraging, supportive, and accepting. I began to feel myself again! I viewed myself from a different lens that is more compassionate, less judgmental and I became good enough.
I was experiencing a Metanoia – a change of mind, a spiritual conversion.
I enjoyed the process of making Malas and the various attributes each Mala brought to my life that I began to make them in bulk. With each mantra I recited, different colors I used, different stones, pace of tying, and individual knotting, I discovered that every single Mala has its own path, energy, and overall meaning. I still have not decided if each Mala I have created was a part of my own healing journey, or if my intuition while creating each Mala reflected on the need to produce it.
Nevertheless, I strongly believe that each Mala I knotted presented me with another stepping stone to further the positivity within my life and further uplift my body and soul. All I can hope by sharing my Malas with the world is that each necklace or bracelet brings the person wearing it an energy that is needed for that day, journey, or practice. I hope the strong intention incorporated into each Mala impacts the person’s life in the ways most needed.