“Damnit!” I yelled, running into my kitchen table bench, clutching keys tightly and spilling coffee down my arm; a quick, hot, muddy Nile river of Ethiopian blend. It was 6:45am this morning and I was running late for my yoga class. Juggling to stay upright, I dropped my mala beads on the hardwood floor. “Damn, again!” Bending over, my fuzzy morning eyes focused in on the unusually long thread poking out from the “guru bead” at the top of my mala string… it was frayed, weak, and almost translucent. My heart sank, and then I had a thought: It’s almost time…
Ok, for those of you reading wondering what the hell a mala is, let me enlighten you. Technically speaking, they are associated with a Buddhist, or Hindi tradition and consist of a strand of 18, 27, 54 or 108 beads. They are deigned to assist the wearer in reciting mantras during meditation, holding one bead at a time with a right hand, reciting the necessary mantra or devotion. For my Catholic friends: think rosary. The stones can vary from very plain, to ornate and exotic, and it’s believed that wearing them draws an energy that’s necessary for balancing the being rocking them. Within the Buddhist tradition, it’s said that the repetition of the beads can remind the wearer that breaking the cycle of birth and death is possible and attainable.
Folklore says that when the mala strand breaks, big change is coming and it’s time to let go of some things from the past. Its work is done.
I grabbed the bunch of clinking beads from the floor, kissed Lord Winston, the super Schnauzer, and ran out the door to class.
Arriving at the studio, I was greeted by a slightly confused employee, “you’re early? No one is here yet to check you in” she sighed. “Um, err, I am?” I looked at my phone. “Yes,” she said, “class starts in 40 minutes, feel free to enjoy the studio until then!” Frustrated that I rushed to get there, and truncated poor Winnie’s walk (hurry up, pee pee outside!), I collapsed my mat on the floor, grabbed a few yogi blocks, my towel, and closed my eyes to take in the stillness of the empty studio. My mala… my mind wandered down a dark wooded path, my heart stumbled in from out of the trees somewhere, and together we trudged forward, weeping.
It’s odd to cry about beads. I guess buried inside them, I endowed some voodoo and attachment. A break signifies the release and letting go of some big promises and experiences I lived into them.
This particular stand came under my care one afternoon, pawing through a little Tibetan shop on the far end of the pedestrian mall in Boulder. Incense? Yes. Odd wolf/moon/star smock? Ah, no.
I looked up and noticed the beautiful pink color with white stripes, maroon threading and contrasting colors of each chakra… purple, white, green, yellow, orange, red… All beautifully spaced throughout the weighted stand. The largest bead, the guru, was golden and shaped like a genie bottle, red and turquoise stones placed inside the loops of the small and delicate designs. My friend, a brilliant corporate lawyer, continued to peruse for the singing bowl she was on the hunt for. Over drinks later with our equally brilliant Vice President friend, the singing bowl and my beads would provide ample fodder for jokes, “so it sings. I see… does it know any top 40?!” her kind blue eyes darting back and forth between us. She mocked out of love and shared, “I adore you, and your little charged up chakras.”
On my mat, the tears carefully rested at the corners of my eyes — holding on like the one small thread that kept my strand in tact. I held them. Just one week ago, in a metaphysical shop, the weathered cashier exclaimed exuberantly, “Pink Mangano calcite!” Pardon? He pointed at my wrist. “Oh,” I said, “I think they’re rose quartz.” He scrunched his nose and leaned in, “Oh no, my dear, that’s Pink Mangano calcite, it’s more powerful and intentional. See the stripes? Reiki stone… fills the heart with universal and self-love. Very healing! Also great for channeling and astral travel, if yooooou have any plans to do that! Cash or credit?” I smiled and rubbed the stones with my hand. “I have been wanting to travel back to Lyra.” I winked. We both chuckled.
These stones have been a lot of places with me. Purchased during the heat of desire for a past love, they were on me when I uttered “I’m worthy of more love” to her at dusk on a sad Sunday many moons later. I’m not sure I believed those words at the time, but I do months later. They have been with me as I wandered the streets of Budapest alone in search of beautiful architecture, and walked the walls of Dubrovnik with my mother in union and awe. Lord Winston likes to chew on them when we play, he snarls and delicately grabs the cold beads with his fangs. I’ve taken them swimming in the bluest water off the island of Maui, and plunged deep into choppy anxious water at Musa Isla Mujeres (an underwater museum you simply must experience). The beads have joined me for hundreds of yoga classes, and were held by my sis Kelly while I went into surgery for my spine. I was terrified, but managed to softly instruct her “Hold them close to your heart, Kel.” She nodded.
What adventures over the last couple years haven’t these stones joined me for? Quiet cabin times, drinks with friends, flights upon flights upon flights.
Was I ready to let it all go? Am I ready to let go of each memory that has left a small imprint from pressing against my skin so tightly?
A beautiful woman once told me that wearing your mala on your right hand meant you were giving energy away, and the left was for receiving. I looked down at my wrist in the empty yoga studio and realized this strand had rarely left my right, unless I was double stringing it fashionably around my neck for a business meeting, allowing it to rest on the thick red fabric of my carefully tailored Kate Spade dress. Almost exclusively giving the stone’s energy away… was I also giving away my healing and self-love? Is that possible?
The class filed in, and the instructor started us off with some intentions. “What are you afraid of that’s holding you back? What do you need to let go of in today’s class?” I stretched tall, mountain pose, looking up at my hands and wrists. More creases and sunspots on my skin over this time, the maroon threading on my mala has faded, and the metal spacers slightly tarnished from sweat and salt water. It’s time.
**I’m ready to let go of self-doubt, and forgive.
**I’m ready to let go of a version of myself that no longer serves me.
**I welcome love, all kinds — especially the kind that results in deep, raspy belly laughter.
**I’m ready to break open.
I closed my eyes and flowed through class, letting each moment flood with memories of this mala — the good, the bad, the ugly, the memorable. If you see me still wearing it this weekend, I’m embalming and mummifying it with the value of a museum piece….because I’m just… about… ready. After all, if we can break the cycle of birth and death, let me remind you that we can let go and surrender to just about anything.
Onward and upward, strange one.