The Power of Sacred Adornments

I used to wear rings on every finger, necklaces, bracelets and earrings – long, long, earrings – dangling from my body.

Over the years the styles changed. Sometimes a watch took up residence on my wrist and I felt naked without it.

When she was born, I learned what it was to have a baby and realized that it was time to shed the jewelry, preferring to preserve chains and intact earlobes. For a while, she was my sacred adornment and there were blessings in that amidst the nakedness I sometimes felt without the jewelry.

It took years to slowly find my way back to adorning myself and as I did so, I learned a lot about what it meant to me.

It was a way to express my creativity through the choices I made each day.

It was a way to carry comfort with me even when I went into the most uncomfortable situations.

It was a way to extend who I was outside of my skin, giving a little glimpse of the heart and soul of me.

img_20161005_202616I share this as a way to explain why I wear a mala almost every day.

For some, malas will remain on their altars and be used only for mantra meditation. And that is beautiful.

For me, I choose to carry my meditation with me.

I choose to wear the gemstones that I need as I wander out into the world, cloaking myself in patience or strength or groundedness or peace.

I choose to trace my hands from bead to bead in a short meditation while waiting for coffee, before getting out of my car for a meeting, before greeting the once baby now first grader at the bus stop.

Because I need the ability to drop back into myself through meditation whenever and wherever.

This is the same reason I carry a mini altar in my wallet and a tiny Ganesha statue in the pocket of my jean jacket.

What we cloak ourselves in – from our thoughts, our words, and our actions to our clothes and sacred adornments – are extensions of our hearts and souls.

I believe that I am a sacred vessel, and that you are too. And as vessels, we can carry our sacred adornments wherever we travel.

I Am Pursuing Subtle Threads

IMG_20160719_160333Each bead, like each part of the self, holds its own energy. Each bead is unique in color, in exact size, in design. Each bead is a reflection of what has come before and holds the promise of what is yet to come.

As I pick them up, hold them gently in my hands, begin to place them side by side, I begin to see the story that they tell together.

This one pulls out the color of that one. Contrast can sometimes create powerful energy, and sometimes more consistency allows for a sense of calm.

Each one of us is made up of many parts, whether we label them or not. The stories of who we have been, of who we think we are, of who we are becoming, are similar in a way to the beads. They can feel similar to one another, they can feel separate, they can lead us to feel like we are struggling to find a way to hold it all together, to see how all of these pieces fit.

There are the beads, and then there is the thread.

The thread that holds them all together while still allowing each bead space to breathe, to contribute its own energy to the whole.

And it makes me wonder sometimes about the thread that holds all of my parts together….

“I’m searching for the thread that holds it all together,” I said recently to some friends. In the days that followed I realized that I am that thread. All the parts of me are held together by the essence of who I am, that which is beyond the labels.

I am mama. I am wife. I am daughter. I am yoga teacher. I am writer. I am coach. I am mala maker. I am friend. I am all of this and more. These are the beads of self and I am the thread.

Driving a Boat – A Practice in Aparigraha

nh-lake“You’re going to drive the boat,” she said to me, before I even made the trip up to New Hampshire. Did she even know that I had a huge fear of boats? That I was not a boat person?

It did not matter.

Two years ago at the last Lift Up that I attended, after crying and spilling out my thoughts on all sorts of things for an hour, her message was simple, “You need to get your license.”

Yes, I got my driver’s license two years ago when I was 31 years old. There was so much wrapped up in that story, and the freedom she gave me with that push has been pure magic.

And so I can’t say I was actually surprised to hear her words.

“Are you going to come home next year flying a plane?” Jon asked me. We laughed.

***

The morning I left for New Hampshire I was full of anxiety. It was coming full circle. Two years ago I was on the verge of getting my license, and here I was now preparing for a solo seven hour road trip. It felt big to me, yet I knew I could do it.

A few days before I’d been on a boat for the first time in over a decade and I did.not.like.it. Not even a little. Even though I was with close friends, and Chloe was by my side reassuring me. So this idea of me driving a boat still seemed quite impossible.

So much seems impossible before we prove to ourselves that we can do it.

***

I arrived at the lake house and circled with some of the bravest, strongest women I know. We did the hard work of holding space for each other and of allowing ourselves to speak our truth. We talked a lot of the things we need to talk about that we don’t. We gave ourselves permission to feel less alone.

***

on-the-waterOn the final morning, the water was perfectly still and there did not seem to be any boats on the water. This was in deep contrast to a few weeks before, choppy water and boats everywhere you looked.

We got in the boat and I felt calm.

She couldn’t get the boat started and I offered to try. I got it on my first attempt, and we were off.

We cruised through the water, taking in the mountains, the trees beginning to change their leaves from green to orange, and the various houses we saw along the way.

We came to a no wake zone and she said, “This is where we teach people how to drive the boat.”

And she taught me. And I did it. And it was wonderful.

It was a reminder to me of the stories that we build up so much they become the myths that we live our lives by, they become how we label ourselves (I am not a boat person).

***

When we stepped back onto land, I found that I felt more grounded than I have in a long while. And it was in this moment that I learned a new story about myself: Water grounds me.

***

Our stories are forever changing, yet sometimes we cling to the old drafts as if they are written in stone and can never be changed. Shifting this is the work of aparigraha.

In The Yamas and Niyamas, Deborah Adele writes,

“Anything we cling to creates a maintenance problem for us. The material items that we hoard, collect, buy because they are on sale or take because they are “free,” all take up space and demand our attention. Storage boxes and sheds become an easy way to fool ourselves. Subtle attachments come in the form of our images and beliefs about ourselves, about how life should be, about how others should be. These images keep us in bondage to our own learning and growth. Clutter in our physical space blocks our ability to physically move, while clutter in our minds blocks our freedom to expand and have space for the next thing life wants to bring us.”

Can we let go of the clinging to the stories that block our freedom?

Can we honor the stories and then release them and in doing so create more space for who we are becoming?

***

driving-the-boatI drove almost 800 miles by myself. I drove a boat. I discovered that old stories were just that – stories and not truth, and I discovered new stories about myself that I will do my best not to cling to, knowing that they too are ever changing.

When we practice aparigraha, nonpossessiveness, we give ourselves the space to stretch out, to see the possibility within us, and to trust that we get to write what comes next.

With Love and Gratitude,

Xandra

When the Storm Comes

IMG_20160701_175458We walked along the beach in the fog, feeling the waves crash against our legs, looking out to the ocean, gray as it reflected the stormy sky.

When we turned around to walk back the way we came, we could barely see in front of ourselves. The storm was coming from the South and we had not seen how close it crept while our backs were turned.

A tightening came over me, and he asked me to slow down my pace because apparently I had begun to walk rather quickly. I did this because I did not know what we were walking into, because the thick fog clouded my vision, and without my vision the unknown brought me fear.

When a storm approaches, whether internal or external, our view shrinks and we can see only what is right in front of us. Have you ever driven through a massive rainstorm and not even been certain of the inches in front of you?

Time slows. The rest of the world melts away. You are forced to be present, and that perhaps means being present to fear, to a sense of having no control, to anxiety deep within your belly (I always feel this when a storm is coming, maybe you do too), to what matters in this moment.

And so I slowed.

I slowed my movement.

I slowed my breath.

I slowed the storm within me.

I walked on, knowing that all we can ever do is remain still and allow the storm to wash over us, or to walk into head first, and trust that we will find the other side.

***

The next day we came back to the ocean, sun blazing hot in the sky, water now a brilliant blue.

The storm had cleared.

It always does.

Why I Create

IMG_20160617_215300I got home Friday evening, put Chloe to bed, and found myself called to vision for the first time in weeks, maybe months.

My creative energy has recently been filled with malas and bracelets and necklaces, and I have been guided by this flow.

Friday night, as I entered the final week before my first festival where I will be selling my malas, my energy felt pulled in a different direction and I allowed it to carry me.

Creation is a transference of energy, at least I believe it is.

If you try to create against the natural flow of your energy, you are bound to find yourself frustrated in the face of obstacles real and imagined.

And so I found myself wondering, why do I create?

I create to shift the energy around me.

When I make something with my hands, I can feel the energy work through me. Much like with the physical yoga practice, the energy is given a direction in which to flow. In the case of my creative work – whether writing, jewelry, vision pages, or even redecorating and reorganizing my home, the energy flows out of me and becomes something new. I free it. I do not hold into it. It is not mine, it never was. It was always ours to share.

I create to find stillness of mind.

When I am creating, this magic takes place where my mind quiets, the thoughts do not race, and I become immersed in what is before me. One knot and then the next and then the next. Cut this image and glue it here. Find the word or phrase that jumps out at me even if I do no understand why. My creative time allows me to just be, even though I am doing. It allows me to forget for a while about the stresses, the fears, the sadness, or the overwhelm.

I create out of love.

Creativity does not do the magic if it tries to be born of necessity. When I create what feels like my best, I can feel the love I am pouring into it and it is a reminder to me that there is always more love to share. In sharing love, I fill myself back up again.

I create to find understanding.

Whether insight comes through the meditative motions of creating a mala, through my ideas as I write out whatever comes to mind, or through words and images that bring forth an image of dreams perhaps previously hidden, my creative process allows me to understand more about who I am and what my path and purpose are.

I create for connection.

I know when I am in my creative process that I am in this flow of energy with everything in the world. The woman siting next to me writing, my daughter at art camp, my friends and strangers who are living creatively – we are all connected by this thread of creativity.

I create for you.

My hope, always, is that my words, images, jewelry, ideas, spark something in you. I hope to inspire you to continue to take steps towards your sacred becoming, trusting along the way that when you follow the flow, you will feel deeply alive.

Why do you create? Leave a comment in the blog and share with us!

Turning to Howlite for Patience and Rest

IMG_20160519_212316I toss and turn. I move my pillows around. I kick my blanket off and then pull it back close to me. I try for about an hour to sleep on the couch, and then the cat wakes me.

Howlite is good for insomnia I remember, and when I retreat back to bed, my mala comes with me and I tuck it under my pillow.

I sleep. I sleep well. Night after night it becomes my ritual to place my mala underneath my pillow, allowing me to absorb the healing energy as I settle in for a night of sleep.

The effects are clear during the day too. I find that on the nights that I remember to rest with the howlite nearby, my patience comes more easily in the daylight.

Patience and rest, two properties of howlite. Under my pillow and around my neck, two ways I use my mala.

When I posted the picture of my howlite, sodalite, and garnet mala, people felt drawn to it. I was in a store the other day and someone told me it caught their eye.

And so, I created another one.

Whether you are seeking rest, patience, or the commingling of white and gray (lovely summer colors), I invite you to consider howlite. To see what is currently in stock, you can visit the Sacred Becoming Shop.

With Love and Gratitude,

Xandra

Exploring 108

IMG_20160320_200127Almost a year ago, I posted this on my personal Instagram account and someone on Facebook asked me to share more about the number 108.

Until then, all I really knew about 108 was that it is a sacred number in many traditions and that a mala typically contains 108 beads. I have been working on a writing project that involves the number 108 because I was drawn there intuitively and I have been creating malas so I decided to dig a bit deeper into the meaning of the number.

As I began to explore and have conversations with people, more and more kept coming up that had me fascinated so I thought I would share some of what I have learned with you. If you know more about 108 than what I share here, please feel free to share in the comments.

I also found myself resisting writing this post because I did not want to just share what I found in other places. Finally, I feel like the words have found their way to the page so I can share more personally about the meaning of 108 for me.

108 offers a connection to the Universe, to some force greater than I feel I have the capacity to fully comprehend.

An article on humanityhealing.net (and supported elsewhere), shares the following information about the number 108 in relation to the sun, moon, and Earth:

“The distance between the Earth and Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Sun. The diameter of the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth. The distance between the Earth and Moon is 108 times the diameter of the Moon.” I would add that it is important to note that these numbers are approximations and if you seek out the numbers and do the math you will come up with figures ranging from 107-111, but that’s still pretty close and I find it fascinating.

To me, this exemplifies the complexity of the Universe, and also the patterns that exist in a world well beyond what we can understand. In this regard, 108 is a reminder to me of all that is unseen and yet holds powerful sway over us. We plan our days by the light of the sun, our cycles align with the pull of the moon. There is no escaping this brilliant connection between our human lives and the vast Universe.

The number 108 shows up in many ancient texts, and is the diameter of one of the circles of Stonehenge, and to me this forges a connection between the past, the present, and the future.

With the number finding its way into various cultures in different parts of the world and through different periods of time, there seems to be a message coming from our ancestors that there is something important about this number. Perhaps we will never know what, but we can continue to honor it, to meditate with it, to explore what it means for ourselves.

I have found that in moments of doubt, I see the number 108 in some form (often 1:08 or 10:08 on a clock) and I feel an immediate ease and sense of trust in the path I am traveling.

In gematria which is part of the Jewish tradition in which I was raised, the letters of the word chai (life) add up to 18, so in seeing 108 I also see 18, the number symbolic of this precious gift of life.

When I practice Jappa meditation (meditation where one repeats a mantra), I have fallen into the practice of using a mala to repeat the mantra 108 times. This feels sacred to me for the reasons mentioned above and because it gives me enough time with the mantra to really feel a connection to the energy of the words I am chanting, to help me find focus in that moment of meditation, not the moments that come before or after my meditation.

Whether you feel a resonance with the number 108 or not, I hope this has helped you to understand why it has become part of my practices and why you will continue to see me reference, through my poems, through the Sacred Becoming Malas, and perhaps in new ways in the future as I deepen my journey of understanding those things that feel sacred to me.

Are You Holding on Too Tightly?

I watch her go from happy 6 year old, enjoying the moment, to teary-eyed and overwhelmed, or angry and frustrated, in an instant. It hurts my heart and I want to help her.

I hold her close.

“Do you remember yesterday when you wrote the wrong thing on your homework, took a breath, and fixed it. You did a great job staying calm. Do you think you can do that again now?”

Sometimes it’s as simple as we’re holding on too tightly.

We hold on tight to the way we want things to go, or how we want them to unfold.

We wish, we dream, we hope, and then we hold on so tightly that we suffocate any chance of the dream taking flight.

What happens when we let go?

What happens when we take the moment to breathe?

Like magic, what we desire manifests before us.

It may not look like we expected.

It may not come on the timeline we chose (sometimes much sooner, sometimes our work is in the waiting).

It may not even come in a way that we recognize as the desire we manifested.

But it all comes.

I decided to manifest a jar for some work in Hannah’s Magic Making Circle. Later that day, I found the perfect box, glass sides, and the hinge was broken. Perfect. Perfect for not locking up my dreams but giving them the chance to be free.Manifested box

It was better than I ever could have imagined because I let go of the how, the where, the details.

Patience is part of my work right now, and it is part of hers as well. She is learning that a moment can shift everything – expectations, outcomes, who she is.

When we surround ourselves in love, just as I surrounded her in love, we give ourselves the space to recognize when we’re holding on too tightly, and then we can let go….

With Love and Gratitude,

Xandra

In the Noise, Find the Quiet, In Your Weaknesses, Find Your Strength

IMG_20160511_115108The coffee shop is loud today, and maybe that is what I need. So much chatter around me that it all blends together and becomes just noise and it drowns out the unnecessary chatter of my own mind.

For months I found myself working at home instead of coffee shops and I have forgotten again to pack earbuds. I roll with it.

Write first, connect to the internet later has become my mantra, holding off distractions until I have gotten some words down, some thoughts sorted.

I could write about the dream I had with the vulture, the hawk, the geese, and the crows I think, and then realize I still want to dive into the rich symbolism there which would require an internet search.

Scrawled on my hand from this morning, notes taken from my morning pages,

our places of weakness allow us to use our strengths

This idea has been following me around recently and I have been speaking to it in yoga classes.

In the physical practice, we are often so aware of what our bodies can’t do, what our physical limitations are, where we are not as flexible.

When we escape the negative thought patterns those moments may provoke and we lean into our strengths, we can learn from our bodies.

We can harness the energy where we are strong (the legs, the arms, the core, the mind, the breath) and we can use to it remind us of our inherent strength.

I often ask my students to contemplate where that physical strength comes from because it is deeper than just the physical strength.

Deep within you, you have great strength. You can call upon it with the breath, send it where it needs to go, recognize that what feels like weakness is a lesson. What story is asking to be heard?

Some soul work for you this week, and I’d love to had what comes up for you in the comments below –

What is something that you label as weakness in your life, your body, your being? What story is asking to be heard?

Sharing What You Love with Yourself Too

IMG_20160427_100411Yesterday was a day of remembering to do what I love.

I got Chloe out the door in time to make it to a yoga class (something that doesn’t always happen as often as I hope, even as a yoga teacher). Later as I sat down to work on some more malas for Philly Chant and Yoga Festival and my Etsy shop, I realized that it was time to make one for myself, so I began that project.

We can share what we love and believe to be important with the world, but if we don’t allow ourselves to have it too, we’re really missing out.

This statement was powerful when it came through. There’s a lot of talk about self-care, and I’ve done my fair share of reminding women over the years about how we need to take care of ourselves before others. And we do.

What shifted about this idea is that I found myself no longer thinking about taking care of others but sharing what we love with others.

The same concept applies.

For those of us who find ourselves on the path where we get to share what we love, our own opportunities to experience these things can get lost, just as easily as it can for the mama who is so focused on taking care of her family that she forgets to take care of herself.

The yoga teacher who finds herself teaching more and more and taking less time to practice herself (because there are only so many hours in the day).

The artist who creates for others and forgets to surround herself with beauty that catches her eye.

The writer who writes for others and not for herself (I’m not guilty of this one, I write all the time).

The doctor who treats others with love and compassion and who does not take good care of her own health.

The workaholic who loves what she does but fills her time so that there is no time left for anything else she loves.

We all do it or have done it at some point in our lives. No matter how we share what we love, that light will burn brighter for others when we remember to share it with ourselves.

I am continuing this practice today. I woke up and meditated this morning before I even got out of bed. I am sitting in a coffee shop for the first time in months, sipping tea and enjoying the overcast day.

You deserve to not miss out on your life. Share the things you love with the world, and share them with yourself too.

With Love and Gratitude,

Xandra