Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Case of the Missing Mala

When I was a kid, I loved Nancy Drew. I loved her so much that she inspired me—and another ten year old girl—to co-author a (very) small “book” of mysteries with illustrations (a limited-edition self-publishing venture that ended up in our elementary school library). In our collection, you can be sure there would not have been a chapter called “The Case of the Missing Mala” because when I was ten years old I had absolutely no idea what a mala was.
            Years later, when my sister went to India I discovered what a mala was (but that’s another story). This story is about a mala I actually lost last week, a lovely mala that I had purchased more than a year ago at a yoga center I frequent. I had been using this mala over the summer while doing a 21-day online meditation. After that mediation was over, I thought I placed the mala on the doorknob of my office; or possibly, put it away in one of my little jewelry boxes. But this week when I was thinking about it, I couldn’t find the thing anywhere.
            I scoured my house looking for that mala. I looked in every box I could find (and discovered to my horror, that I am the owner of many, many little boxes). I looked on every doorknob. I searched under my bed. (As my mother used to say, “It couldn’t have just walked away!”). I dismantled the bathroom closet (where I found things I never even knew I had). But…no mala. 
            And now I began to want that mala, need that mala, desire that mala more than anything in the world. I suddenly could not meditate without it. I suddenly could not go to yoga class without it. I suddenly was obsessed each time I entered my bedroom or home office. The lack of the mala became huge. It prompted me to go through a mountainous pile of papers (thinking that it might be beneath). It prompted me to dust things that hadn’t been dusted in quite some time. It prompted me to think about the fact that I really haven’t been meditating as much as I should be, and that I really haven’t been de-cluttering and letting go as much as I should be, and I really haven’t been clearing out my thoughts or emptying my life of things that “do not serve me” as much as I (even though I hate these words) “should be.”
            Suddenly I realized that the missing mala was a lot more useful than the one that was here somewhere, because the mala’s very absence was teaching me that there are things I need to get rid of and “lose” (work that bores me and takes up too much time for too little money, for instance). Oddly, during this same week my dear sister was going through a similar experience (though she didn’t to my knowledge lose her mala). I found out that she had decided to make a career change she’s been thinking about for years.
            Long story short, last night I gave up looking for the mala. I informed the Universe, “I surrender.” I admit I asked the Universe to help me find my mala because I really like it, but I also decided to give up searching. The mala would re-surface—one day, I was sure-- in a little box I’d forgotten about.
            Minutes after my declaration to the powers that be, I went back into my office to face the work I’d been putting off. But just as I sat down at my desk, I had a sudden urge to take everything off my doorknob one last time. I removed three pocketbooks that I haven’t used in years, and as I did so I had a sudden urge to peek within the folds of an old fabric bag. Of course, there was the mala. Apparently, it had slipped off the knob and fallen inside.
            I fished it out and placed it around my neck, relieved that the mystery was solved!  Then, grateful to the Universe, and to my role model, Nancy Drew, I decided to begin meditating daily with my mala again…beginning…right now.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Nothing Stays the Same

I used to wonder why folks would keep pictures of their babies around on mantels or walls even after the babies had long grown up. I used to wonder, that is, until I decided to do the same thing myself. Yes, I have more current photos of my now-grown sons that I proudly display on my piano. But I also have three baby pictures that hang on my wall that I can’t give up. And each time I gaze at these pictures I’m reminded that the personalities of each were firmly established from day one.
          For instance, without naming names, since I don’t want my kids to be annoyed with me (I procured their permission, btw, before writing about them in my forthcoming memoir), I’ll just say that the expression on the face of my first child is exactly the expression that I see so often now that he is 30 years old: serious, pensive, and just a bit critical (as in, "Why are you pointing and flashing that thing at my face?").
           My second son, 25, can also be clearly identified in his baby picture: joyful, playful, sensitive, and a bit of a joker; the same at 15 months as he is now. The third picture also perfectly captures my youngest son (now 22): Pensive, sweet, and just a tiny bit mischievous.
           It’s often said that nothing stays the same, that people change, and that we shouldn’t get too attached to things the way they are. Yet I take some comfort in the fact that even though my children (and if you have them, possibly yours as well) are no longer cute little babies, they still possess many of the same characteristics and attributes that made me love them from the very start. Certainly they’ve grown and evolved, and would mostly likely prefer a beer to a bottle of milk these days. Yet they still, in some ways, are precisely the same children I met in the labor room, the same babies I carried in my womb for nine months, the same toddlers who climbed on the counters and chased fireflies in the backyard.
             Sure, things change. But some things—if you look closely enough—stay exactly the same. And for that I am grateful.