Its been an emotional few days... well... its been an emotional year (but I'll save that for some other time...) nothing terrible has happened... in fact, some really awesome things have happened! but still, some times you just feel a lot of feelings... and I feel like expressing some of them...
I've worked a fair and a farmers market in the last two days and in these last two days I've had more people pick up a bracelet and excitedly ask, "is this one of those mala things?!" than all the other times I've heard that question combined... and although no, the bracelet was not a mala.... I was elated that someone knew the word and was interested in the idea of it! but then another person asked.. and another.... and another.... and I started wondering, "how in the world has everyone become so excited by 'malas' all of a sudden??" I didn't dwell on the why too much and took it as an opportunity to engage in one of my favorite topics.... but tonight, as I was finally taking a moment to relax before bed and scrolling through to see what all my friends had been up to all weekend, I stop on an ad of a plain bracelet made from matte amazonite stones with the word "MALA" scrawled next to it. I couldn't help but click on it.... and I was taken to a page filled with pictures of these bracelets and necklaces with gemstones and brightly colored tassels and Czech glass beads and girls by the pool "adding a little fashion to their swimsuits".... all with the description "authentic malas".... I was almost brought to tears.
I was so distraught, in fact, that I launched into a half hour tirade to my boyfriend about how upsetting it was to see this company with 22k followers, undoubtedly popular and trendy.... using the description "authentic malas" and #bohochic and #womensfashion to describe something that has absolutely nothing to do with Bohemia and, after counting the beads on the bracelets, can't even truly be called "authentic".... it bothered me so much that they were using "mala", such a meaningful thing, as way to sell trendy jewelry...
an "authentic" mala has meaning... it has purpose.... its made a certain way.... and its used a certain way... and although they were including hashtags like #meditate and #yoga... I have a feeling the intentions were a little skewed... traditional malas are made using sacred numbers and materials... even the method in which its made is sacred... the bracelets contain 27 beads and the necklaces 108... their bracelets were all different numbers of beads... and, while their necklaces did indeed have 108 beads, there were no knots between them. traditional malas are hand knotted and take hours to make... the point is to put intention into every knot... a pause... a separation of the beads so they are easier to count while you're chanting your mantra, which is the true purpose of a mala. And although no, I don't suspect every person I've knotted a mala for chants all day or even uses them deliberately, I do know that the reason they bought or commissioned the piece was because they cared about its intention. They were moved when I explained its significance and symbolism.
I couldn't stand the idea that so many people were buying and wearing these pieces without any deeper understanding to their purpose or meaning... they are wearing "malas" that aren't malas and they aren't even sure why...
It kills me that people don't dig deeper... that someone would wear a "mala" to spruce up a swim suit... it kills me that someone would sell a "mala" to spruce up a swim suit... doesn't anyone care what it means?
As I was expressing all of this through gritted teeth and a few choice words, I started to think more deeply about my emotions over the whole thing.... when I'm explaining to people the different gemstones I use and telling them all the different meanings and properties of them, I hear all the time: "yeah but I mean come on they're just rocks." and it hurts my feelings every time. but its because it matters to me. I can't expect it to matter to everyone. I say to those people "well, its all about intention." and I believe that. LIFE is all about intention. And although yes, I've spent hours and hours and hours of my life studying all these different religions and cultures and developing a deep affection for all the traditions and rituals and subtleties.... I have to remind myself that I can't expect to share that with everyone... every person that steps up to my table has an interest that I don't share.... and if life really is all about intention, then why am I so upset by this? Isn't the fact that these people, who otherwise might never had even heard the word mala, gained although a somewhat vague idea of it meaningful enough?
I'm not sure.... I haven't landed on a solid feeling for that yet... (I'd like to say no open minded Buddhist would look down on these people for their naïvety or lack of understanding) but I can tell you what I've decided for sure.... I've decided that I'm grateful for you all. I know the only people reading this are people who care... people who have enjoyed engaging with me about my work and my passions. even if I kept you at my booth talking your ear off about Eskimo folklore or my favorite Hindu goddesses or even my twenty minute spiel about all the significance of a traditional mala, I know that you cared enough to make the effort to engage with me further on my blog... you're the reason I'll never use the hashtag #womensfashion to sell you something... you're the reason I'll never stop learning about my stones or my materials or the purposes and intentions behind the pieces I make that are inspired by meaningful objects.
The feeling I get when someone's mouth drops open as I show them a bracelet made from the kind of stones Cleopatra wore or the stone King Tut's sarcophagus was inlaid with or help them choose a stone for a suffering loved one based on its healing properties is ten times more overwhelming than the feeling I get when I see cultural appropriation without appreciation.... I feel so warm and happy thinking about all my hand knotted malas out there in the world being worn by lovely people who wear them not for beauty, but for the beauty of their intention.
Thank you. Thank you for digging deeper. Thank you for all your love. You're what makes my work mean something to me.