Archive for August, 2008

One of the things I love about having a blog is the great people you meet online that you would never have a chance to because of geography. This week, I got this great comment on my blog from Tara L., a soon-to-be-30 family nurse practitioner from Nashville, Tenn. who had heard my interview on CraftSanity and bought a copy of the book. Here is some of what she wrote me:

“I can’t begin to express how appreciative I am to you for your wonderful book and for the way it has so deeply inspired me. After I listened to the interview, I was so moved by your honesty about your faith and by your warm personality. It wasn’t long before I had your book in my hands, and it literally hasn’t left my immediate grasp ever since. By the second day of owning it, I’d already made my first set of prayer beads (from plastic beads obtained from a local Wal-Mart during my lunch break from work). Today I made my second set with some glass beads from my bead stash, and I’m already making plans for other sets. I love praying with them, and their very presence in my environment makes me feel closer to God while they serve as a reminder that He is always only a whisper away.

I would love to share pictures of my prayer beads with you. If you will email me, I’ll be happy to send you some. Thank you again for your book and for introducing me to prayer beads!”

Well, I couldn’t let that invitation go by, and soon Tara and I were off on an email correspondence, complete with pictures, and I want to share what she said with you. You must read the part about why she brings the prayer beads to her lips when she prays! It sent a shiver down my spine! I have to try this. Wow.

Here is some of what Tara wrote to me about her life, her faith background and how and why she prays with beads. And take a look at her beautiful prayer bead creations! She also wrote to tell me that she just noticed that she was so eager to have a set of prayer beads that she made her first set – this set of purple beads – with only six, not seven, weeks beads in two sections. I told her to leave it be – it would remind her of how hungry she was for prayer every time she uses them.

Here’s Tara . . . . .

“I feel a little like I’ve lived one of those lives in which no answer is straightforward.  I’m in a rather dark period of my life right now; the kind in which it seems that there is discontent in almost every aspect of my existence.  I think this may be a big part of why prayer has become so crucial to me presently.  It’s my coping mechanism and my connection to God, who I have hopes will pull me out of this soon.

“Right now I’m living just north of Nashville, Tennessee, and I’m working as a Family Nurse Practitioner in a walk-in sort of clinic.  My background is in women’s health though.  I worked as a labor and delivery nurse for 4 years before I returned to school in 2005 to get my Masters in Nurse-Midwifery. However, I found myself having significant difficulty finding the right midwifery job after graduation, so I took my current job to pay the bills.  I’m left feeling very lost and unsatisfied because I so miss my women.  In fact, my scope of care in this setting is exclusive of women’s health.  I’m not sure what God’s plan is for me right now, but I’m trying very, very hard to hold on to the knowledge that there is something wonderful for me just around the corner. 

“I’ll be turning 30 at the end of this month, and I’ll admit that I’m having a bit of a personal crisis about it.  I remember being a very young adult and saying more than once that I wanted to be done having babies by the time I was 30.  Because of life’s unexpected twists and turns, I’ve not yet even started having babies.  The one thing I’d give up just about anything for is to be a mother.  It is a debilitating hole in my heart, this need I have for my own children.

“I was raised in a nondenominational church with my father as the pastor.  We worshipped among folks from many different faith backgrounds, so I was very accustomed to things like applause offerings, speaking in tongues, and worship services that could go any direction at any time, depending on how the Spirit moved among the congregation.  As a child and young adolescent I had a firm grasp on who I thought God was and what He was about.  All of that changed when I was 12 when my father resigned from the church he and my family had built and my parents divorced. My mother and I moved out of state, and we began to attend a very traditional Southern Baptist church. By the time I was in college and too old for the youth group, my interest in attending the church really faded away.

“Years later when I was out of school and working, I found a Presbyterian church near my home. It was a very accepting, spiritually-charged evangelical sort of church.  It was rare that I didn’t find myself sitting in my seat with tears streaming down my face while in that church.  I left it only because I moved away to attend graduate school.  School left me without the time to attend church, and unfortunately, I’ve not found myself back yet.  I do miss it, and I hope to get back into a church soon.  Because of my background, I don’t feel that I need to find a specific denomination to feel at home, so I’ll just have to find the right fit for me.

“I’ve never used any form of prayer beads before, but I can’t remember a time when I didn’t wish I could have something to be a daily reminder for me to take some time to talk to my heavenly Father, to spend some quality time with Him.  I’ve long admired the Catholic faith for its ritual and its many signs of devotion, and I’ve thought in the past that I might feel at home in an Episcopalian congregation.  Prayer beads have been just the answer I was looking for when I wanted something ritualistic and tangible to feel connected to God.  Thank you again for introducing me to them!

“I’ve only been using my prayer beads for about a week now, and I feel like I’m still exploring how to use them in my personal spiritual journey.  I have found that I don’t want to leave them behind when I leave home, so for right now, they go where I go.  I’m comforted to know they are within arm’s reach of me at any time.  While I knew intellectually before that God was always that close to me, the beads are a physical reminder that He really is only an intention away.  I love the chapter in your book about praying with attention and intention.  It is absolutely the difference between reciting prayers and actually praying.

“I feel like I’m still discovering what my favorite prayers are.  I already see that I feel more drawn to prayers that actually address God rather than those that talk about God.  I also find myself bringing my beads to my lips without conscious thought and whispering onto each bead I’m praying on, almost like it’s a microphone directly to the Lord.  I love the Psalm prayer on pages 54-55 [of Bead One, Pray Too], and I’m working on compiling a list of my favorite scriptures as well.  Here are a couple of them:

Philippians 4:6-7
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests by made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Psalm 91:11-16
For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.  In their hands, they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, the young lion and the serpent you shall trample under foot. Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name.  He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation.”

“I have a little pocket book that I’m finding particularly helpful.  It’s called “The Bible Promise Book” and has scriptures (KJV) organized by subjects like courage, prayer, worry, fear, forgiveness, joy, honesty, etc.  I also have a teeny Bible given to me by a representative from the Gideons one day when I was walking to class in graduate school that has an index of sorts in the front.  The index has “Where to find help when…” at the top of the pages and subjects with scriptures listed beneath (things like “afraid,” “sorrowful,” “tempted,” and “weary.”).

“Last night I was praying with my beads, and I found myself just praying spontaneously.  Over the weeks beads, I prayed for 7 different things for each of the 3 members of my family and for myself.  It felt good to organize my requests before God and to have time for each of the members of my family so that I could focus on really bringing them before the Lord in prayer.  This was an unexpected way for me to use the beads, but it just felt right.

“Kimberly, thank you again for your book and for all that prayer beads have brought to my life.  I’m excited to continue to grow with them and to see the new ways that they will enhance my own spiritual journey.”

Pretty great, huh? What do you all think? I am happy to hear from anyone who would like to share their beads and prayers.

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Do any of you listen to music when you meditate or pray – with or without prayer beads? I usually require silence, but at the last Book Expo, I came across Allegro Media Group‘s booth, where some very nice people from NewSound Music were offering CDs of world music that has a spiritual bent. Once I explained the purpose of my blog, account manager Paxton Scott very nicely gave me a stack of CDs to review as potential prayer bead music.

Here is what they gave me – each link has a place where you can listen to samples

Buddha Chill: Soulfood

Global Rhythms Collection (multiple artists)

Peace of Mind (Steven Halpern)

Celestial Mozart (Gerald Jay Markoe)

Healing the Holy Land (Dean Evenson)

Sacred Blessings: Sacred Music Inspired by the Worlds Great Faiths (selected by Anthony Robbins)

I am happy to report that all the CDs they gave me were lovely, of not all were to my taste. Lilting piano melodies, driving (but not too driving) ethnic drums, soft strings and where there were vocals they were smooth and serene.

I tried praying my beads with one of these CDs playing in the background until I went thru the whole stack. Not every one was to my taste. Buddha Chill was my least favorite because I don’t connect with electronic music. Sacred Blessings gave me a bit of a shock because the first track was an intro by Tony Robbins, the self-motivational guru, and I just kept wondering what he was doing on this CD while I was trying to pray. The rest, though, was lovely, and I give Robbins, who I believe is a Mormon, credit for including the songs and prayers of many faith traditions.

My favorite CD was Celestial Mozart. For one thing, it had very few vocals, and those it did have did not distract me from my prayers because they were just syllables or in Latin, which I dont understand. I think it also helps that Markoe is a yoga teacher and intentionally arranged the music to be 28 to 60 beats per minute, which he identifies as “the best tempo range for deep relaxation.” Then there’s the fact that I just like Mozart – thank you Dr. Dietz and your music appreciation 101 I took at the University of Texas 25 years ago. Some things stick.

Praying with music in the background may not be the thing for me. It is hard enough for me to focus my energy on what I am doing and not start thinking about my grocery list or my workload or how badly I want to eat a chocolate donut. I tended to get lost in the music. But maybe I just need some practice. I’d be interested in hearing back from those of you who do listen to music while you use prayer beads. Do you have any tips for those of us who find it a challenge? What are some of your favorite things to listen to? How do you stay focused on the prayer and not the music? Or, do you focus on the music and let that become a prayer?

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Step inside Mill Valley, Calif.’s Beads of Marin and it won’t take you long to notice that there is something spiritual going on here. Maybe it’s the lingering odor of sage, burnt that morning to dispel any lingering negative energy. Maybe it’s the dozens of Hindu and Buddhist malas that adorn the walls. Or, maybe it’s the low altar placed along a wall of exposed brick that holds the signs and symbols sacred to many religious traditions – drawings of Hindu gods and goddesses, a photo of the Dalai Lama, a brass Egyptian ankh, a statue of the Buddha and a small figure of Kuan Yin.

In fact, every morning before opening her store on Locust Street, owner Batel Libes takes a moment to light a Native American smudge stick and ring a Buddhist begging bowl. Only then does she open the door. “It cleanses the air, the energy,” Batel says. “It is something that makes me feel good, and at the end of the process it makes me feel ‘Ahhh!'” Here is a picture of the altar.

But even if you never looked up at the walls or down at the altar, you’d soon suspect something spiritual was afoot. There are more religious and spiritually-oriented beads in Batel’s store than I have ever seen under one roof. In fact, there is an entire table of beads and pendants Batel steers customers to when they want to make prayer beads, amulets, healing jewelry or other spiritually oriented things.

“Why so many? Because the community likes it,” Batel says as she leads me to the table and I try – almost successfully – to keep my eyes from popping out of my head. “That’s the business answer – because it sells. But the real reason? Because it is me.”

Indeed, Batel describes herself to me as something of a spiritual hodgepodge. Her name is Hebrew for “daughter of God” and she tells me that she is Jewish, with influences from the both the Conservative and Renewal branches of Judaism, but then lets drop that she also incorporates some New Age and Buddhist practices on her spiritual journey. And for good measure, she rules no one else’s religious preferences out. “I believe we are all striving to reach the same place, but there are different ways to get there,” she tells me, a carnelian Buddha pendant framed in silver twinkling around her neck.

For the next hour, I walk around Beads of Marin in a kind of prayer-bead feeding frenzy. I try to take pictures of everything that I thought would make good Catholic rosaries, Anglican prayer beads, Buddhist and Hindu malas, Islamic subhah and other forms of prayer beads. Here is a shot of the prayer bead table . . .

And here’s a shot of some freshwater pearl crosses . . .

Next is one is of some great Kuan Yin beads:

Next is a Goddess bead which Batel commissioned:

And an ivory goddess bead.

And here’s something new to me: Morrocan women’s amulets:

I sense a fertility theme!

But there are also lots of more traditional prayer bead beads – rudraksha strands, crosses, stars, etc.

Part of Batel’s spiritual philosophy is to run an ecologically and economically responsible business, She routinely vets all of her vendors, making sure their ivory products pre-date the ivory ban, that their bone products come from animals not killed for the purpose of harvesting their bones and that their shell products are collected responsibly. She hopes customers will shun the “big box” craft and bead stores, both the bricks-and-mortar- type and the online kind, because they are not always so careful. She suggests bead consumers check the track records of any business before they throw their money at them, something she says can be accomplished by Googling “human rights” and “animal rights” and the name of the retail or wholesale venue.

She also wants consumers to know that when they shop with a local, indie bead store they are giving back to their own community by supporting a local business owner and his or her employees. She is a member of the Local Bead Store Alliance, a trade association of 57 indie bead stores and their owners that are working to educate bead consumers about the benefits of shopping small and local. “It is a battle that bead store owners have everyday and a lot of us are going under,” she said.

Beads of Marin does not have an online store, but Batel said she’d do her best to satisfy anyone who calls or emails about anything they see in this blogpost. I bought one of the round carnelian beads etched with a Buddha’s head and lotus, and one of the mermaids that is grasping a pearl. I also bought a quarter-sized carnelian disk that has a goat – my zodiac sign – etched into it. I hope to use all of these as terminal charms or invitatory beads and will post the finished products when I do!

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