Category Archives: Lotus

A few of my favorite things

our wedding day, October 9, 1993–we were so young, and in love, now we are older, but still in love

Eric and I often say to each other “you’re my favorite.” He and my two dogs are constant in my life, my companions, my family, and whether I was making a list of “things I’d save first if there was a fire” or “things I’d want with me if I were stranded on a desert island” or “things I’m grateful for” or “my favorite things,” the three of them would be at the top of every list.

Yesterday and today, I have been home with the crud, being kind to myself, practicing gentleness, taking it easy, and getting some rest. As I’ve been doing so, I’ve been thankful for paid sick days, for the kindness of other beings, for the time and space to rest.

As I’ve spent so much time inside these past two days (with short breaks wrapped in a blanket in a chair in the backyard to get some fresh air), I’ve also been noticing the preciousness of my environment, and wanted to share with you some of my favorite things.

Mala Bracelets and Ibex Shak Merino Wool Jacket

A mala bracelet is made from Buddhist prayer beads, used when chanting mantras similarly to a Catholic Rosary, and is intended to be a more portable version of a full mala, which is 108 beads. The teak mala bracelet I have is inscribed, each bead with the same wish, something that translates roughly to “may all your dreams come true,” or “may your intentions manifest.” I’ve had it for more than ten years, and the wood smells of the patchouli oil that both Eric and I wear. I had two of them to begin with, but gave one to a dear friend. When I saw her again last year, after a few years of not, she was still wearing it.

The crystal and amethyst mala is newer. I just bough it at the Shambhala Mountain Book and Gift Shop when I was there for the Fearless Creativity Writing and Meditation Retreat with Susan Piver. I’d been wanting another one, have been loving how Susannah Conway layers her bracelets, and have often admired the crystal one Susan Piver wears sometimes. In my practice tradition, and in other forms of Buddhist practice, crystal is a symbol of awakened mind, of enlightenment. When I was picking which one I wanted, I was drawn to this one because of the amethyst. My favorite color is deep purple, but I also found out later that the amethyst crystal is meant to help with addiction, to instill a sober mind, to ease insomnia, to guard against guilty and fearful feelings, worn as a protection against self-deception, symbolizes spiritual wisdom and openness, can be used to attract love and happiness, to aid in meditation, is often worn by healers, and has a calming, cleansing, and protective energy. These are all good things.

And my wool jacket. I have worn the Ibex Shak Fullzip Classic for many years now, as has Eric. They are simply one of the most versatile, well-made items of clothing I have ever encountered. They are thin and work well in warmer temperatures, but are also warm enough to wear alone when it’s cooler, and work great as a layer when it gets really cold. I can wear one with a nicer outfit or to walk the dogs. They really are beautiful, and worth the higher price. This one came to me instigated by a loss. I had a black one, fairly new, to replace the one I’d worn out, and while in Boulder, I dropped it while walking the two blocks from a restaurant to the Shambhala Center. Even though I realized it right away and went back, it was gone. When I got online to replace it, it was too late in the season, and there were no more black, so I got this purple one. I normally would have never bought another, brighter color, would have stuck with black, but I love this one, so that story has a happy ending.

Quilt, Khata, and Lotus “Thangka”

It is traditional to have a Thangka over your meditation shrine. Usually, they are painted or embroidered, and are a representation of Buddha, or some other Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala. “Thangkas are intended to serve as a record of, and guide for contemplative experience,” (Buddhanet). As I mentioned in my post about my tattoos, a lotus flower is that representation for me. Eric bought me this one a few years ago (notice the deep purple color). I love how the bloom that is still a bud reaches towards the sky.

The quilt behind it is what served as my Thangka before I had the other. It was made by my aunt, my godmother, who is a fabric artist and quilter. Some day I will write a post, give you a tour through the amazing collection of her work that covers the walls of my house, and both Eric and I’s offices. Her work is truly amazing, and she has gifted me with a lot of it over the years, because she knows how much I love and appreciate it. I have also bought my own pieces from her shows, and my mom has also given me many over the years.

And finally, the Khata that is draped over my Thangka, is a special object, so precious to me. A Khata is a traditional Tibetan scarf, used as an offering of gratitude and good luck, a show of appreciation and love on the part of the giver. It’s often used as a way of decorating an object of practice or great value (such as draping it over the picture of a spiritual teacher), or offered by a student when they receive a teaching or practice, or given to someone who is about to depart on a journey. At the retreat with Susan Piver, on our last day, I gave her this scarf along with letters of love and gratitude, along with my adoration and appreciation. As might happen, the teacher can offer it back to the student, and Susan did just that. This act was so precious to me, I am crying about it again as I tell you. I can’t think about that moment without my heart going soft and tears starting. I know that ultimately I have saved myself, but there are some people whose support was critical, whose wisdom and kindness made all the difference, who I will never be able to properly thank, and Susan Piver is one of those people.

My writing desk

This is where you will find me almost every morning around 4:45 am, after I’ve fed the dogs and made a half cup of coffee. Even if it has to be later than that, I still make it to this spot, every day, and I write at least 3-5 pages in my journal. This is one of my favorite spots, and because of that, there is a collection of my favorite, most important things nearby:

  • a heart-shaped candy box that I covered with shells and rocks I found on the beach
  • Obi‘s last collar with his tags
  • Two different urns with some of Obi’s ashes, the original one they were packaged in, and the other that is blue porcelain and also contains some of his fur and a tag with his Oregon address
  • My HappyLight
  • a Lilac
  • a coaster I use for my coffee that has a purple lotus on it, given to me by a good friend
  • Thousand Shades of Gray mascots, tiny owls from DouDou Birds, Bot and Millie
  • My collection of Full Moon Dreamboards
  • “Dreamer” owl bag from one of my favorite companies, Papyrus
  • a small white porcelain Guanyin that I found at a flea market in Waldport, Oregon for $1
  • a pawprint of Obi’s foot
  • a picture I framed (I worked as a picture framer many years ago) for my Grandma, that I got back when she passed, that says “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
  • Various rocks and love notes from Eric
  • And of course, my current journal and my favorite pen, the Clarius by Pentel


I’ve written before, many times, about my love for books, for reading and writing. Since I’ve been sick, I don’t have the energy for much (in fact, this post has been written in fits and starts over the course of two full days, with many nap breaks in between), but Eric had brought home Cheryl Strayed’s new book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail from the library. He got it for himself to read, but I’ve kidnapped it. I love that the copy I am reading has the “here & now” sticker on it. At our library, that means it’s a special new book and you can only keep it for seven days, but for me, it means something else–that all there is for me to do right now is to sink into this story, this book that is not, as some mistakenly think, a narrative about a journey through a physical place you could find on a map, but is rather about an internal trip, a woman travelling through her own memory and in to the very center of her heart.

And then last night, my copy of Brave Intuitive Painting: let go. be bold. unfold. by Flora Bowley came in the mail. I first saw her work on Andrea Scher’s Superhero Journal, because Andrea was lucky enough recently to do a painting retreat with Flora in Mexico. This book and Flora’s work and the world of open-hearted, brave color what she invites the reader into is so fantastic. I cannot wait to feel better, get out some paint and get messy!

T is for Tattoo

Lots of people either don’t like tattoos or don’t understand them. I agree that some of them are pretty awful or dumb or poorly done. There are plenty of websites where you can see some of the worst, like on Ugliest Tattoos and Bad Tattoos, even Ellen Degeneres has a gallery on her show website, Bad Paid-For Tattoos. If you don’t like them, you shouldn’t get one. And, it hurts to get a tattoo. Depending on where you get it, it might hurt a lot.

But when thoughtfully chosen, beautifully designed and inked, and well cared for, they can be amazing works of art, of the heart, pleasing to look at and significant to the inked. As a writer, I appreciate the permanence of the ink, the art, understand the importance of writing something down, making a record of experience that other people can see, having a story visibly written on my body. I like the idea of being illustrated, marked with symbols, pictures, and words. I like the embodiment, the manifestation of meaning a tattoo can be.

You might not know this about me, but I have two tattoos, and plans for a few more. My first is on my lower back. I got it about twelve years ago.

And the second is on the inside of my right wrist. It’s about six years old.

The where of my tattoos matters. I got one on my lower back because I have always had trouble with my back, weakness and pain. I have Scoliosis, one leg is slightly longer than the other so my hips will never rest evenly, and I fell off a horse when I was 18 and did more damage. There is a chakra at the base of your spine that represents survival, the right to exist, and is thought to manage your ability to stand up for yourself. I felt a strong need to have a symbol of power and enlightenment in that spot. As for the one on my wrist, I am a writer and right-handed. I wanted to have the same symbol, a similar reminder, near the spot physically responsible for manifesting my heart’s work.

The same person did both. Her name is Tara and she owns Enchanted Ink in Boulder, Colorado. I picked her specifically, drove all the way to Boulder when there are plenty of tattoo shops in Fort Collins, because she’s an artist (whose work I liked), a nurse, and a woman.

Both of my tattoos are lotus flowers. I’m glad I waited until I was older to get a tattoo, because if I’d gotten one in my 20s, it most likely would have been a dolphin or a whale. Getting a tattoo when I was older helped me to make better choices, grounded and clear, intentional.

Besides lilacs, a lotus is my favorite flower. I love to look at them. They are exotic and rare, (at least considering where I live), ancient and mysterious. “Under favorable circumstances its seeds may remain viable for many years, with the oldest recorded lotus germination being from that of seeds 1,300 years old,” (yes, that quote is from the Wikipedia entry, but isn’t it amazing?). They represent an Asian sensibility that I admire, brilliant and precious but simple, potent while remaining calm.

image by inoc

The lotus flower is thought to represent the full cycle of life, including reincarnation–the flower closes and sinks underwater at night, and then at dawn it rises again and the bloom opens. “The roots of a lotus are in the mud, the stem grows up through the water, and the heavily scented flower lies pristinely above the water, basking in the sunlight. This pattern of growth signifies the progress of the soul from the primeval mud of materialism, through the waters of experience, and into the bright sunshine of enlightenment,” (Jendhamuni).

Lotus flowers have a connection to my spiritual life and practice, and have significant meaning in the Buddhist tradition. They symbolize beauty and purity, growing as they do from the muck. They stand in stark contrast to the dirty water in which they sprout. They also symbolize spiritual awakenment, enlightenment, faithfulness, purity of the heart and mind.

This is why both of my tattoos are lotus flowers, and even my mala (Buddhist prayer beads that are used to count while meditating using mantras) is made from polished lotus seeds.