An Accidental Mala, and Being Kind to Myself

When I sat down to make a necklace from a stone pendant my sister had given me, my plan was to keep the necklace short and simple. Instead, I ended up with something greater: a lesson in being kind to myself.

I chose beads that looked like little earths, in varying shades of tree and water, and little crystals the color of the midnight sky.

Then I did something unexpected.

Instead of relying on my right hand to do all the work, as I usually do, I allowed my left hand to do half the work. Once I had centered the pendant on the wire, I held the two ends, one in each hand, and strung a little earth onto the right strand with my right hand, then a matching earth onto the left strand with the left hand. I did it again. Right hand, right bead; left hand, left bead. I was building symmetrically a symmetrical object.

In this symmetry of movement, I felt a surprising sense of balance.

This was not an entirely smooth process. The left hand moved awkwardly, taking three times longer than the right, often shooting beads across the room as the wire sprung free from the beading tray. After a dozen beads, I began thinking this is ridiculous, I’m wasting time, why am I doing this? But I couldn’t stop. Suddenly this was not about making a necklace in no time flat, but about making a necklace.

As my left hand struggled, I began to see through its movements my child-self—the part of me that’s not as skilled, the part of me that’s eager, trusting, joyful, vulnerable. The side that’s not aware that it’s not perfect. The side that doesn’t even know yet what perfection is.

My left hand allowed me to acknowledge my child-self, to love that child-self, and in so doing, offer a gift to my whole self.

When I’d finally strung enough beads for a short necklace, I still didn’t want to stop. I got an idea: 108 beads makes a mala, a set of prayer beads from the Buddhist and Hindu traditions. I counted what I’d strung already, and calculated forward. I had enough beads, and serendipitously, I still had enough space on the wire.

The necklace finished much longer and much lovelier than I had imagined. Had I rushed through, and not offered loving kindness to myself through the shared working of my left and right hands, I would not have made such a beautiful object. When I wear it, I feel like I’m wearing a prayer.

The prayer in words might sound like this:

I am patient today with my child-self.
I am kind today to my whole self.
In this kindness grows a gentle peace that I offer the big earth.
I am grateful today for this and every gift.

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