Monday, October 31, 2011

Book Review: A String & A Prayer

One of the best prayer bead books I've come across is 'A String & A Prayer - How to Make and Use Prayer Beads' by Eleanor Wiley & Maggie Oman Shannon.  It begins with a brief history of prayer beads, and moves to a chapter on creating personal meaning with symbolism, then to construction tips & tricks.  From there it goes to a section about how to use prayer beads and concluding with a series of meditations for various traditions.  I highly recommend the book to anyone wanting to explore prayer beads on a path to spiritual growth. 

See on of my favourite meditations from the book below......

Today, I remember that I am One with all.

Earth, ground and nurture me.
And connect me to the Divine Mother
Who loves and protects all her children.
Divine Mother, send your blessing of comfort and protection to....

(using the prayer beads, mention names of persons, groups, projects or nation)

Air, breathe life into me.
And connect me to the Great Spirit
Who inspires all and dwells in all.
Great Spirit, send your blessing of inspiration and serenity to...

(using the prayer beads, mention names of persons, groups, projects or nation)

Fire, enflame me with passion.
And connect me to the God/Goddess of Compassion
Who equally embraces and supports all.
God/Goddess of Compassion, send your blessing of mercy and joy to....

(using the prayer beads, mention names of persons, groups, projects or nation)

Water, cleanse and empower me.
And connect me to the Source of Life
Who flows in all and through all.
Source of Life, send your blessing of refreshment and abundance to...

(using the prayer beads, mention names of persons, groups, projects or nation)

Today I am grateful that I am One with All.

---adapted from a traditional Buddhist loving-kindness mediation by Barbara Rose Billings

Personalized Prayer Beads

John Becket is an engineer, Pagan, Druid, and Unitarian Universalist trying to shape his core beliefs into a consistent and meaningful theology & practice.  He is the Co-ordinating Officer of the Denton Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans and a Druid in the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.

He has always been interested in prayer beads, even as a young child, but as his family were strict Baptists they wanted nothing to do with anything that could be considered or associated with anything 'Catholic'.  Hmmm, isn't that a familiar tune to me?  I get the same kind of opposition all the time.

Earlier this year, there was a guest preacher at his Untarian Universalist church who handed out small strings of four beads to everyone in the congregation.  She walked them through a little prayer bead exercise.  This re-sparked John's interest in them and he figured out how he could use them in his own practice.

I like his method for creating a personalized strand of prayer beads.  He began by making a list of all the people, dieties & things he wanted to pray for, to or about each day.  This included his family members, ancestors, Nature spirits, peace, justice, etc.  He also wanted to add a bead for each of the four Elements / Directions, as well as, three more for death, birth and the mystery in between.

My First Set of Meditation Beads

Once you have them all written down, you can begin to select beads for each individual item on your list.  My list will be different than your list.  Follow your own heart and practice when selecting what to include in your prayer beads.  Choose each bead to reflect the person, diety or thing you will be praying for.  No two beads will be the same.  You can include as many or as few as you desire on your strand.

John's Pagan Prayer Beads

I've found prayer beads to be an excellent tool on my spiritual journey.  As John says, 'If you want to make prayer a regular part of your daily practice but you're having trouble being consistent about it, I highly recommend prayer beads'.  He has chosen to pray with his beads six times a day.  Again, the frequency you choose to use yours may be different.  The important thing is to do it on a regular basis, the same time each day will help form a habit.

I look forward to hearing about your exploration and creation of a bead strand, as I will be sharing mine with you.  Happy journey!

For John's blog posting on this subject, click here.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Prayer Beads Are For Everyone

When I first resurrected 'Jasper Moon' from its previous incarnation, my goal was to bring prayer beads to matter what tradition they followed.  I was inspired by the difference a simple set of meditation beads made in my own experience & spiritual life. 

Who knew that I would run into such opposition?  The very mention of prayer beads, however, brought forth scores of negative images of the Catholic rosary & church to most people's minds.  They immediately shut down and stopped listening.  I could not break through the prejudice.

What most don't seem willing or able to understand & acknowledge is that prayer beads were around long before the Christian church was established.  Various traditions in India have been using them to count prayers & meditate since 1000 BC.  The Buddhists adopted the practice from there and spread the use of prayer beads to China, Tibet and Japan.  As the monks wandered to other lands, they introduced them to the Muslims & Christians.

Tree of Life Prayer Beads - Exclusive Design of Jasper Moon

I began by offering workshops at pagan events to introduce the concept of designing & using personalized prayer beads to reflect individual belief systems.  I only had modest success with that venture.  Discouraged, I set aside my idealized vision, and moved to making & selling other products that people could & would use and relate cloak clasps & Tree of Life pendants.

The flame of my desire to spread the concept of using prayer beads has never left me though.  In the next few weeks, I plan to share information & ideas with you that will help you understand & embrace them.  I hope you will open your hearts & minds to them.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

5 Tips to Success in the Craft Market

1.  It is important to maintain a physical separation between your work and your personal life.  This often difficult when you are trying to launch a small craft business.  While an off-site space to work would be optimal, many crafters must work in their homes.  In these circumstances, business is on your mind from the minute you get up in the morning until you go to bed at night, unless you're really disciplined and can get up & walk away from it.  A dedicated work area will be the best option for most people starting out and when you leave that space, you must be able to leave 'work' behind.  You need your personal time & space to help you gain some perspective, relax your mind & body and to renew your creative energy.

2.  Take advantage of the opportunities to learn from fellow crafters.  Attend as many craft shows as you can, either as a vendor or a 'buyer', and talk to the other crafters there.  You will find that people are more than willing to share what they know with you...where the good shows are, where to find supplies and give you plenty of ideas on how to market your business.  Plug yourself into the craft networks available through social media outlets, Facebook, LinkedIn, Etsy, etc., and start building your fan base.

3.  Don't be afraid to change your direction.  If what you are making doesn't sell, revamp your product line or change mediums altogether.  Explore all your options, leave no stone unturned.  You are not a complete failure if your first idea does not turn out as you hoped or expected.  You've just found one way that doesn't work.  You've gained new knowledge & vital lessons to apply to your next venture.

4.  Experiment with techniques that are popular with other crafts.  Don't get 'boxed in' to a specific way of doing things.  Keep your mind & your eyes open.  Look at mixed media techniques to find new methods or supplies.  Your evolution as an artist is a never-ending journey.  Take classes with teachers that you admire and use their techniques, not their finished products, to keep your line fresh.  Look for books & magazines to inspire you.

5.  Adjust your business model to conform to economic realities & changing trends.  Success at craft shows can lead to selling your product lines wholesale to retail outlets.  You may eventually find that you do not need to do craft shows anymore, or that sales in those venues have dwindled off to the point that you need to look for other avenues.  Some crafters run very successful online businesses, either from their own website or sites like Etsy which is an online market for handcrafters.  If you have a website, make sure it is current & updated frequently.  Look for every opportunity to gain exposure for your work and make sure you have a bit of fun along the way!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

October Birthstone: Opal

October's birthstone treats the eye to an explosion of shimmering colors, much like those of a magnificent rainbow following a summer rain.  The opal is prized for its unique ability to refract & reflect specific wavelengths of light and derives its name from the Latin word 'opalus' meaning precious jewel.  One legendary explanation for this gemstone's origin is that it fell from heaven in a flash of fiery lightning. 

Ancient monarchs treasured opals, both for their beauty and for their presumed protective powers.  They were set into crowns and worn in necklaces to ward off evil and to protect the eyesight.  These gemstones were ground up & ingested for their healing properties and to ward off nightmares.  They are said to help recall past lives.

Most of the world's opal deposits are found in Southern Australia and are 50-65 million years old, dating back to the Cretaceous period when dinosaurs roamed the earth.  Other sources of this gemstone are Brazil, Mexico, Czechoslovakia and Nevada. 

This gemstone actually contains up to 30% water, so it must be protected from heat or harsh chemicals, both of which will cause drying and may lead to cracking and loss of iridescence.  Opal must also be guarded from blows, since it is relatively soft and breaks easily.  Quality opals are very expensive, made more so by the caution that must be exercised in cutting, polishing and setting it into jewelry.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Upcoming Event: Harvestfest - October 7-10, 2011

Harvestfest provides a warm and friendly environment for members of the Pagan and Heathen communities to gather for the purpose of shared learning, ritual, workshops and fellowship in a wonderful outdoor woodland setting.  The event is held on the grounds of the Mansfield Outdoor Centre located about 1 hour north or Toronto and west of Barrie.  The central theme of Harvestfest centres on the creation of an effigy of the Corn King, and culminates in his sacrifice during the main ritual.

The Corn King, HarvestFest 2009

Jasper Moon & The Chain Mail Guy will be there, and as we have at other events this year, we will be accepting Canadian Tire money towards any purchase in our booth.  We always carry a variety of products, something to interest everyone.  Drop by to see us if you are attending this event.  I look forward to spending time with old friends and meeting some new ones too!

For more information go to the Harvestfest website.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Formula For Life: E + R = O

Believe it or not, this formula can change the course of your life...


While we can only control the events in our life to a certain extent, we can ALWAYS control our respone to them which will in turn affect the outcome.  Let's look at a simple example.

Jack & Charlie are driving to work along the same highway when they encounter a traffic stoppage.  Neither one can see what happened, the obstruction is too far ahead.  They are literally parked on the highway with nowhere to go and no way to get off.

Jack shrugs his shoulders, puts the car in park and turns up the radio.  He's tapping his fingers on the steering wheel, singing along to the tunes and dancing in his seat.  He's enjoying the music and using the time to chill out a bit.

Charlie is tapping on his steering wheel too but for a very different reason.  He's frustrated by the delay, getting more angry & agitated by the minute.  He even starts hollering at whatever idiot ahead is causing the hold up!  His blood pressure is steadily rising.

They finally get moving again, off the highway and arrive at work.  Suprisingly, they are only ten minutes later than usual.  Jack comes in calm & non-chalant about the incident but Charlie walks in stressed out & fuming.

Which one of these guys do you think is going to have a better day?  Even if they work at the same place and experience the same set of circumstances, they are likely to perceive them in a totally different way if their earlier reactions are typical for each of them.

This same logic can be applied to all the events in your life - good or bad, happy or sad.  By controlling the way you respond to them, you can alter the outcome.

Will you select the response that will bring you happiness or the response that brings you misery?  I know what I prefer to do.  How about you?