My morning writing ritual begins with the vibrating sound of my mini meditation bowl. I strike the side of the bowl with a wooden dowel and then press it around the lip to create a warm vibrating sound that lets me know it’s time to write. Today I look at the bowl longer than usual. It is silver metal engraved with the eight auspicious symbols of Buddhism. As I thump the bowl to hear its crisp hum and feel its vibration through my palm, I try to absorb the symbols and their intentions. I want the essence of fearlessness, fulfilled aspirations, wisdom and compassion to soak into my writing. I crave to scatter purity of thought onto the page to form those little black scratches we refer to as words. I place the bowl on the class table beside me. It continues to echo good fortune for a few seconds as I begin to write.
I remember buying the bowl on a trip to New York. I am no longer a tourist when I go to New York. I am a frequent visitor. As a mother to one of its residents, I commit to the city with a love for the grittiness of the streets and a profound comfort in how real everything feels. Each trip is an invitation to find something new in this dense city of secret treasures. There is no pretense in the buildings. No artificial facade that makes a building appear to be something it is not. In Orange County, where I live, the houses are newer, a stage set. The hills of Newport Coast, California try so hard to be the Tuscan countryside. It is a prevalent belief in the OC that an exterior can actually create a desired reality. In New York the buildings stand shoulder to shoulder, proud and imperfect. I inhale the city, hold it inside and then breathe.
My son lives on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The streets are crusty and passionate. The bars and restaurants call to the young and trendy. It is where musicians and artists drink and share stories of their search for inspiration and their cool lives of sacrifice for their art. I have found many jewels on these narrow grey streets. There’s the organic juice place that is literally a hole in the wall. It’s a window-like opening through which I pay and the young fresh yogini passes me a green juice. There’s the cozy shop called Top Hat. It is a nest for crisp colored notebooks and a stylish selection of international baubles. I love the old faded classic novels that are scraped out to become secret hiding places. Then there’s the custom bustier shop where shabby boxes of bras and satin corsets line the cluttered shelves. It seems like an abandoned old store until you get close and notice someone disappear behind a curtain. My favorite Lower East Side find is a snug store below a secret yoga studio hidden between a trendy coffee shop and a neighborhood grocery store.
Its cramped window seduced me with a beckoning Buddha and a stack of gem colored prayer shawls embroidered with gold thread. I entered. The air inside was thick with incense and hope. Smooth round mala beads hung on nail heads, floor to ceiling; the candy of enlightenment. Shelves were lined with statues and stones that promised the gifts of belonging and discovery. I chose a small jagged white crystal and accepted its offer of temporary hush as I closed my eyes and pressed it expectantly between my palms. The gesture was a question I asked myself. No answer came. Like the shop, my soul was dusty, sometimes unnoticed, and small.
I hovered near the Tibetan singing bowls. The Middle Eastern owner put a metal bowl in my palm. It was cold but warmed quickly. He showed me how to use the wooden dowel to circle around the lip with enough pressure to create a beautifully pitched sound that softly vibrated and then moved out of my hand and through my body. It washed me in a sense of peace and comfort. I wanted to buy everything in this magical place. I wanted to be a ladle in the bowl of small smooth stones and take all the colors so I could balance my chakras and strengthen my spirit and boost my immunity. I wanted to find my voice in the singing monk statue and wish away obstacles with Ganesh at my side. I wanted beaded bracelets to cover my arms in circles of color and love and faith and joy. The store was small enough that if I spread my arms really wide, I could scoop it all towards me and shovel it into myself and make it all okay. I could be whole and enough and my light could be brighter. Instead, I left with one strand of mala beads, a crystal and two meditation bowls.
Now I sit with my words and my bowl and I peer into myself. I look for the place that is full. I recognize my soul is less desolate and it continues to expand. Colorful fabrics and shiny beads are the symbols. Buddha statues and crystals are the badges to those who seek. We surround ourselves with the objects that will remind us there is more. They are only as valuable as our thoughts. They are the representation of what we aspire to. They are our mindfulness personified. We are not defined by that which surrounds us, but rather by what we unearth for ourselves. Still, if intention is pure, there is a power in the touch of a mala bead, the downward gaze of Buddha and the resonance of a meditation bowl. Being immersed in the right environment will refresh us and enliven our dark places. So hold the emblems close that represent your highest self. Then commit to honoring that part of your soul. May you always find mysterious truth and never miss the treasure in grey streets.
Thank you for allowing me to speak my truth. Feel free to comment below.
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