Years ago, while traveling in Greece, I picked up a pair of worry beads (Komboli). It didn’t take long to incorporate these beads into my daily meditation practice. But I renamed my worry beads gratitude beads.
First thing every morning, as I slide each bead, I say something in my life I’m grateful for: my health, the health of my family, my husband, my daughter, our home, my mother, my sisters, their families, my friends, my students, my clients, my guides—both physical and spiritual—my enthusiasm, my love of learning, my computer, my car, my writing practice, my connection to God, my life itself, and so on. I try to stay in the moment and think of new things I’m grateful for each day.
Yesterday in church, the Reverend said, “To a grateful heart, much is given. The Universe sees you as a satisfied customer and gives you more.” Then he asked, “Can you allow what’s good in you to change you?” I realized this is what I try to do each day with my gratitude beads. Thinking about the ways in which I feel blessed focuses me on what’s going well in my life. The more I do this, the better things get.
Lately I’ve been looking for ways to give myself treats. Since my Greek gratitude beads are plastic, I thought it might be nice to make a pair out of a gemstone, such as rose quartz or amethyst. Purple is my favorite color. It is the color of the crown chakra, which symbolizes our connection to the divine. Amethysts are associated with nobility, spiritual awareness, meditation, balance, psychic abilities, inner peace, healing, stress relief, and positive transformation. But rose quartz’s properties enhance all forms of love, self-care, kindness, nurturing, and tenderness.
I went to my local bead shop and held strings of rose quartz and amethyst stones in my hands: they both felt wonderful, but I selected the amethysts, and with the help of the women who worked there, created a new set of gratitude beads.
Modern Greek worry beads contain 19-23 beads. My plastic set contains 21. But I decided to make my new set with 22 beads. In Soul Lessons and Soul Purpose, Sonia Choquette sites several reasons why the number 22 is auspicious: In numerology, the study of the mathematical order of the Universe, 22 is a sacred number that reflects how the physical world is manifested; in western Kabbalah, this number is considered the foundation of all things; the first 22 numbers symbolize the cosmic principles; the Hebrew alphabet is composed of 22 letters, each corresponding to a number that represents spiritual law; there are 22 archetypes in the Major Arcana of the Tarot; and in many spiritual traditions, the number 22 is an important and sacred number. But for me, the clincher was that my daughter was born on 2/22.
The day I made my amethyst gratitude beads I visited a psychic for the first time in years, as part of my treat quest. When I showed her my beads, she said, “These are great, but you need another pair—in pink.” The rose quartz beads I’d been holding earlier flashed in my mind.
“How come?” I asked.
“You’re aura is radiating pink. There’s all this loving energy around you.”
Great, I’ll take that, I thought, thrilled for an excuse to return to the bead shop for the rose quartz I’d left behind. The bit of guilt I experienced over acquiring not one but two new sets of gratitude beads vanished when I held the completed rose quartz creation. This second set was more radiant than the first; when I held it in my hands I felt serene and happy.
I keep the rose quartz beads on my main home altar, the amethyst beads in my purse, and the original plastic set in my office, and I am grateful for them all.
While preparing to write this post I found a website that explains the history and use of worry and prayer beads, including Muslim worry beads (Tespih); Buddhist worry beads (Malas); and Christian rosaries. The site includes information about gemstone properties, and offers exquisite beads for sale. I’m eyeing several pair, but am holding off for now. I want to make sure my desire to express is greater than my desire to possess.
If beads aren’t your thing, you can use your fingers to count your blessings, or keep a gratitude journal, or just remind yourself daily how lucky you are to be alive. The simple act of expressing gratitude never fails to uplift me. Try it. Take five minutes. What are you grateful for?
I wrote this in response to a client’s question, “How do I practice self-love?”
12 Ways to Practice Self-Love
In Martha Beck’s book, The Joy Diet, risk is listed as an essential ingredient for joy. According to Beck, the criterion by which we should decide which dangers and fears to face, and which to avoid, should not be measured by our chances of success, but by the depth of our desire. She says that any risk worth taking is worth taking whether it leads to success or failure, and if your objective is not something you really want, even a tiny risk is a stupid one.
Eight months ago I wasn’t interested in taking any more writing risks. After thirty years cultivating my craft I wanted to be paid to write a book. So I hired a coach, hunkered down, and wrote my proposal for The Raw Years: A Midlife Healing Memoir. Now that I’m agent shopping, which takes time, I’m returning to writing my chapters.
My gremlins got pissed when they realized this. “That’s not the deal we made,” they hissed. “You were supposed to get an agent and a publisher so this manuscript wouldn’t end up in your file cabinet with all the others.” In other words, they said, “Show me the money!”
But I had nothing to show. Not a publisher or agent (yet), and no guarantees. I knew I couldn’t predict the fate of this or any other manuscript. All I knew was writing this book made me happy. It’s my dream and I don’t want to let it go—no matter what happens.
To help me get past my petulant writing gremlins, Brooke Warner, my writing coach, said, “Success in writing is reaching your readers—and there are many ways to do this. Everything is changing. The ground is rumbling underneath the publishing industry. Commit to your readers. You have the potential to reach people—with or without agents and publishers. The main thing is to reach your readers, and keep the faith.”
My life coach, Tracey Brown, told me to think of outcomes as extras, and focus on actions I can take, such as writing one chapter at a time, and to consider the hearts, minds, and souls of the people I’d like to touch.
Gremlins dwell in the land of ego. Engaging them is fruitless. Turning to Spirit, on the other hand, guarantees I’ll feast at life’s banquet. So with a prayer that my life’s work will one day reach as many readers as possible, and touch them deeply I’m moving forward with my memoir. It feels great to be writing it again.
My gremlins have quieted down since learning that I plan to divide my project into milestones, and celebrate future accomplishments with treats. This is much more empowering than dangling a carrot I can’t control, such as getting an agent or a book deal.
I will honor the completion of each chapter with an artist date and plan something special for myself, perhaps something I wouldn’t ordinarily do. I will go see a film; visit a museum; go to the beach, or a garden, or an art gallery; maybe a workshop or lunch out—something nourishing and fun.
Completing a section of my book, there are three—Body, Mind, & Spirit—wins me a weekend retreat alone or with my husband, but the emphasis will be on celebrating my accomplishment.
When I complete the book I’ll spend a week or more at a gourmet raw, vegan spa. I’ve got my eye on the Hippocrates Health Center in the Philippines.
My daughter’s drama teacher grades his students on effort, participation, and assignment completion—and not on talent because talent is subjective. So is all creative work. It’s essential to do our creative work for ourselves, but also for the people who are waiting to receive it, and whose lives will be enriched by our efforts.
This morning I completed a draft of chapter four (of 27) of my memoir. Writing this book is a risk near and dear to my heart, which tells me it’s a risk worth taking.
In terms of assessing risk, Beck asks, “Is this a risk you’d regret not having taken? Would your regret be worse than potential failure or disappointment? Which would be worse, your disappointment over failing or knowing you never tried?”
To me the answer is clear: trying is the most important thing. Trying is within my control. The rest is not. So if you’re wondering whether to take a risk, either personally or professionally, look not to your chances of success, but to the depth of your desire.
What risk are you taking? Or thinking about taking? I’d love to hear about it.