People came from Dallas, New York, Germany, Scotland, north London. Childcare duties meant I was late, very very late, joining the proceedings but I made it to the shrine room just as the meditation ended. And everyone there was wearing a mala! I noticed this particularly. The reason soon became clear as Jonathan uncurled from his cushion like a cat, holding out the string of beads pictured above. He had brought one for everyone, each different, each with individually designated recipients.
Alistair talked about the importance of individual practice and not relying on the group, which makes a lot of sense both in practical as well as spiritual terms. But there is something very special about the gestalt of this group of people which came together around the course.
Just as each of the beads on this mala is individually exquisite – the graining luminous as tigers eye, the perfume of sandalwood, the smooth sheen of the surface almost soft to the touch in its lustre – so with everyone in the group.
But before I get too carried away with extravagant similes I have to confess that the real world soon took its toll on my beautiful mala. Originally the cords at the end were much, much longer. Unfortunately that night the cat got into my room, found the beads on my bedside table and chewed the cords. I had to cut them off short.
A feline lesson in the dangers of attachment I suppose.