Malas, Mantras, Meditation, a Mandala, and a day with the Tibetan Monks


New Year 2024 kicked off with so much goodness!

My year of ZEN work started with three back to back ZEN mala making classes in five days. While all of them are memorable and dear to my heart... the first one was just WOW!  What an incredible experience it was to join the monks from the Drepung Gomang monastery last week for a Mala Making workshop!! 📿 
If you aren't familiar, these monks are renowned for the Sacred Art of sand mandala construction. They created a World Peace Mandala out of colored sand at St. Paul's Episcopal Church on Duval Street right in the heart of Key West. The monks are on their 2024 Sacred Arts Cultural Tour (more info on that below).
Our class was truly an incredible, soul-fulfilling day - sharing creative time and manifesting pure compassion and love for all in the world. To teach and be in the presence of such humble, kind, loving souls really filled my cup! I feel so blessed and grateful for our 21 students who came to create a mala with me and support the monks.
I have been teaching ZEN Mala Making classes for over 6 years and while I do that all year round the January classes always set my year off right. I want to share with you an overview of all these feel good tools and practices that might just be something your looking for in 2024!


What Is a Mala?

Malas are known traditionally as prayer beads used in meditation in various cultures, today have gained popularity not only for use in yoga and meditation, but are also worn for adornment as jewelry.
When worn, they serve as a physical reminder of your personal intentions & affirmations. Using for a daily meditation practice invites an even deeper connection to living a grounded, soulful life.
A mala, meaning "garland" in Sanskrit, is typically 108 beads, made of wood, gemstones or natural elements. Most typically have a guru bead at the center as the teaching bead, a few marker/counter beads that help bring your mental focus back as it drifts to and fro during your meditation practice and a tassel, which represents the transformational energy of a lotus.
In all my classes I always teach about the energetic meaning of the natural elements and gemstones, so when you design and creating a mala with me, it aligns with your personal intentions and purpose.

Malas are typically used when you are doing a japa (a.k.a. repetition style) meditation which uses a mantra to help bring a desired state to the body.

A bit about Meditation...


from wikipedia... "Meditation is a practice of mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state. This practice can be added by using a mala to help focus your mind and energy."

Meditation is practiced all over the world, it mainly started in religions but nowadays meditation can be used simply for overall mental and physical health -- it does not have to tie to a specific religion.

I believe the practice of meditating takes work and it does not need to be perfect. The best way I find to practice is to gift yourself a few moments daily to do it and make it a ritual. It can be a repetition of a positive word or just breathing in stillness. The space does not need to be all fancy but it does help to have a cozy vibe, have a few positive energy elements around you like a crystal, a window to the outside,  a comfortable cushion to sit on. The benefits will come quickly.

Personally, I feel a great sense of accomplishment because it is so hard for me to still my mind. You can do a YouTube guided meditiation, or simply do some deep breathing (box breathing is a good one - the pattern is 4 count in, hold at top 4 count, 4 count out and hold at bottom for 4 count, repeat) or a simple in/out (breathe in as long as you can and out even longer) - these breathing patterns are very beneficial to regulate your sympathetic nervous system.

And a mala & using a mantra really help me keep my physical body actively focused so my mind can still itself.

What is a Mantra?


A mantra is a sacred word or set of words repeated in prayer or meditation or daily positive affirmation practice.

In the beginning of the year I always select a word or set of words to help giude my way. I teach this in my classes and now many of my students continue to pick a word or theme of the year. It could be an intention, something you want more of, something you need to ditch. Many times it is a very thoughtful word: love, passion, health, clarity, change, etc...

This year I have settled on two themes "My Truth & My Space". I want to have space between my actions (I tend to move quickly from task to task), so I can enjoy actual activity and relish in the fun and my accomplishments. Second, I plan to live in the most heartfelt way I can and make sure all my actions and decisions are guided my inner most Karen truth. Wish me luck! I'm planning for greatness and more fun!

A bit more formal and honestly really fun way to meditate is to use a Sanskit mantra. There are so many beautiful mantras that have origins from all over the world and different religions. Here is the one we learned from the Tibetan monks.
Om Mani Pädme Hum ཨོཾ་མ་ཎི་པདྨེ་ཧཱུྃ, a Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Mantra

“The six syllables, Om Mani Padme Hum, means that in dependence on the practice which is an indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech and mind into the pure body, speech, and mind of a Buddha." …Dalai Lama
So as you cleanse and elevate your being you can embrace the various goals of enlightenment. Personally, I teach that adding any amount of calm, positive energy to your daily life will benefit your health & well-being, so just do what feels right!
I like the way Essence of Universe explains this:
    • Om = the vibration or sound of the universe; represents divine energy and generosity and purifies the ego
    • Ma = represents ethics and purifies jealousy
    • Ni = represents patience and purifies want or desire
    • Pad = represents diligence and purifies ignorance and judgment
    • Me = represents concentration and purifies attachment
    • Hum = the unity of all; represents wisdom and purifies hatred
Here's a YouTube video with Om Mani Padme Hum mantra to help guide your meditation.


Back to the 2024 Tibetan Sacred Arts Tour & the Monks

The Drepung Gomang Monks' (students of His Holiness Dalai Lama) mission is to share the compassion and wisdom of Tibetan Buddhism, keep alive their ancient cultural arts and music and raise funds in support of their refugee monk community in India. Their origins are Tibet and have been living in exile since the 60s, the monestary has grown to over 2,000 monks.

This stop on the tour is brought to us by Tara Mandala Key West Buddhist Sangha, the local Key West Buddhist community. Are you interested in Buddhism? This group is open to the public and has weekly events (virtual too) that facilitate education and practice of Buddhism. 

A bit about the Monks' Sand Mandala Art...


Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning “world in harmony.”  

The World Peace Sand Mandala created last week in Key West was an offering of the healing energy of all enlightened beings to the World.

After they spent 5-6 days, 4-5 hours a day with four monks working on the mandala, they sweep the sand into a pile and bring it to the nearest body of water and release it so the energy can be spread all over the world. It's really incredible to see.

Here's an excerpt from an article by Gwen Filosa (local journalist at The Keys Weekly)...

This ancient ritual is a sacred lesson from Buddhism.
“It’s about impermanence,” said Lucy Paige, a Keys artist and member of the Tara Mandala Key West Buddhist Sangha, which organizes the monks’ visit and public events. “You create something and then let it go. It’s OK. We have to learn that life lesson to let things go.”


Our community in the Florida Keys and Key West is very fortunate to have this sacred creation take place right here, all that beautiful loving energy that was created and shared in their time here was truly felt throughout the island chain.


Finally in closing...


Thank you for reading and if you made it to the end of this, double thank you. I have so much I want to share it is hard for me to keep it brief. The goodness is truly overflowing at this moment.
Remember meditation is so powerful, 5 short minutes, simply breathe, recite a mantra, use a mala. Anything you do will benefit you.

If you have questions - message me or DM on Facebook or Instagram. I welcome all your input and insight.

If you would like your own ZEN mala check out my shop. If you don't see what you are looking for on the website, just message me -- I am actually creating more this week. You can also design your own mala with me virtually or in person at one of my pop-ups. Better yet come create in person with me -- check out my events page or message me. I am planning another mala event and have a waitlist started if you want to add your name!

Have a beautiful, blessed 2024... stay in touch!

In Health & Happiness, Karen xo


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