Friday, August 14, 2009
The Power of a Talisman
I have this necklace, and I'd like to tell you a story about it.
In 1999, Tom and I went to Thailand after a trek in Nepal to Everest Base Camp. While we were recovering from that most excellent adventure, we went out to the TomSit Monastary in the jungle outside Krabi in the south of Thailand.
The monastery was very remote, I wasn't sure that we were allowed to be there, or what we were going to find. The tuk tuk dropped us off, and we wandered around this huge crumbling structure. There was a huge temple area, open on three sides to the jungle, with cats wandering around in it, and ancient, ornate carvings and mosaics along the columns.
In the back of the temple was another three sided room, this was set up for a monk who was laying on a modern adjustable hospital bed. He wore a nasal canula, and had a smile on his face. Laid out on the bed before him was a cloth covered in glass beads, chipped and beautiful.
He wore a maroon smock, specially sewn with pockets for all his beading materials. It also contained the universal remote for the satellite tv he was watching while he was working.
We walked up to say hi, and he smiled. My Thai is very poor, and his English is worse than my Thai, so we spent a couple of hours laughing and attempting, and failing horribly, to communicate. It was a lovely afternoon, beautiful in the humid thick jungle, out of time, with only the anomaly of the oxygen, hospital bed, and hospital wall mounted tv to mark this as a modern moment.
The monk offered for me to choose from the necklaces he'd made, and I picked one I'd never have to take off. These beads are circa 350 BC, and they used to be used for currency in Thailand. The TomSit Monastary is the one place in Thailand that serves as a museum for these national treasures. They are not supposed to sell them, but that's just what they do, because the monastery is poor, so while they keep and catalogue most of them, this monk does what he needs to to put food on the table and keep the museum running.
He placed this one around my neck, and I felt my life change forever. Perhaps it was just this gesture on top of all the learning and growing I'd done while wandering around the foothills of the Himalaya, but there was a moment when I suddenly realized that my life was beginning.
When I got home (I had to put the necklace in my panties to get it out of the country), I wore that necklace for six years, until, one day, it broke. In those six years, I started five businesses, went back to school and gave birth to two children, found myself feeling fierce, and played a lot of tennis, tan and strong. I protected my children, getting abusive people out of my life, standing up for me, with a voice.
And then one day, it broke.
And I gathered up the beads, I was worried that it had lost its power, I know it sounds silly, but I'd drawn so much courage from this piece, that to have it in pieces, I was terrified that if, when I restrung it, I couldn't put it in the right order, it wouldn't "work" anymore. I'd broken the spell.
For the next six years, I carried the unstrung beads in my pocket, hoping to find someone who would fix it for me, but afraid to let the beads out of my sight. I went to a jeweler who didn't understand, or care, that they were ancient and sacred, I wanted a knot between each bead, like a pearl necklace, and he wouldn't do it.
I couldn't do it. I couldn't leave it with him.
In those next six years, I lost my business, my studio and art, my wedding dress and my fathers antiques burned to the ground, as did my marriage. I left school, I gained seventy pounds, I lost myself in saving others and couldn't find myself again.
I always promised myself that one day, I'd get this necklace strung again, and on that day, I'd begin to get in shape again. I'd be committing to myself that this was it, this was real, here we go. I'd be getting back on track.
And I couldn't do it. It seemed like too big of a commitment, I knew that if i did restring it, I'd have to stay with something or risk breaking the monk's spell forever.
One day, a few weeks ago, I had the beads in my backpack, and my friend Angie from massage school, who is incredibly talented at making beautiful jewelry out of the most unusual stones, was talking about fixing her friend's necklace. I asked her if she'd mind restringing this for me, and she, with understanding in her eyes and heart of how sacred these beads were to me, took them tenderly and restrung them
When she brought it back, it felt so good to have on my neck again, but it was too tight. I was so very cogniscent of the commitment I'd made about this necklace, that it meant I'd get back in shape, and i had a wry smile to myself, realizing that I'd done that on my own in the last three years, i didn't need a talisman to remind me to take care of myself. but the necklace didn't fit.
I gave the necklace back to Angie with apologies, and asked her if she could make it longer, using the seven more beads I'd found from it in my jewelry box. The missing beads would make it fit.
Over the weekend, I went to meet a new friend for the first time, I went camping with Mike and his kids, and over this weekend, watching our children play together, I thought about a lot of the work I'd been doing on learning to care for myself.
I thought about what that means, to finally take care of yourself. For me, it did indeed mean learning to move my body again and be outside, but the impetus for that change wasn't so I'd fit into cute jeans, but to care for my soul. This time was different than when I'd worn the necklace in the past.
I got back to school the next week, ready to put the necklace on with a new understanding of the next chapter, but it wasn't ready, and neither was I.
I had two weeks of work to do on opening my heart, learning to trust, trusting that its okay to recieve. Coaxing and coaxing, I took Aubrey's lesson on being compassionate to myself, which this time meant some surrender, when I've spent the last twelve years building boundaries to keep me safe. Not walls, but healthy boundaries.
And between all of these lessons, swirling and coalescing, there was this necklace. And Angie gave it back to me at the end of these two weeks, she put it on my neck, and it fit, the big bead hanging gentle in the hollow of my throat, and this time, I knew that it was my journey.
This necklace, to me, signifies my found ability to care for myself. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. And for me to care for myself by allowing others to care for me.
I touch it often, it stays on my throat all the time, but I know now that the Monk's spell can't be broken, because its in my heart, not in the beads. They are magic because I made them so.