Tag Archives: incense

Spiritual Nomad: Week One


Last year, I did a course called Spiritual Nomad designed to help me better define my particular brand of eclectic spirituality, which is very eclectic indeed.  I never quite finished it, so I was happy to hear that the creator of the course was offering it again this year, and at a reduced price for those who had done it before so that they could revisit it and interact with other participants.  The parts that I did complete were immensely fulfilling and I wanted to see them with fresh eyes, as well as try to finish the bits that were left incomplete.  As with last year, I’m about two weeks behind, this time because I caught a stomach virus during the first week (that was fun).  So I’m playing catch-up.

I’ve already done the first task, which is to create a “path of faith”: basically create a timeline of my life marked by its important events, spiritual and otherwise, in an effort to see how I’ve gotten to where I am now.  It was an interesting exercise, one that I’m trying not to judge myself on (I’m always judging myself, to my great detriment) since my timeline wound up with a great many events on it.  Then again, my life has been pockmarked by a great many significant events that left a mark, so there’s nothing wrong with putting them all down, even if it made a timeline that took up an entire 11’x14′ piece of paper and was done in about five different colors.

I also did the second task last year, which was to strip all of my altars and shrines bare.  That was a very interesting exercise, one that clarified the spiritual energy in the house a great deal.  I got rid of a lot of things, and virtually ever flat surface in the house was rearranged in some manner.  I still have a few things that don’t have a home that need to either go to Goodwill (or a friend), or be put out in the garage for storage so they’re not just sitting around gathering dust and taking up space.  I didn’t do much with them after that, though, so this year I’ll make sure they’re all nice and clean and that everything that’s there, needs to be there.  I’m not sure if I’m up to the task of stripping all of my altars and shrines bare again, though, or that it’s necessary after what I did last year.

One thing I did not do was to sit and do my breathing exercises in front of my main shrine (shrines are spaces devoted to deities; altars are shrines where votive offerings are left in honor of said deity), so that is something I’m going to focus on, since meditation in general is a huge goal of mine this year.

There are questions at the end of each module, and I answered at least a few of them, so here are my answers to the first set, edited to reflect my attitude changed since then.

1. On the whole, has your experience with spiritual exploration been positive or negative? It is has been mostly negative, what drives you to continue?

For the first 17 years, it was mostly absent, but about half negative when not. Mom dabbled in metaphysical things like the Tarot and Ouija boards (she even made her own), which I liked, but she also got into pentecostal evangelism and had us going to churches where we spoke in tongues. Thankfully that phase passed relatively quickly and she ratcheted it back to nice, mild Methodism. Nice singing and Christmas Eve services. The metaphysical influence led me to Wicca and paganism: I got my first set of Tarot cards at 17, and I still have them. They’re quite infused with energy by now. Luckily that was a positive direction so I continued to delve more deeply into spiritual matters. I might not have otherwise. Which is not to say I haven’t had my periods of agnosticism or outright atheism.

2. Were the negative experiences you had the result of religious institutions you disagreed with, individuals or group personality conflicts, problems with the religion’s doctrine, or something else? What did you learn about your own spiritual needs from those experiences?

The shift from no spiritual life at home to saying grace at every meal, going to church twice a week, and going to those particular kind of churches was a gross aberration to my world. I got up one morning to find my mother burning her Tarot cards in the fireplace, saving The Devil for last. *rolls eyes* She made me hold a Bible when she thought something might be threatening my soul. We went to Lakewood Church in Houston, home of the Osteen family which now owns an indoor arena for their massive congregations (which is fucking funny to me, given how many heavy metal shows I saw there). It was all really fucking creepy. I’m so glad all that lasted less than a year, though I learned that I do not like religious forms that involve brainwashing and suppression. I’m not sure why anyone would, though apparently many do. My general disenfranchisement with the society I live in began about then.

3. If you had to choose one thing to call God, whether a name or a title, what would you choose, and why?

God/Creator/The One Thing From Which Everything Springs is beyond true names or titles, in my opinion. We can name aspects of God, very much like Catholicism has saints that represent very niche needs, or the thousands of variations of the Hindu deities. But to grasp the whole and put a solid label on it? Not possible, I feel.  However, I occasionally make these cute little Facebook posts in which the Divine has conversations with me, typically starting by addressing me by name, and it’s always Buddha speaking to me.

4. How have you experienced Deity most often in your life: as a discrete entity/entities, as a transcendent impersonal force, as a feeling of divine love, something else, all of the above?

The only time I have truly heard God, ironically, is in the absolute stillness of secluded Nature (hey, there’s a label right there). In that sense I probably connect most closely to aboriginal and native traditions that are very close to, or one with, the environment. I see God reclining upon the earth in mountains and hills. I hear God’s voice in the wind, in the rustling of leaves, in the tiny tinkle of snowflakes.

5. What is the least you need as an altar to supplement your practice? What would be your ideal?

At bare minimum? Probably a candle and some incense along with something to hold it. Ideally, really nice representations of the classic elements and icons of my chosen deities along with any pertinent sacred objects, all set in my usual lush decor I like to put into altars and other important places.

smallness

Stuck Again


When we last left our intrepid spiritual traveler, her altars had just reassembled themselves. Since then, I’ve just been letting them occupy their space and sink their energy tendrils into the house. I’ve also continued to work on my spiritual scrapbook like a madwoman. I don’t know what it is about that particular project that I find so appealing, but I really like it. My first scrapbook is over 75% full already: about 60 pages. I have another designated exclusively for a set of Buddhist and Hindu greeting cards I bought at Half Price Books a few years ago but have never used. I’ve sliced them in half for easy gluing and saved the backs for their descriptions.

There’s still a table full of altar-y stuff in the yoga room. It’s everything that hasn’t yet found a home elsewhere in the house. I’m leaving it there so my husband can pick through it and find things for his own altar space. I also wasn’t entirely sure what to do with it all. I can identify a few things that I don’t want any more, but most of it I like and want to keep. Most of it will go into a big plastic bin except for a few things that just really want to be out.

As usual, I’ve gotten stuck on another bit of the Spiritual Nomad instructions. Since the first week, I’m supposed to have been doing breathing exercises/meditations for a few minutes each day in front of my altar spaces, whether empty or full. I haven’t done any yet. I think it’s because the word “meditation” or the phrase “breathing exercise” instills anxiety in me as I remember past attempts to do these things and how frustrating it was. I’m bipolar. It’s a daily effort to keep the inner dialogue quiet enough so that I can function in the rest of my life. Sitting down to do nothing but listen to my breath is akin to putting a megaphone from that dialogue’s mouth to the rest of my mind: it’s deafening.

So I’m trying to abandon the whole “listen to my breath” thing since that clearly doesn’t work for me. I’m going for a quiet conversation, instead, since shutting everyone up isn’t really an option. Not for now, anyway (I can see how it could be possible after a very long time of increasingly quiet mental conversations, though). Seeing the exercise in that way lessens the meditative anxiety, but not completely. There’s still that whole sitting still thing. I’m currently a bit of a large girl: sitting still for a long time isn’t very comfortable for me. I guess I could always sit in a chair instead of on the floor, or arrange myself differently on the floor. Laying down is always nice.

These are all excuses flung up by some even farther corner of my mind that really does NOT want me to do anything even remotely resembling meditation. It gets really angry when I try to come up with ways to get around these excuses, essentially poisoning my meditation practice with a lot of inwardly directed hostility. After a few sessions of that, I give up. Seriously, who the fuck wants to sit down with themselves and end up feeling like they’ve just had a horrible fight with someone? Which in essence, you did?

Little wonder, then, that I don’t think too highly of meditation. Monkey mind, my ass. More like an 800-pound gorilla running amok in my head. Plus my authority-driven mind is yammering at me that I’ve ruined the whole thing by skipping parts or doing them out of order. “You idiot, you’ve reassembled the altars before meditating in front of them for exactly seven days while standing on one foot and bleeding out a chicken! You’ve got the mixture all WRONG! The fabric of life itself is torn asunder!”

*sighs at self*

If I get nothing else out of Spiritual Nomad, it’s to lighten the fuck up and be more accepting of my particular bizarre flavor of Otherness Acknowledgement, which doesn’t like words and in general regards them to be flimsy human constructs that always fall short of truly describing their subject, as though they were mere shadows projected upon a wall, a la Plato. Which is an odd perspective to have as a writer. As such, it is the rare mantra that doesn’t feel completely forced (Sheila Chandra‘s “Om Namaha Shiva” is just such a mantra) and it’s difficult for me to come up with words to go along with a spiritual activity that don’t sound completely silly to me.

I know I’m just trying too hard. All of the non-verbal exercises have been extraordinarily helpful: I should give the others more of a chance instead of subverting them before I even try. All I have to do is sit down and light a candle and some incense, for heaven’s sake. Those are things I *like* doing! I should stop trying to ruin them with a lot of overanalysis. Then maybe it wouldn’t make part of me so angry to try to meditate or pray.

I Can Hear Again


My altars reassembled themselves yesterday.  My next Spiritual Nomad task was to put three important things back onto my altar.  Since I had so many of them, I decided to put three things back onto each one of them.  That started a chain reaction I was unable to really stop.  As I placed the deities back where I needed them to go, the other things that needed to go with them became undoubtedly apparent, so I went ahead and placed items that shouted “I need to go here!”  I should also add that this process was kicked into motion by the arrival of our Hekate statue.

She’s even prettier than I thought she’d be!  I set her on a bureau to await the process of altar placement.  There was a mirror behind her, which enabled me to see both sides of her at once.  It was a magical moment and started the ball rolling.

So I spent about an hour setting the altars back up, first with their deities, then the other items.  After a while, I discovered I was standing over the table of Things, and nothing was speaking to me any more.  I realized it was because I had had too much stuff on my altars before I disassembled them.  What’s there now is exactly what needs to be there, with the possible exception of the family altar, which is on a good table, but in a bad place.  So I need to figure that out.

The energy of each altar is so much cleaner and clearer now without all of the extra stuff, and also because they focused themselves in the process of reassembly.  Previously, the altars were kind of muddled, with a bit of this and a bit of that thrown in, spiritually speaking.  Buddha had a place on nearly every one of them, and Lakshmi and Ganesha were also frequent altar attendees throughout the house.  This time, there are very clear energies associated with each one.  There’s the main shrine in the yoga room which still holds Buddha, Kali, and Shiva, but they’re arranged completely differently.  There’s one source of fire, not five.  I picked a different Buddha, the one made of clear lucite (also my first and oldest Buddha), and placed it in front of my Himalayan salt lamp.  It’s beautiful.  On the other side, Kali stands with Shiva before her.  Again, it’s really beautiful.

Lakshmi and Ganesha live on the family altar that still needs complete reassembly.  Buddha also lives on the dining room table along with a small singing bowl.  Hekate has her own place.  Quan-Yin in the form of an incense burner and Buddha in the form of a candle holder live on the kitchen windowsill along with a potted bamboo: this is the only altar that automatically has all four elements and needs nothing else.  It represents home and hearth, being in the kitchen.  I still have Buddha and Ganesha on my small computer altar.  Removing obstacles and staying calm are both good things when I’m on a computer.  I can’t seem to get away from having Buddha in multiple places around the house, but that’s okay.  He’s where he wants to be.  And I gave Erzulie her own space.  In the bedroom, of course, being a love goddess.  My divination tools also live there.  Her space needs further arrangement, but it’s definitely hers.

There’s a small luck altar on the top of a small drawer unit next to Hekate’s altar: it’s made almost entirely of Ho-Teis (the laughing or lucky Buddha for the rest of you: rub his belly!), of which I had six!  I also made a giant space for the hubbie to make an altar, something that he has not had since 1996, for a variety of reasons.  I went through the box of miscellaneous altar and other stuff and separated the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, and then separated his stuff from mine and put it all in a box for him.  Hopefully he’ll be able to re-establish his own sacred space, although I know for a fact that one of the reasons he’s never reassembled his altar is because I’ve imbued the house with so much spiritual energy and positive chi: it was almost superfluous for him to have his own.  Not that I tried to take over the house or anything.  🙂

Last but not least: the protection altar by the front door consisting of Bast and my dragon, which holds a protective energy I imbued into it a long time ago.  Cats were long regarded by the Egyptians as guardians of the house, and of children in particular.  I like having her by the front door, just as one of my own cats might greet me when I return home (they’re more like dogs than cats sometimes).

This is what’s left post-altar reassembly:

image

It’s made of candle holders, incense holders and burners, boxes, jars, bottles, and a few other miscellaneous items.  A few still need placing on an altar, since I really want to have the four elements represented somehow on each one, and incense has the benefit of being both Fire and Air.  Earth and Water are a little trickier, though I do have quite a collection of really nice rocks and rock slices.  Having all of this stuff together, I can tell which things are going to Goodwill (or a friend’s house) and which ones are staying.  Few of these things have any spiritual significance: they were just extra things that wound up on the altars because it’s hard for me to get rid of my pretty tchotchkes and the altars were the only places to put them.  I think what I’ll have to do now, if I want to keep the good stuff from the pile above, is make a box for the garage and then rotate items out from the house when I get bored with them.  It’s kind of a nice problem to have, having too many pretty things.  🙂

I think what has been the most wonderful things about tearing the altars down and then rebuilding them, is that I can hear God again.  Her voice is right there, in different tones for each altar or energy I’ve established.  And yes, God is a She to me, because I’m a naturalist and I think of the Earth as being female (which is not to disparage very necessary male energy in the world: I just choose to associate with the more feminine aspect, which is no less powerful than the masculine).  Her voice was very clear as I tore them down and placed things together, and even clearer when it was time to put things back.  It’s very nice to hear that voice and feel that energy again, and reminds me of my favorite spiritual experiences in the past.  There’s been a lot of flashbacking as I’ve handled each item and cleared it of stale energy.  And of course, there was a lot of that as I recalled when I got each item and who gave it to me, if pertinent.

In any case, if the goal of the exercise was to make the voice of God a bit clearer, mission accomplished!  And that voice gets a little clearer with each exercise I do.  Right now I’m working on a spiritual journal, which will be filled with images and quotes that remind me to stay connected to my own spiritual energy.  It’s already one quarter filled!  Once I got started, it was hard to stop.  It’s such a fun activity!  I’ll take anything that puts me in touch with that comforting energy again, which has been so long absent.  Welcome back, Dear.

Clearing


Yesterday I wrote about getting stuck on this one aspect of Spiritual Nomad: stripping down one’s altar. Seeing as how I have at least five, that was a confusing thing to figure out which one I should pick, or if I should strip ALL of them. I went with the latter choice. I cleaned up the yoga room so there would be space to put everything (wahahaha! as I would discover), and then one by one went to each altar, removed each deity, and lovingly cleaned it with a cloth dampened with a bit of wood polish and then a dry, soft toothbrush to get into all of the little nooks and crannies that are always on statues.

Before I did that, though, I took a picture of each and every altar and all of the surfaces that have nice things that *could* be used on an altar. There were more than ten places in the house! I had no idea there were so many. I’ve just gotten used to them: I’m surrounded by deities no matter where I go in the house. I didn’t know how many until I put them all in one place. Holy crap. There are multiples of each deity with the exception of Hekate, who really, really needs her own statue (I want this one: http://www.goddessgift.net/hecate-miller-RP-HEC.html), seeing as how she’s the patron goddess of our house. We also do not have a statue of Hestia or Hathor, who are goddesses of hearth and home, one from Greece and one from Egypt, respectively.

Who we do have is this: Lakshmi, Ganesha, Quan Yin, Ho-Tei, Kali, Shiva, the Green Man, Bast, Dragon and Turtle Dragon, Lucky Cat, Catrin y Catrina, and La Virgen de Guadalupe. Wow! With everyone standing side by side, I couldn’t help but notice that the figure of Quan Yin is almost identical to the figure of La Virgen de Guadelupe. I’m willing to bet that happens a lot between the deities of the world. Take Buddha and Jesus. Both left a mundane life to pursue higher spiritual goals. Both preached peace and love as the path to wisdom and freedom. I imagine it goes on and on. I don’t know enough about the actual people, Jesus and Siddhartha, to be able to do any more comparison.

I also gathered together all of the candles, wax and oil, and cleaned them off as well. I have a lot of really pretty stuff after all these years. I’ve accumulated these things in waves. I’ll acquire a bunch of things, then get rid of some. Then I’ll get another bunch, and I’ll refine the collection again. So on and so forth. I’m really happy with what I have. Putting everything all together, though, I see a few things that I realize don’t jibe with everything else in the house that I really love. Some of the items I touched yesterday positively radiated with energy, particularly as I gently cleaned each one off with the soft toothbrush, which seemed to be scrubbing away not only years of dust and dirt, but also muddled chi.

The chi of our house is generally pretty good, as evidenced by how many people come here and say, “I love your house, it’s so peaceful.” But even good chi can get confused with itself and wind up in a tangled mess, like a pretty necklace that wasn’t stored carefully. So I felt that I was removing the cobwebs, so to speak, and in doing so revealed each statue anew. I held each one and carefully considered it as I cleaned it, especially their faces. I remembered where I had gotten each one, or if someone had given it to me, who it was and what they meant to me. Most of them had good memories associated, though a few had unhappy memories attached to them. Not because of anything that happened regarding that actual object, but because the relationship with whomever had given me that object had dissolved in the ensuing years.

Regardless, each received the same careful attention. When they were all lined up on the table, I surveyed the entire collection as a whole. I have never put all of my statues in one place like that before. The energy was so interesting, but not disharmonious whatsoever. It was easy to tell which things didn’t belong any longer, though. Those things are no less sacred: they just don’t match up with the energy of everything else. So I will try to gift those things properly so that they have a home where they will be properly loved.

Today I tackle everything else on the altars. The deities took the most time since there are more of them than anything else. But there still remain the incense holders and burners along with any other significant objects that live on the altars, like my triquetra medallion for Hekate or my skull mala beads from India. A cool thing from yesterday was rediscovering my ankle bells! They were around Lakshmi’s neck. She was happy to have them off, though. They had gotten very dirty with dust over the years, and as I took them off and cleaned them I could feel her energy build and even out, like an engine reaching its sweet spot. She is nearly as important a goddess around here as Hekate is. She deserved special treatment. 🙂

As an aside, I can’t help but notice that every time I finish a 750 Words entry, it takes me to an analysis page where it tells me my typing speed, how long it took to write, and other mundane statistics. But it also tells me what sorts of things I was writing about and how I felt, along with telling me if I was focused on myself, others as a whole, or another person specifically. I notice that as I write about working through Spiritual Nomad, the observations of my posts have been much more positive and extroverted than usual. Instead of being a mix of all kinds of good and bad things (often more negative than positive), they’re definitively upbeat. I think I should take note of that considering this is the first time I have truly focused on my spirituality in a very long time.

Naked


I’ve been doing this groovy “make your own spiritual path” thing put together by Dianne Sylvan called Spiritual Nomad. I’m way behind, still on week one (everyone else is on week three). It took me a really long time to do the first exercise. I probably over thought it, or at least tried to be too inclusive, although my life really has been peppered by a long string of fairly significant incidents, which I put in a meandering time line with my various spiritual paths over the years marked on the path. It’s very busy.

Now I’m stuck on the second exercise: strip my altar bare. Well, I have five altars and at least three more spaces in the house that contain items nice enough to be considered altar fare (not to mention stuff in the garage that rotates in and out of ‘service’, so to speak, depending on my spiritual whim). I can’t decide which one is most important that I should strip down, or if I should strip ALL of them and put all of the doodads in one place to be reconsidered for placement, which has the most appeal but would take a lot of time and energy.

I’m probably over thinking again. If I were to pick one to bare, it would be the big one in the yoga room (bit of a misnomer now that it’s too cramped to do yoga in), which is essentially a very old vanity with a big mirror and a couple of drawers. It currently keeps my favorite Buddha, an 8-armed statue of Kali, a Tibetan bowl tuned to the 2nd chakra, things that hold incense, an incense burner, and a variety of candle holders and oil lamps, because I like fire. Other Hindu holy images are stuck to the mirror along with a yoga chant. Other altars are similarly themed: patron deity/entity, plus fire and air and any other pertinent items. I should keep water and earth too: it would make me pay more attention to my altars. As it is, they probably get cleaned and tended once or twice a year. I’m not terribly devout. 🙂

Stripping all of them would certainly be in keeping with the flensing I’ve been doing around the house the last few weeks, though. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff and reorganized most of the rest. This would be a good opportunity to make the yoga room a more sacred space instead of a place to hold books and sewing stuff, and talk and read. Not that those are bad things by any stretch. They’re just not what the room was originally intended for. I might have room to do a sun salutation in there and other linear poses, but nothing that requires side-to-side space. Though now that I think about it, that still leaves room for a whole lot of yoga poses. Besides, there’s nowhere else in the house to put the sewing machines. I still need to get rid of the 1953 White sewing machine with the outer belt drive. Not exactly safe by modern standards, but I’m sure some sewing machine nut would want it.

See? This is why some projects just never get done. The curse of Jupiter in Sagittarius: just how expansive CAN I make a project?

I think I’ve sold myself on “strip them all”. It won’t take as long as I think it will, I’m betting. It’s a good opportunity to survey all of my Important Things.

My Wish List, Let Me Show You It


I haven’t made a holiday wish list in a while, partially because I had become a self-flagellating martyr like so many other mothers.  “Oh no, don’t worry about me!  I’ll simply slave away while everyone else enjoys themselves!”  At some point I realized that was really damaging and said, “Well fuck that noise!” and decided I could and indeed should still be part of the madness that is the American holidays.  On my own terms, of course.  Malls are for desperate sheep who don’t know any better.  Christmas is for having FUN, and if that’s not on my agenda anymore, well then I need to get the hell out of the way.  Presents are part of that fun for me, and I have just as much fun, if not more, opening clumsily handmade gifts that glow with love from my friends as I do opening perfectly wrapped store-bought gifts.  Perhaps more importantly, I have even more fun every year making presents for the people in my life, but that’s another post.  Anyway, in the spirit of reclaiming part of what was fun at the holidays for me, I present my wish list.

1. A zafu/zabuton natural fiber meditation pillow set.  Like this one from the Zafu Store, via Amazon. I have no idea why there is such a wide price discrepancy in what seems to be a very simple set of items, but I’ve seen them from $50 to $120.  O_o  I have many things to sit on at home but nothing that quite affords the same support and comfort as a proper meditation pillow.  Not in my butt’s experience, anyway.  Some even come filled with buckwheat hulls, which is comfortable, but a bit noisier.

2. A combination glasses/smartphone case.  So far I have only found one that fits the bill, from the deliciously evil folks over at Levenger.  At the age of 39, I’m afraid I really must keep my glasses with me at all times as well as my phone.  I’m also perennially clumsy, so only something this stout will likely do unless I want to wind up replacing one or both.

3. A desk holder for my nice pens. This is a sheer luxury item, although it would have the benefit of keeping them where I can see them so I’ll, you know, use them.  I’ve been collecting nice-ish pens for about fifteen years now: I think I have six.

4. A pair of inline skates and appropriate protective gear.  Except for a helmet: I have one of those.  I forgot how much fun roller skating was until I got invited to a kids’ party recently.  Living in a city with a custom-built veloway just for bicycles and skaters makes me want to go out and build high speed.

5. A guitar and lessons.  I’m on the fence over acoustic vs. electric.  I hear the latter is easier than the former, but I’ve never been about doing things the easy way.  What fun is that?  🙂  I enjoy guitar music of both styles, so I figure if I get one and like it, I’ll wind up getting the other eventually.  But if you put a gun to my head and said, “Acoustic or electric, bitch!” I’d probably say acoustic.

6. A small cast iron teapot.  In fact, this one will do nicely.  

7. Japanese incense and incense burners.  Nippon Kodo and Shoyeido are undoubtedly the big daddies in that world.  I’m actually an aficionado of all incense, regardless of origin, but my daughter’s sensitive nose only likes the highly refined aromas of Japan so we try to stick to that.  Or other low-smoke incenses that are joss sticks (i.e. free of the bamboo stick).  No floral scents: for some reason humankind’s attempts to put floral scents into smoke give me headaches.  Woody, spicy and earthy smells, on the other hand, I could breathe all day, such as Shoyeido’s Daily Incense line.  Fruit smells belong on fruit.  If you give me Escential Essences or AIRS, I will beat you with the package.  All of my former bookstore coworkers are dying of laughter right now.

8. Books by Pema Chodron.  In particular, I need Taking The Leap: Freeing Ourselves From Old Habits and Fears.  I just quit smoking, and have been on the path of Buddhism for a couple of years now.  I know I will need this wisdom if I am to stay on that path and remain smoke-free.  My family medical history makes this non-negotiable.  I would also like a copy of Comfortable With Uncertainty.  Since I am so much the opposite.

9. Almost anything by Shambhala Publications (the new 40th anniversary reprint of Shunryu Suzuki’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind would be nice).  Their books ooze enlightenment.  I feel happier just looking at them.

10. A Yixing clay teapot. This one, specifically:

It only shows one side, but it’s a classic dragon/phoenix Chinese motif.  Yixing clay comes from a very small and specific area of China which is famous for its purple clay that has been made into these little teapots for centuries.  They are unglazed on the inside and are traditionally only used for a single kind of tea, or even a single variety, and age over time, improving the flavor of the tea.

11. Since everything in my life goes to 11, I’ll end with a list of my favorite places where gift certificates would rock:

World Market
Tao of Tea
Amazon
Dharma Trading Company
Target

And yes of course, if you just happen to be picking up stacks of 36″ flatscreen televisions and feel like dropping one off at my house, feel free.  We certainly won’t refuse.