Meditation and Malas

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in a mala making and meditation workshop. It was led by Jackee DeSimone- a yoga teacher and entrepreneur from Hamilton. I met Jackee at the recent Toronto Yoga Show and Conference when I stopped by her booth, and we started to chat. She has the loveliest free spirit, and she’s a really nice person! I absolutely loved her workshop. Not only was it fun to make my own mala, but I learned some great things to add to my own meditation practice.

But first, what is a mala?

A mala is a string of beads used in meditation practice. Mala is the Sanskrit name for garland. It looks like a rosary and pretty much does the same thing. In Japa meditation, it is used to repeat a mantra or count breaths while passing the beads through the fingers. It can also be used in quiet meditation to slowly count the beads to calm the mind.

There are a few ways to hold the mala, but the index finger never touches it. The index finger represents the ego and will interfere with your practice. Simply hold the mala in your right hand and drape it over your thumb and middle finger. Starting at the bead to the left of the guru bead, use the thumb to pull the beads towards you as you repeat a mantra in your head, or under your breath.

All malas have 108 beads plus a 109th bead called the guru bead. Each side of the mala must be mirrored, and no more than 108 can be on the string. The guru bead represents the relationship between the student and guru. This bead is sacred and must be passed over when meditating. It isn’t touched, rather, the mala is flipped over in the hand so you can continue to meditate.

In our workshop, Jackee gave each of us a string of 108 rudraksha beads. Rudraksha beads come from trees and are actually seeds from something that looks like a blueberry. These are used in many traditional malas, but you will also find malas crafted from beautiful gemstones. The rudraksha beads were the starting point of making our malas. We were invited to choose from a variety of beads on the table to customize our malas. It was really fun to get creative with the colours and the guru bead. I could have spent all of my time choosing beads! But then I would have run out of time to actually create my mala.

While I built my mala, it was being infused with my energy and intention. My patience was certainly tested while I sat on the floor feeding the small string through each of the tiny beads, but it was so satisfying to see them all neatly lined up. I had gratitude for my fingers that could hold the tiny beads, and eyes that could see! I didn’t keep track of time or worry about messing up the pattern. I performed regular counts to make sure I stayed on the right track and if I missed a bead, I just went back and fixed it without angst. This encouraged me to bring these positive thoughts and affirmations into my daily life. Just like taking mindfulness off my yoga mat and into the world.

Once we finished our malas, Jackee spent time with each of us tying on the last bead, the guru bead. She also encouraged each of us to write down our own personal mantra on a card and keep it somewhere we will always see it to inspire us.

Now that I have made my first mala, I can’t wait to make another! I’ve already used my mala today to meditate and I plan to incorporate meditation off my yoga mat too. If you’re just getting started, I highly recommend Japa meditation because it’s easy to get the hang of it. If your mind wanders, you have the beads to bring you back to your mantra.

Check out Jackee’s website for more information on her Make a Mala workshops!

Have you tried meditation yet? How was your experience? If you haven’t, what’s holding you back?

Time to reflect

Last year I left my job to go back to school so I could take my career in a new direction. Now that school is over, I’ve been off work for several months while I search for my ideal role. It has given me time to reflect and also brought me clarity.

Some days I feel regret for walking away from a steady job to start down a new path, but then I remind myself why I did it. I wanted to learn and grow. I truly consider this an investment in myself and it has been the most rewarding investment I have ever made.

I’m also a big believer in fate. I believe things happen for a reason and there is a reason I haven’t yet landed in the place where I’m supposed to be. I’m not ready for it, or it isn’t ready for me. That’s okay. I can be patient. Patience has given me a lot in my life, so I trust in it. I also trust in hard work, so I guess fate needs to sync up with hard work in this case!

Being off work for almost a year has taught me some things. And I love to learn, so this has been a valuable learning experience!

Believe in your dreams

I had a dream I would work in the music industry and it happened. I had a dream I would work in the golf industry and it happened. I dreamed I would become a makeup artist and it happened. Right now, I’m working on some more dreams. Among them, I want to become a yoga teacher, tell meaningful stories, build strong relationships and help people and animals. I also want to somehow combine all of those things into becoming an entrepreneur one day.

Make a plan

It will change a million times, but you need an idea of where you want to go. None of these dreams would have come true if I didn’t have a plan. For example, in high school, I worked in a record store (yes, I’m showing my age right now by calling it a record store). In the store, I met someone at a label. In university, that contact led me to a part time gig. After I graduated, I waited (with so much patience) for my opportunity, and it appeared. It was worth the wait!

Try not to worry about money

Make a plan to live, do whatever you need to do so you can enjoy this time off and not freak out about paying the bills.

Call it an unpaid sabbatical

Lucky you, if it’s a paid sabbatical! Personally, I needed this time for a wellness break. I felt unfulfilled in my job, so I channeled that emotion into motivation to make a change.

Have a supportive partner/friend/family

I couldn’t do this without a lot of supportive people. As my mother says “you always land on your feet. Something will come along.” But she also says, “I can’t believe it’s taking this long.” Like all mothers, she means well, but man, what a kick in the butt! Thankfully, I’m grateful for her tough love.

Don’t sit still

Be creative. Learn some more. I went to school, but I’m also trying to teach myself more about social media marketing. I read a lot and try to find people to learn from. I volunteer to do social media for a non-profit so I can practice. I taught myself to use WordPress and built this website. I’m working on my yoga practice with different teachers so I can discover what kind of teacher I want to become. Always be learning and growing. Being curious and having goals outside of work will make you better in your work.

Continue to network

There are so many cool people out there who will make an impact on you. Go find them! I enjoy introducing myself to new people and hearing about their journeys. Building new relationships is at the heart of my personal and professional identities. You never know where it will lead.

Taking a self-prescribed “time out” may not be for everybody. We all have responsibilities. It doesn’t have to be a year. It can be a month or a few weeks. If you need it, take some time to recharge your batteries and do some soul-searching. So much good can come out of it. Not just for you, but for people around you too. You never know, you might inspire someone to shake up their own journey!

Around the Bay Race takes determination

Webster’s Dictionary defines determination as “a quality that makes you continue trying to do or achieve something that is difficult.” In honour of the 125th anniversary of the Around the Bay Race yesterday, let’s talk about determination. I will tell you from experience, it takes a lot of it to complete this race!

First of all, it’s 30 kilometers. I could stop here, but there’s more. There are hills. Lots of them. They come in the form of overpasses starting at five kilometers. There they are, looming ahead with a wall of people climbing up and over. After that grind, the long, flat, stretch of Beach Boulevard is a welcome break. That is, until you turn onto North Shore Boulevard and there’s a whole new set of mountains to climb. The hills are back! Between 18 kilometers and 26 kilometers, your determination will be tested on the rolling hills of North Shore.

The Around the Bay race is an exercise in determination. Not just completing the race, but the work it takes to get there. Yes, you need determination to get up Heartbreak Hill. And have the will and energy to continue another four kilometers to the finish. But it also takes determination to get to the start line.

Since the ATB is at the end of March, that means training through the winter. The cold, Canadian winter. Many of my own group training runs were cancelled on Wednesday nights this winter due to extreme cold, freezing rain, heavy snowfall and icy conditions. Some people jumped on a treadmill while others moved hill training to another day. It’s not always easy to move training days around if you’re a busy guy or gal or have a family and other commitments.  It’s difficult, but the determined continue to try.

The Bay is challenging. Every single person who ran it yesterday will tell you that. But we all had something in common: we were determined to do it. We started even though it was cold and windy. We kept going when it became demanding. And when we got our final “second wind” entering the finishing chute, there was no better feeling right then because determination helped us cross the finish line, upright and smiling.

Congratulations to everyone who completed their journey to the Around the Bay yesterday!

Now that you’ve had some time to come down from your runner’s high (or maybe you’re still on it!), what’s your next race?

How to hire a makeup artist for your wedding

In a former life, I was a makeup artist.  Mostly bridal, some tv, and Holt Renfrew makeup counters.  Bridal was my favourite, because it was over in one day!  Two, if you count the trial run.  I joke!  Only a little 😉

Really, bridal was the best because I got to work with some amazing and beautiful brides.  I loved the fast pace and the pressure to be ready on time.  Mostly, I loved turning brides into even more glowing versions of themselves while still looking like themselves.

If you’re looking for a makeup artist for your wedding, let me give you some tips to help you out.

How much will this cost?

Book a trial run a few months prior to your wedding day.  This will cost you roughly $60.  Timing it with your hair trial or bridal shower is a nice idea.  Don’t let that pretty hair and makeup go to waste!

The day of the wedding will cost about $100 per person.  Extras such as eyelashes and airbrushing are on top of that price.  If you have the extra cash and want to splurge, I highly recommend airbrushed makeup.  Your skin will look flawless ALL day long.  I used to do airbrushing and was so in demand, that’s pretty much all I did for brides.  Besides lasting all day, it hides every imperfection and feels so amazing being applied to your skin.  Like a soft, cool breeze.


Not only can the bride get her makeup done, so can the whole bridal party.  When I did weddings, I offered a discount for groups of 3, 4, 5 etc.  The more people you gave me, the better the discount per face.  Don’t forget the mother and mother- in- law either.  Make sure your makeup artist has experience with mature skin.

Budget roughly 30-40 minutes per person.  People are always delayed, the makeup artist is competing with the hair stylist for time, and they need to clean the makeup brushes and get re-set up in between clients.  The bride is always the last to get her makeup done so she will be the freshest.

Where do I look for a makeup artist?

Word of mouth is the most reliable.  I work on recommendations.  You probably do too.  Ask your friends, family, colleagues and social media.  Talk to anyone you know who was recently married.  Even gals who were married a few years ago or more.  If they had a great experience, they probably still remember who they used.  Brides used to contact me and refer to a bride I had done years before.  That’s nice word of mouth!

Check bridal websites for links to personal sites.  Look at portfolios.  Will the artist travel to you?  Trust me, you don’t want to be driving around getting your hair and makeup done.  Stay in one place and have everyone come to you.

My biggest piece of advice is to find someone with a similar style to yours.  I attracted a lot of brides who either never wore makeup or didn’t wear much.  They liked my natural style and soft hand.  Find someone who understands your vision.  You don’t want to be disappointed on your wedding day when you have thick eyeliner and a red lip you didn’t ask for.  But you would have found that our in your trial run, wouldn’t you? 😉  Don’t be cheap. Do the trial!  You can thank me later.

Why should you hire a makeup artist?

You’re spending thousands on a photographer.  Enough said.

But to go further, yes, the photographs are expensive, and you want to look your absolute best.  Wearing some makeup will just make your features pop a little more for the camera.  Your eyes and skin will glow even more than they already do.

Having a professional do your makeup is one less thing you have to be responsible for on your wedding day.  Let the buzz happen around you and sit for 40 minutes while a lovely makeup artist makes you look beautiful.

Lastly, hire a makeup artist because they know how to make your look last all day.  You will only need to touch up your lips.  The foundation and eye makeup will set and stay all day and into the night.  Makeup artists know which products to use, and how to use them effectively.

I hope you found these tips useful!  Remember, you get what you pay for.  So, choose wisely.

Who’s getting married soon?  Tell me how your search for a makeup artist has been going.