Zen Beadism

The Question was, and probably still is, Make beads or wait tables? Those are the options I know about. There are countless others I can't see, but for now, I have to work with what I know to be available. One by one we're making little commitments here in Taos. The stinky old couch is officially unsalvageable, so it's on its way out. A new couch says, OK. We'll stay a while. Borrowing a day bed for Lauren's room says, OK. We'll stay through the holidays, so the one kid who can make it "home" for Christmas will have a place to sleep. Spending half my days pretending to be a writer is lovely, but there's still that other half of the day, which really needs to be used to replenish the bank account. I've had over a month away from the torch, ever since we left Ashland. Time away is a good thing. And now you can probably guess my answer to the Question...

A few days ago, I just decided, out of the clear blue Taos sky, to drag out the torch, the glass, the tools, the kiln, and set up the studio. It was not a happy decision. It was a painful one. I resisted. I cried. I hung my sorry head. And I knew I had to do it anyway. It was the only practical thing to do, and besides, it wanted to be done. I made a few little beads that day, and they are beautiful. I made a few more the next day, and they are also beautiful. And somewhere in surrendering to the making, I began to remember that I am not the one making the beads. And so it didn't matter that I didn't want to make them. They wanted to be made, and my only job was to allow that to happen.

I'll keep it simple by saying God is the one who wants to make beads. Substitute any term that makes you comfortable. God, Goddess, All There Is, One, Universe, Great Spirit, Creator. It's all the same. What occurred to me is, if God wanted me to do Something Else, I would probably know about it. If I was supposed to be doing something else, I'd be doing something else. The fact that I'm doing what I'm doing, means I'm supposed to be doing it. It's all perfect, even when we can't see that it is. And since nothing else has presented itself, and beads are still there whispering, YooHoo, remember us?, I figured I'd better listen. I think when we're at our best, we are the hands of God, the Universe's way of expressing creativity and experiencing the physical world. At our best, we step aside and allow whatever it is that wants to come through in the name of Truth, Light, Creativity, and Beauty. At our best, we don't do the doing, we only provide the tools to get it done. So if God wants to make beads, well, who am I to argue?

I don't want to come across sounding like some kind of religious fanatic. I couldn't be further from it. In fact, I have very little use for, or interest in religion. I know that will upset, and even offend a few people. But that's certainly not my intent. My interest is in spirituality, and yes, I do believe in God, whatever that is, and I also believe that religion is divisive, while God is all-inclusive. To quote Michael Franti, "God is too big for just one religion." So, I sample from all of them, and claim none of them as the only way to go.

So how do I know that God wants to make beads? Well, because the studio is set up, and I'm letting it happen, and it doesn't hurt. When I got my whiney baby princess self out of the way, and relaxed into the work, it became easy. All I had to do was get my Self out of the way, and agree to sit there and "be the hands". I'm coming at it in a different way than I have in the past. I used to care deeply about proving myself, about showing off and getting noticed and making the next, newest best thing. I wanted fame, and I got it. I wanted fortune, and that happened too, for a little while. It was all very exciting, and also very stressful. Most of the time I wasn't very happy, even when I was making loads of money.

So we have a new deal, God and me. We're starting from zero, at the very beginning. No showing off, at least not just yet. It's not up to me anyway. When I go to the studio, I burn some incense, plug into my iPod, check out of the world around me, and light the torch. I say, Well? What do you want to make? And I pick up the glass and get started. I move slowly, which is new for me. I breathe and take my time. I pay attention to the signals my body gives me. If I'm smiling, I'm doing it right. If I have a knot in my stomach, I'm working from Self again.

The beads are small and simple. Some are the Zen Beads I started back in Oregon. Some are even smaller and rounder, and seem to want to be called either Zen Pearls or Baby Steps. They make my eyes happy. They make my hands happy. It remains to be seen if they will make my customers happy. But that isn't really the point. Paul Stankard says, "Your work is your prayer," and I had forgotten that. Now it's like I'm forming a new, personal un-religion, sort of a "Zen Beadism" that requires focus, acceptance, and humility. As a Zen Beadist, making beads is my version of "chop wood, carry water."

This is going to take some practice. Old ways are hard to change. It's still very possible that I'll have to wait tables. It's possible that I'll never sell another bead, or that God will tire of this hobby quickly and close up the studio again. Whatever happens, by at least agreeing to allow it, I make the way easier for myself. And my Self can continue to take a break. It's time to let Someone Else do the work, but that doesn't mean I don't have to participate. My job is to show up, to breathe, to allow the Worker to do its work, the Creator to create, God to play with glass. All I have to do is be the hands, and yes, when I get out of the way, it's really as easy as it sounds.


  1. Thanks for the email Kim. I intend to respond. I like the title of today's post - Zen beadism. That is exactly how your post sounded. Very Zen. As I read, I thought to myself how wonderful it must be to have and practice a gifted skill or talent, like singing or dancing or painting a beautiful painting. You are creating with your hands when you make beads and with your soul and mind. I know you feel ready for something else but could it possibly be that the something else, something new, is a deeper relationship with one of your art forms - beading? It sounds this way as I listen to you. Enjoy your winter in the warmth of Taos, your home, your family, your friends and your art. Rest and be creative. Let the love flow. And if you end up waitressing, cull out of that what the universe is delivering to you as you deliver to them that come to eat.

  2. Every time you talk about the pain of making beads I think, "I'd *kill* to have the opportunity to do so!" lol. Funny, but your frustrations are some of our dreams. You have no idea what new door this process may open for you. You don't sound like a religious fanatic...I've known some and you ain't it :). Chill. Relax. Enjoy. Pink in...green out. Make a bead. Smile. Laugh. Drink. Eat. Some where in there is what you are looking for or, better yet, what is looking for *you*.

  3. Love it. I had glanced at it before, but now, since meeting you....it makes perfect sense. Complete and utter sense. You are a gift Kim, plain and simple. A beautiful being of light. Much love to you.

  4. I have "closed" down my animal head sculpture business a couple of times. Both because I really needed to make more money and because I felt burned out. Each time I came back to it it was like a welcoming renewal and I think my work was fresh and better than before. It was as if my creative side continued to work even though my hands were still.

    I feel a bit burned out now, but I know a new inspiration just might be brewing.


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