Mala & Mantra: Imbuing Spirit

In July 2018, Magazine by Casey CommanderLeave a Comment


Felicia Trevor Gallo’s life has been one of inquiry. Of Chilean descent, she has lived in the valley since 1977. Her Latin roots, contrasted by a suburban Chicago upbringing, sparked a primal pull towards self discovery and exploration. She has continuously traveled the world in her quest to connect with humanity. Nepal is a significant aspect in her life. There, she fell in love with a Nepalese guide; they married and for seven years they have been leading treks in Nepal and sometimes India. India has also always been a draw for her, delving into her yogic path and spiritual connection. Gallo spent five weeks in Europe this past spring, drenching herself in art and her European heritage.

Known by friends as ‘Flash,’ it certainly describes her. A ubiquitous grin beams winsomely from beneath ever-present mirth in her eyes. She dresses in layers and scarves with fondness for natural fibers and textures; many of her pieces are from afar— Thailand, India, Nepal. No matter the occasion— hiking Mushroom or hitting First Friday—  unusual jewelry is her signature. Most are one of kind: her creations, or that of a fellow artist. Luminous shields of hammered precious metal often dangle from her lobes, or translucent fragments of stone or glass. The shapes are iconic and archetypal, calling to mind indigenous gods, goddesses and power. Strands of gemstones nestle in her bosom, mirroring the browns of her skin or her favorite colors— high, clear blues of vast steppe skies; turquoise and aqua of sea and river. Of course she wears black– of night and dreams and visions. Every artist wears black, don’t they? On her, ’tis but a backdrop, allowing art to shine.

The creation of mala is an exploration of path– that of the seeker and that of creator.

As a youngster, Gallo studied metal smithing at Chicago’s Columbia College. She has been making jewelry since. Drawn more to what she calls ‘cold work,’ assembling pieces, versus hot soldering, she creates assemblages of metal, stones, wood and beads. Leaning towards earrings and necklaces, Gallo also began making malas last year, incorporating cord and silk into her jewelry work.

What’s the draw to jewelry?

“Besides liking beautiful things?” she chuckles, ever the Libra. “The big, integral part of jewelry for me is using semi-precious stones that hold metaphysical properties. Tuning into those qualities, the properties of the stones and how they can help heal us. I’m drawn to the idea of helping people in their spiritual practice. I’m also very drawn to the yogic philosophy and I study extensively because of that.”


Flash has been a student with Yogarupa Rod Stryker through his teachings in ParaYoga. Stryker is a 35-year practitioner and teacher of international acclaim who—  beautiful serendipity— is based in the Roaring Fork Valley.

“Through him, we have such amazing access to that philosophy- it’s hard to even find a teacher like that in India that will impart that kind of knowledge. So I feel extremely fortunate that we have that right here in the valley. It’s tremendous.”

A spiritual community is a ‘sangha,’ the body of students, teachers and practitioners with a lineage. Carbondale has several. Students often ‘take refuge’ within their sangha, committing their life to studying and practicing with a specific teacher. With live streaming, podcasts, and courses, many teachers and gurus attract students from all around the world. Despite the thousands of miles between sangha members, the teachings unite sangha members in a nourishing community of collective spirit.  

Carbondale lost a beloved member in 2016. In her grief, sangha was solace.

“When Angus [Young] died, people flew in from all over the place. He studied with Rod, they were in a men’s group together; Rod’s kids called Angus ‘Rangus’,” she says, smiling. “Rod spoke at his memorial…four hundred people, and this was just one of three memorials, each, hundreds of people. Angus was just a happy go lucky guy who was extremely childlike in his innocence. He was amazing. This whole community came together, and that’s who I felt I needed to mourn with; I felt I had to sit with the sangha. When something like that happens, you want a spiritual connection, and so I hung out with my spiritual group. Rod ran the memorial, and officiated ritual at the end, outside, with black sesame seeds, which is part of a Hindu yogic ceremony. It’s very beautiful; we held Angus’s energy. And Yogarupa said ‘You really need to let him go, let him go to the light.’ And so for eleven days—”  Flash’s voice falters— “when I did that ritual at home, I said ‘Go~ We love you, but go!’”

More than adornment, mala is a focal path for prayer and meditation.


Western culture’s ways of ritual have dispersed. People are hungry for it. Gallo began working with malas to offer seekers a channel for prayer and meditation. A ‘mala’— Sanskrit for ‘meditation garland’— is strung with 108 gemstones, seed or wood beads. Traditionally, a meditator holds the mala in their fingers, advancing the garland forward, bead by bead with the thumbnail at each repetition of mantra. Though each meditator will have their own mantra, it can be as simple as Om. 

In passing the beads through the finger and thumb, one starts and finishes with the guru bead. This is the stone above the tassel, and is bead 109. The guru stone signifies completion of a full round. In deeper practice, meditators reverse the garland and continue another 108 repetitions of mantra. 

Gallo is inspired by earthly, metaphysical elements. Native Colorado stone can be found in her jewelry and malas.

Larger and more prominen, the guru stone is an aspect of mala that is of special interest to Gallo. In Western usage, many mala artists forgo traditional cotton or silk tassels in favor of special crystals or iconographic pendants. Because of her interests in metaphysical properties, and even her own studies in astrology, Gallo likes to work with cabochon and polished stones that she acquires from a Carbondale lapidarist. He has been collecting  stones from area stream beds and mountainsides for years, cutting and polishing them into various shapes and sizes appealing to Gallo. As native stone, she believes they hold a power for us, those who live here, and with which she wishes to infuse the mala guru stone.

Guru stone can also symbolize the relationship between teacher and student, which is appropriate for Gallo, as it her teacher that infuses her mantra.

“Sometimes I chant mantra when I’m stringing the beads, but most of the time I meditate with it after I’m done. I charge it with mantra, usually just my mantra, a power mantra.” explains Gallo when asked about it. “It’s a private mantra Yogarupa bequeathed to me—I’m not the only that has it— but it’s also not one that you just ‘give’ out. It symbolizes the path unique to our dialog as student-teacher. I use the White Tara mantra as well, as it’s healing and powerful.”

Gallo’s home studio is imbued in spirit, which in turn infuses her work; from her vegetable patch.

The art and soulfelt intention in creating each mala compels Flash to do mala work in the sanctuary of her home, which feels like a third-world getaway. She has wild gardens and flowers, fruit trees and honey bees, over which Ganesh and Bhudda both hold court. Prayer flags sway from the front porch (and even the handlebars of a jalopy bicycle). A prayer wheel relic reclines against an old Victorian porch post. The open arms of indoor and outdoor furniture beckon from the shade of the porch. Inside are vintage and retro furnishings; plants and art, placed just so, are chic and cozy. Tiny dogs wiggle and scramble about; KDNK murmurs quietly in the background. It’s a soulful enclave, a piece of Third World peace in the midst of Carbondale. It feels like home.

Gallo also leases studio space at Studio for Art Works (SAW). Within it, Gallo plies her other arts– more traditional but unique jewelry and 2-D mixed media, encompassing photo overlay and collage. After her return from Europe this spring, she began exploring a series of what she calls ‘manjushri’.

Icons about the home keep us connected spirit. Work of Felicia Trevor Gallo

“At this point in my life, my spiritual connection is so strong for me that I’m really drawn to making art that has a spiritual connection. If I can help people in their spiritual path, that’s my goal. That’s the metaphysical part of the stones in my other jewelry; and there are the malas. I’m keying into goddesses right now,” she explains, referring to the manjushris.

Flash sells primarily through SAW openings and word of mouth. Many readers will recall her presence in the Carbondale farmers market for several years. The Artique gift shop at LaunchPad carry Gallo’s malas. She is also doing a series of mala-inspired bracelets for the Mountain Fair Valley Artists booth.

“People like smaller things that they can afford,” she acknowledges, and she will also be offering icons and malas. Be sure to look for her work~