It took some time as well as a bit of trial and error, but I have finally developed a great system for making malas that last. I really enjoy making them and the many combinations of beads and thread are fun to come up with too.
A mala is traditionally 108 beads with a guru bead (109th bead) and a tassel. They can also come in 18, 27 or 54 beads. You can have an all wood bead mala or mix in some stone or crystal beads which add additional properties to your mala. You may have heard the term japa mala used to describe the beaded necklaces. Japa is just a sanskrit word to describe the practice of meditating with a mala, so don’t let that strange word scare you away from trying this awesome tool for meditation.
Why should you meditate? Meditation gives you a period of time to refocus. If you are anything like me, you are being pulled in a thousand different directions all day long and all the issues or problems carry over into the next day until they are resolved. Meditation gives you a time to set them all down and pick them back up again refreshed and ready to make good choices. A mala is a good tool to help with that refocusing. It uses the sensation of the beads and definitive end to your time, along with counting each breath and repetition.
How do I use a mala to meditate? It’s quite simple and completely up to you. Traditionally, you would hold a 108 bead mala in your right hand only and use your middle finger and thumb to go through each bead, taking a breath between while saying a mantra for each repetition. This video is awesome (and short) for explaining the process as well as how to charge or cleanse your mala.
If you want a less rigid way of meditating with your mala, here is a fun video.
I don’t necessarily believe you have to have a 108 bead mala and the guru bead can simply be a good thought, a prayer to God or the universe, or a final, very deep breath to end your meditation time. It is up to you. There are many reasons why a japa mala uses 108 beads. I have made a handful of malas with only 90 or 100. You could give numerological meaning to those numbers if you’d like. A traditional rosary, for example, has 5 sets of 10 beads with a bead in between each decade. All that to say, it has meaning only if you give it meaning. If you are a christian, meditation can be a time of meditating on the word of God. Choose a short verse and make it your mantra. “Be still, and know” or “All things work together for good”. Whatever you are needing at the time, or whatever He brings to mind.
My personal mala has 108 beads with some of them being Carnelian and the rest Palm wood beads. Carnelian is used for clarification and motivation towards your goals. I often wear it on school days. I don’t have a dedicated mantra, but meditate on what is needed at the time. Meditating also helps get to the root of an issue in the way that you have to decide what it is you are feeling and how best to combat the negativity. Perhaps you are having a mom-guilt day, where you’ve failed a couple of times or let someone down. The mantra, “I am enough” or “I deserve love and I give love easily.” will quickly turn your thoughts positive and allow you to internalize truth. We talk to ourselves constantly, whether we realize it or not and it’s usually negative. If you make a mistake, you might beat yourself up about it for hours afterwards while you go about your day, replaying the situation and trying to come up with what you could have done better or differently. After a time of meditating consistently, you’ll start recognizing that hurtful talk, be able to take a deep breath and let it go or redirect your thoughts.
A mantra is a sound, word or phrase used in meditation. A quick search will give you a lot of different chants you can use or like in the second video, she uses, “I am healing every day”. Other ideas are; “I am light to those around me”, “I am content with what I have and need nothing more” or you may meditate on a person, perhaps someone you need to forgive. Saying the words, “I forgive you” will do wonders for letting that hurt go, even if you never speak to that person again. Taking a breath in and then out per bead will do wonders as well. You’ll come back to your breath in a stressful situation. A great quote I found by J. Donald Walters, reads, “The more regularly and the more deeply you meditate, the sooner you will find yourself acting always from a center of inner peace.” I love that quote and have found it to be true.
You can also incorporate other tools into your meditation time. A small singing bowl or some Tingshas are wonderful sound therapy. They can be used to cleanse energy in yourself or your home. If my family gets in a funk, I’ll take the tingshas to the corners of the room, much like with sage.
Finally, If you are having a hard time in Savasana after yoga, an eye pillow is a wonderful tool. It works much like the beads do on a mala. The eye pillow resting over your eyes brings attention to that sensation allowing you to then focus on your breath.
I enjoy using all of these things in my practice and it wasn’t until I started meditating that I really started to see a change in myself for the better. I encourage you to try it.