When I first started meditating, my mind was all over the place. And to be honest, it sometimes (uhm, most of the time) still is! One day during yoga teacher training we were introduced to mala meditation and it made such a difference. Now, whenever my crazy monkey mind keeps racing and ‘normal’ sitting meditation isn’t going to happen, I take a break and later on that day I try again with my mala and then usually it works.
When you meditate with mala beads both your body and mind are kept ‘occupied’ so that you don’t get distracted so easily.
What is a mala?
A mala is a beaded necklace that can be used as a rosary in meditation. Mala beads can be worn anytime and by anyone. They are not connected to a specific religion although they are often used by Christians, Buddhists and Hindus to recite mantras or prayers.
When you wear them daily they will remind you to breathe and be present. You can wear them as a necklace close to your heart or wrapped around your wrist as a bracelet. Wear them by themselves or layered with other mala beads or other jewellery.
Meaning of the gemstones
Malas are typically made with semi-precious gemstones, wooden beads, rudraksha beads or a combination of these.
All gemstones are said to have certain subtle properties. They work to enhance traits or feelings that already exist in you.
You will naturally be attracted to a certain colour and texture of stone, and when you read about its properties you can decide if it is indeed what you need.
Some malas are made with sandal wood beads, other wooden beads or rudraksha beads. Rudraksha (the brown beads shown in the picture above) is a seed traditionally used as prayer beads in India and Nepal; they are often worn for protection. Rudraksha is associated with Shiva, the Hindu deity of transformation. Rudraksha are valued similar to semi-precious stones. Depending on the number of mukhi (faces or segments), different meanings and values are attributed to the beads. Rare or unique beads are highly prized and valuable.
How to meditate with mala beads
Meditating with mala beads happens by repeating a mantra over and over. This is how you do it:
- Choose a mantra that resonates with you
- Sit with the mala beads in your right hand and move the beads one by one with your right thumb. One bead for each repetition of your mantra. It helps to keep count of the number of repetitions and keeps your mind from wandering during meditation.
- When you reach the guru bead (usually a bigger stone just above the tassel) you have completed one round (108 repetitions). You can either stop here, thank yourself for practicing and sit for a little longer in silence. Or:
- If you want to do another round, turn over your mala necklace so that the last bead becomes the first, and start moving the beads again so you are going back where you came from. Never cross the guru bead, always turn around when you have completed a round.
- Complete as many rounds as you want. At the end sit in silence and let the meditation last a little longer.
Caring for your mala beads
So you chose your mala and have been wearing and using it regularly. How do you keep your mala beads looking good?
- Remove your mala beads while showering, swimming and exercising.
- Don’t expose your beads to chemicals such as sunscreen or perfume.
- When not wearing them store them in a pouch or safe place so they don’t get scratched.
- As it is a long necklace be careful not to get trapped with them as it might cause them to break.
- When the tassel gets frazzled slightly wet it (don’t soak) and stroke until smooth again.
Shop your mala
There are plenty of places where you can buy mala beads. Choose a shop that you feel good with. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. After all, your mala beads will accompany you for a lifetime!