The Beauty of Mala Beads
“The only thing that matters is our actions, the intentions of our heart
– Chris Manion”
The power of meditation has been well documented in recent times and humans have used it for healing, prayer and boosting wellbeing for thousands of years. This week, we thought that we would share a tool for meditation that can help you to set your intention to meditate and cement the practice into your life as a ritual. It may also provide an opportunity to treat yourself or another to an unusual gift!
Mala beads - (in Hinduism and Sikhism) a string of prayer beads.
Mala – a Sanskrit word for ‘garland’
Have you ever seen or held a set of mala beads?
A set of mala beads comprises of a series of 108 beads made from seeds, wood, gemstones, or other materials on a cord, string or elastic thread. They also have a tassel or ‘guru bead’ among the other beads which represents higher consciousness and serves as both the start and finish of the cycle. They are usually very attractive and can be worn around the neck or looped around the wrist. You may have seen them worn by yogis or on sale in a ‘mind, body spirit emporium’. Wearing them for their aesthetic beauty, is not usually the main purpose of owning mala beads, although, if you love the way that they look and feel, your connection with them will be enhanced and you will likely be more inclined to use them in a way that promotes your wellbeing.
Mala beads have long been used as an ancient tool for meditation and prayer. It is believed they originated from the Hindu religion in India thousands of years ago. They are first mentioned in a 4th century BCE Buddhist text called Mokugenji Sutra and have historically been used in religious practices such as Buddhism and Hinduism. They are more recently used in the West as part of yoga, meditation and prayer.
There are many examples throughout history, of the use of symbolic jewellery for spiritual practices. In Christianity, the wearing of a cross, in Catholicism a crucifix or prayer with rosary beads, in Islam, the star and crescent moon and in Judaism, the star of David. Humans are also known to informally adopt their own rituals with worry beads or ‘lucky’ pendants or rings which may be special to them due to associations with time and place or loved ones. While these have no religious symbolism, their power lies in the connection between them and their owner and the ritual that has been adopted. As we have said many times, no object or situation alone has influence over us unless we give it meaning.
Why are there 108 mala beads?
In Vedic astrology, the number of beads on the mala set symbolises the completion of a cycle.
Mala beads are used in meditative exercises such as breathwork and chanting. They assist in ritualising the practice by providing a start and end point and a finite number of repetitions of the action. Through pleasant sensory stimulation in the handling of them they provide a reminder to return to the present moment when the mind wanders as it is bound to do.
If you want to manifest your best life and to remove the obstacles that prevent you from moving forwards, intention is everything.
When you set an intention, the Universe will shift around you to make it happen. For example, if you intend to meditate the end of today, you will have a much better chance of it coming to fruition than if you merely think about meditating at the end of today.
When you give your attention to how you will practise meditation, in terms of symbolic meaning, you strengthen your intention. For example, if you choose to listen to a particular guided meditation to address a certain need, if you choose to meditate under a new moon because a new moon is widely accepted to assist in manifesting new intentions, if you use a certain crystal because it is reputed to possess certain properties that are aligned with what you aim to achieve, if you perform a particular yogic breathing exercise that is widely used for a particular desired effect. Whether or not these choices alone have evidence to support their effect does not matter in terms of intention. What matters is what they mean to you. Because you are taking the time to research which phase of the moon, which crystal, which ritual and which meditation, you are cementing your vision as to what you are asking for and through your resulting thoughts, emotions and behaviours the Universe will shift to accommodate you.
The same applies when you choose to use mala beads. If you give your careful attention to your choice of beads and how you will use them, you give power to the process. You invoke the properties of the choices that you made simply by making them!
Are you in need of a treat and do you have the means to buy yourself one? Are you feeling affluent? Are you feeling generous?
If you choose to incorporate mala beads into your practise (or as we would put it -to play with some mala beads) you may wish to take some of the following into consideration.
There are many ways to use mala beads. However you choose to use them, let it be the way that feels right for you, even if it breaks with tradition – you can develop your own bespoke ritual.
Cement your intention and vision by paying careful attention to the process.
Choose a set of mala beads according to how you feel about them. It is wise to choose beads that evoke pleasant emotion. Perhaps they were the ones in the shop with the best colour, the ones that felt heavy or cool, the set that was gifted to you by someone who wished you well or even knew what you wanted them for, or the ones whose reported crystal properties spoke so clearly to you. Remember not to overthink this. There does not have to be evidence because it is the process that is important here. You are empowering the ritual for yourself with meaning.
Set a clear intention as to how you will use the beads?
Will you use breath? If so, which breathing exercise? For example, if you are aiming to achieve relaxation, you might choose to lengthen the outbreath because it is widely accepted that on the outbreath, there is a physical ‘letting go’ of muscle tone. Conversely, on the inbreath, there is an accepted increase of muscle tension which you may choose to utilise for an energising experience.
Will you chant? You can choose from a wide range of established spiritual chants which are accepted to connect you with a particular goal. For example, the chant ‘Om Gan Ganpataye Namo Namaha’ is associated with the Hindu deity Ganesh and is used to assist in the removing of obstacles, whilst the chant ‘Om Namo Narayanaya’ means ’I surrender to Divine’ and so fosters acceptance.
Will you repeat a mantra? Repetition is one of widely practised way to ensure that a concept or belief enters the subconscious mind to be accepted as part of our system of understanding. Maybe you have sourced a wise mantra that encapsulates exactly what you want to embody. Maybe you feel called to create your own. Word it simply. Make it exact. Give your full attention to its creation.
Now sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight.
Bring yourself into the present moment by taking your awareness to your current environment.
Connect with your beads. Feel their weight and texture. Sit with them.
Allow yourself to become still.
Begin at the first bead from the tassel or Guru bead and breathe one breath cycle, chant or affirm.
Gently move your fingers to the next bead and repeat.
Continue slowly, evenly, and methodically repeating the breath cycle, chant or affirmation, each time moving your fingers to the next bead along on completion.
Continue until you reach the tassel or guru bead indicating that the cycle is complete.
Allow your beads to rest in a moment of stillness and offer up some gratitude.
Bring yourself back to full awareness in the knowledge that your work is done.
Mala beads are a beautiful addition to your collection of objects and whilst they are only a material possession, they can be a useful and comforting tool for boosting wellbeing even if only for the retail therapy!
For more insights and a host of tools and techniques for exploring the Self and improving your
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