MEDITATING WITH MALA BEADS
Mala beads for mindfulness and mantra meditation
When you begin to incorporate mala beads into your meditation practice, the most important thing to keep in mind is to do what works best for you. Remember, it is a practice, it’s not going to be perfect. Wrestling with thoughts of when to inhale, when to exhale, how to rotate the beads, what mantra to use, how to hold the beads, etc. has the potential to make the goal of a quieter mind a little further away.
I wholeheartedly believe it is the intention behind the practice that truly matters. Watching me, an experienced yogi may say that I’m doing japamala meditation incorrectly. True or not, I really don’t care because l have no doubt that my practice has helped me immensely. Why would I bother to argue with that kind of success?
I tried using a mala necklace for the first time during meditation about four months after starting a dedicated daily practice. Surprisingly, using the beads quieted my mind and I felt more relaxed during my meditation. I seemed to lose the dance of telling my mind to just stop talking or wanting to open my eyes for just a second to see how much time I had left on the timer. The feel of the beads in my hand and repeating my mantra gave my mind just enough to do that it didn’t have time to bother me with all of its ramblings. I imagine this is similar to why a fidget spinner helps some people to focus. Suddenly, meditation was less of a struggle and more of a relaxing and peaceful experience. I even looked forward to it - imagine that!
Choosing a Mantra
Having a mantra can really help to set an intention for your meditation practice. In some traditions you cannot pick your own mantra, instead it is given to you by a spiritual mentor or guru. But if you are like me and have yet to find your own personal guru (thanks a lot Tony Robbins), I suggest choosing something that is meaningful or empowering. There are traditional mantras you can use like ”Om,” “So Ham,” “Sat Nam,” “Om Shanti Shanti Shanti,” or you can try “I am,” “I am enough,” “I welcome love,” “I choose peace,” “I have everything I need.” If you start using a mantra and it doesn’t feel right, try another one. Don’t forget, this is a practice, not perfection. You can choose to either say it quietly or silently during your practice.
Sit in a chair or on the floor with your legs crossed. Lift yourself up through the spine and push your shoulders back slightly. Relax the muscles in your shoulders and let your back relax. Slightly tuck in your chin and relax your jaw and face. Take a few deep breaths. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Traditionally a mala is held in the right hand hanging between the thumb and the middle finger with the index finger pointed outward. You can lay your left hand on your knee palm facing up or touch your index finger to the tip of your thumb (the traditional gyan mudra position). With the hand holding the mala, place your thumb on the first bead after the guru bead. Use your thumb to rotate the mala toward you, one bead at a time. With each bead take a breath and repeat your manta. Continue around the loop until the guru bead is reached. If you wish to continue meditating, do not pass over the guru bead, instead, turn the mala around and start again.
Watch the video below if want to explore more detailed instruction.
(In reference to the video above, I don’t usually use a meditation shawl, but in the times that I have, I do find it somewhat comforting although I can’t exactly explain why I feel that way).
You can wear your mala necklace or bracelet when you are not meditating as they can serve as a reminder of your commitment to stay present during the day. Sometimes slipping my mala bracelet off my wrist and taking a breath with each bead allows me to have greater focus when trying to pay attention to something or someone. Stroking the tassel on my mala necklace quickly relaxes me and reduces my anxiety, even when I don’t immediately realize that I am doing it.
If meditation is new to you, just give it a chance. Start with just a few minutes each day. The goal is not to silence our thoughts, but to just be aware of them. Be kind to yourself. Be patient. Just breathe.