Updated: Jan 16
When I was a kid we used to do childrenmeditations before we went to bed, so you could say for sure that I grew up with meditation. I was about 18/19 years old when I rediscovered it on my own. A stressful study and trying to get to know myself brought me to yoga and meditation. Through The Journey Junkie I found out about the mala. I think it would have been this or this blogpost but I am not completely sure. Anyway that has been what made me start my meditation practice again.
WHAT IS A MALA?
So what is a mala? Traditionally a mala is a sacred necklace consisting of 108 beads (often made out of dried Rudraksha seads but different kinds of wood and stone are pretty common too) that are used to keep track of the amount of recitations of a mantra. 108 is a sacred number in both Buddhism and Hinduism. In both traditions a mala consisting of 108 countingbeads is used. Why it's 108 I am not sure. What I do know is that it pops up everywhere and has several stories, symbols and meanings behind it.
A gurubead (bead109) marks the beginning and the end of the necklace. Often the gurubeads connects the countingbeads to a tassle. The gurubead symbolises the knoledge of the teacher or guru and the reaching of enlightenment. The gurubead is not counted and you don't pass it during your meditation. When you reach the gurubead, you go back the same way you came.
Halfway or on more places in the nacklace there might be a markingbead that will let you know that you reached a fourth or half. These beads aren't counted during your meditation. In contrast to the gurubead you just go over them to the next countingbead.
Besides the necklace with the full 108 beads there are also bracelets availeble that tipically consist of 27 beads.
HOW DO YOU USE A MALA?
Now you know what a mala is and that it's used to count the amount of recitations of a mantra. But how do you do that?
It is pretty simple. you start with the bead next to the gurubead, which side doesn't matter. To count you use your thumb and middle finger. You basically drape the necklace over your middle finger and use your thumb to move a bead with every recitation. You don't use your index finger because it symbolises the ego, something you try to avoid during your meditation practice. You go through the entire necklace like that until you reach the gurubead agian where you can choose to stop or go back around and go through the entire necklace again.
So a malanecklace is used in combination with a mantra. Per recitation you count a bead. different traditions value a mantra in a different way and I can't say I am an expert in the field. At some point I read about how the mind was compared to a monkey (the monkeymind). Pretty much no one's monkey will ever sit quietly. It will jump around and doesn't seem to ever get tired. What you want in your meditation is to get that monkey to calm down. A mantra can be a very practical tool to do so. In a way you tell the monkey: 'Here you have a rock (the mantra), could you bring it to the other side of the room (recitation)?' You make the monkey go through the same track which will keep it busy but in a controlled manner so you can find space and clarity. Going to that track over and over again will become your meditation.
An mantra can be anything, a word, a sound or a short sentence. When you search for it on the internet you will find numerous options, both in your own language and Sanskrit. Sometimes your teacher will give you a mantra. If you would like to try a mantra I would recommend to just try a few different things, that's what I did. In the end a mantra in a language that I could understand worked best for me. That way it is much easier to connect a feeling to it, which is very useful for my meditation practice. The mantra's I use can change every day or period. Often I will choose something that I feel like I need at that moment. That can be something like:
I am loving, I am grateful, I am peaceful, I am vital.
Or any combination or whatever I feel like I need at the moment. This way I does have a lot of similarities with affirmations.
Whatever you use, try to feel what you are saying. You will notice it will have a bigger effect like that and it will keep you from loosing your concentration.
Besides using a mantra you can also use your mala to simply count your breath. Every time you breath in and out is 1 bead. Here too you give the monkey in your mind something to do while you meditate. This is something I use a lot myself. going through the entire necklace takes me anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes which I think is a perfectly good amount of time for my morning meditation. This way it is also much easier to stay with your anchor because you have that extra reminder, the beads, to help you stay with your breath.
Another way to use your mala is to combine it with a metta meditation. Also called loving-kindness meditation. What you do during this meditation is "wishing" something for yourself, someone you love, someone you don't like, a group of people or the entire world/universe. It could be something like:
That you/I may be happy, that you/I may be healthy, that you/I may be peaceful, that you/I may be free of physical and mental suffering.
The difference between this and an affirmation is that you formulate it like a wish, je wish something for yourself or someone else. Doing so you try to connect to a sense of love as much as you can. I find this to be a really beautiful and powerful way of meditation.
BUYING A MALA
These days it isn't that hard to find a mala somewhere. That said, when you order online it can be a bit difficult. The first mala I bought for example had one bead too many and when I contacted the customerservice about it I didn't get any reaction. I ended up taking out the bead myself but I couldn't get the mala back together the way it should be. The same time I ordered a mala for my brother but the eternal knot in it came undone within a week. Again, when contacting the customerservice I never got a reaction. That said, there for sure a webshops with amazing customerservice that I would absolutely recomend. Underneath there are 2 of those.
Jewelry NM is an online store located in Greece that sell through Etsy. She makes amazing mala's using gemstones. For me she even made a custom mala (picture left) because I wanted a combination of two other mala's she sold. Until the end of September you can use the code " WEDDING20 " on your order over €19,90 to get a 20% discount.
Another great option is a mala by Mala Spirit. They sell beautiful handmade mala's made of Rudraksha seads often combined with gemstones. The mala's are made on Bali in an Aum Rudraksha Designs studio. Untill Oktober 31th you can use the coupon "BOL10" on the Mala Spirit website to get 10% off your order.
If you prefere not to buy through the internet you can also look locally. Mala's are often sold at yogastudio's or maybe there is a spiritul shop near to you.
That was it for today. Goodluck with the next steps on your bridge. I wish you all the happiness and an amazing day.