And, do I have to meditate or can I just wear it?
by Anna Laurita
A mala consists of a strand of 108 beads plus a “guru bead” which is called the “Sumeru”. Mala beads have been used by yogis and spiritual seekers for thousands of years to help keep their minds focused during meditation. Malas have roots in Hinduism, Buddhism and yoga and the term ‘mala’ is a Sanskrit word for “meditation garland.” Originally, mala beads were used for a special style of meditation called Japa, which means, “to recite.” What do you recite? A mantra in sets of 108 repetitions.
The mala’s beads can be made of seeds, sandalwood, rosewood, or gemstones. The head bead, guru bead may be made of another stone or seed and counting that one would make a total of 109 beads.
Why 108 beads? Some say that the number 1 stands for God, the universe, or your own higher power/truth; 0 stands for emptiness and humility in spiritual practice; and 8 stands for infinity and timelessness.
Do I Have to Meditate with My Mala?
No, you don’t have to meditate with your mala, as the energy of the stone, seed, or other material will still be received by simply wearing it, but when you use the mala in meditation, you enhance its energy.
Originally, one would meditate using one mantra for one mala – for example you shouldn’t chant Om Namah Shivaya today with your mala, and tomorrow, use Om Mani Pad Me Hum for the same mala meditation. You can chant the mantra meditation for a series of days (originally it was thought that 40 days would suffice), and then wear the mala for protection, and to receive the energy of your mantra meditation. I personally will practice mala mantra meditation in the morning, and wear that mala the same day for protection from my mantra, it’s like insurance.
The mala you choose is a reflection of something in your journey. Are you trying to improve a relationship, stay steady and focused, have a stronger immune system, manifest something spectacular? There’s a mala for that! For example, the Apatite stone is great for manifesting your dreams; Amethyst is known for love, reducing aggression and increasing patience; Rudraksha can awaken Kundalini energy, and ensures focus and may boost longevity.
How To Use Mala Beads for Meditation
Here are some simple steps:
- Sit comfortably (can be on a chair) with your spine straight and your eye lids lowered or closed. Take three deep breaths to be in the now with this meditation:
- If you have one, use a mantra for this practice, chanting it aloud or silent. The same mantra is chanted for each of the 108 beads. Your mantra can be in your native tongue or in Sanskrit. If you can’t think of a mantra, try these: Om Shanti (peace in the universe); or try peace; love; resilience; balance; gratitude; or use the name of a deity to invoke their energy in your meditation such as: Om Namah Ganesha (Ganesh helps us to overcome obstacles), Om Sri Lakshmi Namah (I bow to Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and abundance). You can even ask a yoga teacher for a mantra.
- Hold your mala in your right hand, draped between your middle and index fingers. Starting at the guru bead, use your thumb to count each smaller bead, pulling it toward you – as your right hand is just above your navel, and recite your mantra (see video below). Do this 108 times, traveling around the mala, until you once again reach the guru bead.
- If you want to continue the meditation, instead of passing over the guru bead, simply reverse direction and begin again.
As you advance in the ease of using your mala for meditation, try adding a slow inhale and exhale as you recite your mantra on each bead. The goal is not to go fast, but to savor the meditation and allow it to invoke more energy into your beads.
You may see people rolling the beads between their fingers when they are not meditating with it, which can be a tactile reminder of the intention and energy in your mala.
If you would like to know more about malas, or have one for yourself, contact us at davannayoga.