What Is A Mala?
Malas are used as an instrument to help the mind focus during meditation, or count mantras in sets of 108 repetitions. The extra 8 beads are “spare” to make up for any mistakes you may make along the way.
There is also a head bead, one that is larger than the others, and it is frequently called a “guru bead”, plus 3 or 4 marker beads. The guru bead and markers are commonly not counted as a part of the main counting beads, so in reality, you can end up with a grand total of 112 or 113 beads.
Some consider that guru bead has a special significance, as representing one’s guru, for instance, this bead is the starting point for the circuit and is not counted among the 108 total.
Types Of Malas
Selecting the right mala for your spiritual practice can be a challenging task given the wide variety of products on the market available today. Some malas are made with traditional materials such as bodhi seed, rudraksha seed, or yak bone. These materials are less expensive and an affordable option (nuns and monks will commonly use this type of malas).
Gemstone malas are not only beautiful and feel good against the skin, but they also impart the energy and qualities the crystals or stones carry.
For instance, lava is thought to encourage clarity and strength, rose quartz is considered to open the Anahata (heart) chakra, and amazonite is connected with helping us follow our dreams. Tiger’s eye, on the other hand, promotes courage and helps the practitioner stay grounded, powerful and mindful.
Using A Mala During A Mantra Meditation
If you practice mantra meditation and yoga, a mala can be an effective instrument in your quest for wellness and clearer understanding.
It’s a common idea that when malas are used systematically for mantra meditation or chanting mantras (aloud or mentally), they absorb the vibrations (energy) of the spiritual practice. So the more you wear it, the more positive energy it absorbs and reflects back.
Sit on the floor with legs crossed either in the half lotus or full lotus position. You can also try a position, called the Burmese position, which is similar to the half lotus, except that one foot is crossed over onto the calf, rather than the thigh, of the other leg.
The eyes are neither wide open nor completely closed, but remain half open and gaze down along the line of the nose. If the eyes are wide open, we are likely to develop mental excitement and if they are closed we are likely to develop mental sinking.
Take a few deep breaths (you can practice alternate nostril breathing). This helps to steady the rhythm of the breath and leads the mind into a peaceful and meditative state.
Hold your mala in the right hand (in Hinduism) or left hand (in Buddhism) and use your thumb to “count” each Sanskrit mantra by touching the bead during the recitation and then lightly pushing the bead away on completion and moving to the next bead. When you reach the guru bead, pause and reflect, then reverse the direction of the beads as you begin to count again.
When you finish your practice, take a moment of silence before getting up to continue your day. Feel gratitude for allowing yourself to practice and to do something healthy and loving for your mind and body.
Start meditating for ten minutes/session and only sit longer if you feel the length is too short. Don’t force yourself to meditate longer if you are not ready to do that. In time you might like to extend your meditation to 45-60 minutes. Do what feels right for you!