A mala is a set of beads used for meditation and prayer. Anyone can use or wear mala beads as a way to create calm and peace in daily life. Meditation is a process of slow healing, of bringing a sense of infinite peace to the heart and mind.
A mala usually contains 108 beads because this number is closely tied to spiritual wellbeing in many traditions. However you can find malas in a variety of bead counts!
Meditation malas have been used for thousands of years in many traditions across the world. Today they are popular everywhere, although many are made in India, Indonesia (Bali), China and Nepal.
The “correct” hand varies from tradition to tradition. If just starting out, it is probably best to begin with whichever hand feels most natural for you. When moving the beads through your fingers, many people choose to use the thumb and the middle finger, as the pointer finger represents the “I” or the ego, and should therefore be avoided.
Using a meditation mala requires no prior knowledge of traditions, prayers or rituals. All you need is a clear place to sit and about 10-15 minutes of uninterrupted time. Start with the mala in your left hand, with index finger and thumb lightly grasping the bead next to the Guru Bead (the larger bead at the top of the chain). Breathe deeply several times until you feel relaxed. Then, begin.
Move the beads through your fingertips, one-by-one, breathing deeply and slowly with each movement. This smooth sequence transmits information from the muscles to the brain, and relaxes the central nervous system by initiating a steady, repetitive physical motion (similar to the idea of squeezing a stress ball).
With each new bead you should be repeating a chosen mantra, prayer or intention. The mantra can be anything- some practitioners use “Om,” while others choose “peace” or “love”- and it can be spoken, whispered or hummed. Each repetition generates positive forward momentum and strengthens mental focus. If a stray thought distracts you, return to the bead where you lost concentration and start again. Meditation is not a race; there is no finish line.
Keep the beads moving. When you reach the Guru Bead again, you will have completed a full cycle. Come out of meditation gently by sitting in silence for some moments. Take deep breaths, stand and return to your normal activities. Remember, it takes time and practice for the mind to be able to effectively slow down and focus. Do not be discouraged if you don’t feel “perfect” the first time you meditate.