Malas: Focus Better During Meditation

My wood and rose quartz mala.

First off, what is a mala?

A mala is a necklace created to aid in meditation. They are typically made from wood, seeds, or gemstones. The number of beads on a mala can vary, but commonly mala necklaces have 108 beads and bracelets contain 27 (which can be used during mediation 4 times to achieve 108). In addition to the main beads, most malas contain a larger "guru" bead and sometimes smaller divider beads (to help you keep track).

When meditating with a mantra, it is important to keep focus. Malas are used as tools to keep count of how many times you have recited your manta, along with serving as a tangible and interactive object to help restless minds and bodies remain fully present during meditation practice.

Mantras are very personal matters, determined on where you are in life, what you need to reaffirm, and/or what you need to learn. Some are popular and freely shared (such as "Om"). Some you can only learn from a teacher or spiritual guide, and should be kept private and use as per instruction (with the accompanying lessons and empowerment). Some may simply flow freely and intuitively to you, and that is the one you should use (until it has served it's purpose). They can take the form of Sanskrit ("Om Tara" speaks to the goddess Tara which encourages compassion, healing, and strength), or English ("I am love").

Regardless of source, all mantras should possess a compassionate message towards yourself and/or others. For example, say you have a strained relationship with one of your coworkers. Although a part of you may wish you did not have to interact with them on such a frequent basis, your mantra cannot be "My coworker will quit.", as tempting as it may seem some times! Taking a compassionate stance on the issue, look within. Maybe it is from a place of jealousy that you butt heads with your coworker. A reaffirming mantra such as "I am enough" can help encourage you to realize your own personal value, and break the cycle of comparing yourself with your coworker.

Once you have discovered your mantra, it is time to settle down and meditate.

Ideally, find a quiet space where you can meditate without being disturbed.  Clear your mind of stray thoughts, and breathe deeply. Feel the grounding pull of the earth, and center yourself. Once you feel connected and grounded, begin your practice. Hold the mala gently and respectively in your left hand, with the beads between your index finger and thumb. Beginning with the first bead after the guru bead, count a bead for each completed recitation of your mantra. When you finish your journey around the whole mala, do not count the guru bead. If you wish to continue, flip the mala around (with as much grace as you can manage) and begin again the other direction.

In future posts, we'll explore potential mantras, other meditation techniques, and even a tutorial on how to construct your own mala!

What are your meditation habits? Do you have a mala to assist in meditation?