Previously, Above we looked at how to choose mala beads to buy. Now let’s look more closely at how to use meditation beads for meditation.
The first thing to do is to remember the parts of the mala. Understanding the different elements will help you to use mala beads for meditation properly.
Meditation beads contain 108 beads, which are strung together with a piece of thread, and a single bead called a “guru bead”, which is significantly larger than the others. The guru bead is essential because it is the marker that you use to mark the end of the necklace and the end of your meditation session.
As well as the guru bead, you may notice that your meditation prayer beads necklace also contains other large beads, usually spaced on every 27th bead, which is every one-quarter of the complete mala. Necklaces may have these beads placed halfway through, at the 54th bead instead. These are “spacers”. When you get to the spacers” you should take a moment to check-in with yourself and refocus your mind if you’re getting distracted.
So, what is the point in these prayer beads, and how do you do meditation with beads?
How To Meditate With Mala Beds
Holding The Beads
- Firstly, never let your prayer beads touch the ground. If you do, it will deplete the healing energy from the mala. If you do accidentally drop your mala on the ground, you should cleanse the mala beads before wearing them again.
- Do not let other people touch your mala beads because this can pass negative energy into the beads. If people do touch them, cleanse your prayer beads right away.
- The best way to wear wrist malas is to wear them on your right wrist.
Meditation with mala beads
Now let’s look at how to do a meditation with malas beads.
By learning how to use prayer beads for meditation you will be more able to focus when you meditate. The process of rolling the beads in your fingers is a gentle motion that helps to calm the mind and focus your attention.
Take a look at your meditation mala.
Notice that you have a tassel, which you will reach once you go all the way around your mala, which is usually 108 beads unless you have a mala beads bracelet in which case there will be 27 beads. Then you’ve got a big bead that is called the “guru” bead. And there are 108 beads on the necklace. These are all the essential parts of your prayer beads necklace.
To use beads in meditation, hold them lovingly.
When you hold your prayer beads in meditation, you will want to hold them in your dominant hand with the tassel pointing towards you. You then start with the big bead, the “guru” bead, in your right hand. We move the mala when meditating by moving it on each breath or each recitation of a mantra. Move the beads using your thumb instead of your index finger because the index finger represents the ego. Keep meditating until you reach the guru bead.
You will want to coordinate your breathing with the mala when meditating. To do this, move the mala bead as you breathe in and you might like to count the breath too. The same thing applies when you use a mantra. For instance, if I’m meditating on “Om”, I will breathe in, move the mala bead one across, recite “Om”, breathe out, and then breathe in again and move to the next bead.
One good thing to do when meditating with beads is to make sure you calmly move the beads. If you try to rush your meditation, you will notice that you hold the beads too tight and move them in a violent way. Be gentle with them. Feel the smoothness of the beads and let that smoothness relax your mind. That’s the best way to use prayer beads for meditation.
One of the most popular ways of using malas for meditation is when doing mantra recitation.
When we are doing mantra meditation, we are meditating on sacred sounds such as “Om”.
Short mantras like Om are easy to count. Other mantras are very long, such as the Gayatri mantra. Keeping count of these is hard unless you have the proper equipment, i.e. your mala.
Not only do prayer beads help you to keep count, but they also help you to relax and focus on meditation.
When using prayer beads for meditation, we count in groups of 108, with one full mala being 108 recitations (many types of mantra meditation also require us to chant specifically 108 times, so one full mala).
- Place the mala at the top of the yoga mat.
- Set your intentions. For instance, tell yourself that you are meditating to create inner peace or to send out love (choose a mala beads necklace that matches your intent)
- Sit comfortably
- Take hold of the mala in one hand and let it drop gently.
- Touch the guru bead with the other hand
- Each time you breathe in and out, move to a new bead of the mala
- Keep going until you reach the guru bead (the end bead).
- To take this further, choose a mantra to recite, such as OM. Recite the mantra once for each bead on the mala.
- Keep going until you reach the guru bead.
- Express thanks for the meditation and take a moment to contemplate.
How To Hold And Move a Meditation Mala
There is a specific way to hold and move Buddhist prayer beads. Like so:
- Hold the prayer beads in your dominant hand with the tassel of the mala facing towards you
- The first bead (the one you begin on) is the one to the right of the guru bead
- Gracefully turn the beads in your fingers (without using your index finger, which is the finger of the ego) as you make your way to the next bead. Preferably turn the beads with your thumb.
- You should hold the mala beads in a controlled but gentle way.
- Feel the union between your breath and the movement of the prayer beads.
- You will eventually come full circle and find yourself on the guru bead. This is a time to pause and reflect. Sit still and express gratitude for your meditation session.
Adding Dorje And Bells
While you’re choosing mala beads, you might also like to consider Dorje and Bells, which we use for extended meditation sessions.
There are some types of mantra recitations that require you to recite the mantra very many times, sometimes into the tens of thousands.
Mantras like these can be difficult to keep track of with a regular mala, and so we accessorise malas with a dorje and bell . These are two short strings that contain ten small beads, which you can use for counting above 108.
How To Meditate With A Mala, Dorje And Bell
You use the dorje to count complete cycles of the mala when meditating. This way you know precisely how many recitations you have done because you have the full-mantra count (shown by the dorje) plus the bead of the mala that you are currently on.
Once you have moved the dorje up ten beads, you then have the bell counter. This counts 1000 recitations.
Between the mala, the dorje and the bell you can count up to 10,000 mantra recitations.
Wearing Meditation Mala Beads
There is a right way how to wear meditation beads and a wrong way. If you chose your mala beads for healing purposes, all you have to do is put it around your neck or wrist. Simple. To get more out of them, you can even wear multiple malas at the same time. I love how this looks. You get different textures and colours to compliment your style, plus you get the multi-dimensional healing benefits of the meditation malas. Make sure you choose mala beads that work well together if you plan on combining them.
Even though wearing meditation prayer beads is simple, there are a couple of things you should know.
For starters, you shouldn’t let your mala beads touch the ground because this will interfere with the energy resonance. If you do accidentally drop it, you will want to cleanse it in saltwater. (You can read about how to cleanse mala beads below).
You might not want to let other people touch your mala beads either, because they can transmit their own energy to them that way. Whether you choose to follow these rules when wearing mala beads will depend on your own beliefs. So if you don’t believe it matters then, hey, no sweat.
There are rules for wearing mala bracelets too. Most yogis believe they should be worn on the right wrist, although I do not follow this and instead wear them on the left (it’s a matter of personal belief, after all). I honestly don’t think wearing mala beads on the left hand is a problem. Do you?
How To Cleanse Mala Beads
You’ll definitely want to know how to cleanse mala beads because they will sometimes become impure, such as when you drop them or when someone else touches them.
Traditionally there is no prescribed time for cleansing mala beads. It’s all about getting in touch with your intuition. If you feel that you should be cleansing your mala beads, you probably should. There will be observable energy in your being that tells you when it is time.
Feel your mala beads. Ask yourself: are they creating the right energy? If not, it’s time to cleanse your mala beads.
Steps for cleansing.
- Sit outside and place your mala beads in the light of the sun or moon. The energy of the light will help to remove negative energy from the mala. It is a purifying process.
- Place your mala on the ground and burn dried white sage near it so that the smoke rolls over the mala.
- While the mala is being cleansed, chant OM for 108 recitations.
- Wash the mala with seat-salt-water. For best results, wash it in the ocean.
- You may like to cleanse your meditation crystals at the same time. [take a look at my guide to the best crystals for more on this]
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