How To Meditate With Mala Beads [Meditation Beads]

In this tutorial we will look at how to meditate with mala beads [meditation beads], one of the best meditation tools.

My mala has always been my favorite meditation tool. My mom bought it for me when I was 23 (I’m now 40). I wear it all the time. And I love the energy it gives me (it’s a black coral one).

Malas have existed since approximately 70 000 BCE according to archeological research. They are the single most identifiable sign of Buddhist affiliation according to Clark Strand [American author and lecturer on spirituality and religion; former Zen Buddhist monk].

So why are they so important?

Well, first let me show you how to use them. Then I will discuss the benefits of using beads and some fascinating insight to their history and origin.

So, let’s get started.

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How To Meditate With Mala Beads [Meditation Beads]

1: Understand the parts of your meditation mala 

Before we begin to meditate we need to understand the parts of the mala.

Firstly we have the beads. These are used to count individual breaths. With each breath we take we move one mala.

Meditation malas also contain larger beads, usually spaced on every 27th bead, which is every one-quarter of the complete mala. Necklaces might 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.

The last mala bead, the 109th bead, is called a guru bead. This is a sacred bead that represents the connection between student and teacher and expresses gratitude and appreciation.

And there is also the tassel.

I love the meaning behind the tassel. How the different pieces of the string come together to form the tassel is said to represent oneness, like each person on Earth coming together to create one collective unconscious.

2: Set your intentions

To meditate with a mala correctly, we start by setting our intentions. For example, we state that we are going to be meditating for grounding or inner peace (and we choose a mala that is good for this purpose). I personally like to state my intention quietly to myself. So for instance I’ll say, “I want to feel love”. 

Simply state your intention.

3:  Sit with good posture

Sit with good posture. Make sure your spine is straight and relaxed. Gently lower your chin a little. Honestly in my experience as a meditation teacher, too many people ignore their posture. So let me say this loud and clear: your posture matters a lot! 

4: Holding your mala

When you hold your mala you want to do so in a loving and gentle way. I always remind myself of how important my mala is to me. More than any other object, my mala expresses my spirituality. So it’s important that I respect it.

Take hold of the mala in one hand and let it drop gently. Hold the prayer beads in your dominant hand with the tassel of the mala facing towards you. Take a moment to express gratitude for your mala.

5: Move the mala with the breath 

Move one bead of the mala for each breath.

As you do this, feel the union between your breath and the movement of the prayer beads. When you hold your prayer beads in meditation, you will want to hold them in your dominant hand with the tassel pointing towards you.

Move the beads using your thumb instead of your index finger because the index finger represents the ego where the thumb represents the universal.  

Each time you breathe in and out, move to a new bead of the mala.

One thing I do is to make sure that I’m holding my mala gently and peacefully. I match the pressure in my fingers to the pressure in my mind. Both should be calm and gentle.

6: When you get to the spacers, pause

When you get to the “spacers” of your mala (every 27th bead) take a moment to pause and check that you are being mindful. I sometimes take more than one breath when I’n on the spacer, so I have enough time to really balance my mind.

7: Once you reach the guru bead, stop and reflect 

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. 

8: Add dorje and bells

Traditionally, monks would add dorje and bells to meditation malas so they could count more breaths or mantras. These are two short strings that contain ten small beads, which you can use for counting above 108. 

9: How to wear mala beads 

Here are some notes on how to wear mala beads / meditation beads. 

  • You can wear multiple malas at the same time. But I personally find that two malas is my maximum.
  • Don’t let them touch the ground because this could ruin the energy.
  • Dont let others touch them because this could influence the energy.
  • Most yogis believe they should be worn on the right wrist, although I personally do not follow this and instead wear them on the left.

10: How to cleanse mala beads 

To cleanse mala beads, sit outside and place your 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. I personally meditate while I’m cleansing my beads.

I’ve also heard that you can place them in 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.

Finally, you can cleanse mala beads by putting them in salt water or by surrounding them with meditation crystals. 

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By Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a passionate meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. "My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation" - Paul Harrison

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