How To Meditate With Mala Beads [Meditation Beads]

In this tutorial we will look at how to meditate with mala beads [meditation beads]. These necklaces and bracelets are one of the best types of meditation tools.

Malas 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].

In the 8th Century BCE, monks started to use “monk beads” to help them count breaths during meditation. Because monks count breaths in cycles of 108, they created the Buddhist “108 bead malas”–one cycle around the necklace representing one cycle of breaths.

Let’s look at how to meditate with mala beads [meditation beads].

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How To Meditate With Mala Beads [Meditation Beads]

1: Understand the parts of the 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 bead we move one mala.

Meditation malas 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.

A big part of the meditation beads’ meaning is based on 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 meditating for grounding or inner peace (and we choose a mala thatbis good for this purpose).

Simply state your intention.


3:  Sit with good posture

Sit with good posture. Make sure your spinenisbsresight and relaxed. Gently lower your chin a little.


4: Holding your mala

When you hold your mala you want to do so in a loving and gentle way. 

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.

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5: Move the mala with the breath 

You move one bead of the mala for each breath.

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 towsrds 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. Move the mala as you breathe in.


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.


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 

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 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. Alternatively 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 qualified meditation teacher and writer with more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential through mindfulness, yoga and meditation.

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