Historically, the use of ‘mala beads’ in particular, appears to have originated around the 8th century B.C.E in India. For thousands of years, these beads have been used in the traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism and yoga. The word ‘Mala’ actually translates to ‘garland’ in Sanskrit.
Very similar prayer/meditation beads have been used for generations across many ancient cultures throughout the world. Such as in China, Japan, Korea and across Europe. The word ‘bead’ is actually derived from an Anglo-Saxon word bede which means ‘prayer’.
Needless to say, there is a long, global history of using strung beads to connect on a more spiritual level. To this day, they are still worn and used as mindfulness tools!
Components of Mala Beads
Did you know each component of a mala has special significance? They are commonly strung and hand-knotted with 108 uniform beads, one larger Guru bead, and finished with a tassel.
Each of these components are representative of the spiritual journey which you can learn about below:
Malas are traditionally tied with 108 beads and a Guru bead. The Guru is the central bead which the other beads encircle, much like planets orbiting the sun.
There are several cultural, spiritual and scientific reasons as to why 108 beads is the most common count when making a mala. This is my favourite explanation:
Symbolically – 1 represents oneness or divinity, 0 is nothingness, and 8 symbolizes infinity and the universe. Combined they unify all existence as 108. Awesome!
The guru bead is the large focal bead that hangs below the 108 beads. It is the central start and end point of the mala and represents the ‘gurus’ in our lives: parents, teachers, mentors etc. When we reach the guru bead after meditating, we take pause and extend gratitude to those who have shaped our lives spiritually, mentally and physically.
The mala beads tassel symbolizes enlightenment and oneness with the universe. It pulls together the individual energies of the gemstones to create a cohesive and balanced whole, which makes each mala unique from another.
A note on Materials
Mala beads are made with any number of materials and today you can find malas with:
Precious and Semi-precious gemstones and crystals
Precious metal accents like Gold and Silver
Other natural materials such as Wood, Seeds and Pearls
We love to incorporate all of these into our mala collections, because each material can possess unique properties and qualities which help remind the holder of their intention.
Using Your Mala
Mala beads, in addition to being beautiful pieces of jewelry, can also serve as mindfulness tools. They are commonly used for intention setting and meditation.
At the Beautiful Nomad, our Mala beads act as touchstone pieces for setting intentions using beautiful gemstones. They are also a reminder to live with love and passion!
Intention setting is a powerful practice where we declare our hopes and goals. A clear intention provides your day-to-day with direction and purpose. Mala beads can act as a physical medium through which we instill those intentions during meditation. For more info on intention setting, checkout our free guide.
What are your dreams, goals and aspirations? What are you seeking? Look to the past and into the future as you reflect. It is good practice to set your intention in the present moment. For instance, instead of saying, “I will be happy once I have (blank)”, say simply “I am happy”.
As you wear your Mala, let it serve as a gentle reminder of your intention and to live in the present moment throughout your day.
Mala beads can help keep us centred in the present moment while we meditate. They provide something physical to come back to when your mind starts to wander (which happens to everyone!). Above all, it isn’t important how many times your mind wanders, but how many times you come back to the present moment. : )
Rolling the beads through your fingers is a physical way to direct your attention and energy. It’s a gentle reminder to reground and refocus.
If you’re new to meditation and interested in starting a practice, check out our beginner’s guide.
Holding your Mala
Hold your necklace in your dominant hand with the tassel facing towards you. Starting with the bead to the right of the guru bead, begin turning each bead individually with your thumb and middle finger. The knots between each bead are meant to help ease the practice of moving from bead to bead.
Once you have the movement down you can start to layer in your breaths. On each bead, take a deep inhale and exhale, then move on to the next bead. Feel free to stay at this point and make your way around the 108 beads if you prefer to focus on your breath rather than adding a mantra.
For each bead, in sync with your breath, repeat your intention in your head or out loud. For example if your intention is “I am strong”, inhale “I am”, exhale “strong”. Continue to make your way around the 108 beads.
Your mind will wander, and when it does you may feel like judging yourself. But the best thing about meditation is that it is a gentle practice. Simply acknowledge that you had some thoughts and come back to the present moment. A wandering mind does not mean you are bad at meditating or it just isn’t for you.
Meditation isn’t about eliminating thoughts; rather it’s about creating more space between yourself and how you relate to your thoughts. Your mala is a tactile guide on that journey. Always remember that meditation is a practice and treat yourself with patience and love on those hard days.
Choosing a Mala
Whenever you’re in doubt – trust your intuition! Which mala were you drawn to first? Why do you think that is? Which one do you keep thinking about? This is most likely the perfect mala for you!
Choosing things that you’re attracted to is such an essential part of the process. We all need to take time to observe the things you find beautiful – whether it’s a breath-taking landscape, a piece of art, or a gorgeous mala. Develop your own personal aesthetic. Surrounding yourself with beautiful and inspiring things is powerful.
What is your favourite colour and which you wear most often? What colours are you drawn to? You want to choose a mala that you will wear and use often so choose a stone that pleases and attracts you.
What do you want to create in your life? What are you working on? Is there something you are struggling with? Ask yourself these hard questions so that they can guide you to an intention you wish to fulfill.
Whatever a mala means to you embrace it, because it’s deeply personal and there is no need to make judgments or comparisons. It can be just as simple as choosing the one that first caught your eye. Always listen to your body and be guided by your heart. : )
If we can help in any way please send us a message to firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be happy and humbled to help you find a perfect match!
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