Choosing the Right Mala for You
Mala beads are meditation tools that have been used for thousands of years. They encourage us to pause, breath, and realign with our deepest intentions and are reminders to invest in moments of grace and self-care. Think of them, if you will, as spiritual forget-me-nots.
The use of mala or prayer beads is common to many religious and spiritual traditions. Known as malasto the practitioners of Hinduism and Buddhism, we also see them in Christian practice as the rosary, used for repetition of the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary, a prayer of intercession to the mother of Christ. Malas are also used for counting out various types of pranayama.
Malas are symbols of the never-ending cycle of eternity. They are often used to aid in the practice of japa meditation which is the repetition of a mantra or prayer. A mantra may be a series of words or syllables, or a single word or syllable, such as ‘Om’, which is considered to be the source of all mantras.
Mantra is a Sanskrit word which consists of two syllables, ‘man’, meaning mind and ‘tra’, meaning tool. Mantra can be translated as ‘instrument of thought. ‘Tra’ also comes from ‘trayoti’, which means liberation. Another translation then is ‘an instrument which liberates one from the mind. By focusing on a mantra very deeply, the practitioner can become detached from his/her thinking process and uplifted into a highly relaxed state.
Choosing Your Beads
Malas can be made from various sacred woods and stones, each of which has particular qualities:
Sacred Wood Malas:
- Rosewood: Rosewood is considered holy and is an important part of ritual malas. It aids in relaxation and the reduction of excessive thoughts and nervous energy. Rosewood has a nourishing, feminine energy, assisting one in developing compassionate and loving heart qualities, intuition and spiritual health.
- Sandalwood: Sandalwood is used for purification, for protection, and for uplifting the mind, body, and spirit. It is said to bring clarity, tranquility and positive energy into our lives. The scent of sandalwood is said to be the closest in nature to the scent that arises from within when one is in a deep state of meditation. Thus it reminds us of the depths of peace within our own being.
- Rudraksha: For the spiritual seeker the rudraksha seed is one of the most prized gifts of nature in all of India. The Hindu myths and legends of the god Shiva, the Great Yogi, tell of the tears he cries for the suffering of the world. The name ‘Rudraksha’ translates as ‘Tears of Lord Shiva’. The outer covering of the seed is bright blue – the color of Shiva’s tears. They are traditionally worn by the sadhus (holy men) and yogis of India, and are said to have been created from Divine compassion for the relief of human suffering.
- Tulsi: Tulsi, also known as Holy Basil, is esteemed as the most sacred wood used in Indian worship. The malas made of Tulsi wood are considered very suitable for meditation. It can help to increase love, devotion and spiritual growth in the wearer, thus making it an aid in the pursuit of Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of devotion. Tulsi clears the aura and is reputed to possess many physical and spiritual healing properties.
- Amethyst: Amethyst offers us calm, balance, patience, and peace. It can bring happiness and contentment, emotional stability and inner strength. A highly spiritual stone, it increases our awareness of spirituality and aids us in meditation. It can enhance intuition and psychic abilities.
- Aventurine: Aventurine is a stone of prosperity, assisting one in developing leadership qualities and decisiveness. It defuses negative situations, and opens us to compassion and empathy. Aventurine offers perseverance, stabilizes the mind and stimulates perception. It enhances creativity and opens one to alternatives and possibilities. Aventurine unites intellect and emotion, calms anger and irritation and helps one to live within one’s heart. It also protects the heart chakra.
- Carnelian: Carnelian has long been revered for its healing, spiritual and creative properties. It brings out one’s decisiveness and activates one’s personal power, assisting one in focusing and in self-actualization. Carnelian provides protection from all negative emotions: rage, resentment, bad tempers, and anger in oneself and from others. It helps banish sorrow or depression. Carnelian is associated with the Solar Plexus, Sacral Chakra and the Root Chakra.
- Garnet: Garnet is a stone of harmony, positive manifestation and confident energy. It is a stone which brings one’s being into balance, instilling calmness or passion depending on what is needed. It is connected with the sacral chakra but also cleanses and revitalizes the whole chakra system and expels and refracts negative energy. It is a stone of purification.
- Howlite: Howlite is called the “attunement stone” because it is capable of linking the user to a higher spiritual consciousness, and it can open and prepare the mind to receive the energies and wisdom of attunements. Howlite brings mental awareness, both to current and past-life issues, and facilitates calm communication. Howlite is associated with the Third-Eye Chakra.
- Lapis Lazuli: Lapis Lazuli is a “stone of total awareness” helping to bring conscious attunement to the intuitive and psychic aspects of one’s nature as well as expand awareness and intellectual capacity. Lapis Lazuli brings truthfulness, openness, intuition and manifestation and is said to protects one from both physical danger and psychic attacks.
- Moonstone: Moonstones are a member of the monoclinic family of healing crystals. Like the ebb and flow of the oceans and the rhythm of our own heartbeats, the energetic properties of monoclinic crystals encourage life, action, growth, and transformation. Wearing moonstone mala beads will have an overall calming effect, stabilizing emotions and cooling over-reactive thoughts.
- Quartz: Crystal quartz is known as the “master healer” and will amplify energy and thought, as well as the effect of other crystals. Quartz absorbs, stores, releases and regulates energy. It draws off negative energy of all kinds and balances and revitalizes the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual planes. Clear quartz harmonizes all the chakras and aligns the subtle bodies.
- Pearl: Pearl carries the energy of the Divine Feminine, assisting one in accessing that energy within oneself. It signifies and promotes faith, innocence, loyalty, truth, charity and purity. Pearl enhances personal integrity, and brings calmness and centeredness. It is known as a stone of sincerity and can foster motherly love.
- Rose Quartz: Rose Quartz is a stone of unconditional love and infinite peace. It teaches us the essence of true love and is the most important stone for the heart chakra. This stone purifies and opens the heart, bringing deep inner healing and self-love. It is extremely useful in trauma and crisis, as it is calming and reassuring.
- Tiger Eye: Tiger Eye is quartz that contains oriented fibers of crocidolite that have been replaced by silica. Tiger Eye offers protection and grounding. It encourages a passion for life and enhances willpower. It promotes clarity of intention, boosts self-esteem, and gives courage, determination, and strength. Tiger Eye is associated with the Root Chakra.
- Turquoise: Turquoise is a healing stone, bringing comfort to spirit and body. It is a protective stone, which aids spiritual attunement and enhances communication. It can be used on the third eye to develop intuition and meditation, on the throat chakra to release old vows and free the soul to express itself fully, and on all chakras for balance and alignment.
- Yellow Jade: Jade is a stone of purity and serenity, and of wisdom gathered in tranquility. It increases love and nurturing when placed on the heart chakra. It is a protective stone which brings harmony. Yellow jade, in particular, is energetic and stimulating and can bring joy and happiness, and an understanding of the interconnectedness of all beings.
Using Your Mala for Meditation:
Meditation produces a clearing of the mind in ways that promote a sense of calm and heightened awareness. Hundreds of studies suggest that meditation doesn’t just decrease stress levels but that it also has tangible health benefits such as improved immunity, lower inflammation and decreased pain. Additionally, brain-imaging studies show that meditation sharpens attention and memory. Perhaps most importantly, it has been linked to increased happiness and greater compassion. There are many different ways to meditate, such as using a mantra, looking at an object, or focusing on the breath.
FUN FACTS: Why 108 Beads?
- NUMBERS: 108 vibrates to a 9 which is considered the most spiritual of all numbers.
- ASTROLOGY: Some malas (called Kriya Malsa) are sectioned off into sequences of 12. Doing 12 repetitions relates to the 12 astrological signs. The 9 associates with the navaratna or nine planets.
- DESIRES: There are said to be 108 earthly desires in mortals.
- LIES: There are said to be 108 lies that humans tell.
- DELUSIONS: There are said to be 108 human delusions or forms of ignorance.
- HEART CHAKRA: The chakras are the intersections of energy lines, and there are said to be a total of 108 energy lines converging to form the heart chakra.
- SANSKRIT ALPHABET: There are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet. Each has masculine and feminine, Shiva and Shakti, 54 times 2 is 108.
- PRANAYAMA: If one is able to be so calm in meditation as to have only 108 breaths in a day, enlightenment will come.
- UPANISHADS: Some say there are 108 Upanishads, texts of the wisdom of the ancient sages.
- PENTAGON: The angle formed by two adjacent lines in a pentagon equals 108 degrees.
- SUN & EARTH: The diameter of the sun is 108 times the diameter of the earth. The distance from the Sun to the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the Sun.
- MOON & EARTH: The average distance of the moon from the earth is 108 times the diameter of the Moon.