Throughout my travels in Asia this past year, I have dedicated my attention to opening the doors to spirituality -- to learn new ways to calm this crazy mind of mine, to finally find peace, to trust the journey and to accept whatever comes my way. Easy, right? Not so much when you’re constantly stuck in the past or the future -- that could-of, should-of mindset. It’s been a long road but every hurdle I’ve had to face has been nothing short of worth it!
One of the best ways I’ve found to calm my “monkey mind” is the use of a mala, a simple yet powerful addition to my life, that has been extremely helpful when I let my mind get the best of me -- more times than I’m happy to admit!!
The first time I saw a mala, which honestly, was probably on the front cover of a yoga magazine, I had a deep desire to have my own. Yes, maybe I wanted to look perfectly spiritual and zen like the woman on the front cover of that magazine, but either way I knew there was something special and meaningful about owning one.
I did some research on malas since I didn’t want to be ‘that girl’ who owned a ‘fashion’ mala and I learned that mala’s are composed of 108 beads strung together. A guru (larger bead) or a tassel is strung to the bottom. A wrist mala has fewer beads but is used for similar purposes. The beads are a combination of sacred seeds and gemstones all encompassing different significance through symbolism. They have been used by Buddhists and Hindus for centuries as a form of prayer and meditation.
After swooning over mala’s for quite some time, I finally got my own mala a few months ago in Bali! Better yet, I met a healer who offered to teach me how to make one, which to my delight, really helped set me apart from one of those fashion girl mala rockers! I’m truly in love with my relationship with my mala and it truly has opened my door to peace of mind. Here are some of the ways I have learned how to use my mala:
A mala is a type of meditation and it’s easy to do anywhere you are. Place the mala over your middle and index fingers. Starting at the guru bead or tassel, use your thumb to pull each bead towards you one at a time. Count all 108 beads until you reach the guru bead. It’s recommended to recite a mantra while counting for deeper concentration.
My mala meditation is my go-to in many situations because it’s so easy, quick and effective. I find myself counting my beads in the airport lobby when my flight has been delayed five hours (that’s a lot of counting), or while I’m people watching while sipping a cup of chai. I use my mala to help calm my nerves before heading into a crowded, chaotic Indian market for fear of having to bargain, only to most likely be ripped off. If all else fails, just keep counting.
Wear the mala during your yoga practice or place it in front of your mat as a reminder of your intentions. My mala reminds me of each personal intention I set before my practice. I also use it as a drishti (point of focus) to maintain my concentration.
The use of a mala also offers positive healing energies, which is another beautiful addition to my practice. I chose specific, meaningful sacred seeds when I created my own mala. For example, the red ginger bead (as seen in the picture) reminds me of my intentions of love and the red color keeps my root chakra balanced and energized. I also use my mala as a meditation before or after my practice to solidify the benefits of yoga and the sacred seeds that compose the mala.
These can be any personal reminders such as intentions, goals, hopes and dreams. The sacred seeds and gemstones represent these different reminders. For example, I love the sacred bodhi seed, which is the “seed of enlightenment” offering a reminder to maintain my awareness and connection to myself and the external environment. When you can’t find a post-it, find your mala!
A mala is also a special reminder of when and where you got them. My mala will always remind me of Bali which has a special mark in my life -- of the place my door to spirituality decided to open wide and inner peace flooded my soul. I also celebrated one year sober the day that I made my mala -- one of the most special reminders I have when I feel like giving up. It reminds me why I made this huge life change to begin with. It will always remind me of the mental obstacles I was finally able to conquer and the future battles I now know I can tackle.
Not only wearing a mala as jewelry, but as an expression of beauty, meaning and the self. I use my mala for everyday affirmations and I wear the beautiful beads in the form of a necklace and wrist malas. As I mentioned above, a mala holds different energies depending on the sacred seeds and gemstones used. A chakra mala or wrist mala (like in the photo below) for instance, is created with gemstones specific to each of the seven chakras and they offer energies for mental and physical balancing.
Wearing a mala each day cultivates positivity and connection. On my journey I have learned to be aware of the different energies surrounding me and of the connection to myself and others. I am finally at a point where I understand that what I put into the world, I receive back. I love when someone asks me about my mala because it’s a chance for me to express who I am and hopefully inspire them to do the same.
Share the beauty of a mala with someone that would appreciate its benefits. It’s a thoughtful gift that keeps on giving and one that can be used anytime and anywhere. This is my favorite kind of gift!
You can purchase a mala or add more meaning by crafting one yourself. Now that I know how to make a mala, I can’t wait to create more and share them with my loved ones. When purchasing or making a mala, carefully choose the sacred seeds that compose it depending on the receiver’s personality and needs. It may also help them to start their own spiritual journey and introduce them to the meaningfulness and energies that a mala offers -- that is always my hope.
I’m incredibly grateful for my experiences abroad and the many different ways of life I have been exposed to. It’s important that I give back and make a difference in the world by giving a fair trade mala or wrist mala. It’s also a great way to start a conversation about the importance of fair trade and contributing to a sustainable economy. Call me crazy, but it’s better than discussing the latest celebrity drama! Or maybe I’m just walking through a different door!
What is your favorite way to use a mala?
Amber Johnson is a yoga enthusiast and passionate traveler. She loves cultural connection, a good laugh and exploring her curiosities.
Follow her bucket list adventures at This Tiny Backpack.
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