how to meditate with your mala

what is a mala?

Mala in Sanskrit means "garland." Mala Beads are more than just beautiful garland, but actually serve as a powerful and symbolic tool for a Japa meditation practice.  Japa means "to mutter" in sanskrit, referring to the repetition of a mantra over and over again to help the mind enter a meditative state. When practicing Japa, you choose a mantra for yourself or a teacher/guru will give you a mantra. You will recite the mantra 108 times while holding your mala beads in your right hand. 

meaning of 108

Mala beads are always strung with 108 beads + 1 guru bead. The Guru Bead is said to honor the student-teacher relationship. There are numerous explanations why there are 108 beads, with the number 108 bearing special religious significance in a number of eastern religions. Some say the number 108 represents the universe/consciousness united as one (1), nothing (0) and everything (8, or infinity).  If you believe in numerology, there are 27 Constellations x 4 Padas (parts) = 108; 12 Zodiac Houses x 9 Planets = 108; Upanishads or the Scriptures of the Vedas = 108. Thus, when we recite or recount number 108, we are actually remembering the entire universe. This reminds us of the fact that the universal self is omnipresent, that is the innate nature of the self. 

putting it all together

Japa is the perfect type of meditation to teach us the power of repetition. Through our daily practice, or repetition, we bring about positive habits into our daily lives. Yoga is a practice. Meditation is a practice. And the Sanskrit word for practice actually means “repetition.” By repeating a mantra, we’re  getting rid of negative thought patterns while coming closer to our higher selves. When you practice japa meditation, you can chant the mantra out loud, whisper it softly, or simply repeat it in your mind’s eye. Sometimes, listening to a mantra without chanting it to yourself is a good way to begin. As a final note, some practitioners believe that each mala should be used with only one mantra so as to keep the energy of that mantra within that mala; once a new mantra is used the energy must be rebuilt.

mantras for compassion

"Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu" is commonly associated with the Jivamukti Yoga School. It translates to "May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all." It is a powerful chant that focuses on living a life as a servant to the greater good. It encourages cooperation, compassion and living in harmony, not only among other humans but with nature and animals as well.

"Om Mani Padme Hum" is the Compassionate Buddha mantra, which translates to "Hail to the jewel in the lotus." It is the mantra of the Buddha of Compassion, known by the Chinese as Goddess Kuan Yin. The mantra calms fears, soothes concerns and heals broken hearts.

to begin:

  1. Choose a spot and sit comfortably with your spine straight and your eyes closed. Take a few deep breaths to align yourself in the present moment.

  2. Find your mantra for the practice, chanting aloud or silently. For beginners, the video below chants OM 108 times.

  3. Hold your mala in your right hand, lay the mala over your middle finger, and clasp the bead with middle finger and thumb. The index finger is known as the finger with the ego attached, and ego should be left out of meditation.

  4. Starting at the first bead after the guru bead, use your thumb to count each bead, pulling it toward you as you recite your mantra and breathe.

  5. Do this 108 times, traveling around the mala, until you once again reach the guru bead.

  6. If you want to continue the meditation, instead of passing over the guru bead, simply reverse direction and begin again.