Though there are many ways to meditate, I found that learning to use a mala came just at the right time for my practice.
Whilst I was able to limit my thoughts sufficiently to meditate, I found that I was not able to easily ‘drop in’ without some form of focused technique. Of course, working on achieving focus and technique is no bad thing in itself, we can’t expect fruit without some effort… But using a mala felt liberating to me, because the focus was shifted from restricting mental formations to following a physical flow.
Of course we are all different, but for me, the repetition of a physical motion frees my mind. Much like the moving meditation we attain through yoga and perhaps this is why it works for me, because my mind was already trained to zero out through yoga and ujjayi breath!
If you are new to meditating with a mala or just curious about what it’s all about, here are a few tips:
Sit comfortably upright, with your mala held loosely between both hands. The tassel should be draped forward of your right hand.
Focus on your intention, your chosen mantra or simple affirmation and steady your breathing.
Starting with the bead behind the ‘Guru’ (larger bead usually above a tassel), roll the beads away from you, pushing them slowly and gently with your thumb, over your middle finger. Simultaneously recite the first round of your chosen mantra (or commence your breath cycle if you prefer to just breathe through your meditation). Each mantra repetition or breath should coincide with the passing of one bead through the fingers.
Repeat this cycle along the length of your mala until you return to the ‘Guru’, at which point you should flip your mala over in order to begin again (if you wish) in the reverse direction. The idea being that the Guru bead represents your own Guru, from whom you should learn and not disrespect in crossing over him.
This cycle can be repeated up to 108 times if you like!
Techniques vary according to traditions and religions, and these guidelines are based upon my time spent in India, according to Hindu practice. What’s most important is what works best for you of course, what allows you to relax into fruitful meditation.