what’s a mala for you?

“Mindful meditation has been discovered to foster the ability to inhibit those very quick emotional impulses.” ~ Daniel Goleman

I’ll admit to right now, I have been known to be impetuous from time to time. Alright, who am I kidding? Most of the time! When I get an idea or find something I really like, an enthusiasm comes over me and a passion consumes me. When I was younger it came in the form of creating my own crafty custom frame business (Pamena – a combination of both of my grandparents first names) and, a few years ago, it was jumping on the cupcake train with Simply Sweet Cupcakes, my home-based confection business.

Currently it’s Newfoundland culture, Downton Abbey and finding anything and everything on building your best life. So when I recently re-read the introduction to Eat, Pray, Love, which mentioned the practice of using japa malas to meditate, I immediately got to googling to learn more about this ancient practice (which was adapted by Romans after they invaded India and is today known as the rosary, FYI).

Mala beads are a traditional tool used by Hindus and Buddhists to count the number of times a mantra is recited while meditating. In addition to the 108-beaded variety, there are also wrist malas that contain 27 beads (a variation on the 108 beaded originals).

It just so happens two days later a co-worker informed our team that the biggest event of our calendar year just happened to be… you guessed it… 108 days away! And so, I replied with enthusiasm, imparting my newfound wisdom on the mala beads.

Then I thought to myself, why not go one step further? Why not make each of my teammates their very own mala to aid in providing calm and the opportunity to meditate as we approached this exciting, yet oh-so-stressful, big event?

A few nights later I found myself wandering around countless Michael’s aisles, trying to decipher between the hundreds of beads they offer. What kind of string should I use? Should I go wood or glass beads? I can’t find the right Buddha bead!

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I spent almost an hour and a half (as I found out later when I got back in the car that contained my ever-patient husband) picking up, examining, putting back and wavering on countless beads and strings.

When I got home, because I couldn’t wait until the next morning, I put a sample together. Turns out the beads were too big to fit an average wrist and the hole on the Buddha bead was way too small to be strung onto the sting I had purchased. So I did what any rational person would do, I decided to sleep on it.

The next day, I took a chance and checked out etsy, a fabulous online marketplace that sells handmade and vintage items, to see if they had a mala similar to the ones I had envisioned creating. Well, guess what? They did – hundreds in fact… I ended up purchasing seven of these simple, yet stylish Tibet Buddhist Peach-Wood Beads Prayer Japa Mala Bracelets.

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Fun fact: The coin featured on this mala is a reproduction of the Chinese old coin used in the Qin dynasty, during the time of Emperor Yong Zheng, who ruled from 1722 to 1735. A hard-working ruler, Yongzheng’s main goal was to create an effective government at minimal expense.

How perfect! I thought, as that’s what we try to do with all of our special events – try to create an effective (and, of course, entertaining) event for our sales force, on a minimal budget. I’m happy to report that the recipients loved their bracelets, along with the thought behind them.

As I learned in the end, purchasing the malas might have saved me work, but because of the purchasing and returning of my mala essentials, not the effort. You see, dear friends, I once again ignored The Universe.

Regardless of the time I had spent searching and debating, the fact that I had convinced my husband to drive me, the idea that I just had to create them for that Monday morning… all of these factors shouldn’t have mattered because the confusion and indecision I felt were signs that I should have held off on making a decision until things became clear.

The japa mala incident, as it’s now known in our house, is a great metaphor for life. When faced with a decision, and there are either too many options or you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s The Universe’s way of saying “breathe, take a step back, the answer will come”.

Whether it’s a mala bracelet, what to have at your favourite tex mex restaurant (nachos or fajitas? It’s tough!) or what to do about a challenging relationship, time and space will lead to clarity – and the right decision for you… always.

It’s Time To Get Your Mala On!
Here are a few tips on the art of mindful (and effective) meditation, courtesy of yogabasics.com:

  • Sitting in a comfortable position, with the eyes closed, the mantra is repeated silently or aloud.
  • The mind is focused on the mantra, the thoughts are let go of and the breath is slow and deep.
  • Hold your mala in your right hand and use your thumb to  “count” each mantra by touching the bead during the recitation and then lightly pushing the bead away on completion and moving to the next bead.
  • The index finger is extended and should not touch the mala.
  • The large meru (mountain) bead should not be counted or touched by the thumb and is used as a starting and ending point of the recitation.
  • Continue by pulling the beads and going backwards until you again end at the meru and continue until you have done 108 repetitions, or multiples of 108. So with the 27-beaded bracelet, you would do 27 repetitions of the mantra 3 times.
  • To empower the mala and the mantra used, japa (mantra meditation) should be practiced each day for 40 continuous days.
  • When the mala becomes empowered it can be worn or lightly placed on oneself or others to transmit the energy of the mantra as well as the energetic qualities of the mala.