How to Use a Mala: Step by Step Instructions for Daily Mantra Practice June 27, 2022 18:06
If you would prefer to listen to this month's blog article, please click HERE for the audio link.
I was recently at a Summer Solstice event in downtown Indianapolis, Monumental Yoga. I've been a vendor at this annual event for several years now, and in chatting with folks who stopped by our booth, I took the time to explain how to use a mala.
I'm always surprised at the number of yoga peeps who have malas--and wear them regularly--but who don't know how to use them. To me, it's like wearing an immersion blender around your neck--you have this amazing tool designed to transform and change aspects of your life--but you don't use it as it's intended.
Over the years, I would occasionally post short videos on Facebook or Instagram demonstrating how to use a mala, but I think it would be helpful to devote a blog post to this process as well.
My hope is that those who have purchased Middle Moon Malas over the years, and who will purchase them, will actually use them as they were intended.
The steps are simple and very straightforward, but a little review information might be relevant here.
A full mala includes 108 beads plus a guru bead and a tassel.
There are 108 reasons why the number 108 is significant--however, my favorite reason is that the number 108 is known as a "harshad" number. Harshad means "bringer of joy" or "happiness" in Sanskrit. A harshad number is a number that is divisible by the sum of its digits. For example, 1+0+8 = 9. 108 divided by 9 = 12. Consequently, the number is like a circuit--it comes around full circle--just like a mala.
I like to create knotted malas. The knots showcase more of the beads, and they also protect the beads from cracking and breaking due to friction. The knots represent the obstacles in life, and the beads represent the beautiful aspects of life--and we need a balance of both in order to have a full, meaningful life.
The guru bead (teacher in Sanskrit) or meru bead (mountain in Sanskrit) is the 109th bead and the focal bead in a mala design. It represents the master teacher, and deserves respect. The tassel represents one's connection to Source, and to each other. It is an important symbol of interconnection.
1. Hold your mala in your right hand. When making your way around the mala, be sure to use your right thumb and middle finger, or your right thumb and ring finger. Avoid using the index finger as it is connected to judgement and ego (we tend to point with this finger), and we want to keep the ego out of our practice.
2. Begin with the bead that is closest to the guru bead and to the right of the guru bead. As you hold onto this bead with your right thumb and middle or ring finger, think, say, whisper, sing, or chant the mantra of your choice.
I am a big, big fan of agency--so, choose a mantra that works best for you. It can be a classic Sanskrit mantra, such as Om Shanti Om. It can be the very famous Tibetan mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum. It can also be an affirmation, phrase, single word, or prayer. It's YOUR practice. Choose a mantra that is meaningful for you.
3. Make your way around the mala, one bead at a time, infusing each bead with the energy of the mantra that you have selected. Remember, each bead receives the full mantra--not individual syllables or part of the mantra. Take your time, be present, and enjoy the journey.
Note: If you select a really short mantra, and you decide once you've made your way around the circuit, you want to go around again, that's fine. Just be sure not to cross over the teacher bead or guru bead. Remember, the guru bead deserves respect, and you don't want to cross your teacher. Instead, go back the way you came, which requires a simple turn of the hand.
You decide how many circuits to complete. If you're working with a longer mantra, one trip around may be enough. But, it's your practice. You can make your way around the mala as many times as you like. Just be sure not to cross over the teacher bead.
Finally, if you're new to this practice, I highly recommend that you explore and stick with one mantra for at least 40 days. Take time to practice every day, for forty days, with one mantra. Maybe keep a little notebook handy to write down your thoughts and observations after each session, or at the end of each day--just a few quick notes. Then, at the end of the 40 days, take a few minutes to reflect over your observations and note the changes that occurred.
Personally, when I first started my daily mantra practice, I worked with a different mantra every 40 days for a year and a half. Keeping a small notebook for these 40-day cycles was extremely helpful for me. Then, when I found a mantra that I wanted to work with for a longer period of time (for example, I worked with the long Gayatri mantra every day for four years), this initial practice with shorter mantras for short periods of time proved to be extremely helpful. It also motivated me to keep working with the longer mantra over a longer period of time.
I hope this blog post is useful for those of you who may be beginning a daily practice, but also for those who are experienced practitioners.
If you're wondering about what mantras to use, these sources were extremely helpful for me:
Ashley-Farrand, Thomas. Healing Mantras: Using Sound Affirmations for Personal Power, Creativity, and Healing. New York: Ballantine Wellspring, 1999. Print.
Kaivalya, Alana. Sacred Sound: Discovering the Myth and Meaning of Mantra and Kirtan. Novato: New World Library, 2014. Print.
I hope you continue to learn and grow from your own personal daily mantra practice. Please consider purchasing a Middle Moon Malas design to enhance your practice. I create one-of-a-kind mala designs, so the collection is always changing, evolving, and expanding. Click HERE to view the current collection.