Meditation, mantras, and malas...mmm!
I came upon a workshop at a yoga studio on mala making not too long ago and decided to go. It was a true self-care treat full of mindfulness, meditation, and creative crafting! For those that aren't familiar, malas are meditation beads or prayer beads, similar to a rosary. While sometimes seen being worn as a necklace or bracelet, malas are traditionally a tool developed to help keep the mind focused during meditation. They are most commonly made of 108 counting beads plus one guru bead. Spacer beads are sometimes added, but not counted. Spacer beads are kinda like a bookmark, marking your place and allowing a moment to refocus if your mind has started to wander. Mine has 3 spacers with 27 counting beads between. The guru bead is often larger or sometimes made of a different texture and is connected to a tassel. The guru bead is used as a starting and ending point. The counting beads are used for counting a single repetition of a mantra. Malas are usually held in the right hand. Each bead is turned between your middle finger and your thumb bringing the beads towards you as you repeat your mantra, once at each bead. When you reach the guru bead, you can pause and reflect on your intention for sitting in meditation, honor your guru or teacher, end or continue your meditation. If continuing, rather than passing over the guru bead, you either reverse your direction or turn the mala around and continue.
Malas aren't necessary for meditation, but they add something tactile, scientifically this is called a kinesthetic cue device. When you say a mantra and hear a mantra, you also feel the bead in between your fingers. You incorporate another one of the senses into your meditation. I brought my mala back out this morning. Malas are traditionally made with rudraksha seeds or bodhi seeds, but have been made from other materials too. Sometimes malas are made with different gemstones chosen either for their color, healing properties, energy, or one's intentions. My mala is made of moss marble, magnesite, and aventurine. Moss marble is said to be the "cleansing stone", one that provides clarity and mastery of thought. Magnesite was used as the spacer beads and is said to bring peace and relaxation. Aventurine is a stone of prosperity, promoting compassion and empathy, and encouraging perseverance.
As I reflected on my own reminder to "breathe", I felt in need of some additional inspiration and guidance so I grabbed a book on my shelf. I will admit it was a bit dusty, but no time better than the present to dust it off and read again. The book was titled "Meditation and Mantras" by Swami Vishnu-Devananda. I first read this book in 2003 when I began a yoga teacher training in England and felt that now might be an appropriate time to pick it back up. I will frequently open a book to a random page in the belief that the message I am seeking will serendipitously appear. I opened the book and below is a quote from the page.
"Vedanta must enter your bones, nerves, cells and interior chambers of your heart. I do not believe in lip Vedanta. This is pure hypocrisy. Even a little of real practical Vedanta will elevate a man quickly and make him immortal and fearless. I believe in practical Vedanta. I believe in solid spiritual practice. I believe in thorough overhauling of wordly nature and worldliness of all sorts. We should become absolutely fearless. That is the sign of life in Atma. No more words. No more talk. No more arguments, heated debates, or discussions. No more study. No more wandering. Live in OM. Live in truth. Enter the silence. There is peace. Peace is silence."
The author then goes on to talk about the "removal of limiting ideas" and the walls that the mind creates. He talks about not just sitting in meditation, but applying this process throughout the day. "The Self, like the sun, is reflected in all. The quality of the reflection depends on the purity of the reflecting surface." So true. I found this exceptionally fitting and planned to hold this lesson tight as I moved throughout my day. I chose actions to take during my day that created movement in a positive direction and I also chose moments to be still and quiet. OM sakshi aham (I am witness to all my actions). I will choose to begin here. And so I sit.