There are many ways to adorn the body— through makeup, clothing, tattoos, piercings, and fragrance. Adornment transforms the body into a landscape for self-expressive artistry, a showcase of gratitude for the vessel that allows us to walk this earth.
The ancient and indigenous roots have inspired adornment for centuries, and serve as a reminder of this blessing. Beaded jewelry has been a part of human history for thousands of years. In the southern tip of Africa in a cave called Blombos, archeologists discovered beads strung on a cord, used for decoration. In 8th century BCE in India, “ancient seers of India began to use beads to assist with their meditation or prayers,” according to Golden Lotus Mala.
What are Mala Beads?
Traditionally, mala, which means “garland,” is a string of beads traditionally used for counting a mantra or prayers. The word “mala” is a Sanskrit word, which is rooted in meditation, solitude, and introspection. Traditionally, they contain 108 beads with a 109th bead called the summit or “sumeru.” Some call this bead “the guru bead.” It can be a challenge to repeat the same mantra over and over again while keeping track of repetitions. Mala beads ground the practice with a beautiful, physical object. The Mala is now often worn on the body and removed for the purposes of meditation, prayer, or the grounding of thoughts that may be worrisome or stressful.
How does one use a mala?
According to Jenn Chiarelli featured on Yoga Journal:
- Choose a spot and sit comfortably with your spine straight and your eyes closed. Take a few deep breaths to center and align yourself with your intention.
- If you have one, use a mantra for this practice, chanting aloud or silently.
- Hold your mala in your right hand, draped between your middle and index fingers. Starting at the guru bead, use your thumb to count each smaller bead, pulling it toward you as you recite your mantra. Do this 108 times, traveling around the mala, until you once again reach the guru bead.
- If you want to continue the meditation, instead of passing over the guru bead, simply reverse direction and begin again.”
A beginning mantra you can use is: “May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I know peace.” Or, “I am love.”
What is the meaning of the tassel?
According to Japa Mala Beads, the tassel often serves as a “symbol of power, protection, prestige and spiritual connection.” The strings tied to binding can symbolize a connection to the Divine and the inherent oneness of all reality, as well as “the fourth state of turiya (pure consciousness), the wearer’s wish to cultivate prana (life force energy), and one’s yearning towards moksha (liberation). In Buddhism, the tassel represents the roots of the lotus plant to remind the wearer of the analogy of “no mud, no lotus.” Some might consider the mala beads a a talisman, defined as “an object, typically an inscribed ring or stone, that is thought to have magic powers and to bring good luck.”
Do I need to be Buddhist or practice meditation to wear Mala beads?
Rebecca, the owner of jewelry company Wabi Sabi & Me, was interviewed by a student about the significance of malas in the ritual economy and as part of social-transactions. “Yes, mala beads have been commercialized and it is used now as a fashion accessory. But no, I don’t think adorning oneself with it has affected its ‘integrity.’ It is an object. It has no other meaning than the one we give it. Spiritual people who use malas for meditation give this object its meaning. At the same time, people who simply wear it as an accessory also give it its meaning (a decorative object vs. a counting device for meditation.) You can certainly meditate without using a mala,” she stated.
Traditionally, mala beads are treated with much care and seen as a sacred object: they should never touch the ground. They are a talisman that can serve as a physical reminder of the union of body, mind, and spirit. Wearing and meditating with mala beads can help elevate an already conscious lifestyle!
Check out these mala bead offerings from The Alchemist’s Kitchen. This limited-edition collection is hand-crafted and inspired by our season of love celebration.