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There are many ways to use a mala in your meditation practice. A common way to use mala beads is to use a mantra or chant as you advance through each bead, however this is not a requirement. The simple act of moving the beads through your fingers has a calming effect all on it’s own.
In case you’re not sure what a mantra is, it’s a phrase of particular meaning that is repeated during the process of meditation. The Sanskrit word “mantra” can be translated as “prayer” or “sacred message”. While a mantra is repeated, it acts as a point of focus to help unify the mind into one focus. The more pure of heart the practitioner is while repeating the mantra the deeper the effect and the calmer and more unified they become in their meditation.
Traditionally the mala is held in the left hand.
When using a mantra, after each recitation of the mantra a bead is pulled forward.
Symbolically, this represents bringing forth blessings and virtue.
The basic instruction is to use the thumb to move the bead forward.
The large bead on the mala is called the guru, mother, or end bead.
Traditionally, out of respect, the practitioner never crosses over this bead, but instead reverses direction after moving through the 108 beads.
As an alternative, you may prefer to wear the mala around your neck (like a necklace) as you meditate. A mala acts as an anchor or physical reminder of our commitment or practice and is known to physiologically trigger you into a deeper mind state the more you practice meditation while wearing it.
Another way to use your mala is to hold the beads in prayer form between your hands in front of your heart while reciting a mantra or prayer, however in this case you wouldn’t be moving through the beads in the same manner as in the above methods.