Knitting sweater coats with front pockets for a couple of granddaughters, I got the idea of putting a one-inch Guatemalan worry doll in each pocket. After all, kindergarten is no ice cream cone, and things can go wrong. You might color outside the lines or not get your turn handing out the treats. My daughters explained to the girls that they can put the worry dolls under their pillow for pleasant dreams or keep them in their pocket as a best friend to talk with. I learned later that this wasn’t so far-fetched and that some medical centers use worry dolls for sick children.
At a Mindfulness monthly meeting, the speaker explained the value of chanting to help us still our wild-horsey mind. I’m always grateful to learn of ways to soothe and balm any part of me, mind or body. I also learned about Japa mala beads used by Buddhists and immediately saw it as yet another potential source to hush an ungovernable mind.
Tim’s grandmother, a devout Catholic, kept her rosary beads by her side. According to CatholicCity.com you don’t need to be a Catholic to use them. Instead, you should know six prayers and twenty mysteries. Until that Mindfulness meeting, I’d had little interest in prayer beads of any kind. But learning that chanting and Japa mala beads, used by themselves or together, could upgrade my meditation, my curiosity was fired up.
It turns out that Japa mala beads are sort of an adult version of worry dolls for kids. Japa (means repetition) mala (means garland) beads were the predecessor to the Catholic rosary. Thousands of years ago, ancient seers understood humans’ restless nature (around the 8th century B.C.). They used beads to help calm themselves during meditation. With time, religious practices in China, Tibet, and Japan added beads to their prayer practices. Eventually, prayer beads came to Europe during the late Middle Ages and were called Catholic rosaries. Millions of the world’s people use prayer beads, rosary beads, or worry beads to aid in their spiritual practices.
Today, Japa mala beads are used to connect the human spirit and soul with the earth and all of its surroundings. Some people wear them around their neck, or keep them nearby on a table to keep them, person and beads, in a meditative state. So, religious or not, you can enjoy their beauty and reap the benefit (if they work), of a calmer mind.
Mala necklaces are made up of a guru bead and 108 other beads that turn like the planets around the sun to heighten certain qualities from the wearers’ character, such as strength, calmness, happiness, clarity, etc. Particular stones and materials, from sandalwood to lava stones are believed to have greater healing capacities. Earth’s substances emit energies we channel through meditation, religion, seances, etc. Wearing it is said to keep you connected to your inner guide and surrounds you with an aura of protection while keeping you less fidgety.
The practice of making malas using 108 beads goes back to ancient Vedic culture. There are 108 Vedic Upanishads (sacred texts), 108 pressure points in the body, and 108 energy lines that connect to form the heart chakra. The sun’s diameter is 108 times the diameter of the Earth, and the sun’s distance to the earth is 108 times greater than the sun’s diameter. The number 108 also has significance in Islam, the Jewish Culture, and various spiritual traditions.
I’d learned enough to know I wanted my own mala bead necklace. Teresa Mayville at malology.com sells mala making kits and handmade malas, each one unique and unlike any other. Instead of making my own, I decided it would be wiser to get one already made. The thought of beads rolling on the floor and someone tripping on them made it an easy decision. The mala necklace arrived along with information on how to take care of them and a intuitive card Teresa had drawn for me. I could have done without the part of extra care— rub them in oil, I’d recently purchased a top and cut off the tags before reading “hand wash.” There should be a warning for the unexpected buyer on high maintenance clothes.
The intuitive card Teresa sent said: “Your intuition is strong. You don’t go with the crowd. Life supports you in every way.” I love nice things said about me even when it comes from someone I don’t know and in this case probably an AI (artificial intelligence) robot. Along with my mala beads, blessed by Ganesha & Lakshmi, I received a Moonbeam crystal with the highest frequency in the Crystal Kingdom. It’s said to hold no negativity. So, instead of a worry doll, I’ll be sleeping with a crystal under my pillow for good dreams and perhaps fewer trips to the bathroom.
I chose a mantra appropriate for the present, outlasting the Coronavirus, “the greatest wealth is health.” I start at the Guru bead and work around. Your chant or prayer is repeated as you move your fingers from one bead to the next. The beads help you stay grounded and focused.
Prayer beads for spiritual practice are used in multiple faith traditions. At a time, such as the one the world now faces, a pandemic, mala beads and rosaries may find their way into our hands.
With every bead we touch, while we chant or pray, we are drawn closer to the sacred within where love, not fear, dwells.