Years ago, I was at the beach with a good friend. She started reading aloud the opening of what became one of my favorite books, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Gilbert kicked off her story with a little bit about mala beads, and this was actually the first time I had ever heard of these wonderful prayer beads. She writes, “They have been used in India for centuries to assist devout Hindus and Buddhists in staying focused during prayerful meditation. The necklace is held in one hand and fingered in a circle―one bead touched for every repetition of mantra. When the medieval Crusaders drove East for the holy wars, they witnessed worshippers praying with these japa malas, admired the technique, and brought the idea home to Europe as rosary.
The traditional japa mala is strung with 108 beads. Amid the more esoteric circles of Eastern Philosophers, the number 108 is held to be most auspicious, a perfect three-digit multiple of three, its components adding up to nine, which is three threes. And three, of course, is the number representing supreme balance, as anyone who has ever studied the Holy Trinity or a bar stool can plainly see. Being as this whole book is about my efforts to find balance, I have decided to structure it like a japa mala, dividing my story into 108 tales, or beads. This string of 108 tales is further divided into three sections…Italy, India, and Indonesia. Every japa mala has a special, extra bead, the 109th bead. You are to stop and thank your teachers.”
I was totally hooked and couldn’t wait to read the rest of the book. Even more so, I was really mesmerized by the idea of, what I now refer to as, magical and mystical mala beads.
It’s years later, and I’m seeing these beaded tassel necklaces everywhere.
The malas are totally trending.
But why are we wearing them?
What do they mean to us?
And are we even using them in the traditional sense?
Here’s my take ...
I’ve seen mala beads made with everything from wood beads, seed beads, plastic beads, metal beads, and my favorite, semi-precious stone beads (said to have special healing properties). Some are hand-knotted in-between each bead, and some are just strung together. I’ve see them with cotton tassel, nylon tassels, silk tassels, no tassels, and even stone pendants. The list goes on.
They’ve become quite a bit of a fashion statement. Mala beads are fabulous for keeping count as you meditate and repeat your mantra. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you about all the wonderful benefits of meditation, but people who don’t meditate are wearing them too. It’s totally awesome. In fact, mala is the Sanskrit word for “garland.”
The mala beads are very powerful and carry such a great energy with them. Just by wearing them, they will ignite something in you or just serve as a reminder of your spiritual intention. Side note: I love the word “spiritual,” as it just means you believe in something that affects your spirit and soul.
In the summer of 2008, I was getting a massage at a spa in a small town on the ocean. A place where, as I experienced it, I suddenly felt more grounded and connected to nature than I ever had before. As I was leaving the spa, there were these tiny little pins with peace signs on them to take. I took one and pinned it on my handbag. Every time I saw it, it elicited that grounded, peaceful feeling in me and reminded me of my intention to be present even when I was not by the ocean. I tell this story as I believe the mala beads are such a wonderful way to remind yourself of what you intend to feel like. And they are gorgeous pieces of jewelry. As with any jewels that speak to us, they can change our feelings instantly and light us up inside.
About a year ago, I went on a retreat in LA where I couldn’t walk too far without passing a crystal shop. I started to learn a lot about crystals or semi-precious stones or healing stones, as they are sometimes referred to. I picked up some black onyx to help me stay grounded and for protection and was then gifted some rose quartz to deepen love.
Many months later, as my crystal collection had grown, someone told me to put the onyx in my bra, so it would be close to my chest. “How uncomfortable?” I thought. I then learned of many women who held crystals in their bras. Seriously? That’s when I thought of the mala beads and how amazing if they could be used to wear crystals close to my heart on a gorgeous knotted string rather than in my bra. My journey to creating MyMalas by LALA started at that moment.
As an intuitive life coach, I’ve been obsessed with personal development for as long as I can remember, and I love to read, especially bios written by successful people. One common theme I always found was that every successful person I read about had some sort of ritual, manifesting technique, or beliefs in something larger than themselves that they attributed to becoming the success they are. It was like their secret weapon. How great of a tool are mala beads for this very same purpose?
So why are we obsessed with mala beads? Why wouldn’t we be? Whether they accompany you to your yoga mat, help count your mantras, become the reminder of your intentions and desired feelings, energize you or manifest your greatest loves and successes, let the mala beads serve you in whichever way is calling to you. Mala beads are really yours to give meaning to. Let magic happen.
Tell us in the comments … Do you wear mala beads? What do they mean to you?
Laura Allahverdi is the founder of mymalas.com where you can find premium mala beads made with semi-precious stones with chic, modern designs. Take the quiz here and see which mala suits your energy and get $30 off your mala + free shipping for a limited time.