Bead Weaving, Meditation, Mandalas and Malas
When I bead, make jewelry, sew, or pretty much anything I do where my hands are busy and my mind available to some background noise, I put on music, listen to an audio book, or watch a program (I mostly just listen, not watch). Recently, one of the shows I had on showcased the sand mandala art of Tibetan monks.
I watched this show with greater attention than normal. It was fascinating to see how the monks worked on their sand mandala. It was amazing to see their great level of patience! It was also fun to observe the reactions of those on the show as they watched the art taking place in their office (while they continued to do their own jobs). Their reactions were not unlike mine, except, at one point, I was sure I wanted to try this art form and the characters clearly did not!
From Symbolism to Meditation
Mandalas are an ancient symbol deeply embedded in the practice of Hinduism and Buddhism. The word mandala translates to “circle” and, generally speaking, mandalas are used to represent the universe. You might be familiar with the Mayan calendar, which is also noted as a form of mandala. In modern times, mandala is the term often used to identify any circular repetitive, detailed pattern, or diagram.
In practice, mandalas are used to aid in meditation, to help you reach a deeper level of contemplation.
“I sketched every morning in a notebook a small circular drawing, a mandala, which seemed to correspond to my inner situation at the time… Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is: … the Self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well, is harmonious.” –C.G. Jung
Carl Jung is credited with bringing mandalas to the western world. “He recognized that the urge to make mandalas emerges during moments of intense personal growth. Their appearance indicates a profound re-balancing process is underway in the psyche. The result of the process is a more complex and better integrated personality.” Susanne F. Fincher, art therapist.
For more on Carl Jung’s work, visit The Jung Society of Utah.
Meditation, Stillness, Peace & Beading
Please know, I’m not one to sit still or quiet for any length of time, without there being an end goal (or an ocean nearby). As I learn more, meditation seems like something worth adding into my daily routine, though, as it has great benefits for many facets of life. Through my research, I think it’s now safe to say I’ve already been practicing mediation, just not in the traditional sense. I bet you have, too!
There is a Zen-like rhythm to beading. This comes more so once we get into a design, have the pattern in mind, and know where we’re headed. I don’t think we can consider our mindset being Zen like when starting a 20-bead wide peyote pattern, ripping out mistakes, undoing knots, or having to add new thread in the middle of a design. But I do believe when we’re “in the zone” there is a sense of peace and rhythm that is soothing and allows for a much deeper, maybe even subconscious level of thinking.
Prayer Beads and Space
Malas are another way to practice meditation with beads and are also based in Hinduism and Buddhism. A mala is traditionally a strand of 108 natural beads on a cotton cord. There is a knot placed between each bead for creating strength in the strand, preventing all the beads from being lost should the cord break, and to help with the meditation practice (spacing being the key element here). There is often a charm and a tassel as part of the design, too. The tassel was originally formed when the cords used for stringing the mala were gathered together. The tassels used now are more for decorative purposes and sometimes replaced with other objects.
The charm represents authentic offerings. Some malas also have a bead positioned above the tassel and below the 108 knotted strand. This bead is called the guru. Read: How to Knot Mala Beads the Right Way to get started on your own mala.
Mandalas and Beads
Depending on how you define a mandala, you can find one almost anywhere you look. And you can create one using any material. From colored pencils to sand to yarn and from metal stamps to shaped beads, you can use your creativity in so many forms.
If you want to create your own mandala patterns using beads, start with a sketch or pattern, color it in, and then see what shaped beads would work to mimic your design. Creating Mandalas is filled with patterns to get you started. Looking for a bead-weaving pattern filled with bold colors and design? Try your hand at the Mandala Magic Set Pattern download.
Want a design already plotted out with instructions and all the beads included? Don’t miss the limited edition Keystone Mandala Pendant Kit. This kit is filled with Swarovski crystal two-hole keystone beads and all the other shaped and seed beads needed to complete the sophisticated pattern perfectly. You’ll also receive the June/July 2018 issue of Beadwor magazine and leather cording so you can wear your pendant once it’s complete!
If you’d like to finish your cord with a simple sliding knot, so you can put the necklace on and off easily, check out this great tutorial with free instructions on how to tie a sliding knot. Then wear the design in good health and use this pendant when practicing your meditation or just enjoy showing it off!
Wishing you peace, tranquility, and time for beading,
Beadwork Editor and Group Editorial Director, Bead & Jewelry
Featured Image: Fine tilework of the ceiling of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Isfahan, Iran. Photo by Jean-Philippe Tournut. Getty Images.