How To Make and Use Malas for Stress-Free Living
Photo: Malas strands, Photo credit Frank Bienewald/Getty Images
I know that many of you who are reading this are living a stressful life, perhaps burning the candle at both ends. Sure, I get it — the demands of work, family, and life in this fast-paced world often overshadow the deep-seated need to live a happier, healthier, more well-rounded life. I’ve become a seeker, which takes on a new definition with each new stage of life. And I am on a quest to lower my stress levels and achieve a more balanced lifestyle. This is hard for me to imagine, but very much needed.
My first step is to carve out time for daily meditation. And though I’ve read about the benefits of having access to a teacher and a community to practice with, it feels more doable for me to learn a few tools to help me meditate at home. One such tool is a mala, a tool the faithful have used for millennia to count mantras or prayers. The mala is traditionally created with a strand of 108 strung and knotted rudraksha (an Asian seed) or tulsi (holy basil) beads that culminates with a “guru” bead and sometimes a tassel. The use of a mala can help focus your meditation as you recite a mantra or affirmation with each bead.
Making malas can be a meditative practice, too. If you focus your intentions or say your mantra while stringing the beads and tying the knots, many people believe that your mala will be filled with positive energy.
While attending Bead Fest Santa Fe recently, I met jewelry artist Alisa Hjermstad, who makes beautiful knotted gemstone necklaces and malas. I was lucky to steal her away from her booth to learn more about how she selects the stones for her malas and the meaning behind them.
On Making Malas
Debbie: When and why did you start making malas?
Alisa: I started focusing more on making malas when I started learning about Buddhism, meditation, yoga. Once you do the 108 beads—the repetition, prayers, breaths—it replenishes your blood cells and depletes the stress from daily life. The act of making malas helps me move past circumstances. Stones help clear our thoughts and remind us to keep moving forward. When you see other people wearing stones, there’s always a story—it’s easy to connect with others in that way.
D: How do you select the beads you use in your malas, and what’s their significance?
A: I let the beads call to me, often a certain bead in a strand. Rudraksha seeds protect your heart from others’ anger and focus on the heart chakra. Jade and rhodochrosite are also heart beads; I like to place these beads so the design is balanced across the wearer’s heart. I develop patterns, using the tree of life and certain stones for example to balance the rest of the design.
Making it Your Own
D: What are your tips for someone who’s interested in making their own mala?
A: Have fun with it and don’t take yourself too seriously. Build your mala with intention — determine your intention before you start. Tap into that emotional feeling of completion when you start something and finish it. Build a relationship with your beads, and don’t judge yourself when it’s finished. It leads to reawakening that part of the brain, “I’m not perfect, but I am who I am.”
While in Alisa’s company, I could feel the positive energy she exuded. She was upbeat and relaxed, and spoke in a very thoughtful manner. And I couldn’t help but wonder how starting a daily practice of meditation could help me transform my thoughts and decompress from daily stressors.
The Journey Begins
As soon as I got home, I began to look through Beadwork’s eBook, Malas: A How-To Guide for Making and Using Malas. It was fascinating to read about the history of malas and the suggested beads, cord, and tassels to use when making a mala that speaks best to you. I also found a detailed list of materials (like how much cord I’ll need) plus step-by-step instructions and photos so it will be easy to make my own.
Next I’m going to read the chapter about the healing properties of stones to determine which particular stones call to me at this juncture in my life, and then do some digging through my stash. Once my mala is made, I’ll familiarize myself with the steps listed in the eBook on how to use a mala. I can’t wait to get started!
Thank you, Alisa, for giving me that gentle push that I needed to get started. I’m now motivated to make my own mala and put it to use through meditation. Won’t you join me in making a mala? Learn how by downloading the eBook, Malas: A How-To Guide for Making and Using Malas.
Begin your stress-free journey, today!