Malas & Healing Crystal Jewelry
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Malas originated more than 3,000 years ago as a tool for prayer by Hindus and Buddhists in their ceremonial meditation, called Japa. Today, malas are used as a tool for the mantra (recitation) practice of yoga. “Mala” is the Sanskrit word for garland and a mala is traditionally a strand of 108 wooden beads or rudraksha seeds, individually knotted for easier counting. The number 108 is believed to be significant for many reasons, including that Vedic mathematicians believed 108 to be the number of the wholeness of existence. When a mantra is recited 108 times, the vibrational energy created by that practice is said to be collected and stored in the Meru (or Guru) bead at the end of the mala so you can carry your intention with you. A strand of prayer beads may also end in a tassel, which signifies both one’s connection to their higher truth and can represent the roots of the Lotus flower, which rises from the dark, nourishing earth toward the expansive light above. It’s important to remember that, while beautiful, malas are not simply jewelry, but they are a sacred tool for healing and spirituality. They should be treated with respect and care (for example, you should keep one in a safe place in your home and never place it on the floor).
Many other traditions in the world also use a strand of beads to support their meditation and mindfulness practices, from Catholics who pray the Rosary to secular Greeks who use worry beads to ease anxiety and reduce stress. The pieces I create are inspired by the tradition of japamala and mantra yoga and I honor the roots of this practice by learning from South Asian and Desi teachers about the history and many practices of yoga, by teaching my clients what I know, and by donating a portion of my healing jewelry profits to South Asian and Desi yoga teachers. Be Wild Yoga is an Earth Patron of abcdyogi. To deepen your learning and offer your own support, visit them at www.abcdyogi.com and on IG @abcdyogi
Additionally, I believe deeply and from personal experience in the healing power of crystals - I am a crystal witch. I love to feel the unique vibration of each individual stone; some even seem to me to have their own personalities! All of the women in my family (and all of my children) love crystals in various healing and artistic capacities. My maternal grandmother (Grammy Belle, to those who knew her) made gorgeous soldered necklaces and rings from Tiger Eye, Lapis, Carnelian and other opaque stones. My mother made phenomenal bracelets of Aventurine, Rose Quartz and Fluorite for my bridal party and for me to wear in my wedding. She made me a matching necklace, incorporating crystalline properties and numerology into her wedding wishes for me. More recently, my Momma taught me the art of hand-knotting beads, a pastime we have often enjoyed together. I consider working with crystals to be part of my ancestral heritage, my creative outlet and a connection among the women in my family.
My creations exist as a contemporary multimodal offering in a framework of interconnected ancient lineages; I bring my whole self to this creative process.
While the impetus for my art was the traditional japamala, I feel that by incorporating traditions from my own heritage - working with gemstones and the intuitive healing practices I employ in the design of each piece I create. Whether you choose to call them malas, garlands, or necklaces, I hope you will take the time to learn about the ancient traditions from which they have come and the myriad ways they are used today. It’s important to remember that these creations have a spiritual significance and they should always be treated with respect and care.
I believe that there are multiple ways to derive a benefit from these necklaces. One way to really experience the healing power of your crystal gems is to sit quietly with your eyes closed and the beads wrapped around your receptive hand, while allowing yourself to become aware of any sensation you may feel - tingling, warmth, electricity, calm. Some people like to wear their beads next to their skin to receive the benefits of the crystals’ properties. Others like to hold or count the beads as they meditate while quietly seated, walking in the woods, anywhere. Still others find a benefit in just keeping them nearby, like a talisman of good luck. Each strand of beads I make is also Reiki-charged, specifically for the recipient, to support their personal healing and bring them to their best and highest potential.
Please consider the beautiful history and sacred roots of the traditions in which you participate and enjoy the myriad wellness benefits of your gemstone healing necklace. May you wear it in good health. Be You. Be Kind. Be Wild.
What is a Mala?
Traditionally, a mala (Sanskrit for ‘garland’) is a bound strand of 108 beads. Malas have a history in several Eastern cultures and religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. Many Western faiths use similar tools in their prayer or meditation: Roman Catholics pray the Rosary; Islamic prayer beads are called Misbaha or Tasbih; Orthodox Christians use a knotted prayer rope; Greek tradition uses “worry beads” which are passed through the hands for relaxation, without religious significance.
The purpose of mala beads is to support your meditation by helping you to quiet your mind by turning your focus inward, narrowing it down to one mala bead at a time. You can recite your mantra or prayer while passing each bead through your fingers during meditation. Some say that one virtue of using a mala when repeating a mantra is to provide a sense of beginning, continuation and completion. Meditating with a mala also permits you to focus on the sound or feeling of the mantra without having to consciously count repetitions, supporting you in turning your focus inward.
There are many explanations as to why malas are composed of 108 beads. The number 108 holds various meanings and significances in the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism, which are anchors for the practice of Yoga. There are 108 scriptures in the Hindu Vedas, 108 names of the Hindu deity, 108 steps to enlightenment or 108 delusions in Buddhism. Beyond that, 108 is considered a mystical and mathematically significant number: the average distance of the Sun and the Moon to Earth is 108 times their respective diameters; there are 108 pithas (scared sites) in India; Ayurvedic medicine recognizes 108 sacred points in the human body, called Marmas; 108 nadis converge in the human body to create the heart chakra; Stonehenge is 108 feet in diameter; the Mayan High Temple of Lamanai is 108 feet tall; a pentagram (five-pointed star inside a circle), or the yogic symbol of a human inside a planet, is comprised of several 108-degree angles. In yoga, 108 is believed to be the number of spiritual completion, which is why pranayama (breath work) or sun salutations are often practiced in sets of 108; by doing so, we seek to align ourselves with the rhythm of the Universe and thereby put an end to our cycles of karma.
Anatomy of Your Mala
Your mala is comprised of 108 counting beads, 1 Guru (meru or mountain) bead, and a tassel (or medallion or gemstone pendant). The beads are meant to be passed through your fingers during meditation as you breathe/recite your mantra/recite your prayer/name your deity. The Guru bead gives you a starting and stopping point in your meditation. The tassel is meant to represent the roots of a lotus flower, which must reach far down through the mud and muck to find sustenance for the beautiful flower that sits on the water’s surface. This metaphor speaks to the Yogic principle of Pratyahara (sensory nonreactivity to your external environment); such detachment promotes deeper internal focus during your meditation.
How to Use Your Mala
Traditionally, malas have been used as tools in helping to recite one’s mantra, prayer, or name(s) of diety/deities one wishes to call upon or invoke. You may use your mala in this way. You may also use it for grounding, healing, protection, or celebratory purposes depending on the crystals used to create the mala and your intention for wearing it. Hold the mala in your dominant hand with the strand of beads crossing over your middle finger. You may roll each bead between your thumb and middle finger during each recitation. Then draw each bead down and begin on the next bead. When you reach the Guru bead, do not cross it. Instead, turn the mala around in your hand and continue moving through the beads in the opposite direction until you reach the Guru bead again. You may also find much strength and comfort in simply holding or wearing your mala.
How to Care for Your Mala
Your mala has been carefully curated and hand-made. This is one small reason to care for it. The bigger reason to care for your mala lies in its rich and ancient history. Your mala is a tool to assist you in your self-study. To show respect for this mala and your work with it, wear it with intention and when you are not wearing it or using it for meditation, keep it in a safe, sacred place. Please refrain from putting your mala on the ground or placing it haphazardly around your home. This is because it is believed that placing your mala on the ground is unethical, and rids the piece of your positive energies and intentions.
When you feel your mala needs to be cleaned, energetically or physically, you may wash it in warm water, using a mild soap if you desire. You could also place it for a few hours in sunlight or moonlight, smudge it with responsibly grown and harvested sage or Palo Santo smoke, or place it on a bed of dry salt. If your tassel becomes ragged or collects dust, you may wash it in warm water and comb the dust out while wet. You may also trim the ends if they become uneven.
What If My Mala Breaks?
It isn’t a bad omen! If your mala breaks, it is believed that it has fulfilled its purpose with regard to whatever intention you bestowed upon it. You may choose to cleanse the beads and restring it with a fresh intention, or you may let it go and begin again with a new mala.