How To Meditate Using Mala Beads

Recently I have been fortunate enough to receive regular orders for my homemade mala beads so I decided it would be useful for my readers and customers to know a little bit about how to use them! Below is the letter that I send out with each mala as a guide – not as rules!

I strongly believe that hard and fast rules for using malas (such as not to wear them or not to let others touch them) can get in the way of their effectiveness. The most important thing to remember is that meditation is a method to achieve mindfulness and an awareness of self and I don’t believe that everyone can achieve this by following a strict practice – every person is different. With this in mind, I hope my guide can help you find your natural rhythm when using a mala to meditate…

Blue Mala

Why 108?

The reason why malas consist of 108 beads is unclear. However, my favourite explanation comes from Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy, a philosopher who also brought Indian symbolism to the West. He understood 108 in terms of Dharmic metaphysical numerology where one referred to Bindu (the subtle body), zero to Śūnyatā  (openness) and eight to Ananta (without end).

Each wrist mala consist of 27 beads, a division of 108.

How should I use my mala?

Traditionally, malas are held in the left hand, with the strand draped across your middle finger, using your thumb to pull each bead towards you. It is often frowned upon to let the mala touch the index finger, as this finger is associated with your ego. Begin at the guru bead (the large one) and continue until have circled back to it. If you are using a wrist mala, do not skip over the guru bead but turn the mala over and begin again in the opposite direction (effectively, four circles of the wrist mala will complete your 108 mantras).

As you pass over each bead, recite your mantra. This can be a traditional Buddhist mantra (Om mani padme hum is the most well known) or your own. My own favourite mantra is “I am” to remind myself of my intention to be true to myself. You can add to this to suit your needs; for example “I am strong”, “I am compassionate”.

Most importantly, try to practice daily.

Sleep Is The Best Meditation

Thought I’d share a little Dalai Lama quote with you that keeps running over in my head. Probably because I used it as my mantra before I went to bed last night…

Sleep is the best meditation

Bed

I have a huge issue with getting to sleep at night – probably not unlike a lot of you reading this! Here are the two most startling facts from the Great British Sleep Survey:

1. The ‘Racing Mind’ is the main cause of sleeplessness. The top five persistent thoughts in those with troubled sleep are:

  • What happened today and what I’ve got on tomorrow (82%)
  • How long I’ve been lying awake (79%)
  • Trivial things of no importance (76%)
  • What the future might hold (71%)
  • Things that happened in the past (71%)

2. Poor sleep affects every area of our lives. Those who suffer from poor sleep are:

  • 7 times more likely to feel helpless
  • 5 times more likely to feel alone
  • 3 times more likely to struggle to concentrate
  • Twice as likely to suffer from fatigue
  • Twice as likely to have relationship problems
  • Twice as likel to suffer from low mood
  • Twice as likely to struggle to be productive

Depressed yet? I don’t know about you but just seeing those figures makes me feel helpless!

The problem I have is that I never switch off! My mobile is constantly on and what’s worse is that these days I don’t just have to worry about a phone call or a text interrupting me… I have three email accounts linked to my phone, plus facebook, skype, instagram and twitter! Chances are that one of those will go off just as I put my head to my pillow and I will always look – my will power really lets me down in these situations!

After my mobile comes my laptop – and with it the infinite time-wasting capabilities of the internet. More often than not I go to check one website and end up browsing for hours… this is the worse thing to do late at night because you are constantly straining your eyes with the bright screen light and consistently taking in huge amounts of information every time you click on to a new page.

So I have made a new resolution! With the exception of emergencies (i.e. the night before a deadline when I realise I am 1000 words over the limit and need to cut down!) I will switch off both my laptop and phone at 11pm. Ideally I will also do 30 minutes of yoga/meditation/reading beforehand but in a house of five this is difficult to do – I like to socialise in the evenings :) I am also going to push myself in to the routine of getting up the same time every morning, regardless of whether I need to be up or not. The way I see it a lie in until 11am just means I will feel awake for 3 hours later that I would have done had I got up at 8am – and tiredness after a full and productive day is key!

In the spirit of not just sorting out my own life but also trying to inspire others, below is a gentle yoga sequence I found on youtube to relax the body before bed. I love it! Although there is some creepy echoing at the end so I usually switch the video off at that point and then just finish with corpse pose until I (hopefully!) fall asleep.

Overnight Oats

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Recently I read that Tibetan Buddhist monks go to bed just after dusk & rise early in the morning with dawn to make the most of the natural light…

…I have a problem with this. At school I used to be up at 6am every morning without fail but once I stopped needing to be anywhere at 9am with college and university my body clock got used to lie-ins. And boy do I love my bed!

Nevertheless, I am the most productive when I get up early and manage to start my day’s work around 8am so I have been making a conscious effort to get myself up and in to some kind of routine! It helps that I found an old phone of mine recently that has the most god-awful alarm and is the best (& most horrific) wake up call.

Linked with my disastrous waking patterns is the inability to eat breakfast. I know what you’re thinking… If I had a penny for the amount of times I heard someone say… “But it’s the most important meal of the day!” The problem is when your body gets used to lying in it also gets used to not eating until around 11am. Trust me though, when the body is ready it’s ready! You know that person in your 10am lecture who’s stomach is always growling loud enough for the lecturer to hear? Yeah… That’s me.

So along with the cure for oversleeping I’ve also been looking for the perfect breakfast! Last night this led me to Lauren Conrad’s website (if you’ve never seen it check it out – I love her & get so much inspiration from her site!). She has a recipe in there for Overnight Oats which looked like just the thing I was looking for! It’s simple to make & easily customisable to fit your tastes… As well as taking no prep in the morning! You can just eat & go which is great for someone always in a rush like me!

I edited her recipe a little because I didn’t have any yoghurt in the house so here is what I made for breakfast this morning:

A 300g jar (it had held Thai green curry paste so I had to pray I washed all of that it thoroughly!)
2 teaspoons of peanut butter
Half a jar of porridge oats
Equal quantities of milk & tap water

And there you go! I shook the jar, chucked it in the fridge & this morning I added some sliced banana and a dribble of honey just to sweeten it up! It was perfection! It’s now 7.40 where I am and thanks to the Buddhist way & Lauren Conrad I am up, showered & fed all ready for the day!

I hope you have a wonderful day!

UPDATE: As I was scrolling through my reader after writing this I saw Reth’s Recipes blog and thought… Surely she knows the wonder of overnight oats! I popped over to her site & popped overnight oats in to the search bar & there they were! I love her blog & I suggest anyone who fancies trying this for breakfast should pop on over and try out one of her delightful (& much more informative!) recipes :)

Never Fear Change

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Sending out apologies to my amazing followers for being so absent the last week… University deadlines kicked in but I will be back soon!

Just wanted to share this beautiful quotation from Robin Sharma‘s book The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari… It’s an incredibly inspiring read if you ever get the chance!

Also, I have opened an Instagram account where you can follow my bead shop & see quotes like the one above and other inspiring images I post. IPhone uses follow me at @meditationbeads…

Back soon! Katie x

Never, Ever Give Up… Inspiration from Arthur Boorman

Today I cam across the video below. There is very little more I can say about it until you’ve watched it, but if you take 5 minutes out of your day for anything today, do it for this:

More than anything, the journey taken by Arthur Boorman shows just how powerful yoga is. And not just the poses themselves, but the importance of the breathing, the awareness of your body, and the lifestyle change that can happen if you put your mind to it.

You may not have disabilities like Arthur did, or the pain, or the weight. But you don’t need those things to be unhappy with your lifestyle or your diet, and you don’t need those things to push you in to healthier living.

Neither should you take this video to think badly of your own journey. We all give up, miss one of our sessions or don’t see the improvements taking place. Sometimes videos such as this can make us feel guiltier about ourselves – if Arthur can do it why can’t I? If that spurs you on, then great, but don’t think that with all he endured that Arthur’s journey was any less harder than your own will be. Everyone struggles and that’s okay. We learn more about ourselves by passing through the struggles than by taking life easy and just doing what is comfortable.

I took control. I stopped thinking of myself as a victim of my injuries. I stopped thinking of these as permanent conditions. I started thinking of how to fix things. I started working the program every day. I fell down many times. Hard. I got back up every time, more determined than ever to make this work. (Arthur’s story)

We can often blame outside influences for our state of living: we don’t have enough time, we have injuries like Arthur, our job is too stressful, I’m too heavy for some of the poses, there are other things more important to get on with. The danger is when we let all these things combine to weigh over us and prevent us from moving forward. Instead, look at each issue individually and fit your practice around them. Not enough time? Swap that television session for a yoga session. Too heavy? Start small and each day gradually increase your flexes. Injuries or disabilities? Go to a yoga class and speak with the instructor about how best to work around these and/or incorporate them to strengthen your body.

I put up with disbelieving friends and co-workers. I heard the negativity, and I ignored it. They started thinking differently when they saw the pounds begin to drop off and when they saw me moving better, with less pain and greater endurance and mobility. (Arthur’s story)

At the start of this year I told my best friend I would stop smoking. She would nag me every time I went out for a cigarette but then when I said I would finally put the effort in to quit, she scoffed at me and I thought, well what’s the point? If it makes no difference to her opinion of me then why should I? It is important to get the support of friend and family networks, but if anybody doubts that you can change for the better ignore them. At the start of the year I was weak and thought that I should change for others. Now I know that you can only change if you are committed to bettering yourself. Realise the things you do in your life that harm your lifestyle and commit to changing them for you!

I hope that  this video has touched you as it has done me. Never, ever give up!

Click here to read Arthur’s story.

Friendly Nomination for the Liebster Blog Award!!

Thank you to myInnerYogi for the nomination!!

From what I can see, the Liebster Blog Award is a sign to let up and coming bloggers see that their blog is appreciated and recognised… I’m so chuffed!!

So with no further ado here are the rules…nominees pay attention! :)

  1. You must post 11 random things about yourself.
  2. Answer the questions that the nominators set for you.
  3. Create 11 questions for the people you nominate.
  4. Choose 11 blogs you love (with less than 200 followers) and link them in your post

So here goes nothing!

11 Random Facts About Me:

  1. I share a house with four other students… all of them male
  2. I have a strong passion for country music (and no idea where it came from!)
  3. If I had the time I would read Pride & Prejudice every month… it’s my favourite
  4. I have a younger brother who I love more than anything in the world
  5. I am eternally optimistic
  6. I love to play the guitar (badly!) and sing at the top of my voice (even worse that the guitar playing!)
  7. I wish I could live in the water… if only mermaids were real
  8. Until last year my family thought we were Anglo-Indian… turns out we may actually be Anglo-Portuguese?!
  9. My favourite place on earth is Gozo
  10. I have to wear glasses or contact lenses
  11. Almost every week my Nana and I discuss Olly Murs (she loves him!)

Questions from myInnerYogi:

  1.  What is your favorite book and why? Pride and Prejudice because I just love the characters! Find me a funnier couple than Mr & Mrs Bennet!
  2. What do you love about yoga? My body gets really tense and my muscles are always quite tight from running. I find that yoga is the best way to strengthen and loosen my body, as well as calming my mind so the tension diminishes.
  3. What is your most embarrassing moment? I was once really ill and I threw up on the shop floor in the supermarket that I work in – infront of all the customers!
  4. If you could be one superhero, who would you be and why? I love Catwoman – she’s not as squeaky clean as the rest and I like to think that if I could be a super hero I could be a little bit bad ass haha!
  5. What is your zodiac sign? I am born on the 23rd October and so I am right on the cusp of Libra & Scorpio which is hugely frustrating! Most horoscope will differ depending on website or publication as to which sign I belong to. I’m waiting for the day I can get my birth charts done and get it all sorted once and for all!
  6. List 3 things you would want if you were alone on a deserted island. A favourite book, a cinammon swirl pastry, and a guitar.
  7. What is your favorite quote? “What are poets for in our brave new millenium? Could it be to remind the next generation that it is we who have the power to determine whether the earth will sing or be silent?” – Jonathan Bate The Song of the Earth
  8. Who is your celebrity crush…you must have one? James Franco… or the younger Matt Damon as he is in Good Will Hunting & Rounders phwooar. I also have a huge girl crush on Eva Mendes!
  9. What is your dream vacation? I have always wanted to travel around Eastern Europe & India. Hopefully I can make this dream come true after graduation!
  10. What is your favorite animal? Whales.
  11. How would you describe yourself, using only 3 words? Optimistic, Energetic, Romantic.

11 Blogs I Love:

  1. Wike D. Herlinda
  2. ShittyDad
  3. An Extra Ordinary Life
  4. Oneika’s Yoga Life
  5. Simple Sweat
  6. Mission Awesome
  7. Chocomint
  8. It’s A Wonderful Life
  9. Sophie’s World of Books
  10. Reth’s Recipes
  11. The Yoga Diaries (I’m cheating here a bit! They’re on 201 followers… but it’s a great blog!)

My questions for the next nominees!

  1. Where are you the happiest?
  2. Do you find blogging difficult?
  3. Who is your fashion icon?
  4. What inspired you to start a blog?
  5. Would you rather be hot or cold?
  6. What is your favourite book?
  7. Coffee or tea?
  8. What website is your guilty pleasure for time-wasting? (i.e. twitter, gossip sites)
  9. Do you have a lucky token?
  10. What is your favourite movie?
  11. What 3 things are you most grateful for?

Well I hope that was an interesting insight in to me – & I hope that my nominees don’t mind being highlighted or any of the questions I’ve asked! Thanks again to myInnerYogi for my nomination!

Richard Dawkins

After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn’t it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked-as I am surprisingly often-why I bother to get up in the mornings.

Remind Yourself That Life Is Beautiful

When I’m not studying I have a part-time job in a supermarket. On Saturdays I do a day-long shift and whilst to most people it might seem like a boring job, it’s always so busy and by the time I’m back at mine I’m wiped out until around 11am the following Sunday.

This Sunday was no exception. Deadlines are really kicking in at the moment and I just seemed exhausted – so much so that I ended up napping again in the afternoon for another two hours! By the time my mind was fully rested my body still felt a bit weak; you know the kind of weak feeling you get when you know you need exercise?

After dragging myself out of bed for the second time around 2pm I opened the curtains & the sun was absolutely streaming through my window! The weather had changed drastically from the dreary & dull sight of mid-morning…

My bedroom window...

My bedroom window…

I considered doing some yoga to strengthen myself up but instead I threw on a coat and some earmuffs & took myself on a walk along the seafront. My parents moved us down to the South from London when I was 9 years old and I have been a water baby ever since! I made sure that I stayed on the South coast when moving away to go to university – there’s just nothing like having a bad day and being able to wash it all off with a swim or a session on a friend’s windsurfer. When I am in the sea I am the happiest I can be. Obviously it is far too cold at the moment to swim in the sea (after all these years I still don’t own my own wetsuit!) but in this weather just being close to the water is the nearest thing I can get to the calm other people get from meditation or prayer.

My seafront walk...

My seafront walk…

By the time I got back and indulged in an hour long yoga session I felt ready for the rest of the week to start. I woke up this morning refreshed & not at all tired! Probably the best I’ve felt on a Monday for a long time.

It enabled me to see that yoga & meditation shouldn’t be seen as an alternative to those things which already make you happy. Try and combine all the great aspects in your life – you’ll be amazed at the outcome!