Everything you need to know about japa mala mediation
This post was written by Amy Bell of Live Love Yoga in Mason City, IA
Meditation can be an intimidating thing.
We all know it has countless benefits to our health and well being, but sitting in mindful silence often generates even more stress than we were experiencing before...am I doing it right?...how long has it been?...my legs are falling asleep...what am I going to make for supper? Oh the things that bounce through our minds when we try to think of nothing at all!
Technically, mindful meditation isn't really thinking of nothing at all, but rather noticing and thinking of everything at once - which can be even more confusing and frustrating.
For those of us with incredibly busy minds, all the good things that come from meditating aren't completely out of reach. Often, switching up the style or method of the practice is all we need to do, and the yogic method known as japa mala seems to be one that clicks for many people.
Japa (in Sanskrit) is the meditative repetition of a word or phrase.
A mala (meaning garland) is a strand of beads, usually 108 of them plus one larger one, often with a tassel at one end. This is used to count the repetition of that word or phrase.
Put them together, and you have japa mala.
When practicing japa mala meditation, your mantra (that word or phrase), can be anything that resonates with you. Words have such power and intention, and the act of sitting quietly while repeating them over and over is a beautiful way to tap into that power. Maybe you're drawn to a traditional Sanskrit mantra, maybe it's simply a word such as love, compassion, kindness, etc. That's the beauty of japa mala...you can make it your own.
If you're looking to give it a try, you'll first need a mala to use in your meditation. Of course the internet can be a great resource for this, and you'll find everything from inexpensive wood beaded ones to more pricey gemstone varieties. If you're the crafty type, you can even make your own. Once you have your mala, you'll need to decide on a mantra that feels meaningful and right for you, and then you're ready to begin.
Finding a quiet and comfortable place to sit is important, this could be on the floor or even in a straight-backed chair. To help you sit still for meditation with ease, try stretching a bit beforehand - this was even the original purpose of yoga poses!
Then, holding your mala in your right hand, let it drape over your middle finger. Try to keep the index finger out of the way. This finger represents ego, which is detrimental to your meditation practice.
See that bead just above the tassel? It's often larger than the others. That's called the guru bead. Pause here, letting the guru bead balance on your middle finger while you take a few deep breaths to center and prepare yourself. Then, using your thumb, pull the next bead toward you...and now you begin repeating your mantra aloud or internally.
As you mindfully make your way around your mala, you'll fall into a blissful rhythm of sound and movement. Before you know it, you'll have repeated your mantra 108 times and reached that guru bead once more. Pause here again, let the power of your mantra and your meditation practice sink in, and then take a few deep breaths in gratitude to finish...or go around again.
Like with anything else, making meditation a regular part of your routine takes some time, dedication, and commitment. With that, japa mala can become one of the most meaningful parts of your day.
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