Why is it so hard to be still? One of the best things we can do for ourselves as far as calming our nerves, identifying limiting beliefs, or quieting the inner critic is sitting down and meditating. When you meditate, you learn that you’re the quiet observer, not the pack of rabid squirrels mud-wrestling in your frontal lobe and producing enough craziness to make you want to just give up and get a lobotomy. Many people find this difficult, however, and using a set of mala beads for meditation is a great way to help yourself focus on quieting your mind.

Instead of just trying to sit and NOT THINK OF ANYTHING, you gently and slowly pull the beads between your finger and thumb, bead by bead, starting with the big focus bead (called the guru bead). As you do this, you’re repeating a mantra, which is a short phrase, over and over. You can use a hindu or a buddhist mantra if that’s your thing, or just repeat a word or phrase over and over, like “flow and ease.” This will help quiet your monkey mind for at least a few minutes — and that feels really, really good.

You can find mala beads anywhere these days, though the price will vary depending on the quality of the stones and whether there’s a knot between each stone. Making a knot in between each of the 108 stones takes a long time. I’ve done it, and it’s an annoyingly long but meditative process. It usually takes me at least two hours to knot the mala, plus time to make the tassel and fasten it on with the guru bead.

Of course, you can make your own, and save yourself the labor cost. This is also a cool thing to do, because you can put your own intentions into the mala with each knot, and have it be highly personal to you. There’s kits you can get online, or you can go to a bead store and buy some nylon cord on Amazon (it’s stronger than the silk cord you get at the bead store). You can skip the knotting, if you want, and just put a small metal spacer in between each bead to make it easier for your fingers to move between them. Of course, the knotted ones feel really nice, and if the mala breaks then you don’t lose all the beads under the couch.

But if you’re not into the DIY thing, there’s nothing wrong with buying one to save yourself the trouble; I sell them on our Etsy store (raveninaworldtree), and you can also find them on there from seedofintention or merakalpamalas (if you want a kit). You can buy them on Amazon, but considering that you are going to use this for your spiritual progress it’s worth making sure you’re paying a fair wage for it and that the stones are of decent quality.

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