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Cultivating Compassion: My Journey with Mala Beads

Mala Making Motivation

 

When I started making malas, it was inspired by a friend in my Buddhist group who taught me the craft. As I developed my style, I sought a deeper spiritual connection with these beautiful pieces and also started to find higher quality pieces to fit with my value for beauty.

 

During my exploration, at first I did not resonate with doing matras or prayers over and over (this changed for me later) so I had to find something that worked for me personally. I found inspiration in the "Book of Joy" by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. The Dalai Lama spoke about the power of words like "compassion" and "joy" and how reflecting on these words can cultivate these feelings within us. This idea resonated deeply with me.

 

He suggested filling our minds with positive thoughts and qualities such as humility, forgiveness, and gratitude to create a joyful and fulfilling life. This wisdom aligned with my studies in neuroplasticity and positive psychology, motivating me to develop a mala practice that integrated these principles.

 

My Mala Practice

 

Going around the circle, the Tibetan-style mala consists of 1 Guru Bead, 27 Beads 1 Spacer Bead repeated four times ending back at the Guru Bead (total 1 Guru bead, 108 regular beads, 3 spacer beads).  





I incorporated compassion meditations into the beads as follows:


Guru and Spacer Beads:

  - Guru bead (first time): "May my suffering come to an end, may my pain transform into understanding, may I have more compassion for myself and others."

  - First Spacer Bead: Focus on loved ones, friends and family, easy people.

  - Second Spacer Bead: Focus on strangers whom I might see daily and have neutral feelings for.

  - Third Spacer Bead: Focus on difficult people, past or present, individuals or groups or even my inner critic.

  - For each Spacer Bead: "May their suffering come to an end, may their pain transform into understanding, may they have more compassion for themselves and others."

 - Guru bead (second time/ending the circle): "May the suffering of all beings come to an end, may our pain transform into understanding, may we have more compassion for ourselves and others."

 

-Sets of 27 Beads:

  - Divided into three sets of nine, focusing on heart practices of Buddhism and a few extra that I hold dear and consistent: Loving Kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy, Equanimity, Generosity, Forgiveness, Acceptance, Curiosity, and Oneness.

  - For each bead, I reflect on one of these qualities in order, often expanding with thoughts like "may I/they know ___", “may I/they show ___”, “may I/they be ___” or simply evoking the word's feeling.

 

This practice has been profoundly transformative.


When I begin to work with a person who has ordered a custom mala, there are several questions I ask to find out what would make a great mala for them. Some of these questions start to get to how this person might use the tool as part of a practice. Included with each sale is a free coaching session to assist a buyer to develop that personal practice (if they do not want help with the mala, the coaching session can be used to cover any topic of their choice that falls within my scope of practice).

 

Encouragement

 

Find what resonates with you. Connect it to your spiritual traditions (for followers of Christ like myself maybe the Fruits of the Spirit), use it for prayers, or integrate practices from other cultures. If you don't connect with any particular spiritual tradition, maybe for the sets of nine beads pick nine core values that are important for you to develop in your everyday life.  The mala is a beautiful tool, both visually pleasing and spiritually enriching. 


Have fun with it.

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