Mantras, malas and the mind


Garlands, sacred words and spiraling thinking; how are they all connected?

This time is continuing to challenge all of us and the free-fall of the press does nothing to give us perspective on where we are in the grand scheme of things. I suppose we could be seen as spoilt kids loosing our toys and not knowing how to amuse ourselves in this new reality. Of course we all still have the shiny cars and whiz-bang phones but their perceived value has diminished.

The mind is king right now. For most of us, our fears are more important than almost any other aspect of life. The projections of doom and gloom that we make for ourselves veer us all far away from our actual reality and this creates an umbrella of unease that seems to arc over everything, bringing an edgy, angry feel to a lot of daily interactions and responses to situations that would normally float past unnoticed.

When the mind is in charge there is no distance, no perspective. Everything turns inwards and spirals downwards. Negativity and fear become the dominant thought paths leading to a profound loss of faith and trust in the Universe. The ground feels as though it is unstable and melting and we are lost.

Can we change all of this? We can, but an important thing to be aware of is our love of trauma and drama. Do we want to move beyond this mind-game? Do we want to step out of the spiral and sit back to watch? If the answer is yes, if you are bored of the drama and intensity then there are clearly defined tools that work.

At first the steps are faltering and require great remembrance and persistence, but little by little the peace is more alluring than the drama and slowly the state of acceptance and stillness is preferable to the whirling rule of the mind.

This is where the malas and mantras step up.
A mala is a garland of beads or flowers. It can be made of anything from jasmine flowers to precious stones. Traditionally the flower malas are for showing a high level of respect for another being or deity and the bead malas are for showing a high level of respect for the mind.

Malas can be from 8 to 152 beads and essentially they are counting mechanisms. The most usual numbers are 26, 27, 54 and 108. All sacred numbers. The mala is made of simple beads of glass, wood or stone with empowered malas using semi-precious beads, stones, gold, silver and silk. They are held in the right hand and the beads are slowly rolled over the Saturn or longest finger without touching the Jupiter or first finger. This is because Saturn burns our karma (which is what we want), and Jupiter is quite often the finger of blame (which we do not want).

The purpose of a mala is to still the mind. It is the same as worry beads or a rosary, and it works buy focusing the thoughts away from trauma and negativity. This is achieved by the use of a mantra.

Mantras are traditionally sacred words. It can be one word or a string of words or a verse of a prayer or a complete prayer. Affirmations can also be considered a mantra. So if you are Catholic, then the Hail Mary would be appropriate or the Lord’s Prayer. If Sikh, then the Mool Mantra or a shabad from the Guru Granth Sahiib, if Hindhu then a prayer to your chosen Deity, but a mantra can also just be a simple phrase like “I am enough”. It does not have to link to any religion or God.

The mental processes are halted by the focus on the mantra. 3 minutes is a good start, but as you refine your practice you can extend endlessly and bit by bit, peace will come. The time spent with the mind focused on the mantra allows perspective on reality and some conquering of the mind. Continued practice leads to increased power over thoughts and the ultimate goal is the ability to use the mind for thinking and working out solutions but not to give it the power to dominate our feelings. It is a bold ambition but achievable ambition. Frankly, I am not there, but have results that show me that it is a truth.

You can also turn mantras in the mind without using a mala. This is my preferred practice and I do it whenever I am involved in repetitive actions like running, swimming, walking, chopping etc. It is said that the highest practice is to see the mantra written in the mind’s eye. This is good for seated, eyes closed practice. Try a version of the above and see how it feels. It will certainly be a change from the current experiences and may bring solace. Let me know.