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One, Two, Three: Counter Beads and the Purposes They Serve September 06, 2017 18:20

 

 What are counter beads, and why do some malas have them? A standard mala contains 108 beads; however, some malas include counter beads as well. These beads aren’t randomly placed extras. A japa practice is similar to a road trip, and counter beads can play an important part along the path of this mindful, meditative journey.

ONE: PAUSE

One of the primary purposes of counter beads is they act as rest stops or pause points in a meditation practice. Just like the brief pause at the peak of an inhalation, and the suspension at the base of an exhalation, counter beads can act as natural pauses in the recitation practice. They give practitioners a moment to hold space and take stock of the quality of the practice in that moment. The point of a japa practice isn’t simply to barrel through 108 recitations of a mantra. It’s not a race, and there isn’t a trophy waiting for us at the end of the finish line. A mantra practice is about training the mind; it’s about aligning and elevating our energetic frequencies so that we can become our best selves, and experience a sense of connection and interconnection with others and our world. There needs to be a balance between effort and rest, so in our practice, when our inner world is calling, counter beads remind us, “Please hold.”

TWO: PRESENCE

Another important purpose that counter beads offer is they act as mindfulness markers in the practice. Much like street signs or mile markers on a highway, counter beads remind us to stay present, focused, and alert in our practice. They encourage us to drive safely and to stay on course as we navigate the circuit of our mala. They help prevent our minds from wandering away from our intentions, and they prevent us from getting caught up in a tangle of mental chatter. Counters help to gauge both time and distance in our practice, and they can ease the restless monkey mind when it asks, repeatedly, “Are we there, yet?”

THREE: PIZZAZZ

Finally, counter beads can add a little bling, shimmer, and character to the mala and to the meditative journey. Much like fuzzy dice, a bumper sticker, or fancy detailing on a car, jazzy counter beads add a little bit of extra sparkle to help bring balance to the design of  a mala. As a designer, I like to add counter beads that are different sizes, shapes, colors, or textures to break up the pattern of the design. Sometimes, it’s just a single counter bead after the 54th bead, or midpoint. Some malas include counters after bead #27 and #81, marking the first quarter and the last quarter of the design. For other pieces, I incorporate three counters, dividing the mala into four equal segments. Counters can be aesthetically pleasing to the eye or to the touch, offering visual or tactile interest to a design, which, as an added bonus, can inspire a meditator to practice, or simply make the journey more personalized, pleasing, or fun.  

 Whether you prefer a mala that includes counter beads or not, a japa practice is a meaningful journey, and having a mala that motivates you to practice and that reflects your intentions will help you grow and enjoy the ride.


Using Malas and Mantras to Deal with Energy Bullies March 30, 2016 08:40

We've all had to deal with energy bullies at one time or another, and we have all been someone's energy bully as well. They can be family members, friends, colleagues, partners, and spouses.  Energy bullies have difficulty being accountable for their own behavior.  They are prone to blaming, complaining, judging, and playing mind games in order to protect their own egos or to manipulate others.

Being around an energy bully can deplete our own energy and erode our self-esteem.

There's good news, though.  Toxic people give us opportunities to transform ourselves and grow, and using malas and mantras can help foster this transformation.

Energy bullies are especially astute at honing in on other's vulnerabilities and blind spots. That's their hook--and if you let them--they latch on and drain you of positive energy and confidence.  So, how do you effectively deal with energy bullies?

1. Identify the Root Source

What is the Achilles' heel, trigger issue, or soft spot that they have targeted with you? It may be a behavior pattern, an issue that you are sensitive about, a belief, characteristic, or specific situation.  Identify why and how they push your buttons.

2. Pause

Once you take note of who pushes your buttons and which situations elicit strong reactions or energetically drain you....PAUSE.

Give yourself permission to allow feelings of anger, resentment, fear, exhaustion, and doubt to surface.  Sit with these feelings--invite them to tea for a few moments. Open your heart and make space for these feelings.  Then,

3. Healthy Detachment

Let them go! Strong reactions of anger and resentment only entrench us more deeply in the toxic relationship with an energy bully. Once you've identified the source and held space for the feelings surrounding it, detach from it emotionally (THIS IS EASIER SAID THAN DONE, and IT TAKES PRACTICE). 

Gently offering yourself compassion and acceptance during this process will allow you to empower yourself and bolster your strength and confidence.

4. Malas and Mantras:Tools of Empowerment

Using a mala and incorporating a mantra practice can be a very useful tool to disengage from an energy bully.  This practice can act as an antidote to the source issue.

Choose a mala and a mantra that will embody the qualities that you would like to cultivate.  

Need strength and protection? Call on Durga to help: Om Dum Durgayei Namaha

Need spiritual wisdom and maturity? Shiva can offer assistance: Om Nama Shivaya

If you're quick to anger and need peace, Kwan Yin can help: Namo Kwan Shi Yin Pusa

Need an all-purpose mantra for balance and equanimity? Om Hum So Hum 

There are thousands of mantras to choose from, and a Google search and listening to your own intuition can help you find one that's best for you.  Make time each day to chant, sing, whisper, or think this mantra while using your mala.  I recommend a 40-day sadhana, or practice, if possible. Keep note of your progress in a spiritual journal or log.  Before you know it, you'll reclaim your power and help prevent future energy bullies from sabotaging you.