Living in a bustling city like Toronto is great. Our city is alive with energy, sounds, smells, people and vibrations. At the same time, do you ever find yourself relishing in those crisp moments of quiet, when you’re all alone and everything seems a little less chaotic. It’s important to take time to slow down our breath, clear our minds and just be.
Meditation is becoming more popular because we could all benefit from slowing down and finding more stillness in our lives. But I’ll be the first to admit that meditation is not easy and anything that helps to encourage meditation, I am open to trying and sharing. So I decided to explore chanting while meditating.
Chanting is the process of repeating a mantra. Mantra is from the sanskrit root “man”- to think, and “tra”- to liberate. Therefore a mantra is to liberate from thoughts. Traditionally, mantras are repeated 108 times, at the end of the article there are a couple of theories behind the significance of 108. Repeating a mantra 108 times is not easy to keep track of, and that’s where the mala comes in handy.
A mala is a string of 108 prayer beads with one head stone (the 109th) called ‘Sumeru’ or Guru bead. With eyes closed, take hold of the first bead and chant the mantra once. Second time the mantra is chanted, move the fingers to the second bead. Third time, third bead – you get the idea, repeat until the fingers have worked around the entire mala, 108 beads later. The mala helps to keep the mind focused on the meaning or sound of the mantra. By the way, a mantra is a poem, typically from the Sanskrit language. Some mantras are many verses, a good beginners mantra is “Om Namah Shivaya”, meaning I bow with respect to the divine (in me and in the universe).
The first few times you chant 108 mantras, inevitably your mind will wander, your body parts will go numb and you’ll even notice more itches than normal. All I can say is, breathe through it and keep chanting. You’ll feel great when you complete your meditation, I promise.
Once you reach the 109th stone (Sumera), it’s like reaching the summit of the mala. Take this moment to pause, reflect and give gratitude. You may ask, what should you reflect on or be thankful for? At the start of each practice, it’s nice to set an intention. That way, at the end of each practice the intention can be reflected upon.
By setting an intention and dedicating your practice to something, it gives your meditation a purpose to focus on. Start by asking “How do I want to feel?” It could be as simple as “I want to feel rejuvenated and relaxed”. It can go deeper like “I want to feel happier and free from the sadness and pain.” It could also be more detailed. Whatever your intention is, it’s yours, it’s personal and it’s a goal to reach for, grow into and evolve.
It is suggested to wear your mala during intention setting. That way, every time the mala is worn, you are reminded of your intention and purpose. Malas are sacred and meaningful necklaces. To gain a better understanding of the power of Malas, I reached out to MalaRae – a unique mala and yoga jewelry company based in the Ottawa region of Canada. They offer sustainably sourced mala beads, handmade in Canada.
It’s a common belief that when malas are used regularly for meditation and mantras, they absorb the vibrations of the practice. The more it is worn and used, the stronger the positive energy within the mala. At MalaRae, they believe that even the process of making malas can influence the energy of beads. Each piece is made with love and only during a positive and peaceful state of mind. With MalaRae, their beads are gemstones and between each stone there is a carefully hand-tied knot. They select top quality gemstones that are said to carry healing and beneficial energy. Once the handmade process is complete, each mala is sage-cleansed and moonlit charged. MalaRae’s intention is that their beads bring your mind, body and spirit a sense of true peace and positivity. Personally, I was impressed with their careful and thoughtful process.
When my very own mala from MalaRae arrived, I was thrilled. Delicately wrapped was the Periwrinkle Mala from the blossom collection. Periwinkle is the flower of peace + tranquility. Perfect tranquility is always within our reach. Quiet the mind, breathe deep and be at peace. This mala features Mother of Pearl gemstones to represent happiness + hope + calm + creativity + self love. The Picture Jasper stones are for balance + peace + will power + positivity. The Blue Chalcedony exude peace + vitality + endurance + and more self love. Lastly the Agate is for harmony + concentration + confidence + acceptance. Just reading the meanings of the beautiful gemstones on my mala makes me feel better. It also feels nice and cool against my skin (I’ve been wearing it throughout the summer).
Wearing my mala gives me a sense of peace and thoughtfulness. Perhaps it’s all in my head but as long as it feels good, I’ll keep wearing my mala and meditating. MalaRae also offers beautiful bracelets with many gemstones to choose from. Check out MalaRae.com to see the entire collection. Or if you prefer to see it in person, MalaRae is available at Pure Yoga Toronto studio in Liberty Village.
As promised, here are a few theories explaining 108 malas, courtesy of the MalaRae blog “Why are there 108 beads on a mala?” written by Jewelia Orlick, MalaRae OMbassador. It’s said that repeating a mantra 100 times will purify the body, mind and spirit. The remaining 8 stones are accounted for errors and/or offerings to the divine, god, universe, source, love…whatever you wish to call it.
The Chakras theory: there are 7 different energy points (called chakras) in the body. There are 108 energy lines connecting these chakra points to the heart – the home of love, compassion and kindness. Working with this specific number stimulates the energy lines, leading you straight back to your heart centre.
Another good theory Jewelia writes about is the breath theory: by taking only 108 deep breaths per day, you will reach a state of enlightenment and a form a nirvana – similar to that which one feels while in a deep transcendent meditation.
The last theory is a great reason to meditate every day while using your mala. All it takes is 108 mantras and breaths to reach nirvana on the daily, sounds good to me! Happy meditating with your mala and your mantras. Namaste.