How to Choose, Use, and Cleanse Your Mala Beads

Explore the realm of mindful possibility with your own set of mala beads.

Need another reason to use your mala? The Wanderlust 21-Day Meditation Challenge is underway.

Simply stated, mala beads are a set of beads traditionally used in prayer and meditation. More than just jewelry, malas are powerful and culturally-rich tools for meditation. We don’t believe you need to be religious or have a spiritual practice to wear mala beads—you can simply wear them as a reminder of personal intention you’ve set, or when seeking a calmer mind, body, and spirit.

Whether you’re looking for your first mala or you want to deepen your relationship to your existing piece, below you’ll find some of our favorite bits of mala wisdom.

How to Choose Your Mala

It’s important to know that a mala represents something different to each person. It can be a tool for meditation, a reminder of an intention, a piece that inspires you, or a beautiful manifestation of a feeling. Whatever it means to you, stay open-minded and don’t judge or compare. Embrace your calling, and let it guide you in your choice. While there is no wrong way to choose your mala, we have a few questions to help you on your journey.

WHAT ARE YOU DRAWN TO?

We often tell people, “the mala that you’re drawn to first is the one you’re meant to have.” It truly can be that simple. Don’t resist the ease. Embrace it. Allow yourself to surrender and be led by your heart.

WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO MANIFEST?

All of our mala beads carry their own intention. When searching for your perfect beads, we recommend you ask “What is my intention? What am I trying to manifest? Am I looking to cultivate more love in my life? More abundance? More strength?” Use the answers to gently fuel your decision.

WILL YOU BE MEDITATING, MANIFESTING, OR BOTH?

Will you use the beads for meditation? Or do you simply want a daily reminder of your intentions? The beads from Mala Collective are suitable for both. If you are looking specifically for meditation, that’s wonderful! All of our necklaces are hand knotted, helping you to practice japa meditation (the practice of repeating your mantra with each mala bead) and have a total of 108 beads.

How to Use Your Mala Beads

Mala beads are important mediums for peace and enlightenment. Traditionally, the beads have been used in prayer and meditation. If you choose to meditate on your mala, you will most likely use a mantra. A mantra is a word, sound, or phrase repeated to aid in your concentration. It can be as simple as the word “love,” something you are thankful for, or a sanskrit phrase such as “om shanti, shanti, shanti” which represents all encompassing peace.

To count your mantras, hold your mala in your hand and turn each bead with your thumb and middle finger. The index finger is believed to represent “ego” and is not recommended to turn the beads.

Going all the way around your mala, you will eventually reach the guru bead—the bead that dangles from the mala. This signals a time for reflection. You can reflect on your meditation practice, give thanks to your mantra, honor your guru, or show yourself a moment of gratitude for slowing down to meditate. Never continue over the guru bead. Instead, turn around and continue in the opposite direction.

It’s widely believed that when one uses a mala for meditation, and makes it all the way around, they will have found enlightenment. If you choose to meditate on your mala, be patient and kind to yourself. Your mind will surely wander. The practice of bringing your attention back to your mantra and your beads is the practice of mindfulness. Do so with kindness and without judgement.

How to Cleanse Your Mala Beads

Your mala beads are believed to protect, guide, and serve you as a constant reminder of the divinity that is within you. Activating your mala is a beautiful way to connect the beads to your energy and intention. Below is an example of a small ceremony you can perform to set the intention and energy for your new mala beads.

INTENTION SETTING CEREMONY 

Create a quiet space and find in a comfortable seated posture. Light a candle or your favorite incense. If you wish to wash your mala first you can do so in pure water with flowers. Close your eyes and start to lengthen your breath. Breathe. With a clear and calm mind state your intention to the beads, moving each bead through your fingers. (Note: We recommend avoiding the use of your pointer finger, as it represents ego.)

Visualize yourself finding peace of mind and inner calmness. A traditional mantra for activating and sealing in the energy in your new rudraksha mala is “Om Hrim Namah Shivaya Om.” Chant this mantra at least three times. Sit for at least five minutes to seal the energetic bond.

CLEANSING YOUR MALA 

Once you have activated your mala beads, you may want to cleanse and clean them from time to time. The beads are believed to absorb and store energy, therefore depending on your preference, you may wish to cleanse your mala beads from time to time. We recommend that you do not lend or share your malas with others as not to transfer any energy. If this does happen, you may wish to cleanse your mala. There are a few different ways you can choose to do this—here are some of our favorite ways to cleanse ours:

  • Placing your mala in the sunlight or moonlight.
  • Burning white sage over your mala.
  • Placing your mala in a singing bowl and ringing the edges, or tapping the side to bring sound to the bowl.

KEEPING YOUR MALA CLEAN 

With regular use you may also wish to clean your mala from time to time. You can do this by placing the mala in warm water. You can also add a mild soap if you wish. Soak the beads for some time (some suggest leaving it overnight). Use a delicate brush to scrub the beads. Leave to fully dry. After cleaning, you can also brush your mala with coconut or sandalwood oil. Oiling will make the beads strong and they won’t dry out. If your mala is well loved you may also want to freshen up the tassel. One way to do this is by wetting the tassel and gently running a small comb through the strands.

THE KARMIC CYCLE OF A BROKEN MALA 

A broken mala is meant to symbolize a broken cycle, i.e. that you no longer ‘need’ that mala anymore. It’s a sign to bring new intentions into your life as your current ones no longer serve you. We like to honor the release of an intention and help you through the transition. At Mala Collective, we are committed to sending your broken mala back to Bali once to be re-strung and re-blessed if you find the mala has broken before you’re ready to let go of its intention.

While a broken mala can be saddening, it’s also a beautiful opportunity to reflect and ask yourself what new intention you’re looking for, and what you would like to manifest. Maybe it’s time to send your love in a new direction and have faith that it will take you to a bigger and better place?

Regardless of what your mala looks like, these culturally rich symbols are a beautiful way to add intention and mindfulness into your life. Breathe and savor this journey—it’s going to be a gorgeous ride.