Malas And My Childhood Memories Of The Dalai Lama

I remember when I was a kid growing up in Wisconsin, I would see kind, gentle and what appeared to be wise men who lived down the street from me in the country. These men had shaved heads and wore long robes of burgundy color. They were very quiet and would occasionally shop at my dad’s hometown pharmacy. I never truly understood what or who they were as a child, but I distinctly remember hearing people talk in town, whenever the “Dalai Lama,” would visit.

Who’s is the Dalai Lama you might ask? Well, if you ask him, he is a simple Buddhist monk, but more importantly the spiritual leader of Tibet. The Dalai Lama or their “Holiness,” would visit the Deer Park Buddhist Center tucked away in the hills just outside of Madison Wisconsin. This is where I would see the many men coming to and from the center to learn and practice the teachings of Buddha.

Now, as I’m writing this article, by no means I’m I implying that I turn to a different religion. It’s actually quite the opposite. From what I have learned about Buddha, and Yoga, is that it has made me a better Catholic. Here is a quote from “Thich Nhat Hanh”

“There is a misconception that Buddhism is a religion, and you worship Buddha. Buddhism is a practice, like yoga. You can be a Christian and practice Buddhism. I met a Catholic priest who lives in a Buddhist monastery in France. He told me that Buddhism makes him a better Christian. I love that.”

So now it has come full circle to me, and that those men in long burgundy robes teaching the philosophy of yoga is back in my life! I am much older now. I am living an eventful 44 years and counting, raising an rambunctious family alongside my strong and supportive husband. As amazing as that is, slowing down and reflecting or even meditating couldn’t come at a better time. Mindfulness meditation is ALWAYS my favorite last 10 minutes of yoga! Or is that because we have stopped sweating our bottoms off! Lol

Now you know my connection with the Dalai Lama. How does that relate to Malas?

Malas are worn by the monks or Buddhists, to yogi enthusiasts from Tibet and India to here in Santa Rosa Beach! They are considered sacred tool objects or prayer beads. Hold a traditional Mala in your hand and you will instantly feel it’s worth in weight! Take it to a higher level, and if you are “in-tuned,” you can feel it’s vibration. The purpose of the Mala is to use it for meditation, reciting repetitive mantras, or a friendly reminder of your intention throughout the day.

Here is another cool part!  All beads are worry beads— from the Pope’s rosary all the way down to those little wrist Malas, or what Chakras & Seas calls ours “Mini Malas.” They answer a human need so basic it actually precedes a religious consciousness—and that is to fret over things. Wearing or holding a Mala acknowledges this. It is a way of engaging our worries, a way of combining the universal need for objects with the kind of repetitive movements that calm the body and mind. Kinda like fidget spinners!!

Now let’s get more in depth. Mala is Sanskrit word for garland, and will normally consist of 108 beads. Why 108? This is a powerful number in yoga and astrology. There are 108 sacred holy sites in India. 108 breaths in super deep meditation. It is said that there are 108 energy lines that make up the Heart Chakra and the diameter of the sun is 108 times the diameter of the earth. Ask someone else and they surely will tell you something different. So many explanations but all beautiful!

There are other variations of bead counts beyond the usual 108, such as 54, 27 and 18. The common rule is that they are all divisible by 9. Here at Chakras & Seas, we make the traditional hand knotted 108 bead Mala, followed by the Half Mala, Mini Mala and 18 bead chunky Malas.

To use your Mala, let the guru bead closest to the tassel rest on your middle finger and pull the beads toward you one by one. With each bead, recite your favorite mantra or just be mindful of each exhale and inhale. Now I know this can be intimidating or new to many people, and I totally understand. I think this should be viewed at very lightly. When I wear my Mala, most of the time I’m not praying or reciting mantras. What I am doing though, is reminded of how long it took me to make that Mala and how much I loved doing it, and that carries over to every single Mala I make over to you. I call that vibration, and that my friends is a blog for another day!


Jennifer @ Chakras & Seas