Mala Style? Bodhiseed and African Trade Beads
Are Malas Too Much of a Fad? (And What Malas Can Really Do - at the end)
It’s wonderful to find that so many people now resonate with the ideas of mindfulness, compassion, and meditation, and that wearing or using malas (Buddhist and Hindu prayer beads) helps.
Surprisingly, this "fad" has proven to be durable. Meeting mala-lovers worldwide in my mala shop has given me great hope for humanity, which seems to be going through a painful adolescence and needs all the help it can get.
This genuine spirit of change, hope, longing, and renewal seems to be growing.
Malas in Hollywood
It was with amusement that I again watched Julia Roberts' rudraksha mala beads swinging in Eat, Pray, Love, which was a superb book and a pretty good movie.
And a while ago, in a fit of having to get away from work, I went alone in the afternoon to see Wanderlust, the movie with Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd. They were a couple leaving their big city life and moving, abruptly and hilariously, to a utopian commune in southern Georgia.
I did laugh a lot, but several annoying things kept dangling in front of me. The yoga guru-cad character adorned himself with several malas around the neck and many on his arm. I thought, how funny, how beautiful they are, but...
Here this movie was, showing me that Hollywood's idea of a stereotypical yogi-hippy dude must wear some malas with bedraggled tassels to make him appear both trendy and laughable. Jennifer Aniston's wrist malas were bunched in groups of three and four on her arms. I love the look, I love the feel, but the fact that this was a satire made me uncomfortable about how malas were used.
The Beginning of the End?
I hoped that this didn't mean the beginning of the end; that people would continue to believe in their malas, these small bits of stone and cord that symbolize our best selves calling to us, representing connection with the divine. I hoped that as a culture we could move beyond simply believing animistically that rocks bring us power, or that seeds hold blessing simply by existing. Do we really think that a necklace will make us both cool and immortal? Yes, many people do. But there’s more to a mala than the power of its “ingredients”!
I hope we survive this cultural movement, that people move beyond the trendy and deepen their yoga and spiritual practices. Because we need beliefs and practices that can sustain us through change and even turbulence.
What Can a Mala Really Do?
Malas can help focus and guide us back to our true selves, to our centers, and to union with the divine in whatever positive form that takes for us.
Let the beads be free–free of cliché and free of superstitious expectation. Let them be our companions and remind us of our true selves. May all being be happy and free of suffering.
(First published in Meditate Like A Girl)