I heard mala beads were a popular and powerful tool, not just in general, but specifically for clients at Soberman’s Estate luxury drug and alcohol treatment center. I sat down with Janice Story, Equine and Meditation Coach, to learn more about mala beads, and the impact they have on the healing and wellbeing of individuals.
What are mala beads?
Mala beads are a potent meditation tool that helps focus attention, used by several cultures for over 3,000 years. They are typically a string of 108 beads with a connecting piece, like a necklace. Some cultures call them intention beads or prayer beads.
How are they used?
I try to, within the first week that they’re here, give them a set and show them how to meditate with them. It’s one of the first things we do, and then I encourage them to try and meditate with it sometime during the day every day.
The way I teach [clients] is to set a mantra or an intention. I’ll encourage them to focus on whatever they’re working on. For example, if they’re trying to improve their self-worth, I’ll have them use the mantra: I am worthy.
See, I have the beads wrapped around my middle finger, and I use my thumb to pull the beads down one at a time. Each time I pull a bead down I would say I am worthy. So, by the time you finish meditating with them, you have reiterated that 108 times. It becomes very powerful. Any time we repeat something over and over, it starts to change the neural pathways.
At first maybe the mantra starts out as just words, but after a while you actually learn to feel it, and it changes your thought processes. Other mantra examples are I am loved, I am healthy, I am forgiven... They choose what they do. It typically takes anywhere from 6-15 minutes to go through.
This is the cool part, clients come in here saying Janice I can’t meditate. I can’t quiet my mind. And they really struggle with any type of meditation because their minds are busy. There are always thoughts popping in. One thing they like about this is I'm not asking them to quiet their mind.
By saying a mantra, it allows them to focus on that, and if the thoughts come in, they just bring their attention back to the beads. I tell them don’t quiet [their thoughts], just acknowledge them, and come back.
Nearly all of the clients have resonated with them. Some of them the very first time, some it takes a few times to get used to them, but the more they use it, the more they learn to focus on it.
If they can’t sit still for 45 minutes [for other, guided meditations, the mala beads are] a quick meditation. They can throw some background music on or just do it quietly. They can do it anywhere. Sometimes they’ll carry their beads and walk the labyrinth with it.
How have mala beads impacted recovery?
One of the clients was concerned about flying home. He sent me a text saying Janice I’m sitting in the airport and I'm right next to the bar. And he said it was hard, it was really hard. Then he said I literally pulled out my mala beads and started using them right there. And it kept him focused until he got on the plane.
A previous client yesterday was going to a family function where he knew there would be drinking. He called me on his way. I was thankful he picked up the phone and called, he used one of his tools. I talked to him for 15 minutes or so while he was driving, and he said my mala beads are in my car hanging, my Soberman’s coin is in my pocket. He was ready. He texted me last night and said everything went well, and it was good.
Some clients wear them as they walk around. I've had some tell me that during their individual one-on-one sessions with the therapist, when it's getting a little rough, they’ll pull their mala beads out, and just have them in their hand. The intentions are placed in the beads. Even if they’re not consciously aware of it, their intentions are there.
We had a client who is a lawyer. He sent me a picture after he got home from his first litigation, and lifted up his professional sleeve, and there he had the bracelet on. [Some clients prefer to wear the beads as a bracelet.] Just having the beads on you can be powerful.
I’ve received phone calls from alumni saying they have been meditating with their spouse every day. They originally come in [to treatment] struggling with their relationship with their spouse . So, knowing these individuals have never meditated, to hear that they’re home meditating with their partner, my heart just goes... they’ve learned to meditate. And the ones that will use it more will go on and seek out other ways to meditate because it resonates with them.
Many think sitting cross legged on the floor is [the only] meditation, and when they start learning that there are hundreds of ways to meditate, and they don’t have to sit and quiet their mind, their thoughts about meditation change and shift.
There’s a difference between doing and being. Many people would think of walking the labyrinth as doing something. To me, it’s being. It's being with myself, with whatever thoughts are there, not engaging in them. When thoughts come in, I acknowledge them and then bring my attention back to my intention. We're human beings and we’ve become human doings. We need to get back to being human beings.
In addition to mala beads, types of meditations done at Soberman’s Estate include but are not limited to:
- Candle Meditations
- Sound Meditations
- Nature/Birds/Sound bowls/etc.
- Waterfall/Pool-side Meditations
- Visual Meditations
- Mindfulness Meditations
- Labyrinth Walks