If you've ever seen some meditating with what looks like a string of prayer beads, then you've seen a meditation mala. This is a string of 108 beads plus what is called a large "meru" bead. They are used to help a person focus while meditating so that they don't fall asleep or have their mind wander. Many people in a wide variety of religions use some form of prayer beads in order to keep track of their prayers or chants.
A person can use a meditation mala in the same way, counting off the mantras as they go along. Holding the beads between the fingers also helps to drown out other distractions as the mind will naturally focus more on what the hand feels. Using a meditation mala can also mean that a person doesn't linger too long in their practice. Some hesitate to meditate as much as they'd like because they notice their mind wanders or they take too long as they get relaxed, and they're distracted by other things.
When you use a meditation mala you can limit the time you spend in meditation and you can feel it being more effective as well. The materials used to make the beads are believed by some to help in their goals as well. For example, crystals are believed by some to aid in the power of healing. Rosewood is thought to encourage positive energy and to drive away negative energy. It can also be very good for the skin.
Choosing something like sandalwood for your meditation mala can mean having the fragrance of the beads, which helps a person to relax and focus as well. Lotus seeds have a cooling effect, which can help a person to focus during the warmest of summer months.To use your meditation mala effectively, you most hold it in the right hand and roll the beads using their thumb and middle finger; the index finger is not used on the beads. When you reach the end of the chain, turn it and go the other way.
You should not simply cross over as this can interrupt the rhythm of your mantra. Remember that your purpose of meditating is not to rush to the end as you would aerobics or other exercises. Your purpose is to relax and focus the mind. Don't allow yourself to simply count off the beads as if you're trying to get to the end. Use the meditation mala as a means of keeping your mind focused and of keeping you free from distraction.
Focus your mind on the feeling of the beads and the rhythm of moving them along.You may want to try out your meditation mala before you sit down to meditate to get used to how it feels in your fingers and how it can drape over your hand. This will help you during your practice to relax the mind and to use your meditation mala as it should be used rather than allowing it to become a distraction.