No doubt, you've tried Meditation by now. Are you interested in ways to make your Meditation practice more rewarding and fulfilling? Malas, Mantras and Mudras are all powerful tools to aid us in our Meditation, making this transformative practice more approachable and accessible for all.
In our other blogs in this series, we have provided all sorts of resources for your own Meditation and Mindfulness practices, including different Meditation techniques. In this blog, we will be looking at various accessories that you can utilize to help make your daily Meditation practice successful.
Meditation Tools and Accessories
Anything that helps you find the ability to sit in Meditation can be considered a Meditation Aid. Whether it be an activity or an accessory, lets have a look at the things that may assist you in your Meditation practice.
A Mantra is a phrase or sound that you repeat in your mind while meditating. It helps you stay on task, focusing on the sound, stopping your mind from jumping around to other thoughts. Like all things Yoga, Mantras were originally from India and the first Mantras were in Vedic Sanskrit. The word Mantra is often translated as sacred utterance. Traditionally, they were anywhere from a single syllable, like the Om (ॐ Aum), to a short phrase. A popular Buddhist Mantra you may have heard before is Oṃ Maṇi Padme Hūṃ, which is the Mantra of the Bodhisattva of compassion. Mantras are typically recited in repeated succession, this practice is called Japa.
The mantra often represents a virtue or quality that the reciter would like to create within themselves. This is one way to set an intention for your daily meditation practice. Some modern day gurus and trademarked brands of Meditation (like Transcendental) will even give you your own personal Mantra. Or you could choose to use something specific, such as "I am whole. I am happy. I am worthy." Studies have shown that what word or phrase you use is actually less significant, as the benefit can be achieved from any repeated sound.
Mantra recitation is often done a certain amount of times, as some numbers are seen as auspicious. A very common number to use in Hindu practices is the number 108, but how do you keep track of how many times you have repeated the Mantra, when the point is to Meditate, not to count? Well, Japa is typically done in conjunction with a Mala to help with that.
Malas are necklaces of prayer beads that can be compared to and are similar to a Catholic Rosary. Catholics use their Rosaries to help them with praying, and Malas are used in conjunction with Mantras. You would move one bead through your fingers for each Mantra recitation.
Malas typically have 108 beads. Some malas have a 109th bead that might be larger than the rest. This is sometimes referred to as the Bindu or the "Guru" bead. It is not counted, it signifies the completion of 108.
The are many ideas why there are 108 beads, but there is no single agreed upon reason why this number is used. It is a very popular number in Buddhist, Hindu and yogic traditions. In numerology it is 12 x 9, both auspicious numbers in themselves. In Japan, at the end of the year, a bell is chimed 108 times in their Buddhist temples to finish off the old year and welcome in the new one. Each ring representing one of 108 earthly temptations (Bonnō) a person must overcome to achieve liberation.
Malas were traditionally made from natural materials, such as metals, bone, stone, wood, seeds, etc. Different materials were believed to have different attributes. For example, some people will choose a crystal bead Mala such as Rose Quartz, for its quality known to amplify love.
You can use the breath as a focus during seated meditation to help calm your mind, body and nervous system. Breath is life. Whether you simply focus on the inhale and exhale, or use a breathwork pattern, breath is the most powerful tool available to humans to regulate our bodies and minds.
Most healthy people can go a couple of weeks without food and a couple of days without water, but we can only go a couple of minutes without the breath. Oxygen is vital for cellular function and life in general. It is also the easiest way to control your overall state of mind. When you are calm, you breath slow and deeply, when you are stressed, the breath becomes shallow and rapid. Anytime you find yourself in a stressful situation, breath deeply, slowly and find your calm.
You can focus on your breath during Meditation instead of using a Mantra. Or you can use them together, inhaling during one repetition of your Mantra and exhaling on the next. There are many breathing patterns that can be used to aid in Meditation and spiritual practices. See our blog on breath techniques for stress reduction for more details.
A mudra can be as simple as a specific hand position, or it can encompass the entire body when combined with Asana postures.
Mudras are symbolic, spiritual gestures that many people believe can change one's mood, attitude, or perspective, and which help to increase concentration and alertness. Although some do include the use of the entire body, they are most often performed with the hands. They are considered to help with specific goals of channeling your body's energy flow. There are more than 100 known mudras that have been developed over the centuries.
Some Mudras are used to enhance a specific virtue. If you have ever seen images of the Buddha or Lord Shiva, they often have their hands where their right hand is held upright, and the palm is facing outwards. This Abhayamudrā Mudra, is considered a gesture of fearlessness, which accords divine protection and bliss in many Indian religions. You can use Mudras during your own Meditation to increase awareness and add intention to your practice.
There are many environmental factors that can help aid you in Meditation. Meditating in a peaceful place, such as nature, can be beneficial. Some people also like to drink tea to help prime their mind for Meditation. Others use the tea preparation as a ceremony and meditative practice in and of itself. Others find Meditating in front of an altar, with their favorite images of deities to be helpful.
Incense is often used during Meditation. It is believed that different kinds of incense can help create different moods or qualities during a Meditation session. Some people believe certain incense helps purify the Meditation space. Find a scent that brings a tranquil quality to your environment. It is essential to buy quality incense, as too much can be toxic.
-Zafus, Pillows and Blocks:
It is useful to remember that actually Meditating is more important than what position you Meditate in, so find a way to make the experience most comfortable for you and your body. You can Meditate on a yoga mat, sit on a cushion or lie down. Some people believe that sitting with an upright spine is the best way to Meditate, as this allows energy to flow more freely throughout the body.
Many people like to place a block or pillow under their butt while Meditating, as this raises their pelvis higher than their knees and feet, allowing the hips to be more relaxed and the spine more erect. Traditional round meditation pillows are called Zafus. There are a number of products available today, from pillows to blocks, bolsters, blankets, etc. that are all designed to help you be more comfortable during your Meditation. Anything that helps you be comfortable, can be used to aid your practice.
It is said that music can soothe the savage beast. Music is a very powerful tool to elicit certain moods. It can definitely be used to enhance a Meditative state. Similar to Mantras, repetitive beats can help bring the mind into a natural state of Meditation by altering brain waves. You will notice that calming music is used during a massage to add to the overall experience. Find music that creates an environment to enhance your Meditation practice for added benefit.
-Sound Baths, Singing Bowls and Gongs:
In Indian religions, it is believed that the totality of all is included in one sacred sound, the Om (ॐ Aum). Sound Baths, Singing Bowls and Gongs operate under the same premise. They bathe you in their vibrations, which helps put you in a Meditative state. You can find recordings of these on YouTube, Spotify and any other source of music you may use.
Comfortable and breathable clothes are best for both Meditation and Yoga Asanas. If you are feeling constricted in tight jeans or wishing to take off your underwire bra, it will be distracting. Of course we are biased, but we think Lotus Tribe is a great source for soft, stretchy, comfy clothing.
-Phones, Apps and Technology
We prefer natural environments, but technology is now included in all parts of our modern lifestyle. Phones and Apps are usually things that keep us busy and are often forms of escapism. However, many people are now using technology to assist them with their Meditation practice.
Some people use Meditation apps that have an alarm that will sound periodically to remind them to take short Mindfulness breaks throughout their day. It is a reminder to be in the present moment, or to take a few deep breaths. There are also many apps that offer guided Meditations, breathing prompts, etc. Some people are taking technological Meditation a step further and are making use of virtual reality Meditation sessions.
One popular Meditation app is Headspace. This is a long way from finding a nice spot to sit and focus on your breath, but for some people this might be just what they need.
Having a structured Meditation practice is a transformative experience that can (and will) change your entire life. Yet, many people find it difficult to have a regular daily practice.
If engaging the use of any of the Meditation aids we have mentioned helps you to become a more successful meditator, than the desired outcome will be achieved. Our goal is not to convince you to buy a fancy pillow or to use any of the accessories we have mentioned. Our goal is to help you find whatever it is that gets you to meditate.
Remember that the important thing is not what comes up during your Meditation or "how well" you Meditate. The important thing is that you actually do it. Be kind and gentle with yourself. We hope these resources have been of use to you on your Meditation journey!