hippy how-to: make a mala (part 2)

Okay, so, where I left off (if you missed the first part of this Hippy How-Two series, you can read it here): I—the near-anti-jewelry wearer and one of little patience—decided to make my own knotted mala (i.e., basically a Buddhist rosary). I found some articles that explained how to DIY, researched the meanings of different gemstones and wooden beads,* and drew up a plan.

Today’s post explains in more depth why I chose the stones and wood I did and the mala-making process.

When I first started to think about the intention behind this mala, two things really came to mind: tree roots and an open heart.

I wanted my mala to be made of stones and wood that symbolized grounding energy and strength and also stones that protect and energize the Heart Chakra.

So after much debate (and many sketches), I decided I wanted the following stones to make up my 108 mala beads:

  • Tiger Eye (Primary Beads): Tiger Eye beads make up the majority of my mala (30 beads on each side, 60 beads total). I chose Tiger Eye because not only is it believed to be a grounding stone that develops courage and confidence, but my some of the great men in my life (including my grandfather) have randomly given me Tiger Eye jewelry over the years. Bonus: Tiger Eye is also supposed to have great healing powers for the digestive system, and I can never seem to get along with mine.
  • Garnet (Secondary Beads): There are 14 garnet beads on each side of my mala (28 total). Garnet is my birthstone (for the month of January), and it is also known for its employment of creative energy—it grounds these forces within your body, channeling them to lovingly create in a physical space. Garnet is also known generally to be a fiery and sensual stone, and those aspects seemed to really resonate with me.
  • Green Aventurine (4 Beads on Each Side, 8 Total): Green Aventurine is known for the care it takes of the Heart Chakra, specifically as a protector. It’s supposed to help block the entry of those who would manipulate us and their way into this center of energy.
  • Red Jasper (2 Beads on Each Side, 4 Total): Red Jasper is similar to Green Aventurine in that it is a stone that empowers us to resist emotional domination by others
  • Rose Quartz (2 Beads on Each Side, 4 Total): Enveloped by its guardians—Green Aventurine and Red Jasper—Rose Quartz is said to open the Heart Chakra to love and to help us let go of those things, like resentment and anger, that are not serving toward that purpose.

In addition to the 108 beads I chose three counter beads made of Lapis Lazuli, which is a an ancient spiritual stone that is known to stimulate intuition and the Third Eye Chakra.

I also chose to incorporate a tassel and charm.

I chose blue for the tassel’s color, because it reminds me of water—next to which I would gladly spend all of my days. I also find myself consistently remembering what David Foster once said in a commencement address: “This is water.”

I chose a lotus charm to finish off my mala. Not only does the lotus flower remind me of my time spent in Vietnam, but it serves as a constant reminder of the words of my favorite Buddhist author Thich Naht Hanh: “No mud. No Lotus.” We all have to use the water of life, sometimes very muddy water, to grow into enlightenment.

Prior to Labor Day Weekend, I collected all of my supplies—everything but the garnet beads and my jewelry-making kit (I really only wanted the awl, but financially, this kit made sense) from the Shade of the Bodhi Tree. I decided I would use the long weekend to make my mala.

Several things I learned when I started out:

  1. Knots are not hard to make, but putting the knots where you want them (i.e., right next to the bead) is hard.
  2. An awl and your big toe are super handy tools. I legitimately used the space between my big and second toe to hold the awl so I could use my hands to pull and place the knot accurately.
  3. A cord puller (or several) is an absolute must.
  4. Garnet beads have smaller holes than other beads and, therefore, will not allow 1mm cord to pass through them.**

Yep. My garnet beads didn’t fit. And. Oh. Did. I. Try.

But alas, progress stopped on Sunday afternoon of Labor Day Weekend, and the lack of it plagued me (in a very non-Zen way) until the next afternoon when I found out that DC has a bead store in Dupont Circle (Bedazzled) that’s open on Labor Day and made a trip.

The garnet bead problem is in fact a pervasive one, so I needed an alternative. After spending a considerable amount of time in the store (with much assistance from the fabulous woman behind the counter), I settled on Olivewood beads, which, given my Christian upbringing and second side hustle, was a really nice touch.

Olivewood: The olive tree, which is protected in the Holy Land, is a slow growing tree that can live for centuries, and beads from this “immortal tree” are said to promote peace.

There are most definitely imperfections in my mala, but…it’s strong, and it’s mine. In fact, in a lot of ways, wearing it with me to yoga or having it in the corner of my mat seems fitting and a good reminder to remember to love my body, even on the hardest days. Because it too is strong, and it’s mine.

*This website is a really good resource for the meanings of crystals and gemstones.
**Always make sure the hole in our beads is big enough for your cord to pass through.

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