The use of prayer beads is an ancient practice among all the major religions, to relax the body while focusing the mind. Touching each successive bead as you recite a mantra or prayer continually brings your attention back to the present moment. And it is a gentle way to keep track of time, rather than subconsciously waiting for some annoying alarm to go off.
Prayer beads can be made of wood, seeds, gemstones, bone, or even knots of wool. Some who use prayer bead meditation methods chose stones they believe have physical healing properties. Others find that following the traditions of their faith, gives them an added sense of peace.
Choosing Your Beads
Different faith traditions have different arrangements and numbers of beads. Usually arranged in a circle, like a necklace or bracelet, most have a tassel, crucifix, or different size beads to indicate a starting and ending point for your prayer cycle.
Choosing beads from a tradition that has significance for you can add a special dimension. But no religious practice is required to use the beads as a meditation method.
Find beads that have aesthetic beauty to you, and that you like to touch. You may enjoy the smoothness of wood, or how gemstone beads change temperature in your hand. Holding the beads should bring you pleasure, so you will want to include them often in your life.
Choosing the Style
Prayer beads used in different faith traditions have a variety of styles you can choose from. A Buddhist or Hindu Mala usually contains 108 beads, so you can recite your mantra at least 100 times, with a few extra in case you miss some. The Tesbih used in Islam contains 99 beads, to repeat the 99 names of God, with smaller versions of 33, to recite three times.
Within Christianity, the Orthodox Chotki uses 100 beads or knots, while the Roman Catholic Rosary contains five groups of 10 beads, called decades, divided by larger beads, and with five extra beads and a crucifix separate from the circle. There is a meditative prayer cycle for the Rosary, but the beads are used for a variety of other prayers, such as the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
Lesser known in Christian tradition is the Anglican Rosary of 33 beads, and the Pater Noster Cord of 150 beads which are not joined in a ring, and are said to have been created by 8th century Irish monks to recite the Psalms.
Choosing Your Prayers or Mantra
Whether you follow a religious practice or not, you can choose the numbers of beads that suit you best, and use them with whatever prayer or mantra you find most helpful. By repeating Om, the Lord’s Prayer, a healing phrase, or other words of meaning while moving the beads, you may be able to center yourself more easily, while you relax both your body and your mind.