Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Using Prayer & Meditation Beads

13 Moons Pagan Prayer Bead Set by CellDara
I currently offer two sets of Prayer/Meditation Beads through my Etsy Shop.  In addition I have beaded "stretchy" bracelets which were designed to serve this function in addition to looking good... My designs, whether bracelet or string, were all meant to be inspirational, pretty and functional.  However, since creating them it's come to my attention that many individuals are unaware of both how and why to use beads for prayer and/or meditation.

Personally, I use my set for a number of different reasons.  They serve not only to help my mind focus on devotionals and prayers during ritual, but also as a way to set and focus on goals, expel worry and encourage positivity.  It's for this very reason that I felt it was important to include beads in my shop and why I have always encouraged my students (when the opportunity arose for me to have them) to find a set which spoke to them.  Whether my designs speak to you or not, prayer beads of some form can serve as a beneficial tool for any and everyone, so it's a good idea that you learn to use them.

Prayer beads have a long history, in fact, no one really knows who the first person or culture to use them was.  Most research I have done points to the Catholic Church using them some time during the Middle Ages. But I've found a good deal of proof that the practice of using small beads or pebbles, either on a string or otherwise, was practiced throughout the world by numerous cultures dating well back before written record, so who knows.  In truth, I'm not sure it matters.  Who decided to use them and why 10,000 years ago, or 200 years ago, doesn't affect why or how they can be used today or how they can benefit you and me.  It does however speak to the idea that there is no "right" or "wrong" way to use beads, so long as it's working for you.

Amethyst Meditation/Prayer Beads by CellDara
With this in mind it's important to know that just about any beaded necklace, chain, bracelet, etc. can serve the purpose of prayer/meditation bead.  While many religious and/or philosophical traditions have set rules as to how prayer/meditation beads should be designed, how long they should be, or what they should be made of, in the end such things are irrelevant.  The ONLY thing that really matters is that you connect to the beads in some way.  Maybe they're made from your great-grandmother's favorite necklace, or maybe they're made from a stone whose energy is needed in your life at the time, or maybe you just saw them on a shelf in a store and thought "Wow, I love those!"  No matter why you connect with your beads, all that matters is that you do.  So don't worry about how many beads you have or need, don't worry about the pattern or bead size or shape, just concern yourself with finding a set that speaks to you, a set you want to keep with you.

Once you've found a set that you like, your next goal is learning how to use them. And like any new habit or practice, this takes time.  Don't expect to pick them up and "master" their use in one sitting. In fact, you'll probably want to try them out in a number of different situations to see what feels right for you and your practice.  Of course their original uses all seem to be similar as they were used either to keep track of devotional prayers or meditative thoughts of some sort.  But in fact they can be used for a number of activities today, depending on your beliefs, practices and mindset.

I have no doubt that a few clicks of your mouse will find you a thousand different bead related prayers, songs, meditations, poems, etc, etc, etc...  Maybe even a few that will work for you. But in my experience it's best not to use someone elses material - so I'm not going to be providing you with a step by step prayer like some may. Instead, I've put together a list of suggestions on how you may wish to use your beads in your own life. Keep what works, toss what doesn't. That, of course, is the beauty of life and practice...

Traditional Prayer/Meditation Use:
As I said above, beads were traditionally used to help practitioners keep track of their devotionals or other forms of meditation or prayer.  This is still the most prolific use of beads in spiritual practice today, as it's a common practice by Catholic, Hindu and Buddhist practitioners.  This usage can easily be adapted to fit with your own personal beliefs and practices regardless of your connection to these faiths.

To use the beads in this manner simply grasp the first bead between your thumb and pointer finger, and recite (either aloud or silently) your prayer, devotional, thought or positive statement.  Once finished, move to the next bead and repeat the process.  Depending on your purpose you may want to repeat the same thought/prayer over and over, one bead at a time, all at once, or you may use different thoughts/prayers as you progress, or you may even wish to work your way through the beads as your day progresses...  The point is to help your mind focus, and keep track of your prayer/thoughts as you move forward.

Morning Routine:
One of my favorite things to do with beads is to set my intention for the day with them.  Having a small business, a home to care for and a family of 5 can create an environment where it's difficult to remember to focus on remaining positive and healthy.  And although I am very organized, there is always a monkey wrench tossed in from somewhere. So it's important for me to set my intentions, first thing, and get my day off on the right foot.  This is why before I do anything else, before I even get out of bed, I take the time to work with my beads.

Give this a try by keeping a set of beads by your bed.  Before you have the chance to think "ugh, I don't want to get up" reach for the beads!  Take a deep breath and hold your first bead between your fingers while focusing on one of your emotional or spiritual goals for the day.  Create a simple affirmation out of it "I will remain positive today, even in the face of stress."  Move to the second bead and repeat the process - "I will take time to smell the roses."  And then the third, and so on and so forth...  This allows your brain to focus on the positive FIRST and means that you will always start the day off on the right foot.

Staying Present & Grounding:
Amethyst Om Stretchy Bracelet by CellDara
Use your beads to help you remain in the present, rather than getting so caught up in what will come or what was.  This works especially well if, and after, you've established a morning routine, but it can be used even if that doesn't work for you.

Make sure your beads are on you at all times if you want to try this.  Wear them as a bracelet or necklace, keep them in your pocket or even pin them to the inside of your scrub top is need be.  Then whenever you feel yourself getting worked up because your project is due and you're running late, or because your boss is angry over the day's numbers or because your kid just threw up in the back seat, reach for your beads.  Focus entirely on how they feel in your hand.  Roll them between your fingers and/or hold them in your palm and focus on how they feel. Take a few deep breaths and review your positive thoughts for the day - or create some.  "I will take on all of today's challenges with a smile."  "I am healthy and fulfilled in my life."  Then, after a few moments allow your brain to return to the world around you and take it on full force knowing that you have the tools to handle it.

Many people today practice affirmations.  And there is no question to their benefit.  Using beads to help you keep track of your affirmations is not only easy, but has the ability to help you by focusing your mind fully on the task at hand by engaging your physical body as well as your mental & spiritual bodies.

When using beads during affirmation use them just as you would for prayer or devotion.  Place the first bead between your thumb and first finger and affirm your intention.  Then move to the second.  If you have a long strand with a pattern to the beads, you may wish to use this pattern to dictate how many times your affirm your intentions or when you move on to a second and third affirmation.  However if you have a smaller set (some are as short as 4 -7 beads) you may wish to finish the entire set before moving on to the next affirmation.

End of the Day:
My first practice with beads was as a part of my bedtime routine.  This is a practice I have since allowed to fall away as it simply didn't work as a part of my routine. However, it's still one that I suggest everyone try as you never know what might work for you.

My nightly practice was very similar to what I imagine many of the original users would have done.  I ran each bead through my fingers repeating my nightly prayers, focusing on keeping those around me safe, asking the gods & elements for a rest full night, sound sleep, healthful blessings, etc.  However, in doing some research for this post I found a nighttime routine which I feel is much more worthy of being passed on.  This one comes from an article appropriately entitled "How to Use Prayer Beads" from crystal-cure.com.

It says: "When you are in bed and ready for sleep, pick up your beads and let their texture resonate in your body. As you rediscover each bead passing through your fingers, let yourself feel grateful for your day. It's also important to recognize the pain we might have caused or experienced. By acknowledging the truth of who we are, we can change and grow. As you approach sleep, breathe in and out with an awareness of your body. As you breathe in, focus on your toes, and on the exhalation, relax them. Continue breathing and moving up your entire body until you reach to the top of your head. It's perfectly okay to fall asleep while you are moving up the entire length of your body."

Worry Beads:
This website also included the idea of using beads as a source of calming at times of worry or stress.  I touched on this above, but I like the idea of replacing worry stones with your beads if you'll be carrying them.  I see no need to carry both a stone and your beads.  Of course if the practice of carrying a stone is foreign to you, then maybe adding the beads could be of pure benefit.

Like using them for grounding or to help you remain in the moment.  Using your beads in place of a worry stone, or as "worry beads" is the simple practice of rolling your beads in your hand or between your fingers at times of stress and allowing your mind to focus, only for a moment, on how they feel and (if you use them for affirmations or setting intentions) on the intention that you've put forth.  Allowing our mind to focus, even momentarily, on something positive, at times of stress, has been shown to improve brain function and overall positivity.

These are just some of the ways you can use your prayer beads throughout your day and in your life.  Not all of these will work for you, no doubt.  But if you can introduce just one beneficial practice it can open the doors for others.  Beads need not be fancy, but remember to find a set you enjoy.  If you don't like them, you won't use them.

I'd love to hear from anyone who has a bead practice!  Make sure to comment and let me know how you use your beads!

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