I made my first mala yesterday. Since the word “mala” loosely translated means ‘garland’, I thought of a mala as a necklace rather than the device I created.
But I was shepherded by my mercy muse, who illustrated the use of the hand mala – by holding the talisman in the palm of the hand and fitting the fingers through the loop of beads at the top. Then one meditates, or contemplates, or seeks one’s inner peace or a path through outer chaos. That’s my guess at what I will use mine for.
I don’t know where this configuration originated – I’ve never seen one like this elsewhere. But like all innovations, it has real purpose.
First, creating an object of contemplation is a journey of humility and understanding to begin with. The size of the mala, and the number of beads, must be in keeping with the size of one’s hand. I learn not to take on too much or envision with greed.
The stringing must accommodate the use- which is to fold gently over one’s hand. Jewelry beading requires tightly fit beads on strands with no slack. The mala is a lesson in permissiveness: there must be room for the beads to move on the strand or the folding and draping cannot happen. You move the mala and feel some easing of tension, like a spine gradually releasing it’s tightness under its own weight. The fold over the hand allows you to see into the vertebrae of the strand – through the holes in the beads. There is the filament that binds them into one coherent statement. It takes up a small portion of the diameter of the ample drill holes. You think how easy it would be to snap it, sending all the beads flying. Like life, it seems fragile and tenuous, barely enough to bring the beads together, and so insubstantial in the face of their robust materiality.
My mala has a small dangle after the talisman, like a little postlude, or an afterthought. A little coda after the message of the biggest stone. Staircase wisdom.
Above all, the design process was a mission for me. Each bead seems like adding a step to a path through a place I know I’ll visit again and again. I want the talisman to be a comfort, and so it is with its creamy polished flat faces. I want calm and continuum in the handle, with the intervention of some unusual spacers. I want a center of clarity, and that place is filled by a large roundish ice quartz stone. I want the unexpected - that comes from a hand painted ceramic bead, from the color pink in this earthy green and grey composition, and from a small rondelles of labradorite. To remind me that everything is not as it seems. And that flashes of beauty exist in dark places.