A mala is a string of with a varying number of beads with one central or terminal bead. It is a tool used to keep your mind on your meditation practice. Malas are generally made from different materials such as tulsi (basil) wood, sandal wood, rudraksh seeds, rosewood, or crystal to name a few. Each type of material has certain properties which subtly affect the subconscious mind of the practitioner. Meditation can be quite a tricky practice because the mind is like a naughty child. By its very nature, the mind tends to wander off during the meditation practice. If one’s energy is low at the time of meditation, falling asleep can result. If the energy is too high, fantasy and distraction become the barriers. At such times, the mala provides the much needed anchor. The mala beads are moved in rhythm with the breath and the mantra, so that both-sleep as well as excessive mental distraction-are prevented by this action upon the beads. A personal mala is a wonderful accessory to meditation, which when used regularly with a personal mantra, absorbs the vibrations of the practice. It becomes like a close friend or a comfortable piece of clothing. There are different ways to “tell the beads” depending on your tradition, be it Tibetan, Buddhist or some other way. In general, the practice begins at the larger or terminal bead and continues around the loop until that bead is reached again. That bead is never passed over. So if you plan to do more than one round, the mala is turned around to proceed again in the reverse direction. After a while of practicing your meditation with a mala, whenever it is taken up, it automatically conditions the mind to the meditative state.