Meditation with a mala

I get asked this question frequently and it's inspired me to write a blog.

"Hope, how do I meditate?"

I used to answer with a simple explanation, usually something like this, "Don't put too much pressure on yourself.  We all have to start somewhere.  Find a space that you will use to meditate, and depending on your beliefs you can fill that space with crosses, oil, sage, candles, Ganesh, prayer flags, etc.  You choose this.  YOU.  It's a personal practice, don't allow anyone to choose for you. Start slow, sit, quiet your mid.  Don't become attached to a certain thought and really focus on the breath and present moment."  

Since going deeper in my practice, I would like to expand on my answer.

Meditation with a Mala. 

Present moment, I start my meditation with setting sacred space (sage & Tibetan bowls), journal free thoughts, feelings, and intentions.  The journaling helps me become aware of what I need to improve upon that day, intentions, hopes, goals, feelings, etc.  I then choose a mantra (sometimes choosing 10 & sometimes I stick with one...for a whole week...).  

Let's say my mantra is "I am peace".  I take the mala in my hand and with my thumb and pointer finger I slide the beads repeating the mantra as they slide between my fingers.  I allow my breath to guide the mantra meditation.  I find my rhythm, <inhale> "I am", <exhale> "peace", slide bead.  With each breath I come to the moment more sinking into the feeling more and more.  The important part is to really feel the mantra.  So as you say I am peace, feel it.  If after repeating the mantra that 108 times I don't "feel peace", I do it again.  After I'm done repeating the mantras, I then sit in silence eyes still closed, hearing the sounds, feeling the sun, air, wind, light, etc.  I breathe in the feeling and then offer thanks.  First to God, then the universe, then myself.  The times and lengths vary depending on a lot.  Obviously, if Steve needs me, I will tend to him, offering thanks for the love he brings to my life while tending to him, and then return to the practice.  Distractions are what you make them.  My dog barking, is a test to stay calm in the moment, the mail lady maybe needed some loving energy, etc.  

Personally, using mantra mala meditations have been the most effective in learning to be more present and loving.  It is important to remember that meditating doesn't magically make life's problems disappear.  It helps you become aware of the problem and be able to use the practice while working out the issue.

Example: Steve needs me to wipe his nose for the 30th time that hour while I'm trying to cook, sleep, fulfill orders, clean, pee, etc.  As I'm walking to him/or wiping his nose I am saying any of these (sometimes out loud), "I am patient, I am love, I am caring, I am peace, I am helping someone I love.." This allows the frustrations of that drippy nose to stay just that & not turn into me self loathing for snapping on Steve, who can't help his nose is running and can't help he cannot wipe his own nose...

We are ALL HUMAN.  We will have moments of weakness.  However, the more you meditate the more you find yourself gaining control during these human moments.  The quicker you stop the cycle-to breathe and turn the negative "Damnit" thought to a positive, "I am damn calm"-the quicker you can go back to appreciating the beauty of life.