I got introduced to malas last year through my friend, Shia Lynn Toh, founder of The Artsy Craftsy, who was selling them on her creative shoppe. I was attracted to the colours, unique charms and tassel at the end of the long string of beads, so I bought a few to wear and hang as decoration.
I later discovered that malas are strands of 108 beads plus a “guru” bead, traditionally used for meditation, chanting or prayer. I noticed that yoga teachers and students sometimes like to wear them.
Coincidentally, I witnessed the power of chanting during my grandmother-in-law’s funeral in February. The funeral opened my eyes to the simplicity and power of chanting. Most of the devotees had a personalised mala to chant with, and they looked so pretty and functional at the same time.
I decided to revisit chanting again and found that it calmed down my busy mind and helped to reduce work-related stress and anxiety. Even something as simple as a chanting CD made a difference to my state of mind.
Then, along came this workshop organized by Moolamala ( Instagram: @moolamala ) called the Mala Making Morning. I remember that Shia Lynn invited me to this event earlier in the year, but I was not available to attend.
The name of the workshop was so catchy – you spend a morning making malas, how lovely is that? Intrigued, I decided to give a shot at making a personal mala for myself at the workshop.
The day arrived and I leapt out of bed, feeling excited and ecstatic. The workshop was held at Moolamala founder, Loo Jia Wen’s, residence at Bukit Damansara. As it was a Sunday, the drive was fabulously smooth and easy. There was ample parking space in the residential area and upon pressing the doorbell, I was welcomed and ushered into the workshop space by Jia Wen herself.
The room where the workshop was held was brightly lit and airy. Light snacks, tea and coffee were available all day long, and a large packet of nasi lemak was provided for lunch.
A rectangular table for 8 persons was placed in the centre of the room, and at the far end, a table neatly displayed all the colourful materials we needed – from semi-precious stones to threads and reference books on the properties of crystals.
Jia Wen kickstarted the workshop by sharing her story on how she started her journey into making malas when she was based in Ubud, Bali as a yoga practitioner.
We were then led through a simple and relaxing meditation. After the meditation, we drew and coloured our intentions on a piece of paper provided. I already had a vision about my first mala, and I wanted to make something with pink and white crystals, the sweetest and most calming colours.
According to Jia Wen, malas are normally made of natural materials: rudraksha seeds, semi precious stones, silk thread and cotton thread. Each mala will comprise of 108 counting beads (rudraksha or crystal), a larger bead for the guru bead, marker beads (if desired) and a self-made tassel.
The workshop package included a whole strand of 108 rudraksha, and up to 25 crystals or metal finishings including the guru bead for our mala. Those who prefer to use more crystals could buy additional ones in strands or RM1.00 per bead. I think it was great that we had freedom and creativity to personalise our mala (as long as our budget allowed it!)
For the workshop, Jia Wen supplied us with a handmade pillow which doubled as a bead tray (available to purchase and take home at RM20). It had a spiral stitched into it to hold the beads. She also taught us to fold our own paper tray, which was just ingenious! After we’ve chosen our personal beads, the design process began. Laying out our 108 rudraksha seeds as the base, we counted and replaced the seeds where we wanted the crystals or marker beads to be.
I was excited to begin, so I made my selection carefully but quickly. Following my intention and intuition, I selected light blue, dark blue, white, pink and coral stones.
When we were ready to start, Jia Wen showed us the technique of tying basic knots and double knots for our malas. Traditional Hindu malas have a knot between each bead and that’s what we were going to do. Some of us used a pin to help with the knotting.
Most of us being first-timers, we actually needed to focus on making our knots properly or we could make a mistake. Even chatting could throw us off track sometimes! Not to worry, we had our mala mama, Jia Wen, watching closely over her students and coming to the rescue.
Throughout the day, the workshop flowed in an informal and organic manner and Jia Wen did not hesitate to answer any of our questions at any time (and boy, did we have a lot of questions!) She was also quick to share a solution for our mala if we got into trouble.
Different people had different speeds, and some of us finished faster than the others. For me, I had several battles with double knotting (and unknotting!) where Jia Wen came to my rescue a few times. I only needed to do double knotting for 9 faceted white jade beads which had slightly larger holes (their glimmery facets were so beautiful) but boy, was it hard! I still haven’t mastered it yet and will need more practice.
The last step of the process was adding the guru bead and choosing the tassel thread colours to match our malas. Since it was almost 5.00pm and the sky was getting gloomy, Jia Wen helped me to finish mine quickly. Making a tassel wasn’t as hard as I thought and it was easier than the double knotting, phew!
Once completed, I couldn’t wait to wear the mala around my neck. Holding my personal mala in my hand, I felt so happy about the finished creation. It radiated peace, love and clarity as I had hoped.
Here are some photos of my workshop mates and I, celebrating at completing the workshop!
I shall upload Part 2 of my mala-making experience soon. So, do stay tuned!