It seems like everywhere you turn these days someone is sharing a new tool or concept for helping us stay focused throughout our days. From day planners to devotionals, essential oils to e-courses... focus seems to be at the front of everyone's minds and being "more mindful" is on everyone's list of New Year's resolutions.
Remember the old ClipArt graphic of an idex finger with a tiny bow tied around it? This was the universal symbol for "needing to remember something important", inspired by the odd physical act of tying a string around your finger to serve as a visual reminder, that I'm assuming people did before pencils, or iPhones, or whatever. But whether it was a reminder to pray for a loved one, make a doctor's appointment, or to not act on an old habit, every time you saw the string, you were reminded of that thing.
While there are many tools we can use today to help us remember important things, by far the most beautiful I have seen are the prayer beads known as "malas", traditionally worn around the neck or wrapped around one's wrist. Historically, the beads themselves were blessed by monks in remote villages along the Himalayan Mountain range, and presented to their wearer as a tangible reminder of a specific idea or meditation such as "patience", "forgiveness", or "peace". Today, they have become popular accessories in yoga communities and for individuals simply wanting to wear a tangible reminder of their intentions and desires. Similar to rosary beads, the idea behind a mala is that as each bead is passed through one's fingers, a prayer or mantra is repeated until you reach the beginning.
Not only do I love the cultural and historical significance of malas, I also think they happen to be absolutely beautiful both as personal accessories and home decor, so when my friend Lisa approached me with the idea of carrying her newly designed mala bead necklaces in the shop, I was beyond excited! They are simple but stunning, all one-of-a-kind, and made of aromatic sandalwood, natural beads, and semi-precious gemstones. Read more about these new beauties below, and head over to the shop to pick out one that speaks to you!
Almost a year ago, I had the immense pleasure of visiting India for the first time, and while the country itself was vibrant, thrilling, and wild beyond my greatest expectations, I was also able to meet and travel alongside some of the most incredible women I have ever met. One of those women, Lisa Kumari-Conlon, also happened to be responsible for coordinating the logistics of the trip – like where we slept, ate, and could each spend a small fortune on the very best souvenirs.
Lisa’s dad, Steve, founded Above the Clouds, a boutique travel agency, in 1982 and spent the following three decades growing it into a premier resource for adventure travel to Southern Asia, India, and South America. In 2013, Lisa took over the day-to-day operations of ATC and has since expanded to include Tales From Above The Clouds- a thoughtful collection of handmade, sustainable, and ethically- sourced jewelry and accessories, including our new one-of-a-kind Mala Bead necklaces.
Each of these malas has been lovingly assembled by hand in the USA with beads and semi-precious gemstones acquired along the trails of the Himalayas and in parts of Indonesia, during Lisa’s many treks and visits over the past few years. All of the beads used in these necklaces have been repurposed from old malas that were given as gifts or found in the rural monastic communities throughout the region.
Nomadic tribes have a long history of trading precious and semi-precious stones along their herding paths across the great Tibetan Plateau that stretches from Western China to Kashmir, India. Today, bead and jewelry making is still a vibrant part of their ancestor’s culture and a way of life for many people in that part of the world.
Traditional malas have 108 beads denoting the auspicious belief found in Hindu and Buddhist beliefs that are indigenous to Eastern and Southern Asia. Our malas feature unique patterns of aromatic sandalwood, rudraksha, raktu, and lotus beads, with turquoise, malachite, and lapis gemstones. The plush tassels add movement and playfulness, reminding the wearer to not be weighed down by the world.
While mala beads have been used historically in Buddhist and Hindu traditions, they are becoming popular tools for prayer and meditation in a variety of beliefs. Although they are designed to be worn around the neck or wrapped around a wrist, we think our malas look just as beautiful as decorative objects, whether hung on a wall or displayed on a shelf or tabletop!
Shop Our Collection of Handmade Malas: