Using meditation (mala) beads has been central to my meditation practice for over a decade now. This is my quick how-to. Use it has a guide to help you develop your own practice - nothing is set in stone! Try a few ways and see what works best for you...
The beads are meant to help you keep track of how many times you’ve said your mantra. They also give you something tactile to come back to when your mind starts (inevitably) wandering. When your mind starts wandering, just come back to your beads and re-focus.
If I am particularly stressed or am having trouble getting settled, I take an inhale on one bead, say my mantra (in my head) and exhale on the next bead, say my mantra and repeat until I get settled. You should feel a difference in a few beads.
Repeating your mantra 108 times is meant to quiet your mind & make accessing your subconscious and intuition easier. There is a purpose to all this!
Once I reach 108, I pause and the real meditation begins.... This is where I either set an intention or think about a problem I am trying to solve. Counter to what everyone else says to do, I pick one then just let my mind wander and see what I come up with - usually it’s an answer or an action to take. By the time I am done, I always feel one step closer to where I'm trying to go!
The whole process usually takes me about 20 minutes and leaves my mind feeling calm and crystal clear.
As it was taught to me, this practice was meant to be done every day for 40 days and it is said that by the end something fantastic will have happened...and it always has for me. (We’ll save why this happens for another time 😉)