Meditation: Beads

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As with the other meditation methods presented in this series, this approach emphasizes breathing. What is different is that it makes use of a string of beads to count or ‘buy’ breaths. The addition of the tactile element makes focusing on the breath and clearing the mind somewhat easier.


  1. Select a quiet spot and silence all communications devices.
  2. Hold the string of beads in one hand between the thumb and index finger. You will not simply play with the beads, but simply ‘count’ or touch them one at a time along with your breathing.
  3. Take a few deep breaths, and on the last exhalation, when you’re ready to take a breath, ‘buy’ the breath by pulling the next bead forward with your thumb and index.
    • The word ‘count’ is used to demonstrate how you should work through the string of beads. You are not encouraged to actually count the beads on your string as it might distract from paying attention to your rhythmic breathing.
  4. The sequence is: Breath out. When ready to breathe in, pull a bead forward, then breathe in naturally, releasing your breath when ready. Again, when your breath is expelled and you are ready to take another breath, pull the next bead forward and keep feeling it between your fingers as you breathe in and out again.


  • Beading, that is, the act of making strings of beads, is a great way to advance visually-guided manual skills. It also helps the child to get used to the idea of playing with the beads over time and piques their interest. Help is available through beading shops in most communities, or online.
  • The number of beads is important. Longer strings are more appropriate for adults, while strings of 1/3 to 1/2 an adult length are more appropriate for elementary school-aged children. These can be placed in pockets for use during the daytime and are minimally distracting to other students. Adult strings can be long, from 50-60 pea-sized beads to 2 or 3 times as many, creating multiple loops.
  • You can lay out beads by how much time you wish to spend meditating: Assume 10 breaths per minute, 5 minutes of breathing meditation would require 50 beads, for example. Consider using a variety of sizes to create patterns you can feel. Leave ‘markers’ along the road using occasional beads of larger or smaller size to keep track of where you are. Have a ‘start’ bead and perhaps a ‘half-way point’ bead. Get creative, but you are not bound by any rules.
  • Use bead materials that are appropriate in terms of both material and bead size. Be careful with small children who will be tempted to put things in the mouth. Bead meditation is appropriate for children 5 years and up, although 3 and 4 year-olds often appreciate the act of beading. When creating strings, be sure to secure the string so that it does not break, using extra loops of string or wire as required. Ask your bead dealer for help.
    • Consider graduating children’s strings from shorter strings made of larger beads of cheaper materials, to longer strings of smaller beads made with semi-precious stones.
    • We do not advise choosing beads because of reported medicinal benefits. Simply choose materials that are appealing to your own sensibilities and aesthetic, such as choosing a child’s favourite colour as the primary bead. The primary bead is the most commonly use bead in a string, as opposed to a complementary or occasional bead which is used as a marker or divider. Dividers can be smaller or larger than the primary bead. All beads should be easy to find and feel without looking.


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