Brain Rules & The Mala

I’ve got a number of key things rattling around in my brain of late.  105 bead malaAs ever, John Michael Greer’s essays about peak oil are on my mind, as are Dimitry Orlov’s.  Both men, as well as Sharon Astyk, have been commenting recently on the potential of religion to develop structures and patterns which lead to the kinds of resilient communities which can survive.

I’ve also been reading BRAIN RULES, by John Madina. I haven’t gotten very far yet, by any means.  That said, though, he’s presenting twelve pieces of advice based on brain research, of what makes the brain function more effectively and cleanly.  And the first piece of advice is that exercise — as little as 20 minutes a day — can substantially clear the brain’s mental fog.  The experimental evidence is fairly sound: active-body people tend to be active-mind people into their 80s and 90s. Sedentary people tend not to survive their 70s.  Moreover, our modern brains evolved on the savanna of Africa, where we often traveled as much as 15 miles in a day.  Our bodies and brains crave activity, and lots of it, because that’s how our brains function best.  It’s key to bear this in mind, too: exercise is self-reinforcing, because it build the blood vessels that carry more oxygen to all parts of the body, not just the brain.  And the brain needs LOTS of oxygen, because it burns a lot of glucose and generates many toxins and free radicals in the process, and those toxins and free radicals are flushed out of the brain (and the body) by breathing.

So. Why is there a photo of a Mala here? (A mala is a string of prayer beads with 108 beads on it, and two strings of counter beads on a bell and a lightning bolt; I think they come from Tibetan Buddhism, but maybe my teacher Jason Miller can comment on that)

I thought to myself, “how can I combine the reminder to get 20 minutes of walking exercise a day with a religious obligation?” And I happened to have my mala handy at the time. Why not combine mala-based meditation with the walking exercise?

Today is Wednesday, so I tend to use the prayer for Mercurial hours:

Lord of intellect perfectly applied,
who keeps the valves of creation in the service of life and light:
let a ray of thy intelligence descend upon me,
to awaken in me the power of Mercury.

Timing myself in a free period today, I found that this prayer, said once-per-bead, twice around the mala, is 20 minutes of walking around the school campus. I’m more awake and alert as a consequence.  The brain-rule that John Madina reports — “get exercise to improve brain health” — can probably be timed with a mala, and the Hermetic prayers for the days of the week.

I hope this information is useful to you. I’m hoping it will prove useful to me.


  1. Wonderful idea! I think I may need to get a Mala for my daily walk around campus now 🙂 (somehow i don’t think my snake & raccoon bone prayer beads would be quite as inconspicuous).

    • I think you’re right that the beads you currently have will be conspicuous 🙂 but the underlying theme is the same — what set of exercises and activities will, when given the trappings of religion, result in awarenesses and states of mind that are useful to the Work?

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