I ordered my “water bowl” earlier in the week.
If you’re like most people you’re asking yourself, “Did he just say he ordered a water bowl?” You heard right. I don’t expect most people to understand. Water bowls are used in the practice of “water mala.”
So first I’ll explain what a mala is. A mala is a Buddhist or Hindu word for prayer beads and also signifies a garland of flowers. The circle of 108-beads draws upon the power of the never-ending circle found in the circular cycle of prayers common in diverse faith traditions.
Why water you ask? Water intersects and flows through everything. We cannot live without water but for a few days. This brief poem defines the importance of water. “Water intersects, flows through, everything. May it return the attention, the body, the intelligence, the wit and the wisdom to the present and be expressed on behalf of all.”
The goal of using the water mala is to learn to be mindful of the importance of maintaining balance in our lives. To fill the bowl with water and daily be aware of the level if water in the bowl. As the bowl sits, untouched, water will naturally begin to evaporate. It helps us to be mindful of the level and to replenish what has been removed before the balance becomes one which may negatively impact us.
The practice of using the water mala is a simple one. To fill the bowl with water and place it on a windowsill where it can be seen daily. Keep the bowl topped with water; as this is done, give attention to water. This is solitary, yet there are 107 other bowls in my mala.
People have asked why it is important to “give attention to water?” The request is to take this part slowly, consciously.
First is the genuine question of what it is to give. Not to pay, not to exchange, but to give. Then to turn attention to attention-not once, not then and it’s done, but each time one remembers. Attention, always being a new beginning, is not a task one fails.
To give attention to water, then, is to not settle into knowing it, but to let it be known. What is water? Perhaps needed tears. Perhaps a world crisis. Or the blue world itself. Or so much oneself there is no place apart to stand and see it. Today a commodity, a dried up sea, a life of urgent obligation; tomorrow, a place of unlimited support, unspeakable awe, tap water simplicity.
Receiving one of the bowls of a Water Mala is an invitation to take “water” personally. It is to be part of a large body of water, and yet know the utter privacy of sacred life. Keeping the bowl filled depends on you, just as you depend on water, just as you are water. When it is forgotten, it will go dry. Give it attention, and mind and body are likely tom receive a fresh sense of the beauty and support provided by the world “outside the window,” and quietly, palpably connect not only with the other bowls and people in the mala, but all life.
Each bowl is numbered 1 to 108 and sent to recipients around the world. In that way the holders of the other 107 mala bowls have a spiritual connection to each other
For me it is a visual reminder to slow down and be aware of my surroundings. A reminder there are things in my life within my control. Knowing this also allows me to be mindful of the need to accept responsibility for those things I can positively impact.
The Buddha said, “Let yourself be open and life will be easier. A spoon of salt in a glass of water makes the water undrinkable. A spoon of salt in a lake is almost unnoticed.”
I purchased my bowl from White Forest Pottery.