Stringing Beads for Meditation

I recently got back into jewelry making as a break from digital art. Every once in awhile I get overcome with the addictiveness of easily generating images. It feels like I’m making too many things, too quickly. In these situations I look for a way to slow it down. Sometimes I go back to painting but other times I like to string beads. For most of my adult life I have always had a box or a tin full of seed beads and stuff to string them on. Recently I got back into it and I started to contemplate the meditative nature of it. 

Stringing beads is an ancient practice.

Stringing beads as a form of meditation has always existed in the culture. It’s an ancient practice that transcends time, and spiritual beliefs. The repetitive act of selecting, threading, and arranging beads can produce a state where the mind can quiet itself and focus. Historically, the practice of stringing beads dates back thousands of years, and in many cultures beads are used in prayer. In ancient Egypt, beads were used in burial rites, symbolizing protection and guidance in the afterlife. In many cultures, beads are used in prayer. The mala beads of Hindu and Buddhist traditions, the rosary in Christianity are both examples of moving one bead to the next to focus on a prayer or meditations. 

Marina Abramović on repetative tasks for meditation

Marina Abramović touches on this phenomenon in her work “Counting the Rice.” The piece involves participants sitting for extended periods, counting and separating grains of rice. Abramović states, “Technology is great but it’s also a dangerous thing. We have to learn how we can gain free time back for ourselves. The only way to emerge is with some long durational activities, such as Counting the Rice.”

“You might think it’s crazy to sit and count rice, but this is exactly what you have to do to reclaim time. If you can’t count the rice for three hours, you can’t do anything good in life.”

Abramović’s “Counting the Rice” and the practice of stringing beads both illustrate the power of simple, repetitive actions to transform the mind. They remind us that meditation can be found in everyday mundane tasks, when we approach them with intention and focus.

Stringing beads is more than a crafty pastime. It’s a meditative practice rooted in ancient traditions. The tactile nature of the beads, combined with the rhythmic motion of stringing them, brings about a state of mindfulness. Eventually I got tired of this (and too busy with my other responsibilities in life.) But I love that there is a big box of beads just waiting for the next time I open it.