First published on the Holistic Journal, read my latest interview with a leading thinker in health, happiness and wellbeing.
The idea of crystals and mala beads might seem a little too ‘mystical’ for some, but for thousands of years people have been proving their healing benefits, and using them to harness their health and wellbeing. There is something very special about particular stones and the potential energy they hold. Mala beads have been a meditation and mantra tool for as long as we can date back to, and they’re way more meaningful than a fashion accessory……
Meet Helen Forester, creator of unique mala beads, crystals collections, mum, yoga practitioner, meditator, long distance runner, business woman, and a lady with big plans….
Q:What first drew you towards an interest in crystals and mala beads?
A: I have always had a fascination with crystals ever since I bought a piece of Amethyst from Kensington Market (RIP) when I was about 15. I never really knew much about them, however, until around 3 years ago, when I was given a Quartz point by a friend. This rekindled my interest and I began looking deeper into their significance. I began creating jewellery just before my daughter was born 2.5 years ago. I started with simple mala bracelets, and wire-wrapped crystal pendants and necklaces but quickly moved onto creating mala beads as I was already using them in my meditation practice and as part of my preparation for the birth of my daughter. It took me around a year and a half to ‘perfect’ (although I’m continually learning!) my technique.
Q: What are your favourite crystals and what do you use them for?
A: I’m not sure that I have any favourites, but there are definitely crystals that I am frequently drawn to for different reasons. At the moment, I love Moss Agate and Moonstone. These are very feminine stones, which represent new beginnings. I use crystals in my meditation practice and in creating moon water for myself in my every day life – in fact, I’m never without a piece of crystal somewhere on my person, whether it be in a mala, in my pocket or under my pillow! Amethyst is a bit of a staple of mine and I even have a piece in both my daughter and my son’s bedrooms to help calm and soothe the atmosphere.
Q: Is there a particular crystal that works well for people at this time of year?
A: As we move into Autumn, anything that helps to provide stability (Ayurvedically-speaking, we’re now in Vata season, so may tend towards more ‘flighty’ behaviour). balance and greater insight as the night’s darkness increases. For these reasons, crystals such as Fluorite, Moon, and Sunstone, Carnelian and Moss Agate are all great for around this time of year.
Q: Do you have a practice of using your own mala beads? And how might we start a practice of our own?
A: I use my mala beads every evening before I go to sleep. As a busy mum of two, who both teaches and runs a business, it can be difficult to find time for my own meditation practice, but also to wind down at the end of the day. For these reasons, I started practising japa mantra (reciting a mantra 108 times using a mala to keep track) before bed every night. Just to have that time to myself every day (especially if my children get up before I do meaning I don’t get my asana practice in!) Then I can find some kind of space. For me, meditation gives me more time in my day – as odd as that may sound!
For those wishing to start a japa meditation practice, I’d really advise starting with patience. It can be challenging to recite the same mantra 108 times without becoming distracted by something – either externally or internally – especially in this age of distractions! I began with just nine recitations using the sections of each finger and trying to get to the point where I could do this fully focused on my mantra for the whole nine chants. Then just increase as you feel is appropriate. Some days I find I become completely
absorbed quite quickly, some days my mind might be everywhere. Be patient though. Find a mantra that you can connect with (or even better, that someone (your teacher, for example) has given you) and then work on that.
Q: Have you always been interested in health, wellness and alternative practices?
A: I’ve always led a very active life, as a young dancer and then a rower throughout my teen years and until the end of University when I took up long distance running. I began practising yoga during my PGCE as a way of relaxing and it quickly became clear that this was something more than just a form of exercise and relaxation. Four years later, I completed my 200hr yoga teacher training with Claire Missingham and have been teaching off and on since then. Everything else has just stemmed from this really, and as I”ve become more aware of alternative practices, so I’ve tried to incorporate them into my every day life.
Q: You make custom designs and speciality collections, but do you have a favourite item you’ve made and felt was particularly special?
A: I have always loved creating custom malas and am always so humbled when people approach me to create something special just for them. Pregnancy malas are always wonderful as are malas for anyone who has a specific use for them, those going through transitions or difficult times, for example.
I have recently been working on my Goddess mala collection and these have opened up a whole new side of the art for me. I see my designs in a completely different way now more as a way of telling a story through colours and crystals.
Q: What does your typical ‘day in the life…’ look like?
A: This is a bit of a difficult question to answer as every day is so different. I work twice a week as a teacher in a school and when I’m not teaching I am caring for my two children all day. I tend to find it easier to break my business work into bite-sized chunks of ten minutes at a time. I’ll make myself a list of what I need to get done in the morning, or the night before, and then try to work through that as best I can – sending emails, packing up orders and the general admin side of things. I try not to be too hard on myself if I don’t get everything done as this isn’t conducive to anything. My ‘working day’ really starts at around 7pm, when my children are generally in bed. This is when I create most of my malas and get through orders.
Q: With the addition of a new baby in the last few months and now two young children to care for, how has running your own independent business and juggling family life been?
A: I now have a 2.5 year old and a 9 month old, which can make things interesting at times. For me, it’s just about being super-organised and open to any sudden changes like tummy bugs, sleep regressions and teething issues! It can be very frustrating at times if things don’t go as I’d planned or if I take longer to create something or get back to someone than I’d like – for example if one or both of my children are having problems settling in the evening – but I just have to remind myself that they aren’t in control of their bodies right now and have as much patience as I can possibly muster with them and myself. On the other hand, it’s made me even more determined to see that this works as I’d like it to. They give me an incentive to keep going and a focus that I’ve never had before. I’m definitely less of a procrastinator than I was!
Q: Do you have any advice for someone looking to follow their dreams and start up their own venture?
A: Just go for it. Do your research, practice what you preach and start as soon as you can. Be really organised and get a good accountant. Take advantage of social media and where it can take you, and ask for help when you need it.
Q: What three things do you do to look after yourself and your health each day?
- A green smoothie in the morning
- Getting outside with my little ones as much as I can
- Meditation in the evening.
Q: Do you have any favourite quotes for us to remember?
A: The Arthur Ashe quote, ’Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can,’ has really become my mantra since I had my daughter and I am constantly reminding myself of it.
Q: What’s next for Chant Malas?
A: I have so many plans and only 24 hours in a day! Getting my blog up and running; my ‘Once Upon a Mala’ project, which involves 1 mala and 108 stories, all written by those who come into contact with the mala that will be making it’s way around the world in the next couple of months; more amazing collections, mala-making workshops, more festivals and opportunities to get out and actually meet the people who buy my creations, crystal healing workshops, moon water kits…the list goes on. I’d love to find some time to take more courses for my own personal practice and to develop my knowledge of nada yoga, the yoga of sound, for example.
If you would like to get involved in the ‘Once upon a mala’ project, please contact Helen for more information by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and giving your name and location.
Follow Helen via social media:
@chantmalas on Instragram, Facebook and Pinterest.
Go to www.chantmalas.co.uk to view and buy malas, crystals and other yoga and meditation-inspired pieces, and for further information about Chant Malas.
Use code emma15 for 15% off your whole order until 1st December 2016!