Eleanor Wiley teaches workshops on making prayer beads as a prayer-based practice. Maggie Oman Shannon is a spiritual director and author of Prayers for Hope and Comfort. In the introduction, they chart the many things prayer beads can do in terms of enriching our spiritual lives. They can be portable altars and markers of everyday spirituality. They can be cues to prayer, reverence, and meditation. "Because we can wear them, carry them, touch them as we drive a car or attend a meeting, prayer beads help us stay close to spirit in everyday life," they write.
The authors encourage us to personalize this practice:
"By infusing prayer beads with personal associations, we can keep our spirituality fresh. We make an ancient practice new and relevant to our contemporary life by creating practices designed to bring us into the present moment."
In this brief but edifying book, Wiley and Oman Shannon trace the history of prayer beads among Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Native Americans, and Africans. They discuss the symbolism of various colors, numerical patterns, stones, elements, amulets, and shapes. That is followed by instructions on four separate prayer bead projects.
In the best chapter in this helpful paperback, the authors offer ways to use prayer beads. Among their suggestions are beginning a new day, walking in the present moment, grounding practice, ending the day, gaining strength from your roots, special passages, battling addictions, celebrating achievements, and honoring your dreams.
Another chapter is packed with suggestions for making prayer beads for others. These might be for healing or leave-taking, for memorials and weddings, and for other special occasions or situations you are going through. Going one step further, Wiley and Oman Shannon describe prayer bead projects for communitiies, such as caregivers, families, teachers, peacemakers, animals, and more.
The back of the book includes a bibliography and resource section, including sources of supplies. Also valuable are a lovely collection of "Prayers for Contemplation with Beads." Here is one example:
"Look to this day,
For it is life,
The very life of life.
In its brief course lie all
The realities and verities of existence,
The bliss of growth,
The splendor of action,
The glory of power —
For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision,
But today, well lived,
Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
and every tomorrow a vision of hope."
— Sanskrit proverb