Long before fidget spinners arrived on the scene, people diminished anxiety and stayed focused using komboloi, or worry beads. They are a familiar sight and sound (click-click click-click) in Greece and the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. People young and old carry komboloi with them and slide the beads across the thread, often unconsciously, while they’re walking, working, talking, and waiting.
The word “komboloi” comes from kombos (knot) and logio (collection) or leo (say). It is believed that the Eastern Orthodox monks of Greece’s Mount Athos, the Holy Mountain, knotted string in increments to mark their prayers, or made beads from whatever was at hand, and these evolved into the Greek worry bead. Nobody seems to know how it caught on from there.
The repetitive motion of fidgeting with the beads does seem to relieve stress, and there is neuroscientific research to support this. Another theory is that the relief brought by fidgeting with komboloi is the result of stimulating acupressure points. According to Chinese medicine, pressure points related to the head and brain are located in the thumbs and fingers and are especially a trigger release for nervousness. Either way, there is something quite addictive about it and once you start handling them, it’s hard to stop!
creation: MY WORRY BEADS
Some sources say you should string 33 beads, others recommend 23, and still others say any prime number (that is one that is divisible only by itself, such as 17) to make a komboloi, but all agree that no matter how many beads it should be an odd number along with a fixed “priest” bead and a tassel. Ultimately, the length of the strand depends on the size of your hand.
Although komboloi are most often made from amber, amber resin, or coral, they can be made from any material. I chose flat oval golden-sheen obsidian for my worry beads because it felt right in my hand and I liked the color. Use something that won’t break (so avoid glass) or wear out (also avoid pearls or painted wood—unless you want a worn effect).
I used 15 beads, because I wanted something small enough to put in my pocket, and left a space of about four fingers’ width between the worry beads and the priest beads, stringing them on sturdy silk cord that will hold up to a lot of handling. The space between the main beads and priest beads is to allow room for you to move them around and fidget.
Instead of a priest bead and tassel I used three different-sized beads at the end of my komboloi to avoid the tangle of the tassel and because I liked how the weight of these focal beads balanced the worry beads.
consideration: SEARCHING FOR CALM
To use your komboloi, start at the focal beads and slide one of the worry beads along the thread to meet it—click, repeat, click, repeat, click, repeat ad infinitum, staying mindful of your beads and using this focus to help percolate and process whatever might be making you anxious. Whether you use your komboloi to ease the stress of the moment or to put yourself within the context of the vastness of the universe, you will find that they are a reliable and outstanding mindfulness tool.
This blog has been extracted from Mindful Beads by Alice Peck.