I like how my mala beads act as a kind of simple timer and has helped me become more aware of time when meditating.
The 'mala meditation timer' idea is simple: on average it will take you a certain amount of time to complete 108 breaths at a relaxed pace (or mantras or whatever). On my string of 54 beads, I do two breath cycles per bead, and that's about almost 9 minutes for 108 breaths or 12 a minute.
I think of it as a useful technique to be able to track time in this way with malas when meditating. Sometimes people can have anxiety about too much passing of time when meditating. Sometimes the lack of being aware of time passing when meditating bothers some people. Sometimes when learning to meditate one can feel impatient and restless. Part of this comes from perception of time and what we think it means.
And later on when in a state of deeper meditation you can seem to lose all track of time. Sometimes I enjoy meditating this way as well. I think there is a place for that as well, but sometimes it's useful (or necessary) to put a time limit on your meditation. Sometimes we feel we can only afford a certain amount of time to meditate in the day (or not at all). We often use a 'lack of time' as an excuse to not meditate. I think setting aside a few minutes to meditate in a day is the most precious use of time. It's a really a matter of what one values and gives priority in life.
Knowing that when I meditate a full set of 108 breaths is slightly under 10 minutes gives me a new sense of time. If I've got 10 minutes to spare, (and I have some solitude) sometimes I'll pull out my malas and meditate for the full set of (108) slow deep breaths. I think regular practice of this method helps me reach a meditative state much faster, easier and deeper.
Understanding breathing as time passing is rather interesting. Sometimes it's said, "don't waste your breath", when people are talking about things that are futile or pointless. The breath is precious and our source of life. Each breath is a passing moment of one's limited time alive.
The average adult's respiration rate at rest is something around 12-18 breaths per minute.
Yoga and meditation often teaches that to slow, deepen and relax the breath is more ideal and gives better health. Perhaps with practice I will eventually be able to slow my breathing to 11 or 10 breaths a minute?
Would this not be a good practice to develop?
I've read one theory that says "aging is proportional to metabolism which in turn is proportional to respiratory rate." (And I've no idea if this has been scientifically proven or not for humans.)
Any thoughts or insights anyone care to add?