What is so special about the singing bowl? My story.
Photo by Guy Beider
Originally Posted On: What is so special about a Himalayan singing bowl | Bells of Bliss
Himalayan Singing bowls (also known as Tibetan singing bowls) have been known to Westerners since the late ’50s. They came to the US and Europe with Tibetan refugees who escaped the Chinese communist occupation. Now almost every yoga studio and wellness center has one of these instruments and even though every Tibetan gift shop sells singing bowls, very little is known about their origin. There has been much speculation about the nature of this mysterious bell-like instrument on the one hand and mounting scientific evidence showing the many health benefits it delivers on the other. The beautiful complex simplicity of the singing bowl’s voice helps to achieve relaxation, reduce stress, anxiety and physical pain. It has also been known to help normalize blood pressure and simply clear your mind if you give it a chance.
Focusing on the complex harmonic overtones is a great way to enhance the ability to concentrate and sharpen memory. Singing bowls are a perfect tool for meditation and brain function enhancement.
Although little is known about how singing bowls were used in the past, modern practitioners of sound healing are developing new skills and reinventing techniques of utilizing singing bowls for balancing and harmonization. There are many skeptical opinions, but if you know what to do with the bowl – you’ll see that it works! In the article “The Pulse Of A Singing Bowl” you may read about the nature of monaural beats and how the pulsating voice of the singing bowl positively influences the brain activity.
Instead of offering you the sources to learn from about the origins of singing bowls and what are they used for, I’d like to share a story about my healing and a great singing bowl master that I met while I was in Tibet.
In 2007, I heard the sound of a singing bowl for the first time. Although it felt like this sound was squeezing my heart, a sense of well being penetrated my whole essence. It felt like I was being blessed by some higher intelligence. Shortly after this, I purchased a bowl for my wife and me.
We didn’t know what to do with the sound bowl, besides striking it and listening, but there was something about that sound. The bowl was sitting on a decorative cushion, which rested on a coffee table and we couldn’t pass by it, without taking the stick and playing the bowl for at least a couple moments. The bowl was receiving so much attention as if it were a member of our small family.
Like a normal couple we had our ups and downs, but every time the bowl made a sound, the atmosphere at home would change for the better, also a more peaceful state of mind was created.
Back then, I was practicing meditation and was reading a lot about the influence of sound on mental, emotional and physical health. I was looking for some art to occupy myself with and knew that it would be related to sound therapy. The field of “sound healing” triggered my attention.
Most of the information I found on the internet and books just made me skeptical. I couldn’t accept for example that the notes of the modern Western musical scale somehow are related to chakras. Also, having a degree in mechanical engineering, I had a hard time believing that singing bowls are made of seven metals such as mercury, lead, and copper that have such a huge gap in melting temperatures. Even if that was true, why for God’s sake people would use poisonous metals for healing? I had so many questions and there was no one around to give me the answers. I purchased a few more singing bowls and was running my experiments. The knowledge started to flow towards me straight from the source – my instruments!
At this time, heavy arguments began to occur between my wife and me almost every day. Our relationship became very heavy on both of us and we decided to provide space to each other. Two months later my wife flew to Nepal. She was planning to take the hiking trail to Everest Base Camp. On August 24th, 2010, the plane she boarded with 13 other people departed from Kathmandu to the village Lukla and it never landed.
She died in an airplane crash on her 30th birthday and my heart died on the same day.
The emotional trauma I experienced couldn’t be described and It isn’t my intention to focus on these dark times.
Many days passed until I pulled out one of the singing bowls from my collection again. The sounds were reminding me of the times spent with my little family and this was causing me a lot of pain. I temporarily moved away from my passion for singing bowls.
Months later after the accident, I pulled out the same sound bowl my wife and I used to play together. All of a sudden, I noticed that this bowl had a very interesting character. Once struck, the melancholic sound of a time that will never come back was flooding the room up to the ceiling. My mind was stolen by this fluctuating sad tone. Listening to this singing bowl was just painful. However, something had shifted inside of my chest and the moment of instant healing took place!
I noticed a subtle overtone that I had never paid attention to before. It was the sound of pure joy! It was a ray of sun, so pure and delightful! I asked myself, why was I choosing to listen to the melancholic tone if there is something so delicious about this other tone showing up at the same time?!
That evening I stroke the bowl countless times. I remember myself listening and smiling. I was smiling and skipping a heartbeat each time the sonic serpent was showing up and pulling my sadness from the chest away to the void. It felt like some sacred knowledge is being unveiled to me. Something that can’t be told, but can be heard.
Since then, the meaning of the words “happiness is a choice” became clear to me. I started to practice listening to and choosing my mood, my thoughts, my emotions, my judgments, my reality. I became hungry for life, adventures and new experiences! I decided to take my life back.
A couple of years later, overcoming my fear, I visited Nepal and Tibet. While in Nepal, I did the Everest Base Camp trail hike. It was an act of closure on my past and the beginning of the next chapter of my life.
I also made a very interesting and fruitful connection with the local singing bowls authorities. I learned so much during this time! For a few weeks, I was spending ten to twelve hours each day, testing thousands of singing bowls in the house of the biggest collector in Nepal. I finally walked away, having made my first big purchase of 56 “Stradivarius” singing bowls.
In Tibet, I intended to visit the holy mountain Kailas, but the Chinese government blocked the way to the foreigners for a month. Instead of doing a Cora around Kailas, I joined a small group of tourists going to Central Tibet to visit five caves of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava). We also visited lots of Buddhist monasteries, some of them had never seen tourists before. Surprisingly, none of these monasteries were equipped with Tibetan singing bowls. I learned about the ceremonial usage of Tingshas (small flat round bronze bells) and gongs, but I was so unsatisfied, seeing no Tibetan bowls in Tibet. A part of me was still hoping to see the Buddhist monks do some practice using the singing bowl, besides collecting donations in them.
At some point along the way, I met an old monk who was playing a singing bowl. I asked the guide to come with me to talk to the elder. I asked the monk what exactly is he doing with the bowl? The guide translated my question and the elder struck the bowl with a wooden stick and smiled. I noticed that he was missing a couple of teeth, but I didn’t care, I just waited with childish excitement for the explanation. The explanation didn’t come. The monk just struck his singing bowl again and smiled like a mischievous child. I asked my guide to translate the question, how exactly does the monk use singing bowl? Is he just collecting donations with it, or is he using it for a specific ritual? Does he meditate using the sound? Or maybe he is cleansing his space? Maybe he is doing some sound healing work? The guide understood my point and patiently translated the request. The answer of the elder was one word only, which was translated into English as “listen”!
Yes, I said, I know the sound of the singing bowl, I have a collection of these at home. I am a certified sound healer! I have a sound healing master level certification! Could you please ask him how he uses the singing bowl? After talking for a while with the monk, my guide looked at me and simply said, “he just told you: – listen!” The monk struck the bowl again as if to emphasize what I just heard from the translator. He then smiled and said in Tibetan the word that I now knew the translation of.
No kidding, it was a great teaching for me! Listen!
When I came back home, I found new qualities in my instruments. After meeting the monk, I was inspired to become an even better listener to my clients and most importantly, to myself and the life around!
I now listen to my body and soul more carefully. I listen to the universe. I am focused on listening, thanks to that short, yet profound meeting with the monk.
Himalayan singing bowls brought so many profound lessons into my life, so many beautiful people, new life and new love. I facilitate sound meditation events at least once a week and I am still excited every time I prepare for the new event.
When I facilitate group sound meditations (what people are usually refer to as a sound bath), I play very gently and quietly. I make long pauses and allow the meditators to quiet their minds and to listen to their inner silence. Today I also help other people to become confident as an artist on the path of sound wellness. I impart all the knowledge and inspiration I gained over the years in my Sound Medicine Academy.
By sitting quietly, and allowing yourself to be without any opinions of who or what you are, or how the world should be, by just breathing carefully, without disturbing the harmony around, you will hear the universal love. By just listening to the silence between your thoughts, you realize that love has always been there, like the sky. This is the most important part of meditation and sound healing for me.