I am always on the look out for new experiences for my students, so when the local Buddhist centre offered to run a free workshop on Himalayan Singing Bowls I jumped at the opportunity. Now I know it is not directly linked with the spec but I strongly believe that wider experiences are crucial to a student’s development, helping them see beyond the exams, homework and endless monotony of power points.
So my first year’s ventured out of the classroom and down to the Hub, ready to enter the unknown world of meditation through Singing Bowls. Everything was already set up, by our workshop organiser Kate, who had brought with her over twenty singing bowls from her many travels across Southern Asia. The students sat on the floor in a large semi circle and asked to close their eyes as Kate walked around gently circling a small singing bowl in her hands close to them. After taking a few photos I joined the students and had my first experience of a Signing Bowl and what an experience it was! It was amazing, totally captivating, as if it touched deep inside your core and you just felt peaceful, the vibrations permeating over your body, making you feel totally calm. One student said “It was very calming, put all the stresses in the back of my mind, I didn’t consider any troubles.”
Throughout the workshop, the students learnt about the history and practices of using Singing Bowls especially for meditation. Originally understood to have come from Buddhist monasteries in Tibet and used as sacred vessels in monastic ceremonies, the bowls have sound qualities previously unheard in the west. We explored how different bowls, those that are hand beaten or carved and decorated, each have a distinctly different sound. Every hand forged bowl was unique, with a quality of sound that was determined by the precise composition of the bronze alloy used, the shape, thickness and size. This all affected the bowls fundamental note, pitch, harmonic resonance, duration of vibrations and tone. What was so surprising what how you seem to connect with one bowl and sound more than another. Certain sounds, for me, were awful, like nails on a chalk board whereas other sounds seemed to consume me in a blanket of calmness.
Then it was time for us to give it a go. Students were invited to select a bowl of their choice and with guidance were instructed how to play them through either gently tapping the side or circling the rim. It is harder than it looks! Eventually with gentle effort and patience we soon had our bowls singing.
The final part of the session and probably the most enlightening was discussing the meaning behind Chakras, the belief that the human body has 7 energy points each highlighted with a colour and note from the piano. Piano keys go from C, D, E, F, G, A, B so the C note is the first Chakra around the bottom of the spine going up through the spine finishing at the crown of the head on a B note. Each singing bowl plays one fundamental note which connects with that specific chakra. The belief is that a singing bowl can help balance a Chakra’s energy, restoring harmonic patterns and energies throughout the body. So each person connects with a different bowl and sound depending on the area of their body in most need.
So as a little experiment, and with a few brave volunteers, we had a go at realigning a student’s Chakra’s. The student lay on the floor and 7 students sat around, each student with a different bowl that played one of the piano notes. In a sequence they gently tapped their bowl starting with the C and working up the body each time. Just litening as an observer was amazing, hearing the different sounds of the bowls, connecting with each note together in a repetitive sequence. The first student who experienced this said “as an apparent atheist, I had an unexplainable experience which has quite substantially affected my emotions, like I appreciate the beauty but also the sadness in things around me. Especially when listening to music.” Another student noted how ‘the many sounds the bowls made held me in a trance, as the vibrations ran through my ears and head. Fantastic feeling it was and I gained a new edge with my mindfulness.”
Overall the workshop was enlightening, eye opening and extremely fulfilling (or ‘epic‘ as one of my students said). It is surprising how something so simple can have such an affect on your body and mind. I highly recommend taking part in a workshop or a meditation class using a singing bowl or gong, to fully capture your own distinct experience. As each singing bowl is unique and connects with individuals in different ways, it is advised that if you would like to buy a singing bowl do so in person (rather than online) so you can find ‘one-ness’ with your bowl.
Thank you to all who took part and to Kate for taking the time to share her Singing Bowls with us 🙂
Check out Mindfulness: Living Mindfully not Mindlessly for more information.