Singing Bowls

My relationship with my Antique Tibetan Singing Bowls.

I purchased my first two contemporary singing bowls from a German company who have introduced German engineering to the traditional manufacturing process of the bowls made in Nepal.

I started to introduce the two bowls into my massage routine with extremely positive feedback from my clients. A few months later Thomas, the German sound shaman, was delivering his annual presentation to the German dentistry conference in Gozo. He left me with another 50 singing bowls to look after for a year until the next conference. These are the bowls that are pictured above.

These bowls were antique and had such a different resonance that I couldn’t help but fall a little deeper in love with them. They have a profound effect on the body & mind, wait and see.

There is so much marketing information on the web about singing bowls it can be confusing and contradictory, to say the least. It also seems that everyone who dips into complementary therapies reads a story, adopts it as gospel and then turns it into doctrine further confusing the simple truth of the bowls which is that we don’t really know how they work.

The bowls sound great, feel great, look great and I would love to invite you to create your own opinion.

What do people say about Singing Bowls?

  • Singing bowls awaken a beautiful and powerful mystery . . .
  • They produce the sacred sound of AUM (my logo & tat)
  • Their rich sonic vibrations alter space, mind, and time (I still charge by the linear hour)
  • They are used for meditation and for following the Yoga of Sound
  • Monks used to use them for food
  • I use one for chocolate bar storage

The singing bowls originated in the pre-Buddhist, shamanic Bon Po culture of the Himalayas – often called ‘Tibetan’ singing bowls, they are actually made in Bhutan, Nepal, India and Tibet.

They are ‘resting bells’ and, as such, part of the Bell family, which culture seems to date back to a Bronze Age in China some 4,000 years ago, which, at its peak, extended geographically as far as Burma and Indochina. However, Chinese and Japanese resting bells are made in a very different manner.

What are they made from?

Some sources state that the bowls are made from the seven sacred metals, corresponding to the sacred seven planets: gold (Sun), silver (Moon), mercury (Mercury), copper (Venus), iron (Mars), tin (Jupiter), antimony (Saturn). Other sources say that a selection (of anything from three to nine) from a total of nine metals was used (the seven listed above plus nickel and zinc) and yet another consisting of twelve metals.

History and legend

Legend goes on to say that the iron was sometimes replaced by meteorite found on Himalayan mountaintops, metal from the heavens, or that meteorite was added also.

Unlike some of the other more familiar Tibetan sound-producing devices, whose use is well documented in the Tibetan Buddhist canon, there is absolutely nothing written about the singing bowls, even though they have been found in both monasteries and private homes.

The sound resonating from these singing bowls is pure and very powerful in centring the mind and body. The Tibetans, when questioned about the use of the bowls, are vague, saying that the bowls are simply vessels for food – as indeed they have mostly become.

However, I do find it hard to imagine that a bowl made of seven metals including gold and silver, which can vibrate up to seven individual and simultaneous tones, each at its own consistent frequency, and can sustain such a rich vibration for literally minutes, was intended simply as a container for grain.

Certain bowls are designed with a very thick ‘lip’ (or rim), and this would be totally unnecessary were it intended simply for containing food, but is very significant for the sound qualities that it produces! Some accounts actually state that it is forbidden, even within the monasteries, to talk about the bowls and that the highest lamas used them in secret rituals to travel to other dimensions and other realms. How exciting!

The legends say further that the secrets of sound yield so much power that they must be kept hidden. It is also true that this path of sound (Nada Yoga) is not for everyone, including monks.( simple massage seekers should be ok)

Altered brain states?

Whatever their original intended purpose, it is a happy coincidence for us that many of them resonate with certain altered brain states. It has been found that among the wave patterns of different singing bowls there is a measurable wave pattern that is equivalent to the alpha waves and/or theta waves produced by the brain.

In such altered states we can become less aware of our physical body; have ‘visual’ experiences; experience ‘travelling’ to other dimensions’, which certainly helps to switch off from the office.

These bowls instil a sense of very deep relaxation and the experience of ‘inner space opening up’. While even the act of listening to the sound of a singing bowl stops one’s internal dialogue, making the bowls an excellent tool for meditation, centring and inducing shamanic trance states. These are all reasons as to why I use them in my massage and hypnotherapy practice.

The actual act of playing a bowl is a meditation in itself.

While playing bowls we can rise up into communion with the divine realm (or not, don’t panic) through entering into the mystical world of the muse of sound.

There are two basic ways of playing a singing bowl: you can either strike it with a mallet (there are a variety of these) for percussive, pulsating tones; or you can rub around the edge with a wooden ‘wand’ for a sustained effect (in a way similar to that of rubbing a finger around the edge of a wine glass). With both mallets and ‘wands’ the basic ‘rule-of thumb’ is that the larger the bowl – then the larger the wand/mallet.

Resting the bowl upon the palm of your hand ( or anywhere on the body) will usually enable you to appreciate the experience to a greater depth than placing the bowl on a pad or sandbag on a tabletop when using the mallet. Using the wand, we mostly find that, by just resting the bowl in the palm of the hand, the lower sounds will be accentuated, while dampening the bowl by bringing your fingers up lightly around the bowl will decrease the lower sounds and accentuate the higher frequencies, however, too high up and the sound disappears!

The pressure that you use to apply the wand onto the rim of the bowl will affect the sounds the bowl produces, as also will the speed with which you rotate the wand.

If you have never encountered the use of singing bowls in treatments, then you are in for a treat.