Singing bowls belong to an ancient tradition of being used in religious and healing ceremonies. They are seen as important aids in achieving spiritual calmness and helping to balance chakras.
A singing bowl is a bowl that is used to make musical sounds. These sounds are used to accompany meditation, contemplation, religious ceremonies, healing ceremonies and yoga. The sounds come from the vibrations caused in the bowl when it is struck or rubbed with a purpose-made mallet (also called a ringer or striker).
Singing bowls resemble an upturned bell, and all singing bowls will be the same shape. It is the size that differs. Small singing bowls will make light, delicate sounds, while the larger bowls make deeper, richer sounds. The sound is made by either striking the bowl on the rim or side with a mallet. The mallet can also be drawn across the rim or side of the bowl in a procedure called rimming.
Different sounds will be created depending on the way the bowl is struck or touched. Each sound that is created is believed to release spiritual energy that can be used to heal the human spirit. That same energy can be used to bring about physical and mental healing too.
What are the benefits of singing bowls?
You should use your singing bowl when you are meditating to gain the greatest benefit.
· Promotes relaxation. The very act of making your bowl sing will in itself make you feel more relaxed. Perhaps the anticipation of what is to come is making you feel calm. Once the sound begins, you will become more aware of your breathing and your body will physically relax. Tension in your muscles will subside and your mind will experience the euphoric feeling that accompanies relaxation.
· Anxiety and Stress are reduced. The sound coming from your bowl will concentrate your mind, and you will become less anxious and so less stressed. The sound from your bowl will also help to cancel out any negative energies around you. In turn this will reduce stress. Keep striking your bowl occasionally to maintain the power of the vibrations.
· To aid chakra balancing. The vibrations emitted by a singing bowl are believed to be immensely beneficial in helping to balance blocked chakras. Chakras respond to the different vibrations from a singing bowl.
· Help for your immune system. The vibrations sent out by a singing bowl can act as a stimulant for the human immune system. They do this by restoring and balancing the flow of energy that keeps our bodies healthy.
· Getting and staying in the Zone’. Using a singing bowl will result in you feeling focussed and having a revitalizing feeling of clarity. You will feel ready to face anything. Your sense of purpose will be enhanced. This is often termed being in the Zone’. The vibrations from your singing bowl will have caused your brain to switch on Theta brainwaves. These help you to feel calmer and to boost clear-headed thinking and intuition.
· Physical benefits. A meditation or relaxation session using a singing bowl will bring down your blood pressure and lower your heart rate. Both of these benefits give your body a chance to recover. High blood pressure can be a killer, and many people prefer to use natural methods of reduction rather than take medication. Blood circulation will be improved and the risk of stroke – another killer – reduced.
A seventh benefit is that using a singing bowl leads to your body releasing those hormones long recognized as promoting well-being and a feeling of happiness. The three main hormones are endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. These hormones also help make you feel less angry and upset when you have difficulties in your life.
How to use a singing bowl
To understand how a singing bowl works, try a little experiment. Fill a metal bowl with water. Place it on a flat surface and tap the rim with a wooden stick – a chopstick will do. Observe what happens to the surface of the water. The vibrations that result from the impact will make a pattern of concentric circles on the surface of the water. Hit the bowl lower down on the side, and the circles will form differently.
When an empty singing bowl is struck with a mallet, the vibrations caused will still affect the air around it. It will also affect us. Human bodies are largely water, so the singing bowl’s vibrations will affect our bodies too.
In order to gain benefits from those vibrations, it is necessary to match your body’s vibrations with those of your singing bowl. This can be achieved through meditation. With practice, the vibrations can be used to reduce anxiety and stress, promote relaxation and encourage spiritual healing. The vibrations can also be used to reduce blood pressure and help circulation.
Now that you understand how your singing bowl works, it is time to learn how to use it.
Skill is required to play a singing bowl properly so that it produces the sounds you seek. Practice will lead to improvement, as with any new skill. Becoming proficient at playing a singing bowl is really gratifying and well worth the effort involved.
The best way to play is to hold your singing bowl in the palm of your hand. Hold your hand flat, so that your fingers are not touching the sides of the bowl. Your other hand should be holding your mallet. Usually the mallet is wooden, with a leather sleeve covering the top one-third to one-half.
Tap your bowl lightly but firmly, to produce the first sound. Then rub the head of the mallet around the top edge of the bowl. Keep the movement going so that the resultant sound increases. The trick is to get the sound to keep resonating after you have lifted the mallet from the edge of the bowl. Always move the mallet around the rim of the bowl in a clockwise direction.
Can I put water in my singing bowl?
The simple answer is yes you can put water in your singing bowl. Putting water in your bowl and then playing it will result in different frequencies being produced. Usually, water in the bowl means the resulting resonance will be lower, deeper and longer-lasting.
Using a water-filled singing bowl can also result in sounds akin to moving water or gentle rain. These are natural sounds and most practitioners agree that human beings respond particularly well to those sounds. When surrounded by sounds heard in nature, we feel more relaxed and better able to deal with the stresses encountered in life.
Using water to create these different sounds can give the user an alternative set of experiences. Occasional use of water to vary the stimulus for relaxation is thought to be a good thing to do.
It is also thought by some that water charged in a singing bowl will have absorbed energy from the vibrations the bowl produces. Drinking this charged water can bring health benefits. The body’s ability to heal itself will be very much improved.
Charged water is also thought to be beneficial to plants. Watering your houseplants or garden plants with charged water will let them absorb the energy-giving vibrations in the water. This helps them to flourish.
Charging water in a singing bowl is a straightforward matter. There are two basic methods that you can use. For both, remember that it is wise not to overfill your singing bowl, as the water might easily spill during the charging.
The first method is to go round the rim of the bowl with your mallet, until sound waves appear on the surface of the water. Increase the intensity until droplets appear. The water is then charged.
The second method is to tap the rim of your bowl with your mallet. Tap at your first point then make your second tap exactly opposite on the further side of the rim. Taps three and four should be between them, just like the points of a compass. Patterns will appear in the water. You can repeat the tapping, gaining speed if you wish.
As singing bowls are usually made of metal, it is wise to void drinking any water that has been stored in your bowl for a length of time. Water can absorb some metals, and it is not a good idea to drink that water.
How do I clean my singing bowl?
A singing bowl is a thing of beauty. It is a precious possession and needs to be cared for with love and respect.
When you handle your singing bowl, so not be tempted to grasp it with one hand. You should keep your thumb and fingers away from the inside of the bowl. Pick it up using both hands, cupped around the outside, and place it carefully.
The rim is very important as it is where you are most likely to tap the bowl, and where you will circle the bowl with your mallet. Try not to rub the rim with your fingers. You might transfer dirt from your fingers onto the rim.
Singing bowls are made from metal. Take especial care not to drop your singing bowl onto a hard floor. Metal will crack, and when this happens to a singing bowl, it will lose the ability to make a beautiful sound. Cracks in metal are not really repairable, and even if you manage a repair, the sound will always be impaired.
It is unlikely that your singing bowl will get really dirty from day-to-day use. It might get a bit dusty, and that can be remedied by using a soft dry cloth to clean the bowl. Fingerprints can be a problem, but some owners use white vinegar to clean them off.
Should you get your bowl very dirty, maybe by dropping it in mud, or having something spill onto it then stronger cleaners can be used. Most heavy dirt can be removed by washing in warm water and using a household dishwashing liquid. Don’t use bleach or a caustic cleaner, as they will damage the surface of your bowl. If you wish to polish a singing bowl, then use a vegetable oil sparingly, and wipe with a paper towel to remove any excess.
If you are fortunate enough to own an antique singing bowl that has had previous owners, then a patina may have built up on the surface of the metal. If keeping the patina intact is important, then don’t use anything other than a soft cloth.
On older bowls tarnish might have built up over time. This can be removed using a proprietary metal cleaner. Do not be tempted to use any type of scouring powder, even those described as �gentle’. They will scratch the surface of your bowl and might even affect the sound.
Some singing bowl owners love to see their bowl shining like new. A copper –based bowl will certainly shine and that’s fine if you accept that the sound might be slightly compromised. There are several ways of achieving this look, including steel wool and commercially available brass cleaners.
If your singing bowl gets wet for any reason, dry it out before putting it away. Try not to leave water standing in your singing bowl. Distilled water is a good choice if you want to use water to change the sound your bowl makes.
Do not, please, put Coke or any other soda drink in your bowl. There are ingredients in sodas that react with metal, and your bowl can become pitted. Also don’t use your bowl to clean something else, like a paint brush.
When storing or transporting your singing bowls, stack them with soft cloth between them. Ideally, wrap each one in a soft cloth. This prevents them rubbing together. Transport them in a cardboard box if you can. Pack your nest of bowls carefully with plenty of padding around them to stop movement.
Q. Can I put crystals in my singing bowl?
A. Do not put your crystals inside your singing bowl. This is not a good way to cleanse the crystals. The vibrations from your bowl will probably damage your crystals, causing them to chip, crack or split.
You will also dull the sound from your singing bowl, making it less effective as a healing or meditation tool.
Q. What is the history of singing bowls?
A. The making of singing bowls is an ancient skill. It is thought the first singing bowls were crafted 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia.
It is thought that these earliest singing bowls were made of copper. They probably were used in medicine as well as to create music. Once the knowledge of how to make these early bowls was lost, so the tradition of their use in the Middle East died.
2,000 years ago, bronze singing bowls were being made in Tibet. Here they were associated with the Buddhist religion, and could be found in homes as well as monasteries. It seems that Tibetan Buddhist monks were forbidden from talking about these bowls, and this added to the mystery and speculation surrounding them.
Rumors abounded that the monks used their singing bowls in secret rituals. Claims were made that the sacred sounds that emanated from the bowls could affect the monks’ spiritual awareness. So great was the spiritual benefit they gained that they were able to achieve astral projection and so travel to other realms and other dimensions.
The mid-nineteenth century was a time of change in Tibet. China was rapidly encroaching on the country, and many Buddhist monks fled. They took their singing bowls with them, and for the first time, westerners became aware of them.
Early Tibetan singing bowls were often made from sacred metals, of which there were seven: mercury, gold, silver, tin, iron, lead and copper. While this mix of metals created truly sacred bowls, they were poor at making good singing sounds. Later bowls were made from a mix of copper and tin with a ratio of 80 percent to 20 percent.
Q. Were singing bowls only found in Tibet?
A. We don’t know how the tradition of making singing bowls transferred from the Middle East to Tibet. That knowledge is lost in the mists of time. However, we do know that with the spread of Buddhism, so the making of singing bowls developed in other countries.
From Tibet, Buddhism spread through Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim and into India and Thailand. Each of these countries developed their own singing bowl traditions. Buddhism also spread through China and Japan.
Japanese singing bowls are known as �rin’ and are used in temples to aid worship. Normally, high-grade bronze is used to make these �rin’, and as a result the sound quality is particularly good. Families have their own singing bowls, which often sit displayed on a cushion. The mallet will be alongside on a little stand.
In China singing bowls are popular across the whole of what is a very diverse country. Again, Chinese singing bowls sit on a distinctive cushion. The Chinese, however, see the singing bowl also as yet another product they can manufacture and sell to the west. Most new singing bowls sold in western countries are mass-produced in China.
Singing bowls have a long history as aids to meditation and contemplation. They have assisted generations of Buddhist monks to achieve a high level of spiritual enlightenment. They can help you do the same.
Using your singing bowl as part of meditation or yoga will certainly enhance your experience. The benefits of singing bowls will soon become clear to you. You will feel more relaxed and calmer. Your singing bowl will become a much-loved friend. Treat it with care and it will serve you for many years. It might even become a family heirloom.