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Singing Bowls, a Guide to Healing through Sound

1. A Shamanic Encounter

I am the master of the tone… All creatures, all things, even the seemingly lifeless ones, give off tones. Each being, each thing produces a special, characteristic tone which, however, changes as the states of being or thing by which it is produced change…
The sound brings forth all forms and all beings. The sound is that through which we live.
An old lama in Tibet


In the summer of 1989, on a truly mystical tour of southern England, the Tibetan singing bowls first entered my life. At the legendary grave of King Arthur in Glastonbury a young man sat in front of the tombstone making beautiful sounds with two shining metal bowls. A member of my group explained that these were singing bowls. She advised me to visit Joska Soos, an authentic shaman in Antwerp who uses singing bowls in his life work as a healer, giving private sessions he calls "shamanizations". Since I have always been a spiritual seeker, I decided to explore a shamanization first hand.
On the 6th of November my life was to be steered in a new direction. The sun was bright when I arrived at the home of Joska Soos. One in a long row of houses, his stood out from all the others with a front garden full of tall and bountiful plants, through which a small path led to the door. Ringing the bell I looked through the glass into a hallway with many strange paintings. Down the stairs he came, singing in a low voice. Opening the door he cordially invited me in. The paintings immediately captured my attention. Resembling abstract art, they had another dimension. Radiating and alive, they communicated on a level I had never experienced. Joska explained that beside being a shaman he was also a painter. Most of his paintings are of light-sound beings from other dimensions which he perceives with his inner eye. Later on he would tell how these beings, composed entirely of light and sound, are found throughout the cosmos. It has been a closely guarded secret among shamans that these beings exist, and it has always been strictly forbidden to talk about them, but because he believes this knowledge will benefit all people. Joska Soos paints these mysterious, powerful beings, in spite of some angry fellow shamans.
On the second floor we passed through a living room, filled with Buddhist paraphernalia. Going on to the third floor we came to the tiny room where his shamanizations take place. Joska Soos is a sound initiated shaman. In shamanic circles this is the highest degree of initiation. Knowledge of sound is one of the greatest of the mysteries of life and creation. As we are told in myths and esoteric teachings, the world is constantly being created and maintained by sound. New Age philosophies and healing practices that utilize the effects of vibration and sound are actually based upon older philosophies and spiritual doctrines.
Joska Soos sat down behind a group of seven metal bowls and played them during the session together with his drum, a set of small, high pitched Tibetan cymbals, and constant guttural singing. Afterwards I inquired about the metal bowls which, to my surprise, had produced such wonderful sounds. He explained that these "singing bowls" originally were made in Tibet by Buddhist monks. When I asked where I could buy such bowls, he offered those in front of him for sale. "Take what you want" he said. I could not believe that I could actually buy his bowls. "I have more in the back, I will replace them." Two nicely polished bowls of medium size had really caught my attention, so the choice was not difficult. I have never regretted buying them, they remain the best I have. In the following years I bought several more from him, all of superior quality compared to any others I have seen anywhere else.
I played my first two singing bowls every evening for half an hour, exploring and enjoying their sounds. In the following months these sounds opened me up, clearly they were working both psychologically and on subtle levels of my consciousness. It is difficult to put it into words; the change in me was profound. I felt more free and happy. In this way I discovered first hand how the singing bowls can be special tools for personal transformation. Since that time I have added on to my collection, allowing me to do group sessions and individual treatments.
On many more occasions I visited Joska Soos and continued to learn about the singing bowls and the importance of sound. He taught me how to sing as the shamans do, with a low guttural sound, and how to bring forth a mantra from within myself. Learning how to use sound and mantras has had as equally a liberating effect on my consciousness as has playing the singing bowls. Mantras and the free form of vocalization known as toning can be used together with the bowls to create a profoundly transforming experience. Singing bowls are carefully crafted items with mysterious origins. In order to fully understand and appreciate their value I decided to learn about their history.

copyright 2001 by Dirk Gillabel