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Singing Bowls, a Guide to Healing through Sound

4. The Mystique of Singing Bowls

Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the secret places of the soul.


Singing bowls are surrounded by a mystique worthy of sacred objects. Seven has long been regarded a holy number. With their traditional seven metals the singing bowls bring together the macrocosm of the planets and the microcosm of the body. Meteorite is sometimes included to add a cosmic dimension to the spiritual qualities of the bowls. The Tibetan monks who used the bowls kept them secret and the true origin of the bowls is hidden deep in the shamanic past. It is no wonder that a special dream presented itself to me several months after my first meeting with Joska Soos. At that time I was playing my first two bowls on a daily basis.
In my dream I walked into a room with exotic paraphernalia. In the middle of the room was a table with different objects on it, among them a singing bowl. I hunched over the table, looked into the big bowl, and held my head close to it as I rang it. A particular wonderful sound filled the room. When I woke up the sound kept coming back into my mind. The dream urged me to look deeper.
A few weeks later while visiting Joska Soos I told him about it, hoping he had a bowl like the one in the dream. He brought out several big ones, but none matched the sound. Then he said: "Wait a moment, I have a special selection in the back that ordinarily I would not sell, but I will make an exception for you." He returned with some nice bowls with equally nice sounds, but I kept on nodding. "No, the sound is not the same." Finally there was only one bowl left he was very reluctant to show it, but he did. As I struck it and heard the deep full sound a wave of excitement filled me. This was it! Exactly the same sound that I heard in my dream! Convinced that some higher forces were at work, he decided to sell me the bowl. The largest in my collection, it relaxes me deeply when I play it on my chest, and after half an hour I am totally refreshed.
My first encounter with a group session came two years later at a shamanic event at the Center for Relaxation and Body Work in Mechelen, a city in Belgium. Before this I had played the bowls exclusively for myself, so this was something new. Two women, Martine Goossens and Liliane Boels, played singing bowls, accented by a variety of drums and unusual musical instruments. It was a primitive but powerful sound experience, truly archaic in character. The event had an empowering effect on me. Turning into my inner world I experienced impressions of demons, awesome beings connected to the "music". In Tibetan Buddhism internal "demons" such as these are considered to be latent fears, usually of sickness or death. The only way to overcome them is to bring them into the forefront of consciousness. It is for this reason the Tibetans paint demons on the walls of their temples, to remind the monks to face their own fears. The uninitiated find them frightful, and if encountered in the inner world, they run away from them. Looking at the paintings serves as an exercise, teaching one the fear resides in oneself.
After the session they offered singing bowls for sale. I struck a small thin one that gave an exceptionally clear and sustaining ring. Everybody in the room turned their head. Upon hearing the sound the image of a temple immediately presented itself in my mind. Without hesitation I decided this was a bowl worth having in my collection.
Shamanic work with the singing bowls and other shamanic instruments inevitably leads to work with energy and energy beings. In the group session I noticed that Martine was a stable woman and well rooted but Liliane was not. Because of her extreme sensitivity Liliane ought not be occupied with this kind of shamanic work. However, she compensated for this by wearing a protective bronze mirror on her chest. Observing this it became clear to me that consciousness and intent are very important when working with the singing bowls.

copyright 2001 by Dirk Gillabel