Singing bowls have been used for centuries as a tool to center the body and mind during meditation. Although there is little written history on singing bowls, Tibetan oral tradition dates them to the time of Buddha Shakyamuni. It is believed that Guru Padmasambhava brought them from India to Tibet approximately 2,500 years ago.
There is an aura of mystery and secrecy that surround singing bowls. Many Tibetans say it is forbidden to talk about the bowls. Numerous legends state that powerful lamas would use singing bowls and their intense sound vibrations in secret rituals to evoke spiritual contact and astral travels to other realms and dimensions.
Tibetan or Himalayan singing bowls are made from bell metal bronze. This alloy generally contains copper and a high percentage of tin. It is this combination of metals that give the bowl its wonderful tone and resonance. The bowls pitch comes from its size, weight and thickness.
Singing bowls have a pure and resonating sound that promotes a deep state of relaxation, which is necessary for one to meditate effectively. The harmonic tones of a singing bowl can also reduce stress and aid in holistic healing. The meditative tones produced by a singing bowl’s vibrations, are also known to have a balancing effect on the chakras. Playing a singing bowl brings a centering to the body and a balance known as synchronization, to the brain.
Before you begin to play your singing bowl it is recommended that you find a comfortable spot where you can be seated in an upright position. This position allows you to take in a full breath and to hold your bowl level with the solar plexus region of your body.
There are two ways a singing bowl can be played. One is by striking it with a mallet and the other is by rubbing the rim with a mallet.
Striking the Bowl
Begin by placing the singing bowl in the palm of your left hand, fingers should be straight and relaxed. Do not grip the bowl. Smaller bowls should be held on the fingertips. A ring or bowl cushion may also be used on a table. Next, strike the singing bowl on the side of the rim to produce a gonging sound much like a bell. The harder the bowl is struck the louder and more harmonic the tone will be. But take caution to not hit the bowl too hard or it will produce an unpleasant metallic tone. Play with your bowl by striking it in different spots and trust in it to guide you to find the best sound. Also, it is important to make sure that the size of the mallet matches the size of the bowl.
As stated above, begin by holding the singing bowl in the palm of your hand. Grasp the mallet with a firm, but relaxed grip, in your other hand and place it against the rim of the singing bowl. Tap the bowl gently with the mallet to activate it. Then slowly rub the outer rim in a clockwise motion, as if stirring a pot. Be sure to keep the pressure even and constant and slowly increase your speed until you hear the bowl sing. Once the bowl begins to sing you can slow or speed up the rotations to change the tone’s intensity. Each bowl is different; some come to full volume quickly while others take more time.
Mallets are available in combinations of wood, leather and wool. If you have a mallet that has a wool-wrapped end, use the woolen end to strike the bowl. The wood end is for playing the rim. Leather mallets can be used to strike the bowl and to play the rim.
A cushion should be used when playing your singing bowl on a table or flat surface. This will prevent the bowl from vibrating against the table/surface and from sliding.
Be patient with your singing bowl, for they are all different. One must be loving and respectful of the bowl before it will sing and bring to you the seeds of Dharma.
People from around the globe have been instinctively drawn to singing bowls and their seductive, meditative tones. As if programmed by the heavens, the bowls invite you to play them and enjoy their healing, soulful vibrations.