Calming the Freight Train in the Mind
Do you find it difficult to meditate? Meditation is often defined as quieting or calming the mind. There are many ways to do this. And that is good news.
An effective way of calming the mind is to create a very strong focus on one thing. Singing bowls are a successful tool for creating this focus. Their sound has such a powerful presence that it is difficult not to focus the mind, especially when you are playing one. It is a wonderful way to create a meditative state with minimum effort. And that is even better news.
Sound moves through your body faster than it moves through the air. The sound of the singing bowls affects you physically in three main ways. The first is the effect of the sound on your brain waves. It stimulates more brain waves in the alpha frequency range (around 8 to 13 Hertz), calming the mind. The second is the effect of the physical motion of playing the bowl. This simple and repetitive motion commands your attention as does the sound created by the bowl. This in turn creates the third effect. Your breathing and heartbeat slow down, putting you into a relaxed state.
I have assisted many people in learning how to play the Tibetan and crystal singing bowls and have found a few simple things to make your first experience playing the bowls successful. A singing bowl is played either by striking the outside of the bowl or by rubbing the stick or mallet around the outside rim. Some people find that there is a subtle difference in the feeling and effect created within them by choosing either a clockwise or counterclockwise direction for the rubbing movement. If you have a singing bowl, I invite you to play with this. Below are a few helpful hints.
Tibetan (or metal) singing bowl: 1. If the bowl is small enough to fit in your hand to play, make sure you hold the bowl in a way that does as little as possible to muffle the sound. Wrapping your fingers around the bowl will muffle its sound more. Two ways that work well are either to hold your hand flat and place the bowl in the middle of the palm or to balance the bowl on your fingertips.
2. If the bowl has a straight rim, hold the stick straight up and down as you move the stick around the rim of the bowl. If the bowl has a curved rim, try holding the stick at an angle toward the center of the bowl as you move the stick around the rim. You can vary the pressure of the stick against the bowl to control the volume of the sound. You can also give the bowl a gentle tap to get the sound started.
3. As the bowl begins to sound and vibrate more, you may notice the stick rattles against the edge of the bowl. The rattle can be minimized by slowing down the movement of the stick around the bowl and by adding more pressure on the stick against the bowl.
Crystal singing bowl: 1. Crystal bowls are more fragile that Tibetan bowls. They are played usually with a rubber mallet covered with suede. You can use the mallet to chime (i.e. gently strike the side) of the bowl or to rub it around the outside rim as for the Tibetan bowl.
2. Please be aware that crystal singing bowls can get very loud. Loud enough to cause discomfort or damage to your hearing. You can control the volume of your bowl by the varying speed of moving the mallet around the bowl and by varying the pressure of the mallet against the outside of the bowl.
As you are playing your bowl, turn your awareness to the effect of the sound on your body, emotions and mental state. Often as a person plays a bowl for several minutes, the physical change in their body is quite dramatic. Their shoulders relax and their breathing slows down. The whole body becomes more relaxed and the mind becomes more calm. Often, the person becomes so engrossed in the sound that they become oblivious to their surroundings. That is powerful focus.