What is a singing bowl? It is a bowl made of a mix of metals that, when played with a stick, produces a resonant sound that can bring health and wellbeing to your body and mind. Although they are normally called Tibetan singing bowls they are more commonly made in India and Nepal, with some also coming from Bhutan. The old bowls came from Tibet.
There are two kinds of these metal singing bowls.
The first kind of singing bowl normally contains 3 or 5 metals mixed together and then cast in a mould to create a bowl. They are finished with machines. These are very easy to recognize, even if they have been painted and decorated, because the surface is smooth and uniform.
When you run a wooden stick round the rim of one of the bowls the sound quickly becomes loud but when you take the stick away from the bowl the sound soon dies away. Even the bigger meditation bowls produce a high pitch sound.
These bowls are usually used to aid meditation. The piercing note gets the attention of the mind and makes silencing of your thoughts much easier.
The second kind of metal singing bowl is more important. These are made of at least 7 metals and are hand-crafted. The handmade bowls are easily recogniseable as the surface is covered in small pit-marks where the hammer hit the surface. It is neither uniform in shape nor smooth on the surface.
Each of the 7 metals are said to relate to different planets. Whether this is true or not, the composition of the bowl does determine the quality and resonance that you get when you play it with the stick.
The technique to run the stick around the rim of the bowl is the same as before. But the vibration takes time to build up in volume and it creates a multi-toned sound. The uneven surface creates many notes and the sound wave has a more sustained vibration. When you remove the stick, the sound continues for a long time. Even when you think it has finished, if you put your ear close to the bowl you will still hear it singing.
These bowls are used for healing. It is possible to learn to use large bowls for therapeutic purposes. I have travelled the world with four bowls each weighing around 2 kilograms each, giving therapy to people in 12 countries across 4 continents for 12 years now.
With the small healing bowls it is only necessary to have one stick. You can run this stick around the rim and you can also strike the bowl near the rim. We always play the stick against the outside of the bowl.
However, with the bigger bowls it is necessary to have two sticks – the one for running around the rim
will need to be large and heavy. It takes a lot of pressure to get the sound going so you need the extra weight in the stick. To strike the large bowls near the rim you need a long sturdy stick with a large padded end.
The small bowls make higher pitched sounds and the larger bowls play much deeper. But there is such variance on the quality of the sound due to the uneven surface. Some bowls also change how they play after a while. I had a bowl that started deep and after a few minutes of running the stick round the rim the sound would abruptly switch to very high pitch!
There are people who can teach you how to use these healing bowls for therapeutic effect. However, beware of anybody teaching techniques to cure specific ailments. Unless you are a Doctor and are able to diagnose somebody’s problem, you cannot use any of these techniques on anybody.
A singing bowl is not a toy. It is a powerful instrument both in the sense of the quality and volume of the sound created but also in the power of the sound wave that moves through your body and the person you are helping. Less is more. If you play a bowl for too long you may give yourself a healing crisis.
How long is too long? If you have to ask this question you are not advised to play a singing bowl as a healing instrument!
Old and New Bowls
The meditation bowls are made with modern machines so they are obviously new unless you have a second-hand one. Still, it will be a relatively new instrument.
The handmade healing bowls are a different matter entirely. This is the way singing bowls have always been made so you will find shops selling old bowls and new ones.
How can you tell the difference? It is virtually impossible! In Nepal, bowls cost more if they are old ones. So there are some shops that will tarnish the bowl to make it look older. They earn more money this way.
A True Story:
I was in Sedona in Northern Arizona, USA and found a shop selling old healing singing bowls. I was interested to see that they had 5 bowls all of the same size (approximately 1 kilogram each) and all the same thickness. They each carried a label inside the bowl:
“18th Century. Made in Nepal”
I asked the lady who was serving at the counter, “How do you know those bowls are 18th Century?” She told me that they came from Nepal with the labels on. I asked her how she knew it was true. She told me there must be a special store-room in Nepal. When I pressed her further she said her boss ordered them and I would have to ask her.
I knew that none of these bowls were old. Would there really be five identical bowls made in
the 18th Century? Well it might have been possible, I suppose. But the sticks that were supplied with these bowls did not play them properly. If the owner of the shop doesn’t know how to play the bowls how can she know it is an authentic old bowl? And if the supplier doesn’t have sufficient knowledge of singing bowls to supply the correct stick then they definitely don’t know how to identify an old bowl!
Use your commonsense. If you like the bowl and you like the price, then take it. If the stick doesn’t work either buy a better stick elsewhere or walk away.
Now, let’s assume you have found a genuine old bowl. Why do you want that? Are you excited by your discovery?
Do you know that singing bowls are programmed by their owners? Repeated use for a particular use becomes the default ‘destination’ for the sound activity. How many people have owned your old bowl before you? What did they use the bowl for? It is not possible to find that out.
Personally, I have never had any interest in owning an old bowl. I have always instinctively gone for new bowls and I only use them for healing and training healers. The energy is clean, the intention is clear and all is well.
I have heard stories about old bowls, of people having problems because their bowl was programmed to heal a particular ailment. The bowl continued to treat that ailment, thus causing an imbalance in an otherwise healthy body! My advice would be to choose a new bowl. The old ones also have more power and you are a beginner. Do not run before you can walk. Less is more.
So, you want to buy a singing bowl? Great! If you are in Kathmandu, Nepal you will have thousands to choose from. If you are in the West your nearest shop may not have much of a selection.
How to buy a singing bowl.
- Know what you will use it for – If you want only for meditation then buy a machine-made bowl. If you want to do healing or you like meditation but think maybe you might like to try the healing too, but a healing bowl.
- Know your price limit
- Now play some bowls! If there is a big enough selection you will notice that some are really easy to play but others will barely make a sound for you. You will feel the struggle.
- Relax your body. Remember to breathe. People often hold their breath without realising it a they concentrate on playing the bowl. Relax your body and remember to breathe! Listen to your body’s response to the sound.
Some bowls will make you tense your body as the sound is something that irritates. Obviously this is not a good bowl for you unless you want to torment yourself! Most bowls will be ok. They will sound ok. Nothing more, nothing less. But if you find a bowl that is a very good match for you and your body, you will feel your body relax all tension the moment the sound is played. You may hear yourself sigh.
If you are not sure, sit down in the shop with your eyes shut. Let somebody else play the bowls for you. Feel inside your body for its response.
Please note that there will be many bowls in this world that resonate and give a positive response in your body. You do not have to buy the first one that you find.
When you do purchase a bowl that resonates with your body it is as if you have found a part of you! And the more you play your new instrument, the deeper this relationship will grow.
Did you know that singing bowls interact with your body and your energy field, sometimes known as your aura? If you are feeling unwell then the bowl may not make much sound when you begin to play it. As the energy continues to support your body and your mind, you return to balance and the bowl increases in volume. When your bowl is playing loudly you are fully balanced.
Please be aware that for long-term health issues your bowl is unlikely to cure you in one day. Do not overtax your body with energy. If you play your bowl and create sound waves your body will use them. Too much energy may cause what is often referred to as a healing crisis. Your symptoms may worsen and you will feel more sick than before because your body is having to use the energy that you have given to it.
If you have not had any training for how to use a singing bowl for therapy you should play your bowl for a maximum of 5 minutes a day, preferably in the evening so that the body can process the gentle energy as you sleep through the night.
If you have children they must be supervised when using the bowl. The sound is addictive and children are very curious. But your singing bowl is not a toy. It is a powerful instrument for sound medicine. It has more power than a pack of paracetamol. Keep it out of reach of inquisitive hands. You wouldn’t leave pharmaceutical medicines lying around. Keep your bowl where it can cause no harm.
The bowls are very powerful medicine because of their magical vibrations but they also have another magical property – playing the bowl can feel very self-empowering. I have found that giving a bowl to a child or adult who suffers from lack of confidence or low self-esteem and asking them to play the music had an uplifting therapeutic effect for them. It was like they grew in stature. I could see their confidence as they played such a strange and unusual instrument!
One practitioner told me she had given a small bowl to an angry teenager in Germany and had instructed the girl to play the bowl for just 5 minutes every night before bed. Within a few weeks all the anger was gone. The teenager became peaceful and her emotions were balanced again.
Unless you have been shown how to play a bowl for therapeutic purposes, 5 minutes a day is plenty enough energy for most people.
You don’t have to be sick to use a singing bowl! Your body often has imbalances and is correcting them all the time. You only know you are sick when you have a symptom but usually the problem has been brewing for a while. Using a bowl for just 5 minutes at night can help your body to maintain optimum well-being.
If you are having a heart attack or an asthma attack, or any other life-threatening illness or incident do not use your singing bowl! Call an ambulance!
You can use your bowl during your recovery period. It will usually speed up the natural recovery of your body. The bowl is a wonderful way to strengthen the body’s systems and enhances natural health and well-being.
5 minutes in the evening on a daily basis is more than enough energy for your body. Less is always more.
Whilst it is possible to place a singing bowl upon your body and play it for therapeutic effect it is not recommended unless you have had training. Even then, it is too powerful for most people. A little medicine is a great support for your body. Too much medicine causes toxic overload. Do not do it.
Medical considerations for playing the singing bowls
DO NOT PLACE THE BOWLS ON YOUR BODY IF:
- You have a pacemaker fitted for your heart
- You are pregnant
- You have metal inserts or metal staples inside your body following an operation
- If you have any of these conditions present in your body you cannot put the bowls on your body because the vibration of the sound passing through your cells will also shake and vibrate the metal inside of you, causing it to move. The vibration could disturb the pacemaker, resulting in death.
- It is perfectly safe to place the bowls near to your body and play them in that way. Even a pregnant woman can receive singing bowl therapy with the bowls close to the body, right up to full term. However, remember that less is always more. Consult with your physician before deciding to have a singing bowl session.
Play your singing bowl for a maximum of 5 minutes each evening for optimum health of your body systems and emotional wellbeing. No more than this.
A True Story:
I was recovering from Chronic Fatigue and had booked myself on a trek to Tibet. We drove from Kathmandu, Nepal over the border into Tibet and then went west to Mount Kailash. We walked around the mountain in 2 ½ days and the altitude was always in excess of 4,000m above sea level. At its highest point, the DromLa Pass was 5,600m above sea level. Until I got there I hadn’t walked more than 1 km a day for 5 years because of my illness. This trek was more than 50 kms at high altitude spread out over 2 ½ days. It was madness!
At the end of the first day I was exhausted, of course. It had taken me 10 hours to reach our camp. The other tourists had made it in 7 hours. When I went to bed that night I prayed for healing. I was desperate. How on earth was I going to get round this mountain? What on earth had I been thinking when I booked it?
I was advised by my Angels to play my little Tibetan singing bowl every time I stopped to rest. I did as I was told, even though Tibetans would point at me and laugh! Each time I stopped for a break (and that was frequently!) I would unwrap my little healing bowl. As soon as the bowl began to sing I felt all tension and tiredness fall away.
It was a difficult afternoon though because we were now on the shaded side of the mountain with no shelter from the icy winds. I couldn’t play the bowl because I was too cold.
This time I knew I was in trouble. I could only focus on one footstep at a time. I told myself with each step that I was one step closer to the end. But I felt deep fear – what if my illness was activated again? A voice told me my soul had wanted me to do this journey, I would be alright. But my body didn’t feel like that was true. I was beyond exhausted.
Again, it took me 10 hours to reach the camp. The others had arrived 3 hours before me. I went to bed too tired even to pray. But on the final morning, I woke up feeling fresh and energised. I bounced around the last part of the mountain and had a picture taken of me just 30 minutes after arriving back at my hotel room. I looked and felt healthy and vibrant. Wow. That was some journey!
Storing your singing bowls
Metal singing bowls are reasonably hardy but the base of the bowl is the most vulnerable point. Do not place a metal bowl on a cold stone floor overnight – it is likely to crack. Once it is broken it cannot be played or repaired. It is best to store your singing bowl on a padded cushion.
Keep your metal bowls out of direct sunlight. Also make sure the sun is not focused through glass creating an intense beam of light to touch your bowls, like a magnifying effect of the sun’s power. Heat can damage the bowls. If your bowls do get warm, wait until they have cooled down before playing them. If you play the bowl whilst it is still warm, you might change the tonal sound of your instrument forever. This also changes the sound wave that is emitted.
Cleaning your singing bowls
Take a piece of lemon and put some warm water inside your bowl. Use the lemon to rub against the surface of your bowl. Then throw away that water and rinse the bowl with clean water. You can dry with a cloth but make sure that you put no chemicals anywhere near the inside of your bowl. It is not
necessary to do this every time you use the bowl, a damp cloth wiped around the inside of the bowl will suffice most times.
Transporting your singing bowls
Most bowls can be just wrapped in fabric. This will prevent scratching of the surface.
But if you are importing them from Nepal they will be packaged in a wooden box. The weight of metal bowls is the consideration here. Make sure they cannot make sound and move around. If you are taking them onto an airplane you will need to use a lot more cushioning. Your clothes and towels, make good padding. But you will need to make sure the bowls cannot move around in your luggage. Pack the suitcase tightly. Alternatively, take them in your hand luggage if the weight limit allows it but go through security earlier than normal as they may make you unpack your bag so they can investigate what you are carrying!
Crystal singing bowls
There are also singing bowls made from crystal. These are often tuned to the chakras, the main energy centres in your body, using a musical scale.
The bigger bowls play a louder sound too. The crystal bowls are delicate as they are made of glass. They can only be played with a very light weight stick and it must only be rubbed around the rim of the bowl. It is not possible to strike these bowls with a drumstick. You may end up destroying your bowl. It is not worth the risk.
They also must be transported in a specially made well-padded case. If you don’t use this packaging you may easily chip and damage the rim of your bowl. This will affect the sound but also will make it more likely that the bowl will break – the vibration during the playing of the bowl is likely to make this happen!
The other thing to consider is the quality of sound that is produced by these bowls. Metal bowls produce a mellow sound and the bigger bowls have lower notes. If you have ever licked your finger and then run it around the rim of a crystal glass you will know that an ear-piercing sound is emitted. These crystal bowls are the same. Whilst the harmonic sound wave can create some eerie, almost ‘the aliens are coming’ sound, it is piercingly loud.
Personally I find the volume and pitch of the larger glass bowls causes my body to tense up rather than relax. Clearly my body does not want this form of medicine.
The crystal bowls hold their vibration for a long time so it is easy to have sound from multiple bowls at the same time. But remember how loud they are! If you are thinking you will want to play more than one in a room you might like to buy the smaller bowls. Again, remember they are creating a vibration that has an effect in your body. Less is always more. Seek training before using them.