I have been working like crazy on these workshops and then in the middle of last week I was suddenly asked to be in a play- a musical play- this Saturday. I said yes and ended up with two parts- one of which is a singing part and I have to do a couple of songs. Sound healing I know and I am comfortable talking about it and facilitating very large groups- but performing, playiing my guitar and singing to an audience really throws me out of my comfort zone- which I kind of love in a way, too! Because I know how empowering and healing it really is to be out of one's comfort zone and move forward regardless. I do really enjoy theater and haven't been in a play for SO many years (never mind how many!) and I love the parts I am playing- an archetype from Hildegard's visions- Ecclesia- and Hildegard's protege, Richardis. They are both wonderful parts and the music is great. The challenge has really just been that I had put aside this time to prepare for my workshops and that got totally cut into so I got really stressed- not a good body/mindset for a healer! so tonight I get my comic relief from "Romance & Cigarettes", one of the funniest musicals I have ever seen.
Okay a little bit about sacred sound here... after all that is what we are doing here!
Shamanism and the Esoteric Teachings of Tibetan Singing Bowls
“Every atom constantly sings a song, and it is this tone which creates finer or denser forms of greater or smaller density.” Lama Govinda
The bowls are shrouded in secrecy.The Tibetan, or more accurately Himalayan singing bowls originated in the Bon culture of the Himalayas- the original religion of Tibet, a shamanic animistic tradition which predated Buddhism. Buddhism was introduced in the 7th c. AD and split off into two branches. The Bon religion is a more shamanic branch of Buddhism, and Lamaism is essentially Buddhism with strong Bon influences. Although both used sound extensively in ritual and meditations there is no written account whatsoever of the use of the bowls in their practice although they have been found in both monasteries and private homes.
That being said, according to Richard Rudis, "In the words of the great Tibetan master/Bodhisattva Gwalwa Karmapa, the Singing Bowls of Tibet emit the ‘Sound of the Void', the sound of the universe manifesting. They are a symbol of the 'unknowable' and as an alloy, date back to the Buddha, Shakyamuni (560-480 B.C.). Their origins and detailed histories are shrouded in the distant past and are surely a gift from the shamanistic 'Bon' religion which precedes Buddhism in Tibet by centuries. For centuries they have been utilized for healing and consciousness transformation."
Over 20 years ago Rain Gray, seeking answers to the mystery of these singing bowls, went to Nepal and found a very old Lama who talked to him at some length. Lama Lobsang Leshe told him that the bowls give a very high teaching, the pure teaching, the essence of Buddhism. He said that all sounds give different teachings and the singing bowls give Voidness teaching. The Voidness or emptiness teaching is the highest of all teachings. Without emptiness teaching there is no enlightenment. “This sound wang, wang, wang, wang, wang, means emptiness, empty, empty, empty, empty.” “Buddha is not here but singing bowl is.” (From interview with Rain Gray and Lama Lobsang Leshe, 1989)
“It is said that in the beginning the wind created the gyatams [matter/substance], the basis of our world, by a spinning movement. This movement of the wind was melodious and it was this kind of sound that combined the form and the matter of the gyatam to form a whole. The gyatams sang and from them emerged shapes that, in turn, produced others through the power of the sound that they had made. This applies not only to the past but is still true today. Every atom ceaselessly sings its song, constantly creating coarse and fine substances.” Lama from the Bon monastery of Tesmon, Tibet. Tibet: Bandits, Priests and Demons by Alexandra David-Neel, 1988
The Role of the Shaman... In the past shamans have acted as “mediators” between man and the spirit worlds. Part of their ability is to restore communciation when it has been temporarily disturbed. Their primary tool is sound- first the voice, chanting and singing, and then other instruments- drums, rattles, wind instruments and presumably the bell, bowl or gong. Through the use of sound shamans are able to reconnect us with parts of ourselves that we have lost the ability or forgotten how to access- sometimes indeed our right mind.
Paradigm Shift... We are in a transitory phase moving into a new paradigm, a consciousness in which we no longer need the doctor, the priest or the shaman... the mediator. Tools are becoming available to the masses so that we can learn to heal ourselves. We are learning to “tune in”- to fine tune our frequency. The Himalayan singing bowls with their resonant tones and powerful frequencies are wonderful tools that have really only begun to become somewhat more available to the Western world in the last 20 years. It may seem that Tibet is losing its rich culture at times- and on some levels that's probably true- but this is also part of the process of opening up to a greater global and universal consciousness. These bowls are a gift from their culture to us to allow us to begin to expand our consciousness, fine tune our frequencies and begin to absorb some of these age old teachings. Just as the vibratory essence of Sanskrit mantras is inherent in the seed sounds and can reveal itself to us with the proper practice and pronunciation, these bowls have ancient voices and teachings to reveal to us.
Seven Metals (more or less)... Singing bowls are made of various metal alloys depending on where they were made and what ores were available to the traveling metalsmiths. A metallurgical investigation, conducted by the British Museum in London, discovered the fact that the oldest tools usually are crafted of a 12-metal alloy composed of silver, nickel, copper, zinc, antimony, tin, lead, cobalt, bismuth, arsenic, cadmium and also iron. The ancient Himalayan bowls were composed of seven holy metals located in Tibetan plateau. The metals corresponded to seven celestial bodies:
1. Gold – Sun – Leo
2. Mercury- Mercury – Virgo/Gemini
3. Silver – Moon – Cancer
4. Iron – Mars – Scorpio/Aries
5. Lead – Saturn – Capricorn/ Aquarius
6. Tin – Jupiter – Sagittarius/ Pieces
7. Copper- Venus- Taurus / Libra
Each metal has its own sound and the combination produces the unique singing and harmonics of the bowl. The proportions of metals are different in each bowl. It is said that the bowls from Nepal have more of a golden glow whereas the bowls of Tibet had a higher concentration of silver and tin giving them a dull anthracite luster.
A Lost Art... Today's bowls are cast. They have not been made in “the old way” for at least 60 years and it seems to be a lost art. No one really knows how they have such a multiplicity of tones, and such a precise balance of overtones and frequencies that has so powerful an effect on consciousness, but the older bowls create measurable beat frequencies which entrain the brainwaves into alpha and theta states. These are the states which are most conducive to an “open” mind, the states that support deep relaxation, meditation, peace and an inner stillness. These are also the conditions that can lead to profound changes and healing on a physical plane.