Blogging for Bowls

May 14, 2012

Or should I say slogging? I just don’t have the breezy style of some of the bloggers I admire most. Although I noticed my favorite Mexican food blogger has been quiet a while. I have the feeling she must be writing her book finally.

My favorites also have the advantage of fabulous photos. Again, I mostly subscribe to food and travel bloggers. Maybe I should try subscribing to writing bloggers and then not feel so bad.

In any case, I’d taken a hiatus from blogging. No one was reading, I wasn’t playing, and to be honest, I was barely keeping my head above the waters of workaholism.

It’s the curse of free-lancing. You either have nothing to do, and so you sit and play Sudoku for hours, or spend several hours trawling the internet or thinking about cleaning the house while you trawl the internet or you’re working your butt off to meet deadlines and client requests.

So when do I have time to blog? It’s currently 10:44 pm on a Sunday evening. This is when I can blog.

Tomorrow as I scribble away for one of my clients know that I will be endeavoring to think up some clever way with great photos to catch your attention about singing bowls. Perhaps if I was in Provence in a field of lavender with my bowls and some fresh vegan dish dripping with tomato sauce, truffles and cheese, maybe then I’d get some notice.

New Sound Mandalas Emerge

March 8, 2012

It was a beautiful Saturday morning, the kind where time seems to spread out before you like a crisp white tablecoth with the possibility of delicious things to appear. And delicious things did appear in the form of sounds. A new mandala had come forth late  last summer for a cancer retreat group, a few days before I performed it. The mandala had clearly made itself known so that I would play it for this group. Quite lovely and somewhat more complex in its pattern, it felt both calming and inspirational. Something about it made me think of a lullaby, with its unmistakable soothing quality.

I’m sure there are sound musical structural reasons why lullabies can magically lull even anxious babies into ease, but with my lack of musical background, that is lost on me. Still, it’s not tough to notice when a pattern is comforting.

So, I was a bit surprised when on this wonderful Saturday morning, a similar pattern emerged. After it did, I realized I would be playing for a corporate audience that week on Valentine’s Day and had been asked to play notes that resonated with the heart. Well, this mandala did — it offered comfort.  And I think this to be a time when comfort is sorely needed.

These two sound mandalas are reflections to me that I have calmed down and am not in the rush I once was. I’m finding this ease very beneficial. What better way to open one’s heart?

Selecting Bowls for Sale

February 29, 2012

Was it a month ago I was in sunny Tucson — looking at antique singing bowls? True enough.

I was on a quest to see what I could find at the International Gem and Mineral Show. I knew of one company that was often there, so I thought there had to be more. I wanted the best for the people I meet who are looking to connect with singing bowls. The first day there I was disappointed. One woman had some large bowls, but they weren’t that well-made, and she wanted too much for them. Just like Goldilocks, the next bowls I found were too cold.

Finally at the end of the second day, I found some I liked. When the third day’s shopping began, one booth had such a fabulous selection that I just sat down and started playing every single bowl this lovely young Nepalese woman  had.

In the first hour, she offered me a cushion to sit on. After the second hour, she brought me hot water. And when I finally showed her the 27 bowls I’d chosen, she asked if I had a car. I didn’t, but I was only about a mile away. So, with my backpack and a couple of bags I felt I could get them to my hotel in two trips, which is what I did. (Although my arms complained the next day.)

Choosing bowls was fascinating. Playing each one and listening to its voice was a great pleasure to me. It was only when I couldnit choose all them, that decision-making got tough. Still, I made my decisions, schlepped ’em back to the room, and was thrilled to have so many beauties.



Freedom from Comparison

January 14, 2012

People hear me perform, and they wish they had a life like mine. Only you mostly see me with the bowls doing what I love. What about me driving my car in bad traffic, or having a pile of dishes in the sink that need washing, or wanting just a little free time to myself?

In so many ways, I have the same life as everyone else. But I do keep changing what happens, reinventing myself, exploring. I haven’t had a real full-time job in 20 years. I’ve been a metalsmith, a writer in more businesses than I remember, an artist, a gardener, and those are just the jobs. What about the family, friends, relationships I’ve had and have?

What defines me? What do you think is most significant about me? And the answer to that is nothing. Nothing is significant about me. Nothing exists, nothing lives, nothing is; whereas comparison wears itself out leading us on a wild goose chase — who’s smarter, more loved, better looking, richer?

But if I cling to nothing, then I am fine. No comparisons, no fear. Nothing to be attached to, nothing to avoid. Nothing, but freedom.

Join me in freedom. Let’s make it this year’s resolution to live there. Because, like you, I’ve known it. And since we do know it, we’ve obviously got the blueprint. We just have to build it by living it — offering it to ourselves and others. Doing so together would work well, don’t you think?

Do you play the bowls every day?

January 9, 2012

Others are as enchanted by the bowls as much as I am. Often, someone asks, “Do you play the bowls every day?” The truth is, I don’t play them every day. Or I may only play one bowl, or I may just walk into the room where they sit in the open and enjoy their presence.

But this morning was one of those times when I did get to play them , and that is always great fun.

I was trying to re-learn some sound mandalas I had created weeks or even months ago. I have about 35 written down. Now, as some of you know, I have no musical background. So I create a shorthand of the bowls’ names in the order I play them and write the mandala (musical sequence) in a vertical list.  Don’t ask me why it’s vertical and not horizontal; it seems easy to follow it this way.

So, a mandala may look like this:

Well, today I couldn’t remember all of one that I really liked, and I didn’t see it written down. This particular mandala had shown up the day I was to play for a cancer group’s retreat. I don’t recall a mandala appearing like that before, but when it did I knew it was for the group. The mandala begins with a sort of a soothing melody like a lullaby of three notes that repeat three times. That much I could remember, then it moves into another sequence, which was the part that stumped me. Well, I kept playing until I really liked it.

Then I looked at this one page that had all of these notations and I realized that those were the configurations for this second part that I had been working through all over again!

It was pretty delightful to see that history before me. The results were somewhat different, and I wouldn’t have changed the exploration for anything.

Which is better — new or old?

September 22, 2011

I get this question about the metal Himalayan (aka Tibetan) bowls. Which is better — new or old?

I sell both, and I have my reasons. Let me tell you a few.

Mostly, I love the old bowls because they’ve been handled and used. I love them because they were made over a hundred years ago and they’ve been carried forward. I love them because they generally have more complex sound quality, which is likely derived from their having more metals.

I am grateful for the new bowls, because they cost less and so I can offer an affordable alternative for people to purchase. I am often delighted by the clarity of the new bowls (I keep two myself for this reason), likely because they have fewer metals. I am also always a little in awe of new bowls because they haven’t been handled and played and so they will develop their first voice with their new steward.

So when we get to qualifiers like better and best, it’s good to take a step back. Ask yourself which kind of bowl are you attracted to — new or old? And why do you want a bowl? What do you hope to glean from being in the bowl’s presence and playing it or meditating with it? Then let yourself relax and see if you are drawn to a particular bowl or two. See if you can play it (some bowls will play for some people, but others will not). Experience and note how you feel when you do play it. Listen to both the gonging and rimming arias.

If the bowl is for you, you’ll know it. And often enough, the bowl chooses you, not the other way around. New or old, you’ll find what’s right for you.

Emanating sounds

July 11, 2011

I knew for a long time, hearing the sounds that I do, that I was a receiver so to speak. I found it interesting to get “signals” that I wasn’t intentionally requesting. My dial was just set to the right number.

At some point, I realized that if I was a receiver I must also be a transmitter. Otherwise, how could the sounds locate me?

But I wondered what was I transmitting?

People who work with light, talk about surrounding themselves with white light or golden light or working with the violet ray. I don’t know many people who work with sound, but we talk about “attuning.”

For me, that doesn’t mean I hum or attune to “middle C,” it means I somehow launch a part of my consciousness into space feeling its flightpath. And, as inexplicable as the trajectory is, that dispatch always seems to find its target. I don’t know how, but it does. I don’t second-guess myself on this.

I also attune to a group or an individual when I play the bowls. Somehow, I get a “read” on my audience or client – nothing verbal, just a felt sense, and then my core and the bowls know just what to do. I let myself be guided, and try not to insert my preferences or will. This trust seems to work, so the fact that I don’t have more information or analysis or interpretation I just have to let go of all that reasoning,. And so does my audience when they ask me how it works, and I say with all honesty, “I don’t know.”

So, as I explore this quality of attunement, in meditation the other day, I noticed that sound was emanating from me. Not that anyone else could have heard it, and not that even I really “heard” it, but I knew sound was moving from inside me to outside me. This was yet another development.

Prior to this genesis, I had noticed that sound had become veil-like, moving into and out of my physical body in these curtain waves that reminded me of the aurora borealis. And since the sounds I experience have evolved from a high-pitched straight line through my head to bell-like spheres several feet away and then to clouds surrounding me, this veil-like quality simply seemed like the latest version. Until now, and these sounds that emerge from within me to outside of me.

I’ll continue to explore what these emanations bring and whether I am able to hear them, or others are, and what they may sound like.  Stay tuned.

listening well

June 22, 2011

Recently, I was with a  person who is going blind. Being with someone who is distinctly different from me makes me pause. First, I wanted to know the extent of his sight. He said he could see some variations in light, but they were pretty minimal. He relied on voices and touch to guide him.

He loved the sound of the bowls and their vibration. He handled them reverently and listened closely to them. Clearly, he was tuning in to them. When I see that, I also believe that the person is being attuned. We gain a reflection of ourselves when we listen well, or perhaps we are just expanding our experience of awareness, which is limitless.

I have watched other people pick up shiny bowls, attracted by their looks. Sometimes, I encourage people to try the older, not so pretty ones with their deep resonance and complex tones. I didn’t have to say a word to this guy. It was all about listening for him.

Sight was dimming for him, but sound was not. And he was a great listener. When I spoke with him, I felt he was fully engaged. I had a sense that all of him was listening, like a radar dish, not just his ears. Clearly he was drinking in the conversation, unconcerned with visual distractions. But something more was occurring. Hearing and listening was in a different dimension for him.

The bowls always take me to other dimensions of myself and elsewhere it seems. I am exploring simply being aware these days. Resting in awareness and being active in it. But sometimes it’s easier to just close my eyes and experience what I feel or sense. I think this guy has already learned that lesson. I’m taking notes.

Sacred Vessels

May 31, 2011

Someone said the phrase, “sacred vessels” to me the other day, and it connected with the singing bowls for me.

I think of how these bowls are never empty, even when they appear to be. Sound emerges from their seeming emptiness, and, even without sound, they are not empty. Just try sitting with one quietly, holding it in your hands, you’ll see what I mean. Remain open yourself. The more quiet and relaxed you become, the more you may realize from the bowl. Or the bowl may become quiet and still as well, inviting you further into the peace and spaciousness of stillness. You don’t have to believe me, just try it.

The bowls are open. They are always in the mode to receive, and, if filled, to pour forth. Are we as open and ready to receive?

And sacred, because they hold a form of consciousness, which is conveyed when they are played.The singing bowls produce amazing sounds which extend into the Universe. Their exteriors can’t contain them. We tend to forget that our own harmonies and dissonances have similar far-reaching effects. Our thoughts, our words, our actions are not contained in our minds, bodies or time. All have the possibility to enhance the Universe or not. How are we sounding today?

Sound Mandalas

May 13, 2011

Sound mandalas, like visual ones, are wheels of sound. One note placed beside another begins to make a complex pattern as more are added and then repeated around the wheel.

Since I began playing the bowls, little musical sequences of say 3 or 7 bowls emerged. The first ones were 2 or 3 bowls, blending sometimes to a chord, sometimes maintaining their own identity or creating a harmony. I remember when 5 bowls joined together to create a melody. I would gong or rim this combination or play both ways. This particular mandala remains a favorite of mine. Later, by adding a 6th bowl and playing the order backwards, I found a whole new pattern.

At some point I worked with 5 bowls, playing both forward and backward, pivoting on the same 3rd bowl. That particular mandala seems to open a portal for people.

Then came my playing a set pattern, followed by “random” notes, resolving to another set pattern. This mandala is one of the more complex ones so far. The colors of the bowls as well as the notes are gorgeous in this one.

In the last two months, a new mandala requires that a pair of bowls be gonged simulataneously and then another pair and another. The mandala begins with playing the rims of two gem crystal bowls (a rose quartz clear and a rose quartz opaque) and an old metal Himalayan bowl. Before this mandala, the gem crystal and metal bowls played separately. The Himalayan bowl leaves at some point, and a deep carnelian bowl joins the trio. Then a shift occurs to a sweet pattern of gonging the two rose quartz bowls and three additional bowls. After all this, I begin to gong a pair of bowls, then another pair, etc. The sound resembles the Bali gamelan. To me, an effervescence occurs.

Within the last two weeks I have started playing 5 gem crystal bowls as though they were a percussion section. Two gongs on a bowl here, then one gong, then one again, then two or three. The Himalayan bowls have often served in this way, but these 5 gem bowls are insisting on this.

I do sit with the bowls, and, together, we create these mandalas. When something arises that speaks to me, I try to write down the pattern. Sometimes the mandala changes as I work with it. Eventually tho, a particular set of notes and rhythms will evolve, and I memorize it with my body as well as my eyes and ears. I repeat it over and over until it comes naturally to me. Then, in concerts, when I’m in my semi-trance state playing and come to one bowl which directs me to another, the mandala releases in a beautiful pattern for you.