Deep sea diving

April 18, 2011

I always say that I have the best job in the world. I get to play gem crystal singing bowls and smooth old Himalayan ones. What happens helps people float easily into unknown waters and explore depths gently.

Other people can have the best job too. There’s more than one. It’s superlative, not comparative.

When I was a metalsmith jeweler, I had the best job. I was often surprised by the whimsical creations or beautiful ones that would come from my hands. The fact that an idea in my head could be translated by my sawing, soldering and polishing metal into a reality of its own amazed me. After a while, I learned that the chemicals involved didn’t agree with me, and I needed to move on. At about that time, I began to explore energy and spirituality and move into new areas. Luckily I had never given up my freelance writing business either, something I enjoy as well.

So when I met the gem crystal bowls I knew I had to play them. I had no choice, and I wanted to play them all the time. It was that simple. Call it what you will. It’s still that way.

At first, I would play the rims of two bowls blending their sounds together. That clearly helped people relax. Then I began to create what I call sequences (you can call them melodies/movements or even mantras if you like).  At first, the sequences involved as few as three bowls — rimming or gonging them. Soon I was incorporating five bowls in a pattern, and then making reversals in the order played. After that development evolved, once I finished a particular sequence, I felt called to gong various bowls as I was guided to do so. I would incorporate bowls that were not even part of the preceding mantra. That surprised me.

If you haven’t been to one of my concert meditations, the order of the sequences or mantras in a program is never the same twice. I don’t even know what bowl I’m going to play first until the audience and I get settled for the concert. Once the first bowl presents itself, the flow begins, and I rarely have a hesitation as I play. All the bowls need to know is how long they get to play. They take care of the order. I move into a trance state and simply flow with what I’m given. I try to stay out of the way.

Recently, another evolution has occurred. After I play a sequence, I may start gonging two bowls simultaneously. The sound is efffervescent, like bubbles emerging from the mantra. As a listener, you don’t have to continue to follow a particular sound, you can find added space instead. Pauses, as we know, can be as effective as any word or musical beat.   

I actually first started gonging two bowls together last summer, but it was for emphasis. I would only do it a maximum of once or twice in the whole program. Often it allowed dissonant notes to be combined, or it introduced a shift. This  evolution of the double gonging adds dimensions.

I am now a scuba diver moving into deeper waters. This reef is not dangerous, it’s beautiful as any in its complexity. Color, timbre, rhythm and melody all contribute to educating my awareness. My explorations continue further into resonance, frequencies and vibration. What could be behind this curve?

Come take a dive. The water’s inviting.

More old bowls arrive

March 30, 2011

Whenever my postal guy Duane says he has a box for me, I revert to memories of the Sears Christmas catalog  and I turn into a 6-year-old kid. I would scan the whole catalog for the toys I wanted and circle them  or fold down page corners. My two sisters would do the same. We would be dying for this game or that stuffed animal. We might get one of our choices and sometimes none given the prices and my Dad’s schoolteacher salary. Sometimes those boxes would arrive when we were home, but usually they came during the day when we were at school.

So when Duane says he has a “box,” it means singing bowls are here! And it’s holidays all over again.

While I see photos of the bowls I buy and hear clips of them, meeting them in person is another experience. Usually, they exceed my expectations. Sometimes, they are all cleaned up, sometimes a bit dirty from their age and sitting in a warehouse or the shipping crates. Then I play them to hear their voices, and they are transformed.

It’s like walking in a forest and wondering who else has seen this trail, this bowl? Who else has heard its voice? And then I start to wonder who will meet this bowl and fall in love with it?

People often ask me how they will know which bowl is right for them? Should they select it by note? Buy a new bowl, an old bowl, a manipuri or a thadobadi? I often laugh, because it’s unmistakable when you meet the bowl that is yours. As a friend says, “You don’t choose the bowl. The bowl chooses you.” 

Twelve bowls have arrived. Now the fun begins all over again.

Snow — clear space

February 28, 2011

Once again, Cleveland, Ohio and the force of Nature meet in the white aisle of winter. More than 12 inches in my driveway, and it’s up to me to carve my way out. To tell you the truth, I like shoveling. After doing Tai Chi for several years, I learned how not to torque my back when I get out there to meet the elements. 

This task is one that requires me to pay attention, do it in any way that I like, but get it done. I often make the drive really clean — not just two tracks for my tires to follow. It’s very satisfying to have a clean drive, like sweeping the walk, much can be said about the detail to clear space.

Clear space and going within is where all this talk of snow leads to. A heavy can keep you indoors, especially if you’re not required to be somewhere.  And clear space is what the bowls offer. The sound they create sweeps away the extraneous. We can focus, not in an intellectual way perhaps, yet wholly engaged, we find our way to new discoveries, unexpected openings in our consciousness.  

When we can, it’s good to make the time to find some clear space. It may be with bowls or it may be a walk in Nature. Anything that allows our mind and emotions to expand and feel that sense of freedom. Try sweeping the walk to your house or its steps. It all works.

What’s Changing — Everything

February 6, 2011

We continue to believe that we are solid masses moving around this planet. We consider things to be somewhat static or permanent, yet we watch ourselves grow and age and change. We think there is some certainty in our lives, like our job will be there tomorrow. And then something as drastic as the shift in Egypt occurs, and we reconsider our beliefs.

Our beliefs are built on information we process. Most information comes to us through our five senses. We expect it to be reliable once we translate it through our mind or emotions. Yet we know that some of the best knowledge we ever received didn’t come to us through interpretation. It came from “experiencing” something directly.

Direct experience is one of the best aspects of the singing bowls. People relate a variety of responses to and experiences with the bowls. I don’t question what people present, and I don’t try to interpret what happens.

Playing the bowls and creating sound, I do note to people that everything is vibration, nothing is solid. Everything is changing, always, and you can feel it. Every cell, every atom in your body at this very moment is gyrating and so is every other atom around you. Each little part of your being is creating a frequency, a sound and so are the bigger elements around you. In turn, your frequencies respond to those that contact  them.

It’s easy to show with the bowls. I start a bowl singing and bring it near to a person. They may feel the vibration in their body. They definitely feel it if they bring a hand close to the bowl or touch it with a fingertip. Plenty of people get a small “shock” from the vibrating bowl and are surprised, even though they’ve watched six or seven get “shocked” before them.  

They also hear how the sound can change if the wave lengths are shortened or elongated. I simply have someone put two hands close to the bowl and then pull them further away. Suddenly, vibration takes on a new meaning. It’s an energy that can be shifted and is not static or permanent. That energy is contained in us, is us.

What’s changing? Everything. Welcome to experiencing more about sound, vibration and frequency.

The Other Side of the Bowls

January 28, 2011

Last night I played for a group of people at a library, always one of my favorite venues. I never know who is going to show up or what to expect. The Saturday before that I was on the top floor of an apartment building in bright sunshine where I could look out over most of the city — gorgeous. And during and after these events I get to talk with people about the bowls — my experiences and theirs — more fun.

And then there’s sales tax. 

Having just completed it for the state of Ohio yet again, I remember that this is the part of Re-Sounding Joy most of you will never see. Let me tell you, it’s checking it once, it’s checking it twice. While I have worked for banks for loads of years, I always assure people that the banks never let me near the money or asked me to calculate the numbers, just report them and just the facts.

Doing mathematics and recording things does make me feel responsible. And I like to be responsible. It’s similar to courtesy, which several people have clearly forgotten, being responsible makes everyone’s life easier. So I write receipts and total them up, so I can sell bowls another day to people who are as delighted by the sounds they create  as I am.  

Luckily, sales tax will not dawn in my world again for six months. And I am learning an accounting software program that I hope will do these calculations automatically, if I input everything the way it would like. And if the software doesn’t like my methods, who knows what might happen next! Something very logical, I’m sure.

So that’s the other side of the bowls. Maybe, next I’ll talk about making “cold calls” to people who’ve never met me to try and book a program… “Singing bowls???” “Yes, I play singing bowls. Buddhist monks have used them for hundreds of years (oh please don’t hang up, I haven’t gotten to the fun physics part yet)…

What’s New?

January 6, 2011

We’re five days into the new year, and what’s changed? About you? We may be trying to revise past habits or patterns in our lives, but is that new? Or is that modifying, adjusting, shifting a stance?

When I met the gem crystal singing bowls two years ago, I thought they were beautiful and incredibly expensive. Then I decided to buy one, just one. I was amazed at the quality of the sound. Unlike anything I had heard before, except when I heard “the tones.” Meanwhile I had been playing Himalayan metal bowls for almost 10 years at that point. So was that really new?

Just four months later, I felt compelled to buy more bowls and bring them back to Cleveland to play. I had not anticipated this in January, although I knew my life would likely be changing at that time. I was working as a contractor for a bank that had already been acquired by another bank not as interested in employee communications which is what I’d been doing. That January of 2009, I was biding my time, waiting for the other shoe to fall.

Then I was released in late April, and when May came  I knew I had to play the bowls (couldn’t do anything else).  Thus, I began a new life. It really wasn’t like anything I’d done before or certainly not how I’d done it before — booking gigs, finding wholesalers for the Himalayan bowls, writing blogs, creating web sites, recording CDs.  What was new was the lack of self-consciousness, even an absence of self-interest, in it. I’d really found my calling. I was completely surprised by it. And the resulting occurrences, connections, relationships have been pretty miraculous.

So whether the new emerges in January or another time, I hope you say, “yes.” Don’t allow yourself to just adapt your habits, explore where some small inkling guides you. Don’t expect a loud clap of thunder or a lightning strike. Stop where you are, get quiet. Look. Listen. That’s the start.

Who knows what will happen next? Nobody can predict that.

Quiet Celebration

December 23, 2010

At this time of year, when many of us are buzzing about trying to run errands, bake goodies, wrap gifts and attend festive events, we get stressed by all the things that “have to” be done. Yet maybe they don’t. Why not just focus on a few things and take deep joy in them? Why not  have compassion for fellow travellers on the road or in the stores and be patient? Why not schedule a get-together with a friend in January or February, instead of cramming in one more event? Why worry about a gift, if the person already knows you love him/her?

So, for this holiday season, consider:

  • reading spiritual texts (pick your favorite) daily if possible
  • taking a brisk walk to be outside in nature
  • meditating for a few minutes to clear the chatter each day
  • eating vegetables and nourishing food as well as a few treats
  • and, of course, listening to or playing a singing bowl.

Happy Season of the Solstice and New Year!

Wonder

December 10, 2010

‘Tis the season for wonder and joy. I was reading an article recently that stated that awe was the emotion that can change us the most. As an example, students asked to describe themselves and shown majestic natural scenes or impressive artwork were more descriptive about themselves than those given the question and situated in a nondescript room.

We don’t generally look for awe, it finds us. A baby’s smile, the Grand Canyon, a touching gesture, cathedral windows… awe shows up in small and big sizes. It requires us to push the “refresh” button in our brain and our heart.

Sometimes, we prefer to run on auto-pilot. We think that’s comfort and security. Then pain finds us, but it could as easily be awe on our GPS screen. Suffering is the sledgehammer that wakes us up; awe is the awareness that offers delight, inspiration and a big helping of majesty.

I find awe in the singing bowls constantly. They are always surprising me. And they do the same for others.

I have recently been conducting classes on Sensing the Consciousness of a Bowl. I suggest people sit with a singing bowl. Experience its vibratory presence, its voice, its consciousness. And people do. Even people who have had a bowl for a long time tell me that the bowl is different after the experience of simply sitting with it.

So let’s keep in harmony with the season. Enjoy a little awe and wonder.

Moving into Unknown Territory

November 24, 2010

I recently had an agent agree to read my book proposal on the story of how I came to play singing bowls. (I want Catherine Zeta Jones to be me in the movie version.)

This creates an odd threshold. If the agent thinks the idea and sample writing have merit, the agent goes looking for a publisher and I write like mad and organize all the pieces I’ve developed so far. Everything rolls that way then. Or if the agent declines the proposal, I continue my search for the right agent who can help me get published, and I still keep writing.

In developing the book proposal, I had to give an engaging synopsis of each chapter to provide a “feel” for the book, determine how many pages it will be, and offer a full publicity campaign as well as a complete sample chapter. I hadn’t yet written the book and yet I had to give it form. I was moving into unknown territory, as I am now. I’ve never had a book published of my own writing. What do I know?

Well, I know how to put one foot in front of the other. I’ve been a free-lance writer for 18 years, and now I’ve been playing the singing bowls for over a year. There is some magic, and there is no magic. I make lots of phone calls to people I’ve never met. I try to convey my vision. When they offer me a gig, they launch me into the unknown, the unpredictable, the un-anticipate-able. But there are maps and directions, time, date and place to center me. Then I enter the room, bowls in tow. Once again, what I know is what I see, but what is about to happen is unknown to me. People enter for the program, some I may know, others are strangers to me. I know what I’m supposed to do, and I begin telling a story. The information is always given a bit differently, but I know the points I want to make and a few surefire crowd-pleasers to include. Then I play, and again I move into unknown territory.

Generally, the bowls and the sounds beckon me into their realm. While I may not know what will happen next, the bowls and patterns with them also make the playing process somewhat familiar and exhilirating in its exploration. And of coure that process is welcomed for what it brings both to me and those for whom I play. 

I have little anxiety when I am in this state of the unknown. Nothing matters but playing. And so I play. As I continue on this process of publishing my journey with the bowls, I want to continue in that state of play, riding a wave into an unknown territory that I want to explore and enjoy.

Gaining Spaciousness

November 12, 2010

Have you ever been in a car, come to an open field and decided to get out and walk? What did you feel? Spaciousness.

How do we create that sense in our everyday lives? Well, I believe one way is by playing the bowls and feeling a “clear”-ing taking place, an opening into ourselves and the world around us that didn’t seem to exist before. Our possibilities just feel bigger, wider, more limitless.

Truly, we should feel limitless. We bind ourselves continually. We live within structures, with particular expectations, formulas and roles. We do the predictable and acceptable not out of concern that we not harm others, but because that is the conventional way of life. And we create boundaries so that others can’t infringe upon us, but what are we protecting? If we were filled with joy (or compassion for that matter), who could hurt us?

So let’s look for ways to gain that feeling of spaciousness, of being bigger and wider than we generally feel we are. Then let’s see how long we can maintain that sensibility.

We can take a first step easily. Clean out a drawer or a closet of things you don’t use. Walk outside, breathe the air and look at the sky to get lost in it. Sing sounds loudly in a room and feel how big your voice gets (who’s singing?). Or play a bowl.

If you try this, you’ll start to find what you’re attached to and maybe even discover why it’s this and not that. I have recently discovered I am attached to nostalgia. I thought I was keeping objects because they were gifts from friends and represented them in some way or our relationship. But it was the memory prompt of good times, not the friends per se. I still have those friends, or if not, I know that this object is not my friend or friendship. So let me release it, and feel the increased dimensions of the new and unknown. Nothing’s lost, I just gained some space.