People have used sound to enhance meditation for thousands of years.
Some cultures struck gongs and drums; others gravitated toward what we now call “singing bowls.”
Historical records first mention the circular, musical meditation aids during the time of the Buddha Shakyamuni, who lived between 560 and 480 BCE.
Around the 1970s, the bowls first became popular outside of Asia, and today, they’re enjoying a renaissance.
In celebration of the ancient practice, today we’re exploring how to use a meditation sound bowl to help you achieve a deep meditative state.
- What Are the Benefits of Using Singing Bowls for Meditation
- Where To Place Your Singing Bowl
- How to Strike Meditation Bowls To Make Them Sing
- How To Use a Singing Bowl for Meditation
- Using a Singing Bowl with Water
What Are the Benefits of Using Singing Bowls for Meditation
There are a thousand and one ways to meditate, and one increasingly popular meditation enhancement option is sound bowls. The practice is ancient but enjoying a 21st-century revival.
Let’s review the basics.
What Is a Singing Bowl?
Before we get into the benefits of this type of sound meditation, let’s talk a little about what qualifies as a singing bowl.
Sometimes called a Tibetan or Himalayan singing bowl, they’re made of metal alloys, are light and thin, come in various sizes, and need a mallet or striker to get them humming.
It’s best to get one specifically designed for meditation, but if you want to try it before buying a dedicated set, metal bowls around the house may work.
Singing bowls for beginners should be on the lighter, smaller side. The more you become comfortable with the practice, the better you’ll handle larger options.
What Are the Benefits?
In terms of benefits, studies prove that sustained tones can affect the speed of your brainwaves and allow your body to transcend into deep meditative states, rendering singing bowls a boon to meditation and mindfulness practice.
A study in Sage Journals found that sound therapy produces positive results, and the list of benefits is long and impressive. Singing bowls can help:
- Create an environment of peace and deep relaxation
- Cleanse the chakral system
- Reduce anxiety, stress, and light depression by increasing serotonin levels
- Support healthier digestive and circulatory systems
- Improve the amount of quality sleep you get
- Clean and activate crystals, minerals, and mala beads
- Improve cognitive function
- Eliminate negative energy from your home
Researchers are still trying to figure out why, but they are confident that sounded-aided meditation can be more effective than silent sessions.
To be clear, that’s not to say that quiet mindfulness practice is inferior. However, in certain situations, the addition of sound elevates the experience.
Where To Place Your Singing Bowl
You can either hold singing bowls in your hands or place them in front of you on a table or raised surface.
Holding a Singing Bowl
Holding one while meditating may take a bit of practice. So prepare yourself for the pangs of frustration the first few times you try.
So how’s it done?
- Find a place to sit and get comfortable. Enhance the experience by engaging multiple senses. Light a scented candle, wear something soft and make sure the room temperature is pleasant.
- Next, pick up the bowl and place it in your non-dominant hand. If it’s heavier, balance it on your palm. For lighter bowls, use your fingertips. The less contact you have with the bowl, the better it will sound.
- Then, pick up the striker or mallet with your other hand.
We’ll get to the logistics of going about the actual meditation below, but that’s how you set yourself up for a singing bowl session when holding one.
Placing Singing Bowl on Surface
If you opt to put the bowl on a table or surface, sit comfortably and place it in front of you. Put a cushion underneath it; otherwise, the sound will be muddled and distorted.
Ensure the bowl is within easy reach, as you don’t want to struggle to play it.
Another thing to consider, in terms of placement, is the direction you face. Most people adhere to the feng shui model, which we’ve outlined below.
- West is associated with knowledge and creativity. Metal is its element.
- Northwest is associated with protection, happiness, and luck. Metal is its element.
- North is associated with personal power and career success. Water is its element.
- Northeast is associated with health, family, prosperity, and peace. Earth is its element.
- East is associated with good vibes and harmony. Wood is its element.
- Southeast is associated with attracting wealth and good fortune. Wood is its element.
- South is associated with success and fame. Fire is its element.
- Southwest is associated with familial synergy. Earth is its element.
Under the principles of feng shui, the heart of a home is its center, so it’s best to sit in the “nucleus” of your space when in session, facing the most auspicious direction for your intentions.
How to Strike Meditation Bowls To Make Them Sing
What is the best way to strike a meditation bowl to make it sing? Let’s review a few how-to tips.
- The initial strike establishes the tone for the session.
- The harder you hit it, the longer the vibration will resonate. However, you don’t want to hit it too hard; doing so may create an unpleasant tone.
- Aim for the widest point.
- Once the sound begins to ring through the space, circle the rim with the striker. It may take several revolutions to get it going.
Once you get proficient, you can “play” the bowl by composing a series of strikes and rotations.
Some musical people can produce specific notes that coordinate with chakra points. This helps balance the body’s energies and clear blockages. Here’s the chakral scale:
- Root chakra is linked to C.
- Sacral chakra is linked to D.
- Solar plexus chakra is linked to E.
- Heart chakra is linked to F.
- Throat chakra is linked to G.
- Third Eye chakra is linked to A.
- Crown chakra is linked to B.
How To Use a Singing Bowl for Meditation
We’ve covered the foundational basics of singing bowls. Now let’s look at how to use them for meditation.
1. Get Situated
First, get situated. Pick where you want to do the meditation and whether you want to hold the bowl or place it on a table in front of you.
2. First Strike
You’re comfortable and ready to start. At this point, strike the bowl halfway between the top and bottom at the widest part with enough force to get it going.
Figuring out the perfect pressure can be tricky. You don’t want to clobber the bowl, but it needs to be strong enough to get it vibrating. To get the feel, beginners may want to try it a few times before starting the session.
After the first strike, begin focusing on the sound.
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3. Circle the Bowl
Once the sound starts, keep it going by circling the bowl. Gently move the mallet around the bowl’s rim at whatever speed feels most natural.
Don’t overexert yourself, but don’t fall asleep, either. Also, avoid large movements. Ideally, your wrists should be the only body part moving.
4. Incorporate Breathing
Once the bowl starts singing, incorporate breathwork. Breathe in one rotation and out the next.
If someone else is working with the metal and striker, inhale until you no longer can, then slowly exhale. Your primary focus should be on the sound; your secondary focus should be breath.
5. Block Out Other Thoughts
Meditating isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. Sometimes the goal is to clear your head of all thoughts; other times, meditation is about thinking intently about a topic.
With singing bowl meditations, the aim is to block out all thoughts except the sound of the instrument.
Don’t worry if your mind wanders. When you notice it happening, gently guide your focus back to the bowl’s hum.
6. Additional Strikes
If the bowl stops singing before your session ends, strike it again. Be mindful, though, as you don’t want to hit it too forcefully, causing the bowl to fall.
7. Calming End Touch
If the bowl is still singing after you’re done meditating, gently touch the side to mute the sound. Try not to use much force; doing so will blunt the sound abruptly, and it’s better to let it die out slowly.
8. Enlist a Player
Are you and coordination like oil and water? Mortal enemies.
If so, enlist someone to play for you. Budget permitting, hire a professional to do an in-person session. If, however, you’re watching the bottom line, try one of these free options on YouTube:
- Healing Singing Bowls
- Bedtime Sound Bath
- Sound Bowl Music To Remove Negative Energy
- Reiki Sound Bath
- Brain Massage Singing Bowl Sound Bath
Using a Singing Bowl with Water
Adding water to singing bowls produces different sounds. The practice is sometimes called “charging the water,” and the amount of liquid in the bowl affects the tone.
However, never fill it more than halfway, as you’ll likely end up with a wet mess.
So how does it work? Follow the steps below.
Fill the Bowl
Step one is filling the bowl. Again, don’t go past the halfway mark. Not only will it likely spill, but it also dampens the tones. Experiment with the water levels. The more you put in, the deeper the note will be.
Steady the Bowl
Once the water is inside, steady the bowl. It must be level and secure to produce a consistent, clear tone. If you’re holding it, rest your elbow on something.
Most folks choose the knee of the corresponding hand. If it’s on a table, ensure the bowl is resting evenly on a mat or cushion.
Now it’s time to start the meditation. Follow the steps outlined above; just be mindful of the added water.
The interaction between the metal and liquid will create different tones than you’d get with an empty bowl.
Focus on the water’s vibrations if you’re doing an open-eyed meditation. Watch it dance around the bowl. Notice how it flows and goes where the vibrations take them.
Consider how the water is free and what you can take from that.
Lastly, don’t drink water that’s been “charged” in a metal bowl because it could contain elements toxic to the human body.
A singing bowl meditation is a unique experience that proves transformative for many people.
Even if esoteric pursuits aren’t your thing, scientific studies conclude that the practice positively impacts the mind, which translates to a more fulfilling life.