Diana Winston introduced the use of singing bowls in meditation when she provided a guided meditation podcast with Master Tibetan musicians Michael and Jahna Perricone. Diana called her celebration with singing bowls Glimpses of Being and provided a way of developing “varying awareness” by moving from a narrow focus to a very wide focus of attention. She maintained that the singing bowls are conducive to meditation and can take us deeper into the meditative state.
Guided meditation to widen awareness
Diana begins her guided meditation by encouraging us to take deep breaths and employ the out-breath as a form of release from any tension spots in the body. She suggests that, besides grounding ourselves in our body (through deep breaths and sensing the groundedness of our feet), we consciously focus on our intention for the meditation – thus grounding both body and mind.
The next step involved mindful breathing – being aware of how our breathing affects our body. We can focus on where in our body we most experience our breath – through our nose, the undulations of our chest, or the in and out movement of our abdomen. Once we are grounded in the bodily sensation of breathing, we can then focus on the breath itself and its pattern – slow/fast, deep/shallow, heavy/light – without trying to control it.
The third stage of the meditation involved tuning into the Tibetan singing bowls and allowing the vibrations to penetrate our body. With practice we can align our bodily resonance to that of the singing bowls. Diana forewarns us that music and singing can unearth a wide range of emotions both positive and challenging. These emotions can range from elation, relief or joy to sadness, grief or anger. Being with the emotions without being overcome by them is a key to gaining equanimity. Denial leads to submerging and intensifying emotions while acceptance and openness lead to release and freedom. Diana maintains that it is important to experience the emotion as it is at the moment.
In the final stages of the guided meditation, Diana uses nature imagery to help us widen our awareness. She suggests that we look at the sky (or imagine it) and notice its openness and expansiveness. We can imagine the clouds passing by – sometimes light and fluffy and, at other times, wild and stormy. Diana encourages us to “rest in awareness” – to take in the expansiveness and unboundedness of the sky and the sounds emitted by the singing bowls and the accompanying Tibetan singing provided by Jahna Perricone. Diana maintains that despite the turbulence of the surface, beneath the waves lies stillness and silence – an analogy for our capacity to find refuge from troubling events through meditation and to build our resilience. Tina Turner, through her chanting, demonstrated the power of music and meditation to overcome personal adversity, develop resilience and experience happiness.
Michael and Jahna Perricone describe their workshops as “sound baths” where Michael’s playing of the Tibetan bowls is accompanied by Jahna’s singing of Tibetan songs. I remember experiencing a sound bath when I participated in a singing residential retreat with Chris James. We had been formed into pods and members of each pod began toning over a volunteer participant lying on the floor, effectively soaking them in directed sound. The experience is very profound and moving – not only the sense of the loving kindness being extended towards you but also the resonance achieved in your body as the reverberations of the chanting flow over and through you. This is a special experience and it would be even more enhanced with singing accompanied by the skilful playing of Tibetan music bowls.
As we grow in mindfulness through meditation and tapping into the resonance of music, singing bowls, Tibetan singing or chanting, we can access the stillness and silence within – a source of resilience, insight, courage and happiness. Once we have discovered our own inner depths and expansiveness, we can revisit it at any time.
By Ron Passfield – Copyright (Creative Commons license, Attribution–Non Commercial–No Derivatives)
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