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The session’s descriptive blurb went like this:

SOUND HEALING WITH TIBETAN SINGING BOWLS

Relaxes the brainwaves and prepares the body to receive the power of vibrational sounds. The bowls’ varied ringing tones, carried by the liquids in the body, cleanse the energy points and bring nourishment to all the body’s cells.

The session will:

• balance the chakras,

harmonize the nervous system, and

• help detoxify the bodymind.

Today I got to lie down on a comfortably hard bed with  numerous thick-walled metal bowls abutting my extremities – thick, heavy metal bowls of varying sizes. Eyes shut, so I couldn’t see my small and agile friend Suha as she clambered around me, in turn pinging with her padded drumstick and moving the heavy vessels into correct alignment with those of my meridians she wanted to affect. There are twelve of these huge rounded bowls and they are made of an amalgam of copper, tin, zinc, aluminium and brass. Altogether they weigh 20 kilos.

It was all in the sensation. The feeling of resonating bell sounds that these ancient bowls produce penetrating my system and seeming to vibrate bits of my body I didn’t know existed. Boom went the hammer on their sides. Quiver and judder went my visceral nervous system. Some of the bowls sat right beside my ear and with each ping projected me into a vast temple of the imagination – a former life as a Buddhist monk, perhaps? 

The sounds of the cave temples

There is an ancient Buddhist temple in Ellora, northern Maharashtra. It is one of 100-odd sacred temples carved directly into a rocky cliff face, a cavernous place with a huge presiding Buddha at one end and a ribbing of high arches all around. And it has an atonishingly resonant acoustic. You could sit in one spot of its voluminous interior and hear the hum you are producing bounce back and forth and return to you at what seems like twice the volume. 

Who needs Bosch audio sound equipment when you have rock-cut cave temples?

Or Tibetan singing bowls….

Listening to vibrations

Suha’s Tibetan bowls have this effect – they fill you with the sound of Om without the word of Om. The reverberations of atonal ringing enter your bloodstream as she places them against your skin and gently pounds away. Or as she periodically encircles the rim to produce a stark continuous tone not unlike the high-pitched tintinnabulations set off by running your finger around the edge of a half-full wineglass… 

Her skill is in her listening. She bends to hear the vibrational effects as the sounds travel to every cell. She observes what the tones are doing to your nervous system, and she adjusts the bowls accordingly, silently shifting them around to different parts. Her astute tuning-in makes sure that nothing is obstructing their healing effect. Round and round the sounds go, in one great auditory web of rebounding chimes.

Deep inside the cosmic laughter

By the time Suha has got all the bowls resonating, the power of their vibrations has pushed me so far into myself that I now occupy a huge cosmic sky of silence – counterpoints to the loud ‘singing’ sounds pulsating through my chakras.

This is not unfamiliar; my place of meditation: a giant emptiness where everything seems to be happening at a genial distance, of no concern to me. 

As is usual for me, once I’ve landed there, I am no longer responsible for what goes on. Osho used to say, when I was one of his energy mediums: Let whatever happens in the body happen.I heard him say that so many times, I am now good at letting ‘whatever happens in the body happen’. And indeed much happens in the body! 

The sacred laugh

From limb to limb: a totally relaxed flesh-and-bones. From in-breath to out-breath: a constantly deepening inhalation. Somewhere in my brain area: a silent witness taking note… 

And here it is, creeping up on me, the inner sky signalling a long peal of absolute nothingness… And there, from over the horizon, comes the cheeky celestial laugh.

Such a laugh.

It’s not my laugh, it’s god’s laugh. It’s the laughter of existence. It’s the belly-laugh of the cosmic joke. 

It’s just energy manifesting as laughter.

And so (poor Suha!) I laugh and laugh. Occasionally words come. Nonsense words. Gibberish. The Christian mystics call that babbling glossolalia, speaking in tongues.

There I go, gibbering away, laughing like a madwoman, giggling like a four-year-old… Suha takes no notice except when the infectiousness of laughter catches her own giggle spot. Then she is chuckling alongside me.

She continues to scramble around me, however, rearranging the bowls, gonging them away…

Come back!

When she is done… and the resonating vibrations have come to a standstill and my nonsense words have stopped their pitter-patter and the laughter has died a natural death as slowly as it came to life, my body lies still, completely vacated. It has become an empty Tibetan bowl itself. The Singing Bowl without the song.

No bowl, no sound, only laughter

Now that I inhabit that zone, I have no words to say and nothing to do. I take my time. The body rises off the pillow; I follow. I swing down off the table. Suha and I hug. I slowly gather my things and walk the short walk home, floating in my sacred zone, full of love – even for the honking cars, the stinky air, the bustling people.

What a joke!

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