May 7, 2014
At my yoga class last night, my instructor, Linda, played the singing bowls. I can only describe the experience as…delicious.
She began by setting up her bowls—removing the thick, short metal bowls from their colorful silk bags, placing them upon thick colored cushions on the floor in front of her. Each bowl represents one of the chakras, the energy centers of the body, and each bowl is tuned to its own key. As Linda explained, two bowls of different sizes can be tuned to the same key, but because of the size and shape differences, the undertones and overtones and sound waves vary radically.
We lay in shavasana, which just means flat on your back and not moving, with our heads facing the center of the room toward the bowls. The entire experience consisted of lying down with eyes closed and nothing but sound and vibration to attend to (except near the end when I, unfortunately, had to cough).
I am probably equal parts visual and auditory, and this was a sounding feast. The tones differed based on whether Linda struck the bowl with the wooden mallet or the cloth-wrapped mallet, or ran the wooden mallet around the outside rim of the bowl, the way grown-ups revert to childhood and “play” the crystal goblets at a dinner party with their wetted finger. Some bowls sound their own two-note chords, and every bowl played madcap with its own unpredictable wah-wah vibrations and reverberations, each bowl with its own unique “hang time.” I listened but I observed those patterns in my mind, literally saw them in my brain, dancing the edge of synesthesia.
The small concert was a tactile experience, too, as the vibrations could be felt—through the top of the head, the ears, the surface of the skin. It was almost like a light massage.
Ordinarily in regular yoga class, Linda plays one bowl at the very end of our practice. But it’s never enough. Last night was the full complement of bowls, and it lasted ten minutes or so, and it was delicious, and it was still not enough.
Nonetheless, it felt decadent—like something really yummy that we shouldn’t be allowed to have so much of, like persistent dessert. Like the taste of good chocolate for hours. I don’t really ever want to eat chocolate for hours. My stomach doesn’t want that much chocolate—it would be impractical, at best—but my mouth always wants more. So, too, it would be impractical to indulge in the daily bathing in such a soundwash…but my brain and body and soul want more singing bowls.
Like my Golden Retrievers’ unexpected pleasure—they looked and hesitated in shock, literally doing a double-take—when we unwrapped and offered them burgers for dinner at the end of a road trip, so, too, was our treat of sound and wave unexpected…and welcomed.
My head is still thrumming today, the colors seem bright against the overcast sky, and I’m not even thinking of chocolate.