Why Are Sounding Bowls Are So Effective

Development within Sounding Bowls has been ongoing for more than 20 years. I am actively interested in where this instrument comes from and where it is going. In the last 17 years, since Sounding Bowls went into professional therapeutic use the feedback has been astonishing. At first I dismissed it as people being nice to me, as one off experiences or some other excuse to maintain my diffidence. Even when a therapist told me in detail how “no other instrument...” she was using gained the same level of response from the many groups of children with multiple difficulties did I really take on board that something extraordinary is happening here. Looking back now many things were giving me the same message. Perhaps I am just phlegmatic but a slow and steady development continued as I deepened my relationship with the sources that inspire the Sounding Bowls from me.

In the last few years I have kind of ‘woken up’ to the fact that something truly amazing, that is surprising and remarkably healing is happening through Sounding Bowls. If you take a look at the articles, Some Reports from the Field originally published in Healing Today magazine, or A Short and Remarkable History fromCaduceus magazine you can read some of this feedback but here I want to look at something else, something that might be partly why Sounding Bowls get this extraordinary effect.

Sounding Bowls resound from an open resonator. Each inside curve is formed as an acoustic amplifier, shapes based on the ‘Golden Section’ or Fibonacci series. These ‘Curves of Life’ give harmony to all life forms and are considered sacred numbers by temple builders. In Sounding Bowls they produce a curve with remarkable, almost magical effects. 


Historically stringed instruments nearly all have a box resonator, be it guitar, violin or even a harp. The open resonator of a Sounding Bowl gives a very different tone than the box. A box resonator amplifies and gives an even spread of sound, the violin or guitar sounds as loud from behind as from in front. Whereas an open, spiral resonator amplifies and harmonizes the sound in one direction more than another, collecting the sound from each string, enriching it and radiating it out to the front. It also picks up any sounds made close in front and radiates them, also newly harmonised, outwards again.

Many curves reflect sound. People often remark that this effect must mean I am using a parabolic curve but these curves only focus on one point and create a straight column reflection which is why they are used in search lights etc. others wonder if it might be a radius curve such as is used in some formal garden benches layouts. These create a very string acoustic reflection but with a hard-edged amplification. A Fibonacci, or Golden curve picks up the sound from all the strings, not just a focal one and, most importantly of all beautifies the sound reflected.

Perhaps this is one reason that Sounding Bowls have been so effective in therapeutic situations, this focussed harmonization picks up every nuance of every  note strummed by the player, picks up their own sounds as well and makes it all more beautiful. This naturally involves the player in a deep relationship with the instrument and with their own selves. Often our very need for therapy indicates temporary lack of positive self reflection, something the Sounding Bowl gives without trying.

The effect of first playing a Sounding Bowl is usually instant, it can even extend into a noticeable flush on a persons face as their heart responds to finding themselves within the resonant space of beautiful sound, touch and sight. Typically a persons heart will open, and resources of healing they did not know they had, become available. It seems that a lack of positive self reflection may be something of a western disease (the Dalai Lama has remarked on this), huge numbers of people feel deeply moved and uplifted by the sound, look and feel of Sounding Bowls. (a few have been moved to tears even on first sight, which suggests that I don’t know the whole explanation yet)

If you were to move the bowl this way and that you can track the edges of this effect, the point at which it begins and ends, map this carefully and you will find a sort of bud shape within which it is strongly noticeable, something similar to the sketch here. Larger bowls are more marked in effect and one can find distinct differences by depth as well: shallower bowls have larger, softer bud shapes, almost as though the bud opens towards flowering. Deeper bowls have smaller, more intense bud shapes with the richest sound.

For anyone within the bud shape a kind of positive feedback spiral occurs, both sides beautifying the other. Unlike electronic feedback, that creates a terrible scream, the feedback between a Sounding Bowl and a Human Being creates peace and harmony.

You can test this for yourself by holding a Sounding Bowl up half an arms length in front of your face and speaking. Your voice will be gathered back to you, almost as though you were whispering into your own ears, yet beautified by the shape and strings of the instrument. With a little attention, even the sound of your own breathing can be heard whispering into your ears. If you tilt the bowl slightly this way and that you will find that you can move the focus of the sound into one ear or the other.


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