Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit like my mom on her 60th birthday when she announced, “No more physical presents! From now on, just give me experiences. I want to see more, hear more, feel more.” So when I discovered an upcoming Tibetan Crystal Bowl concert at a local enlightenment center, it piqued my interest. I decided my mom and I had to go.

Theoretically, all this happens because the bowls’ pure sonic sound range recalibrates the vibratory frequencies of “diseased” parts of the mind, body, and soul back to normal and enables brainwaves to synchronize with the perfect resonance of the bowls’ tones.

Tibetan Crystal Bowls have a healing history dating back centuries, to a time when Buddhist monks incorporated them into meditation practices. Today, alternative medicine practitioners and laypeople integrate the singing bowls into strategies to relieve stress and pain. Advocates claim that the bowls’ deep, rich-toned vibrations can stimulate the immune system, produce positive brain change, harmonize the body’s cells, balance the body’s energy systems, and promote healing from a variety of conditions, including stress, depression, and disease.

Theoretically, all this happens because the bowls’ pure sonic sound range recalibrates the vibratory frequencies of “diseased” parts of the mind, body, and soul back to normal and enables brainwaves to synchronize with the perfect resonance of the bowls’ tones. This in turn creates an optimal environment for deep meditation, creativity, and intuitive connection—a trance state conducive to healing. In short, the bowls facilitate an experience that goes beyond hearing into the deeper aspects of the mind/body health connection.

Even hard-core science devotees recognize the healing power of the bowls. Mitchell Gaynor, M.D., director of medical oncology and integrative medicine at the Cornell Cancer Prevention Center in New York, uses them to help cancer patients. He believes the sound can alter the immune system. Specifically, levels of Interleukin 1 (the index of your immune system) increase 12.5% to 15% after listening to Gregorian chanting or specific musical forms. And it takes only 20 minutes of listening for your immunoglobulin levels (proteins that function as antibodies in your immune system) to increase. The late David Simon, M.D., who was the medical director of the Deepak Chopra Center in California, discovered that sound vibrations from the bowls chemically metabolize into “endogenous opiates,” the body’s natural painkillers.

Our Tibetan Crystal Bowl Adventure
Robert Austin performing on Tibetan Crystal Bowls, which have a healing history dating back centuries.

On the afternoon of the concert, my mom and I head to the enlightenment center. The door sits invitingly open and the smell of incense wafts past a large Buddha statue. While my mother and I register, three women huddle in an aisle debating whether or not to sign up for an angel reading event.

We enter the large yoga studio and see about 50 people sitting on yoga mats. Many of them look sick, weak, sad, and frail. My mother and I take two of the last remaining mats in the back.

At the front of the room a set of 12 white bowls of varying sizes (similar to a set of mixing bowls) is set up in a semicircle. The concert will be performed by Robert Austin, a Tibetan Crystal Bowl expert (see video, below). A short, stocky man with a crew cut who looks to be in his 60s, Robert sports a printed tunic over loose meditation pants. He welcomes us and talks about the bowls’ healing qualities, telling us that each note/tone is related to a chakra beginning at middle C (corresponding to your root chakra) and moving up the scale. After sharing some remarkable healing stories, he turns off the lights so that only the sun streaming in through a set of windows provides illumination.

The notes seem to rise and fall, expand and contract. I imagine the vibration entering me, its force pushing any stress down the length of my body and out my toes. I take deep, cleansing breaths and allow myself to become suspended in the moment, where I drift into an altered state of focus.

“Get comfortable on your mat, close your eyes, and focus on energy coming in,” Robert suggests in a soft, low voice. “This is your time. Don’t try to analyze what happens over the next hour; just receive. Set an intention to release any pain you hold by redirecting that energy to move out through your fingers and toes. Let any discomfort wash away in the sound.”

The bowls sound almost like gongs, each note resonating long after it has been played. The instrument with which Robert plays them looks similar to what you would use to play a xylophone. He hits a bowl with the instrument to begin the note and then runs the padded tip along the bowl’s lip or walls to extend the sound. After a while he begins to chant in tones that expand each note.

Within five minutes, a woman in the row in front of me begins snoring loudly. To the left, a woman keeps rustling and readjusting her pillow. Snuggled under a blanket, shoes off, I block out the distractions and let my mind drift in the meditative sounds. The notes seem to rise and fall, expand and contract. I imagine the vibration entering me, its force pushing any stress down the length of my body and out my toes. I take deep, cleansing breaths and allow myself to become suspended in the moment, where I drift into an altered state of focus.

An hour later Robert’s voice gently guides us back to the present, instructing us to notice our bodies. Several people raise their hands to share stories of an intense and then diminished pain in their backs, hands, sides, and heads. Robert adds stories of people who have healed back pain, nerve issues—even a dog’s arthritis.

The presentation ends and my mother and I link arms, sauntering out of the center with a sense of calm well-being. We agree that the concert was soothing, the sounds beautiful. Neither of us experienced a sea change in mood or physical health, but that wasn’t our goal. We just wanted to see more, hear more, feel more—which we did, together. As we climb into the car, my mom says, “Let’s come back for an angel reading.”

 

Video: Robert Austin in Concert

2 Comments

  • Ed Decker
    Posted March 28, 2014 5:53 pm 0Likes

    I absolutely loved your mother’s sentiment on her birthday (give me more “experiences” rather than stuff). And you certainly found an experience worth remembering for her. Thanks for sharing!

  • Michele Rosenthal
    Posted March 29, 2014 4:48 pm 0Likes

    @Ed, you would love my mom — she’s tons of fun. And as Linda knows from editing my memoir, she’s also a force to reckon with and a woman of incredible strength. Honoring her is easy, and delighting her takes the cake any day!

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