Updated: Mar 9
Where did my passion for working with the sound of bowls and gongs come from?
In 2005, when I was still living in Poland, my current husband and I took part in a yoga retreat. At the end of the stay, we attended a sound bath. I've always had a hard time relaxing, practicing visualization, and was a kind of person who had a hard time just turning off and relaxing.
When we lay down on the mats, I was quite skeptical about the idea of relaxing with the sounds. However, after a few minutes, my mind began to calm down, and before I knew it, I completely drifted away somewhere else. While relaxing, I began to feel a pleasant lightness, it seemed to me that my body was a few centimeters above the ground. I was extremely relaxed and when next sounds followed I started to move into a state of relaxation, a state between sleep and being awake, a stress-free space. After waking up, I lost track of time. What seemed like few minutes was over an hour long session. I felt like waking up from a refreshing sleep. Rested, and at the same time very aware and present. It was an amazing experience. From that day on, I decided that I would find a way to learn how to create such a space for others to experience such relaxation.
A few months later, we left for Ireland. I slowly began to discover meditation, various relaxation techniques and singing bowls. Sound Magic Ireland was founded in 2011.
I have my own approach to working with sound. I gained knowledge from various teachers, but I do not agree with every philosophy of working with sound. I try to avoid words like therapy, healing, healing frequencies. Among the various opinions and theories of working with sound, there are many overinterpretation and not accurate statements. In fact, there is no reliable research yet on the specific properties of using frequency and vibration. Many myths have arisen around this, which are repeated by successive generations of people working with sound and those myths can create unnecessary expectations and even discourage this type of relaxation, which as a complementary method can be successfully proposed by doctors and hospitals, offering many people a tool of relaxation as supporting method. Unfortunately, due to overinterpretation and abuse of statements used to advertise this method, conventional medicine is sceptical or misinformed about the benefits of sound for relaxation and emotional wellbeing. Therefore, it is very important for me to be honest and objective in describing the benefits of relaxation with sound.
What is the power of singing bowls?
The sounds of bowls and gongs have remarkable properties to put us in deep states of relaxation, meditation or hypnosis. Thanks to this, our body and mind can regenerate, and as you know, thanks to stress reduction, we can improve not only our mental state, but also health. Our body is capable of extraordinary things. It is a fascinating mechanism that has the ability to self-regenerate and self-regulate, if we create the right conditions to support it. During sound relaxation session, I try to create a space where people can begin to get used to the state of relaxation and balance. Many people find it challenging to relax. Constant stress and business of the world causes us to take less and less time to rest. As funny as it sounds, we must learn to relax, and recall this state as often as possible. Only in this state we give the body a chance to regenerate.
There is no single best method of relaxation. Each of us is different and has different needs. However, in my experience hardly anyone is resistant to the sounds of bowls and gongs. Aside from the sound itself, which has a calming effect on the brain, the rhythmical beats cause our brain waves to begin to change.
Although many people say that specific bowl frequencies "heal" specific organs, I tend to deviate from such statements because this is a much more complex topic and the body is a much more complex mechanism. The research carried out so far on this topic is far from professional scientific research, and such statements can cause a lot of confusion, as I have already mentioned.
How does sound affect people at concerts?
The sounds of bowls and gongs stay in space for a long time thanks to their properties. One strike of a bowl, for example, excites overlapping sound waves. Even if we do not notice it, the impact of the bowl does not evoke one particular sound, but several higher and lower tones. Our hearing may not catch it, but our brain does notice those subtle sounds and reacts to the.
In addition to sound, we are also stimulated with a repetitive rhythm. A stable, often mimicking heart rhythm affects our brain waves. Slowly, as our brain waves change, we begin to shift our awareness between states of arousal, mindfulness, meditation, or even hypnosis. People often fall asleep or deeply relax during sessions.
How does the sound help with meditation?
There are various forms of meditation. One of them may be sound meditation, i.e. concentration on sounds such as the sound of our breathing, focusing attention on sounds in our surrounding, e.g. street sounds, a ticking clock, or any sounds appearing in the field of our awareness. We can also meditate with the background music, e.g. with the sounds of nature, which has a soothing effect on our mind.
Meditation with bowls is a great way to calm your mind after a busy day. It helps to slow the brain waves down and support meditation. However, I recommend it at times when it is really difficult for us to practice meditation, or when we are particularly stressed. Such sounds accompanying the guided meditation will bring us into a state of peace. However, be careful not to confuse meditation with relaxation. It is possible that instead of meditating, we will relax and the mind will drift away instead of concentrating on the practice.
During the Sound Magic sessions, we try to combine elements of meditation and relaxation. At the beginning of the session, we invite participants to concentrate on the sounds and notice their feelings, bodily sensations, breath or concentrate on the sounds of singing bowls. Then we ask them let go of the control, and concentration and allow body and mind to relax.
Depending on the person and their needs, some people choose to keep their attention on the sounds and meditate with sound for a longer time, others relax, some fall asleep, and others travel with the sound into deeper levels of the subconscious or fall into a state similar to hypnosis (such states are called become hypnogenic states).
There are also people who, especially in the first sessions, are unable to relax, although this happens less often. This is due to many reasons, but most of all the mind's curiosity about the new space, sounds, the level of stress on a given day or physical discomfort, or higher sensitivity to specific sounds and, of course, the skills and sensitivity of the session leader.
Everyone reacts to bowls in their own way, but many report feelings such as lightness, floating or a pleasant heaviness, calmness, greater awareness of the body and space, the emergence of creative thoughts, solutions to problems, visions, seeing colours, dreaming. Some people just fall asleep, losing track of time. It may happen that we remember something that was deeply hidden in our memory and subconsciousness. It is generally a safe and enjoyable experience.
What gives me the most satisfaction in my work?
Creating a space for people where they can feel safe enough to let go of everything that bothers them and experience greater peace and harmony during this hour gives me the greatest satisfaction and joy. Working with people is an honor for me. I try to make everyone feel safe and well cared for as I know letting go of control and stress requires trust and sense of safety. This is the most important thing for me and makes me happy when I see that people feel safe around me. When I conduct a session, I pay great attention to the smallest details. Of course, I love seeing people relaxing, change during the sessions, bodies that were previously tense begin to relax, someone starts to snore, I can hear rhythmic, calmer breathing of the participants in the room as they go deeper into relaxation. Many people have been coming to our sessions on a regular basis for years until the pandemic began. In these stressful times, such audio sessions are a haven for many people. Helping others is my motivation and gives me the greatest satisfaction.
Can the sounds of bowls heal?
As I already mentioned, in my opinion, singing bowls or gongs do not treat specific diseases. There has been too little research to suggest that specific frequencies or tones of the bowls can treat specific parts of the body. Although some healing may occur spontaneously, it is very individual and unpredictable phenomena. The bowls help us achieve a state of equilibrium in which it is much easier for the body to heal itself. It is very difficult to tell how the bowls will work on a specific person. It is a very personal matter. I myself noticed that bowls bring me great relief in states of stress, insomnia, agitated emotions, sadness or anxiety, often they help with muscle and menstrual pains.
The sounds of bowls, especially in contact with the body, bring a sense of peace and security. Children also respond very well to it.
Rhythmic and soothing sounds help to regulate our nervous system and allow us to better cope with emotions, thus supporting the regenerative processes of our body.
I think that both sound and other tools combined with human contact and compassion can be contributes to emotional or sometimes physical healing. I think that the type of bowls, their specific tone or frequency is not that important. Harmony, depth of the sound, playing skills, sensitivity, and the intention to help are equally important. In this way, we give the body the opportunity to rest and let go of many emotional burdens, and thus improve overall health. However, we are still far from proving whether bowls and their specific tones can cure specific ailments.
From my own experience as a masseuse, I noticed that the bowls placed on the body reduce and even often remove muscle pain. People after the massage with bowls experience deep relaxation, pain relief and release of tensions from the body. There are different methods of singing bowl massage. The gentle weight of the bowl, sense of vibration, soothing sound and direct contact with the "therapist" can do a lot. I think the space that is created for a person, the sense of security, is the biggest part of this experience. The technique and tools used are important, but not the most important.
Plans for the near future?
The pandemic forced us to close our meditation studio in Galway, but it opened up other opportunities for us. I don't think without that nudge, I wouldn't have had the time to create my online mindfulness programs. I spent the last six months creating online materials for the mindfulness course in Polish and English, and training for teachers.
We will spend the next months with my husband designing a mobile application that includes meditation, relaxation with sound and other techniques of coping with stress, addressed to both adults and children.