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Experiences with Sounding Bowls

Sounding Bowls are simple instruments.
Results are remarkable.
Some put it down to tone, some to shape or looks, others to a combination of things. 
In this report a user from Gloucestershire (UK) describes effects within her work, concluding:
"Sounding Bowls ... have enabled us to see a break-through with several children and adults, which exceeded all expectations."

Zambodhi speaks:

“Working as a therapist I work with music and movement, and theinstruments I am using are mainly Sounding Bowls. I work with adults withlearning difficulties, children with complex needs and also as a volunteer withpeople who are dying or who are living with life limiting illnesses.

“One of the boys, Nigel, 9yrs, was described to me as throwing allitems in the class room off the shelves, moving or throwing chairs, undressing,urinating and occasionally defecating in the class room, kicking, screaming,spitting and scratching before he arrived for his first session. He would makesounds, maybe use occasional words without detectable context but not be ableto express the nature of his distress. In preparation for Nigel’s arrival all woodenand mechanical toys had been removed and cushions, blankets and a range of softtoys been left in the room.

Nigel entered the room and stepped lightly to the opposite end ofit turning round and finding a beanbag on which he made himself comfortable.During those short moments I unpacked a pentatonic Sounding Bowl and began to play one string. Nigel looked very alert andsurprised and buried his face in the beanbag. I explained that I would playsome more for him and that it would sound similar to the first sound he hadheard. I continued playing another few strings and Nigel carefully peepedthrough his fingers at me playing the bowl. After a few minutes he completelyrelaxed and made himself comfortable watching me on and off. Nigel remainedrelaxed and at ease for 1.5 hrs whilst I played the bowl and at times spokewith him without interrupting my playing. I offered Nigel to play himself andtowards the end of the session he reached out touching the edge of the bowlevery briefly. The second and last time he reached out he quickly brushed overthe strings. Nigel leaned back and positioned himself on a sheepskin on thefloor, his head on the beanbag and his legs pulled in and one leg crossing theother and just stayed in this relaxed position. His teachers came in one by one and couldn’t believe what they saw, Nigel had not been so peaceful and relaxedsince he started his placement a few weeks ago. The arrival and quiet chattingof his teachers seemed to make no difference and Nigel was clearly focussing on the gentle tones from the Sounding Bowl. At no time did he attempt to throwthings, to pull off his clothes or perform any of the previously described behaviours.

Nigel has since attended more sessions and in the meantime began toplay for himself in brief spells between long sessions of listening.

Another client, a 44 year old man with learning difficulties needsone to one care 24 hrs a day because of his tendency to wander off anyactivity, including meals and even at night due to his disrupted sleep. Simon had been best contained in outdoor activities such as horse riding, walking andgardening, anything indoors would not be able to catch his interest for anylength of time, 5 minutes before Simon left could be considered a success.

When Simon was introduced to the Sounding Bowls he did not evenwait until they were unpacked but left as soon as he had finished his snack.The next time the Sounding Bowl was already out on the table when Simon enteredthe room. This time he came close and tried it out. It caught his attentionimmediately and to everybody’s amazement Simon played for 30 minutes with asmile across his face before he left. In the following session Simon arrivedand called me saying repeatedly “watch me, I am playing!” with a broad smileall over his face. Simon stayed for the entire session of 1.5 hrs and hardlystopped smiling.

Now, 10 months later, Simon communicates his wishes for the session,he jokes, he sings and mostly he plays the Sounding Bowls. Simon plays on hisown and with others, he suggests and plays background music when we continuereading a biography and apart from a couple of toilet visits he does not leave the session at all. In-between he positions himself on the floor and relaxeswith his eyes closed listening to his beloved Sounding Bowls.

On another occasion one of the children had a violent outburst,which had left the entire group in shock that morning. During their break timeeverybody was still in shock and the unsettledness was tangible in the distressvisible in their faces and restlessness all over the place. I took out atwo-octave Melody Bowl, playing it in a minor key and placed it in the centre of the courtyard on the lawn. Once I started playing it the students gathered around me, requesting pillows and beanbags for comfort and two or three of them wanted to be covered with a blanket. All of this was arranged whilst they were listening to the bowl. Then the boy appeared who had shocked everybody with his violent behaviour. He came up to me and wanted to try playing on the bowl. He played very gently. The whole atmosphere changed and he kept playing for the rest ofthe break time. At the end of it the group returned really relaxed to their next session. I was amazed at the deep impact the sounds from this bowl seemed to have on the well-being of the students. It seemed to me that it enabled them to integrate their experience and to recover from the shock.

“The trust that runs the school and a residential community for adults with learning disabilities has now bought six different Sounding Bowlsand we continue to have wonderful results with them. Some of the adults are quite withdrawn and don’t engage easily. Using the Sounding Bowl I have seenseveral of them really open up and engage in a new way. Some of their parents have noticed changes and when we had the Sounding Bowls on display at our open day there was a lot of interest from them.

“Sometimes I play Sounding Bowl to one or other person during asession. It provides a sort of ‘sound bath’ a relaxing space and a peacefulenvironment, which is not there because of the use of language (reassuringwords) but just as it is, without the need for understanding or translation. Itis immediate and everyone has access to it without needing the assistance ofstaff.

Certainly the most amazing bowl is a 7 string Heart Bowl in Hollywood. It has a truly remarkable tone. (you may see this on You-Tubeif you click here) there is one particular 15 year old girl I do this with.She is extremely tense and has real anger issues. When she comes into sessionnow she makes herself a bed with some blankets and lies down and sleep for 7 -10 minutes while I play. When she wakes up she is like a different person andengages with the rest of the session in a way that would have been completelyimpossible before. She commented on it herself several times noticing that shehad less tension in her and that her stress levels had gone right down. Thisweek she invited another boy into one of these sessions. He was delighted by itand enjoyed the session so much he booked himself in for the next week straightaway. Before this he would not do any therapy except and only engage inwrestling which was a repeated scenario preventing him from addressing anyissues in his daily life.

Other comments from students are “this is the most therapeuticthing I have heard in my entire life!” girl 16 yrs, “This helps me to relax”boy 12yrs, “Playing Sounding Bowls helps me to come to terms with my grandma’sdeath” girl 17 yrs, “I like that I can do what I want and it sounds beautifuland I can invent my own tunes” boy 10yrs.

“Sounding Bowls are firmly established now in our work and theyhave enabled us to see a break-through with several people, children andadults, which exceeded all expectations.

Zambodhi Schlossmacher

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