January 26, 2009

Crankypants Meets Tibetan Bowl

Some folks are adventurous optimists. They assume that all new experiences will be fun. Ask one of these folks: "Hey, optimist, wanna go Naked Ice Fishing in the Antarctic?" Chances are they'll say "Sure, count me in!" And even if they go naked ice fishing, catch nothing but a bad cold and even lose a few extremities to frostbite in the process, you can still ask them next time: "Hey optimist, want to go sunbathing in the Sahara?" And their answer will be: "Sure, count me in!"

And then there are their opposites. I am one of these creatures. You can call us "party poopers," or just say we're "cautious." We are picky about how we spend our time. We assume that most new things outside of the tried-and-true will NOT be fun. Our default answer to most new activities is "no thanks!"

Before you say "how terrible! That's so limiting!" keep in mind that our ability to say "no thanks" is often hard-won. Most of us crankypants cautious types have been talked into outings and parties and performances for decades and we've been assured we will LOVE them. And then we go, only find ourselves bored, anxious, disappointed, or annoyed. We've learned to trust our own instincts and ignore the enthusiastic promises of the adventurous optimists. Don't get me wrong: we Party Poopers still have plenty of fun; we're just way more selective about how we have it.

All this is to say that while in San Diego, Crabby McSlacker, queen of the Crankypants Party Poopers, got talked into a "Sound Energy Healing" session involving the playing of Tibetan singing bowls (and bells and gongs and other exotic objects).

How did this happen? Well, it was one of those situations where despite some skepticism I couldn't really decline unless I wanted to be a total... what's the female equivalent of a prick, anyway? So the Cautious Crab went off with the Lobster to a sound healing session, generously offered by a friend's mother who happens to be a certified Tibetan bowl practitioner (and a very cool person).

So what does a Tibetan Singing Bowl Sound Healing session entail, and does research say it's effective or is it just a whole lot of hooey?

The Science of Sound

Actually, there does seem to research backing the notion that various kinds of sound, music and rhythms can have healing powers. According to oncologist, Mitchell Gaynor, "We know that music is capable of enhancing immune function, lowering heart rate, lowering stress-related hormones like cortisol that raise our blood pressure and depress our immune systems." Other research suggests that music "trims complications after heart attack, calms anxiety, slows breathing and increases production of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers."

Gaynor is a big proponent of using Tibetan bowls to help cancer patients, but says that there is more going on than just the effects of relaxation. He implies that there is something special about these bowls that taps into spiritual energy that can help cancer patients heal.

Furthermore, in a sound healing article in the New York Times, one practitioner explained: "When the body is sick - it could be a cold, a broken bone, an ulcer, a tumor, or an emotional or mental illness - it's all a matter of the frequencies of the body being out of tune, off balance, out of synch. Vibration can help bring that back into balance."

Er... maybe. I'm frankly skeptical about the whole vibrational balance explanation. I think that there is so much evidence about the beneficial effects of stress reduction, meditation, and even placebo power that we don't even need to go there. But hey, if people believe that the sound vibrations are going into their bodies and messing with their cells in positive ways and resetting their frequencies or whatever, I think that's a good thing, whether it's true or not!

What is a Tibetan Bowl Sound Session Like?

It's pretty cool.

We went into a room that had dozens of Tibetan bowls of all sizes as well as some bells and who knows what else. (If I were a proper reporter instead of a lazy blogger, I probably would have thought to ask what all the stuff was). Tibetan bowls can be struck or rubbed, and they have a very rich sound with lots of overtones. Apparently they are tuned to the frequency of "aum." In more technical terms, they sound pretty.

As instructed, we removed our shoes, lay down on a comfortable mat, were covered by a blanket, and were given nice little eye pillow thingies. This triggered pleasant massage associations and was a nice surprise.

Then I start to forget the order of things. Did our host make the trance-inducing suggestions about letting go and ripples and ponds and hearts blossoming open and such before she put the bowls on our chests and bellies? Or did the cool bell tones and chimes start first and then the suggestions and then the belly bowls?

Anyway, I do at least remember that the sounds the bowls made being struck and rubbed all around us (and on us) were VERY soothing. The tones were rich and warm and layered and luxurious. Because I could feel the vibrations, the sounds seemed to worm their way into deeper places in my head and body than regular music normally goes.

By the end, I was so relaxed I could barely speak.

I didn't go in with any specific medical issues to deal with, so I can't attest to the pain-relieving, disease-fighting properties of Tibetan bowls, but I can say that they are pretty wonderful things to be around. As someone who sucks at meditation, I am always looking for ways to turn down the mental chitter chatter a few notches. (Which is not to say that the yapping in my brain went away entirely, but at least it was contented, meandering, quieter yapping).

Anyway, the Crankypants Crab will continue to defend to her dying day the practice of saying "no thanks!" to new experiences. But, um... sometimes new experiences actually turn out to be awesome. (Thanks Diáne!)

(For more information on Tibetan bowls, Tibetan bowl music cd's, or attending sound healing concerts or presentations, check out Diáne Mandle's Sound Energy Healing site.)

Anyone else try something new that you didn't think you'd like? Were you right or were you wrong?


  1. Wow, you really got me intrigued with this one. Seriously intrigued. Where can one go to get this sort of therapy Crabby? Oh, let me check that link. Thanks!

  2. I was persuaded into boxercise. I thought there were two things wrong with that word- one- its boxing, and I have no desire to learn how to moosh someone elses's nose, secondly, its exercise. I mean, could I not just do something else? Anyway. I LOVED it, much to my skeptical self's disappointment.

  3. You certainly dig up some very interesting topics! Who knew? Meditation for me is a few minutes without kids :)

  4. I've been a terrible skeptic lately. Ok, always. I've also been shown that I need to be more open. Isn't it nice to have the pleasant suprises?

  5. It definitley sounds like it would be an interesting experience! I'm glad you enjoyed it and found it relaxing.

  6. It sounds like you had some good vibrations (sorry, I couldn't help myself).

  7. HaHa!! You reminded me of a Sufi dancing event I went to once! It was, well, different :-)

  8. VERY COOL. shall we try together the next time youre in the ATX?

    Im always up for some (crankytime) & some relaxation.

  9. I suck at meditation too! The Tibetan Bowls actually sound really cool. I've never heard of them before now but after your review if I ever get a chance to try them, I totally will!

  10. My friend goes to muscle response testing so persuaded me to go.I'm pretty open minded about different holistic approaches to things, this is a big strange but since going and taking the vitamins/supplements working on specific issues in my body, I have never felt better in my life, I went to her when my doctor wanted to put me in statins and in 3 months she lowered my triglycerides by 160 points. I'm a believer even if it is strange to do.

  11. Meditation makes me feel better, especially if I do it regularly. So... do I do it? Of course not.

    I would think that this would be great, too... it's actually the kind of thing that I'm always up for a try at, because I've had just enough weird experiences along these lines to see that they work way more often than you'd think. (Weirdest one: I had a chiropractor years ago who would put sunglasses of different colors on you and tap resonance points on your body. And, yes, I felt remarkably better.)

  12. Love the sound of your Tibetan bowls - cranky and I'm a great believer in the power of vibrations and sound. Sounds like a 'must try' to me....but then I'm the optimistic type.

    I was talked into Whitewater rafting down the Zambezi river - some of the biggest rapids in the world. Was exhilerating.

  13. This might be something the Bag Lady would try.
    Hey, she likes music. She likes to lie down.
    It would be all good....

    Thanks, Crabby, for introducing us to something new. (and for not saying no.)

  14. That sounds very nice. I went to a show once where a man just played soothing music on glass bowls and tibetan bowls and the odd gong...it was very beautiful and mellow. I can imagine this would just mellow you right out. I don't know about healing, but I bet you'd feel better after regardless.

    As an optimist married to a party pooper I must say - good on you for trying it without too much cajoling...

  15. I prefer to call myself "risk averse"--so much more dignified than "party pooper."

    One of my yoga teachers used to use Tibetan bowls during meditation. Some of the tones would go painfully through my head, causing me to jerk upright and clap my hands over my ears. The reaction was worse because the surrounding tones were mellow and relaxing and beautiful. I don't think I want to try that with the vibration actually going directly to my body.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  16. I normally hate all that hippy stuff, and yet I can see how that might work. I mean, it requires a certain level of interest/attentiveness because of the pretty sounds. But not so much as to actual be taxing. So meditation for people who don't have the patience to actually meditate - like me! Although, I'm pretty sure my post-rock records have the same effect... hey, maybe I'll set up a group....

    TA x

  17. OK most of you folks are way more adventurous than I am. Although I'm liking "risk averse" as a nice substitute of "party pooper." And geosomin, my sympathies to those of you who are married to us, we "risk averse" can be a bit of a drag sometimes.

    So we're leaving soon to drive back to the bay area today, having had a lovely time in San Diego. Lots of great adventures, and I now know that if I have another chance to go to a tibetan bowl sound healing concert, I'm there! Never woulda thought I'd say that.

    Although meditation to post-rock music also sounds intriguing...

  18. I don't remember the name, but there was some really bad "Changing Places" type of movie where they used Tibetan bowls for the switcheroo. That's all I could concentrate on while I read this.

  19. I love all those Feng Shui types of experiences. I always assume that it works if you /believe/ that it works. Then again, probably scientists will one day proclaim that everything New Age has a sound (no pun intended) basis in physics.

    I'm a crankypants party pooper who has somehow gotten the idea that she's supposed to act like one of those cheerful adventurer types. I think that if I /pretend/ to be like them then I'll turn into one myself. Still working on that.

  20. I've never tried this before, but it does sound intriguing. I know there was one time that I went to a yoga class and there was a lot of chanting involved. I almost walked out at the beginning because I felt silly and I wasn't looking for a spiritual yoga, just a meditative one. But I stayed and by the end it actually was soothing to do the chants at the end.

    I think sound does have a big impact on the psyche.

  21. I don't think it's really "risk" averse, more like "being-terribly-bored-and-annoyed-and-feeling-like-you're-wasting-your-time" averse. Which definitely describes me.

  22. That sounds really cool. I need to get back into yoga and meditation, and a CD like that might be just the ticket to get me motivated.

    As for things I tried that I didn't think I would like...well, distance running! My husband's cousin talked us into joining his marathon training group. We did it just to be polite, thinking we'd quietly drop out before things got too crazy. That was almost nine years ago and I'm still hooked!

    As an aside, I love your sense of humor, Cranky and Merry, and I'd appreciate it if you (or any of your pals) would check out the contest on my new fiction site. The winner gets a box of chocolate and a choice of guest-blogging or collaborating with me on a funny story for the site.

    Maelstrom Valentine's Contest

  23. That's so cool! I want a Tibetan bowl now.

    I like trying new things. At least they tell us if we enjoy that activity or not. The experience also makes for really great blog posts (kidding. Kind of. Not really. :D).

  24. Last week I forced myself to go to a post-cancer treatment support group. I knew it would be torture. I blogged about it. I dunno. It turned out to be okay and I will go again. The people who sponsor it keep calling my cell phone to ask me if I am okay? I know they are checking on me, but mostly they are making me feel as if I should act sick And I am NOT SICK.

    The sponsors are stalking me. Stalking causes cancer. I may have to file a suit, go deep pockets on this one.

  25. There are a lot of things I have tried that I don't like:

    liver and onions
    gas pains
    repelling off cliffs
    banana & onion diet - or any diet
    iridology - it was recommended

    I once went to a shamanic group and we did some drumming. I could hardly keep myself from laughing the whole time. I think the Tibetan bowl thing might fly with me because the practitioner uses the word 'certified' in their title.

  26. I could do a whole post on "things I did, that I knew I would hate, but had to do, because I was a child and my parents made me". In a nutshell, I am a party-pooper. I've learned that I can "make" myself enjoy things, but, I would much rather not bother.

  27. Oooooo, I'm jealous! I've heard of the Tibetan bowls, but never done them (had them done?). How fun! I have a love/hate relationship with that kind of stuff, usually: I love the experiences, but usually hate the hippy-dippy attitudes of the folks who practice it. (No offense to Diane: I don't know her, so she's not included in that "people who make me crazy" category. ;D)

    And I figure there's a halfway decent chance that that kind of stuff probably works on some level. (I base that on my entirely scienterrific theory that if a culture has been doing it for thousands of years and it DIDN'T work, they probably would have stopped doing it by now.) But science has often taken time to catch up with New Age sort of stuff. (The medical establishment thought meditation was useless not too long ago, for instance; turns out, it's pretty great after all!)

    Anyway. Now I'm rambling. So I'll stop. ;)

  28. Mellow Crabby Cranky-Pants,

    Sounds like you had an awesome experience.

    I am definitely a sound/music person--it's just how I'm wired. It's interesting to note that the Tibetan bowl session had a calming effect on you, despite the fact that you're not necessarily a sound/music person, and that you didn't go into the session believing that it "would work". To me, that gives the whole thing more credibility.

  29. Melissa:"more like "being-terribly-bored-and-annoyed-and-feeling-like-you're-wasting-your-time" averse. "

    But I don't want to risk being bored/annoyed/wasted! If I have a choice.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  30. That actually sounds like fun.. and now I know that if anyone ever invites me to do that,.. I'm in! Thanks, Crankypants. :)

  31. My sister lived in Tibet for a year, teaching English. Amazing country and people, so positive even though they are so abused.

    She brought back some prayer chimes, that sound great as well

  32. I love the sound of this, though in my small town in the boonies, the chance of me getting to experience it is small. But it sounds very relaxing, and there may be more to it in terms of helping health.

    Google "healing purr" sometime, interesting stuff that, if nothing else, will make you appreciate your cat even more! At any rate, that proposes that a cat's purr is the right frequency for healing bone. So there may be more to the Tibetan bowl thing than meets the ear.


Thanks for commenting, Cranky Fitness readers are the BEST!

Subscribe to comments via RSS

(Note: Older Comment Threads Are Moderated)