Have you come across a singing bowl? I bought one when I went to Kathmandu. It is a metal bowl that sounds like a bell when struck with a soft mallet and it is the most remarkable object.
Antique singing bowls were made of alloys containing up to seven different metals – for example copper, tin, zinc, silver, gold, nickel and iron. Some bowls even contained a most prized metal they called “sky iron” which came from meteorites such as found in Tibet.
There is something quite extraordinary about the sound these bowls make. The different metals within the bowl produce different harmonics so that a well-made bowl produces several tones at once, resulting in a sound that is rich, full, harmonious, complex and enchanting. The oldest bowls have a specially warm and peaceful tone that creates a meditative calm when you hear it. The tone lingers for quite some time and you can feel its effect within you.
Monks in Buddhist monasteries used such sounds in meditation. The sound vibrations promote wellness and balance. Sound being one of the spiritual paths to enlightenment the bell also reminds them to be mindful in meditation.
Striking the outside of the bowl with a mallet is one way to produce the sound; but the bowl furnishes its most incredible tone when played in a different way. You hold the bowl freely on your open palm and rub a mallet lightly around the rim of the bowl. There gradually emerges from the silence a continuous singing tone, a complex chord of harmonic overtones, which develops into a surprisingly powerful sound. If you’d like to hear and see how to do it go to Joseph Feinstein’s demonstration at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eioe67FZJs&feature=related
I like to think of the singing bowl as a metaphor for coaching. First of all – like the people you may coach – every bowl is different; each has its own shape, its own size, and its own individual combination of metals. And each responds to the player in different ways, and responds to each individual player in a different way.
The bowl only sings when it is supported so that it can vibrate. Nothing is forced; sound emerges from the light touch around the centre. The touch needs to be subtle, like connecting with something alive. The swashbuckling actor Errol Flynn when asked what is the proper way to hold a sword replied that you should hold it like a small bird: “If you hold too tightly the bird dies and the life is lost. If you hold too loosely, the bird escapes and flies away, and you’re left with nothing” So too with the singing bowl. And so too the relationship with someone you coach – not too tight and not too loose: too much control and many possibilities escape you; too tentative a connection and you fail to hold a supportive space that engenders change.
As a coach you hold the space as a bowl surrounds the emptiness within it. The old monks meditated on the “voidness” in the bowl – it is from that unknown space that truths and insights emerge. If we think we know what is inside we make mistakes or force conclusions. We don’t know before we start; it emerges as we work together with someone. What we do know for sure is that the person, like the singing bowl, is extraordinary and exceptional: a unique voice that wants to be heard.
Here are some more glorious vibrations created by Tibetan singing bowls for you to enjoy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bcka0wrn1ok