I left it all behind on this after the eclipse August day at the Shambhala sound healing retreat in Colorado. What a chance; a weekend of sound healing, silence, Buddhist community and the sacred power of nature. It took me a few days to shut down all my ties and the everyday challenges to come here, to the Shambhala retreat center in the Arapaho National Forest. It is my first time – I’ve never taken part in a Buddhist ceremony event, and it’s my first sound healing workshop.
The Shambhala Mountain Center is not far from Denver and stretches out in a beautiful secluded Valley with young aspens, which glow, depending on the light in metallic gray or olive green in the blue sky. The quietness is astonishing after leaving the street noises behind and the place unfolds a sacred atmosphere. Even my inner disturbances about minor- serious problems are swept away. Emotions of nonsense were taken out of order to insure that sacred ground demands are given. Respect in attitude towards the environment because all energies exchange and I assumed that’s why dogs are not allowed.
After registration at the Shambhala Buddhist retreat visitor center and getting settled in the monk room with a shared bathroom, the workshop participants met for dinner in the dinning tent. There were 20 very different individuals, mostly singles for the first time there and some fans of the annual highlight workshops at the sound healing retreat.
Christine Stevens, MSW, MT-BC founder of the UpBeat Drum Circles and authority in the Healing Sound workshop welcomed us to the orientation. When entering the Buddhist hall of Sacred Studies, two portraits of Tibetian Rimpoche’s welcomed us into the luminous setting.
A vast number of buffalo drums, frogs, flutes, shakers, samba bells waited for us to play on and to dive deeper into rhythm and healing; to the deep pulsing heartbeat that defines life. Playing drums and percussion can create healing vibrations and cleanse the inner life force, as we were about to experience. The heartbeat rhythm is fundamental- the mother of all rhythms, and what we first heard in the womb. Life’s grove ranges from an adagio, to andante – like a walking pace and as stressed people know prestissimo .
After a little while of learning how to play the elements, earth, fire, water and air on the frame drums, we learned about Tibetan Sound Healing, the Warrior: First we sat in a lotus position on comfortable pillows relaxing body, breath and mind. We were asked to imagine a desert sky to clear our inner space and sing AH to draw attention to the first eye. Then OHM for the throat chakra, while thinking of an open, luminous sky. The third singing sound was HUNG – for the heart to cultivate joy, love, compassion and equanimity. While singing this Mantra and keeping the rhythm, bong bong– water, snarch snarch for the wind, snap snap for fire– slightly beating the rim of the frame and boom boom for earth– clapping on the center of the drum. The lively and highly qualified instructor directed our attention to the breath, which needs support from the diaphragm to properly flow. The next sound RAM – is for the navel region- to intensify and empower energies to radiate out. The last sound being DZA for the root chakra to blossom with spontaneous effortless action.
An amazing feeling of inner balance arose, while sitting in a circle holding the different frame drums in our hands. It was a wonderful way of getting to know one another by singing this Mantra and playing the frame drums together; to be aware of this rhythm and be part of this organic beat.
The next sound healing day began with a sunny sky and a breakfast in the main dining tent, the downtown area of the Shambhala Mountain Center, not far from the gift store and the Sacred Study hall. The Stupa, the Buddhist temple, is further north, secluded on a hill and reached by paths through young aspen trees. This is a sacred place and perfect for a sound healing retreat. Signs reminding to move and act with mindfulness are a subtle part of the landscape. Orange Flags showing the way around in Shambhala, decorated bridges and trees set a joyful atmosphere. Somehow dressed trees are extremely photogenic.
Back in the sacred study hall sat Richard Rudis, founder of the Tibetanbowlschool.com surrounded by numerous singing bowls. He introduced us to the different kinds of bowls, qualities and explained what to look for:
You can identify a Jambati bowl by its shape. It has a round bottom with high curving sides and often have visible hammer marks.
Thadobati singing bowls are defined by vertical sides and a flat bottom and range in tone over four octaves.
Remunas bowls tend to be thinner and to sport complex artwork.
All theory, because the bowl will call for you, is how Richard ended his lecture. The fun part is yet to come. Striking a quality Jambati bowl is like waiting for a Zinfandel to enfold its aromas on the tongue, or an image for machine lovers; getting an 1968 Porsche going. The complexity of the sound and in which range of frequencies the core tone unfolds, are depending on the size of the bowl. A medium size Jambati bowl with the core frequency of F, vibrates to the heart chakra. Each bowl has a unique soundscape – harmonies and rhythms find their way through the mental vibrations to reach out to different chakras. Singing bowl healing makes use of these harmonious sounds for their beneficial effects. Exactly here is the hook to this marvelous instrument.
You need to prepare yourself, before you use it. You can’t just ding dong whenever, wherever you feel like doing it, or vice versa do it when you don’t feel like it. There needs to be a sanctuary setting, feeling and then you will have the benefit of sweet relaxing vibrations.
The clear intention receives the guidance to use healing bowls the sensitive way, since the healing is on a transient level. Not quite the case, as we learned from both authorities in sound healing. When you place the bowl on your head or stomach and hit it with the drumstick, you can evoke deep penetrating resonance in your body that supports and strengthens the cellular healing. Placed on the head, the vibrations of the bowl will enhance Alpha/Theta/Delta waves of creativity and relaxation in your consciousness.
Christine tuned us all together into singing and practicing on the bell, chines and frame drums for the ceremony procession to the Stupa, later in the evening. Dressed in white, equipped with frame drums, samba-bells, flutes, chines, frogs, our group of 25, accompanied by a crowd of community members and visitors from the outside proceeded to the temple. Underneath a beautiful Buddha statue, we experienced an outstanding transformational ‘Sound Mandala’ concert known as GONG BATH. Felling awed by the explosion of sound in this sacred Temple and walking back to the monk room under a beautiful sky full of bright sparkling stars,
I felt totally in tune with my Galactic Body.
Attuned and in balance we got a glimpse into the diagnostic part of sound healing on the last day of the workshop. Three volunteers were examined with clear and harmonious sounding chimes, for energy discrepancies in areas of the body that seemed to have some problems. Some audible irregularities or changing of sound intensity we all could hear – but needless to say: the healing with sound takes experience to detect the important subtleties. It is about energies of vibrations. Light is also a form of energy, so the last practice the two teachers asked us to feel the energy between the hands, where we tried to transform energies to a consciously perceived mass between the two palms. After a while of concentration, I could feel a slight resistance when changing the size of the felt ball. At the end, apart from each other and in quite went into the trees and replaced the imagined ball with the trunk of an aspen tree, embracing the gift of nature and thanking the environment for the sublime experience from the inside to the outside. This was a hand on experience that can’t be done over the internet.
There are links for each music lover to help clear the brain from mindfulness from the outside.