First published in the Berkeley Times on August 15, 2013
The Singing Bowl
I walked into Tenzing, a Tibetan store on Shattuck Avenue, to find a cotton pullover similar to my top in orange with green stitching. A man behind the counter held a large Tibetan bowl. He smiled at me and gestured that I might want to come over to it. I said I would after I finished looking around.
As I passed by the counter, he offered the shiny, brass bowl toward me. When I nodded yes and stood still, he told me to extend my hands. He placed the bowl on top of them, and supported its heavy weight with his hands underneath mine.
“Close your eyes. Relax your shoulders.”
I was a bit reluctant, because I was hungry, had only a few minutes to find food and make it to my Photoshop class. I remembered how once a friend gong’ed me with his bowls, how the tones settled me, so I gave in, closed my eyes and dropped my shoulders.
The shopkeeper began rolling the mallet around the bowl’s outer edge. Immediately, I felt the vibrations of the bowl. They ran up my hands and arms into my shoulders, then up my spine and into my head, where I felt them shift my brain waves.
I tracked the sensations – now more subtle – continuing down my back, into my pelvis, down my legs, into my arches. I visualized the vibrations flowing through my feet, through the flooring, into Mother Earth, and then back up through my arches into the top of my head – creating a perfect circle.
The tones enchanted me. The rhythmic motion to create the sounds entranced me. I imagined making art with these qualities of motion and tone: swirling patterns of moving mandalas in beautiful colors, like spiraling galaxies. I glanced up, knowing my face was aglow. He was looking straight at me with twinkling, dark brown eyes and a smile.
“Close your eyes,” he said.
Again, my eyes closed, and my smile broadened. I felt an effervescence bubbling through me. Pulling myself out of my reverie, I said,
“I need to stop, because I have to go to class soon.”
He smiled at me. I took a deep breath, and slowly focused my eyes as the bowl gently became quiet and the tonal waves dissolved into the spacious store. I felt the stillness. Expressing gratitude for this magical moment he created, I asked him his name.
“Alejandro Piedra. Piedra means stone, from the earth,” he replied.
Ah! Grounded through exquisite sound and solid earth, I walked to class a taller being.
Alejandro Piedra with the Tibetan Singing Bowl at Tenzing Collections, located at 2213 Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley, CA
Column 2 first published in the Berkeley Times on August 15, 2013
c. Arden Kamille Varnel
photo credit c. Arden Kamille Varnel