Spring flowers

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Notes from The Old Chapel – First Winter

We have survived the first winter in our new home: The Old Chapel in Norfolk. Winter is not good for me these days. As the days shortened and the darkness gathered my mood darkened with it. I used to love the winter, the stark beauty, the promise of snow but I have lost the appreciation of it. My health deteriorated and I have  undone a lot of the good work I did in the summer. I had a sinus infection that would not shift. My dog walks became shorter and I stopped doing yoga. I tried to rest to get well. I had a new business to keep me busy so my writing also ground to a halt. I have started to sell things online: on my website and on ebay. I am selling boho gifts and Buddhist items. It was hard to get noticed and to get customers at first. It has grown slowly. I bought stock some of which sold and some of which didn’t so I was pretty poor through the winter. Christmas was quiet but there was lots of good food. We went to the Church and sang carols which made me cry. To my surprise it was packed full of people who never normally go. I still don’t really know anyone in the village. We say hello as we walk our dogs but it doesn’t go beyond that. There is the usual English stiff reserve. I felt guilt I hadn’t made more effort. I could have volunteered to clean the church like the other local worthies but I didn’t. Services are sporadic, less than once a month. I kept meaning to go. I didn’t go. There is a village pub but we don’t go to it. Maybe we should. My love of pubs has also diminished.

The fields became stubble. The footpaths were mud. There was still wildlife. Pheasants everywhere and the odd glimpse of red deer running in the distance. Winter birds and owls hooting at night. I love the animals. My dog didn’t want to go far. He liked the fire.

The chapel is built of clay lump which is common in Norfolk. It is faced with brick. It was never meant as a home and we found it to be freezing in January. The oil fired heating could not keep it warm. The log burner could if it was set first thing. It ate logs like a greedy dragon. We ran out. More and more. My daily aim became as simple as to stay warm. This was the goal. Life was reduced down to the basics. Eventually I gave in and bought an electric heater for the conservatory. Finally I could work at the computer without feeling too cold and heading back into the living room to the fire. We will have to figure something out for next year. The cold got into my bones and filled me so I could think of nothing else.

In January there was a death in the family. Winter would not let go. In England it doesn’t get as cold as the north and Scotland where I have lived for much of my life but I don’t cope will with it now. There wasn’t even any real snow, just a light covering for a couple of days. How do people manage in Canada and Alaska where they know real cold? In England the winter is damp. The wet gets inside of you spreading sickness with it. I dreamed of warmth, of summer and gardens in Italy, Mediterranean vegetables and blue skies.

I spent my days working on my websites and delivering my parcels to the post office in town. I have learned a lot about postage rates and packaging. The rules are multifarious. I kept making mistakes with the shipping. I walked my dog in the village, avoiding the long paths we had trod in summertime. We cuddled together in front of the log fire and read and watched films.

I kept meaning to write and never did. I kept sneezing. My infection hung over me like an elderly relative.

Late in February something started to shift. I could feel the ground waking up, warming. There were rare glimpses of sunshine. Snowdrops came and the little daffodils. My good mood returned with the sun. I have become more productive. I have tidied and organised and started to garden.

Spring has come. We have endured.

Tibetan Singing Bowls What are they?

Tibetan Singing Bowls What are they?

The origins of Tibetan Singing Bowls are shrouded in mystery. Legend has it that the tradition of using singing bowls dates back to the time of the Buddha (560-480 BC). The bowls were brought from India to Tibet probably in the eighth century AD. Singing bowls can be found all over the Buddhist world and are used in temples, monasteries and for private meditation. Their use is increasing in the West as people become more and more interested in Buddhism and meditation to calm the “monkey mind”. The bowl can be struck with the beater to mark the beginning and end of meditation or can be played by rubbing round the rim to create calming sounds. Tibetan Singing Bowls are increasingly used in psychotherapy as the sound has such a therapeutic effect.

The first question must be: which singing bowl should I buy? Good question. There are so many different kinds. It is possible to buy antique bowls from Tibet and India but these are very rare and very expensive. Care must be taken that the one you buy is authentic as sadly some people will pass off new bowls as antiques. Most bowls available to buy are newly made. Very few bowls come from Tibet these days. Most are made in Nepal or India. Many would say that singing bowls from Nepal are the best. China also produces singing bowls. The size of the bowl can vary from as small as 6 cm to as huge as 50 cm or even more. The size you choose depends on your purpose for the bowl. You may want it as an ornament for your home or altar or you may want to play it and make it sing. If you are going to play it it is prudent to buy a bowl that can fit onto the palm of your hand. There is also variation in how singing bowls are made. The cheapest ones are made by machine and will usually be made of brass. There is nothing wrong with beginning with this kind of bowl to learn how to play. Many of the bowls from China are made like this.If your bowl seller does not say the singing bowl is hand hammered then it probably isn’t. They are often very reasonably priced. However, for me there is nothing to beat the quality of sound you will find from a hand hammered or hand beaten bowl. Most of the bowls I sell on this site are hand hammered in Nepal by artisans in small workshops in the foothills of the Himalayas. They are made in the same way they have been for centuries. These bowls are made from a combination of five or even seven metals. Each bowl is unique and has its own tone and resonance. It is a matter of trial and error to find the best bowl for you.

Beaten Singing Bowls: Beaten or hand hammered singing bowls are made by way of a complete hand hammering process. Every single singing bowl is carefully hand beaten, which requires several processes to finish up and shaping it into a perfect hand hammered singing bowl. In the making process, first the various composition of metals as raw materials (copper, tin, zinc, iron, lead, gold and silver) are melted in furnace, depending on manufacturing needs such as for the making of bronze singing bowls or for seven metal singing bowls. The hot melted metal is removed from the furnace and poured into dice to prepare a metal mould for the various sizes and weights. Then, the round metal moulds are cut into round metal discs in needed size and thickness. After that, these discs are hand beaten or hammered, after precise measurement and categorized for weight and sized bowls. Regarding the hand hammering process of singing bowls, 4 to 5 metal discs are piled up, one upon the other, and then heated to red hot. The red hot metal sheets are hammered by a group of expert artisans, as long as the heat remains in metal, and then again processed to red heating, for a continuous beating process. This heating and beating of the bundled and piled up metal discs continues until a desired shape and size is formed. (That is why the hammered or beaten singing bowls will be proportionately different in a size and diameter with each individual singing bowl.) During the hammering process of these singing bowls, the metal disc can only be hammered during the time of being red hot, while it remains soft and flexible. Because when the metal gets colder, it will loose its softness and flexibility, which in turn makes the metal brittle and thus the bowl could be ruined. The reason behind this intensive working process is that the metal content (bronze or seven metals mixture) is very sensitive to heat and gets harder when it loses its hot temperature and will get cracks and breaks. After completion of shaping the desired bowls, the individual work will start. At this stage, every bowl is brought into uniform shape and size, and once more, this can only be done during the red burning and heating and beating process. After finalizing the shape and size, more hammering is done for a final fine tuning and shaping of the singing bowls. The individual singing bowls are then chiselled and scoured for the finishing touch, at the inside and outside.

There are many kinds of hand hammered singing bowls depending on the finish you require. Some are smooth and polished, others are rough. Some are golden coloured while others are black. Some are hand carved with Buddhist patterns or writing.Some are tuned to particular notes. The bowl you choose is a matter of personal preference and taste. Hand hammered bowls are more expensive than the machine made versions. Personally, I much prefer the richness of the tone and the beauty of the metal of the hand hammered bowls. You will also need a stick or beater to play your bowl. These can be made of simple wood. Some are bound with leather or suede and they vary in size to match the bowls. A cushion should be purchased to rest your bowl on to protect it.

Bowls should be cleaned with lemon juice solution. Abrasive metal cleaners should not be used as they will scratch and leave marks. All bowls will tarnish over time due to the oxidation from the air so need cleaning from time to time. Hand hammered bowls will often have hammer marks and delves clearly visible. These are not flaws but show the authenticity of the bowl.

Learning to make a bowl sing is an art form which will take much practice. I will write more about this in another blog. I hope this has been of help to those who are just deciding which Tibetan Singing Bowl is right for them. They are the most beautiful and calming objects.

Namaste.

Tibetan Singing Bowls