A gentle breeze flows through an upstairs room at the Souls Center near Kendall Yards. Debbie Miller is seated near the center of the room, surrounded by Tibetan singing bowls, more than a dozen of them, in different sizes and various shades of metal.
The mood in the room is tranquil as six or seven people lie on colorful woven mats in a fan shape around Miller, while others sit cross-legged on chairs or cushions on the outer edges of the room.
After a short introduction Miller invites participants to sit or lie back, and relax by breathing deeply as she begins to play the bowls with a mallet or striker. Sound washes over participants and fills the room with reverberations.
Miller calls herself a sound healer. By day, she operates A Clean Sweep, a parking lot maintenance business she started in 1999 that she now runs with her 26-year-old son.
Miller first experienced the Tibetan singing bowls at a health fair in Sandpoint she attended with friends. “A health practitioner was using them as a clearing technique. I tried it to see what it was all about,” she said.
“The peace and tranquility I felt was amazing. I had meditated but had never used the bowls. This was totally different.”
Miller said she was hooked and had to learn more about it. Over several years she took courses through Zero Point Crystals and Gems in Sandpoint and received a sound healer certificate.
Miller started holding meditation groups in Spokane, and for more than two years she has attracted regulars and first-timers alike to every session through social media posts on Meetup.com and Facebook.
“I knew I wanted to start a community meditation in Spokane. It scared me but I knew I was supposed to do it. I felt called to do it,” she said.
Joy Otis from Spokane Valley said she’s attended the group twice before and plans to return. The singing bowls bring her peace, Otis said.
“It feels like my lung capacity doubles when I meditate here,” she said. “I can feel everything expand. I can feel each vibration. It’s very relaxing and peaceful. Everything has vibration … and I can feel every cell in my body reacting to that vibration. My chakras open and everything feels very natural.”
Otis, who works in customer service in the insurance finance business, said she has endeavored for years to quiet the noise in her brain. After leaving a marriage of 36 years, Otis came to believe that she has only one life to live, and she intends to create and experience whatever makes her feel better, she said.
“I came here for a soul journey,” she said. “I decide what makes me happy instead of being programmed by the culture. I see value in all of it if it makes people feel better. I try not to label anything … It’s very freeing.”
Miller said she does have skeptics. “But usually they tell me that after the meditation, and they usually come with someone who has been before,” she said.
Typically, people are surprised how relaxed they get and how much they enjoy the singing bowls, she added.
“I’ve had people with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) who are able to fall asleep in a room full of people, and people with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) who had forgotten what it was like to take a deep breath,” she said.
“You really don’t have to believe in anything. If people go to sleep they still get what they need to get from the bowls,” Miller said.
At 35, John Bockmier, a quality analyst for digital products, said it was his first time at the meditation, but not the first time he has experienced the singing bowls. He owns several crystal bowls and says he enjoys the sounds they produce.
“You can control the sound and pitch by how you rub the top of the bowls,” Bockmier said.
A martial arts devotee, he said he loves meeting new people, and meditation classes offer a quiet, calming influence to his day.
“Meditation is an introspective journey … and I seek answers to challenges I may be struggling with, but it’s also a chance to relax,” Bockmier said.
He typically meditates sitting upright.
“I’m busy connecting to people all day and I thoroughly enjoy being able to do stuff like this,” he said. “People don’t understand how necessary it is to do the relaxation and access deeper parts of yourself.”
Miller plays the bowls for about 50 minutes each session, running the mallet around the rims, sometimes striking the bowls to blend the sounds. At times she picks up the bowls, but typically leaves them on the floor so people can feel the vibrations.
“I play the bowls in the order of what I learned in sound healing, and at other times I just plays them intuitively. They create sounds in notes from A to G,” she said. “They really are like musical instruments.”
Suzan Owens is a regular at the meditations with Miller but hadn’t been for several months. Owens said she sometimes lies down but sat upright for the meditation because it helps her to be present.
“I went very deep. It was a rejuvenation and a kind of filling up with sacred spiritual energy,” Owens said.
“I was sitting quietly and filling up with energy … especially in the lower chakras when she plays the deeper sounds, you can kind of feel what part of your body is vibrating. I try to be open to whatever energy comes in. It’s all good,” she said.
Miller said she loves hearing from people about their experiences.
“I’ve had wonderful testimonies from people who have been to the meditation,” she said. “I love to give love. I love clearing everything out and filling people with love. I’m really thankful that I did what I was supposed to do. Because of all the people the bowls have touched. And so many people don’t know about them.”