The Three Bells

To signify the end of a yoga or meditation session I often ring a bell or gong three times. I intend no specific meaning with that, except to give you a few moments to make the transition to the rest of your day and perhaps appreciate what you have just given to yourself.

That said, it can also be nice to use the three bells as a moment for affirmation or gratitude, in which case it’s good to know where the sounding of them originally comes from.

The gestures that accompany the ringing of the gongs or bells are an ancient tradition. In Buddhist circles you will often see people bring their hands together at the forehead, at the heart and then bow down. The three gestures have a certain symbolic meaning and are sometimes accompanied by a mantra or a prayer. In effect they are a summary, a reminder, of what is most essential on the spiritual path (or in other words, the path of happiness).

Much of this can be quite mystifying but over time I started to boil them down to a few simple words that I can understand.
For example:
Clear mind
Open heart
This body, this earth

Or even simpler:

Their significance lies not in any belief, religion or holiness. It is a recognition of what is fundamental to our contentment in life, of what is real and possible in our existence, of what is most essential in the barest way, independent of circumstances, be they political or personal.

A clear mind:
Unobstructed by compulsive thought, by judgements and fears, a mind that distinguishes between the continuous internal gossip and the quieter wordless waters that lie beneath. A mind that is perceptive, intuitive, conscious.

An open heart:
The sense of connectedness to others, of care and kindness, beauty and joy. A heart that allows, listens and embraces all.

This body, this earth:
Honouring that which makes our experience possible. Without this body, this earth, where would we be, how would we feel? A sense of gratitude. Recognising that which is greater than me, that I am only one of many, that we are one, and one with this earth. A sense of humbleness. A surrender to the fact that so much in life is beyond my control, a reminder to trust it instead.

With or without the accompanying gestures, see for yourself if this is helpful to you, find your own words.

Or no words at all. Simply let the three gongs be just what they are: the sound that emanates from a stick striking a bowl.