Ronald Hays sat with crossed legs on the cold hardwood floor of Peace Hall. In front of him were six quartz crystal bowls of varying sizes. Half a dozen women sprawled out on the floor of the old church with blankets and pillows and relaxed as the meditation began.
Hays began the meditation by explaining some of the mental and physical benefits of meditation, such as lower blood pressure, decreased feelings of stress and anxiety and a general sense of well-being.
"Generally speaking, meditation is a subtle experience, so please let go of the idea that you'll write down the next scriptures for mankind," Hays said. "Meditation will not change your life. You will change your experience of your life with meditation."
Hays started the meditation by picking up a suede-covered mallet and softly tapping it on the sides of the crystal bowls. Sound resonated from the bottom of the bowls. He played soft melodies, occasionally bringing in the soft bum-bum-bum of a drum and idyllic dings of a xylophone.
The meditation instructor began his journey 10 years ago after being introduced to crystal bowls at a yoga class.
"It mushroomed from there," Hays said. "I bought one crystal bowl, then two. I was intrigued by the sound they make. It became retreats, workshops, books and CDs. It continues to evolve."
Hays, from St. Petersburg, leads meditative experiences on the Suncoast, working with yoga classes, massage studios and organizations such as the New Port Richey Cultural Affairs Committee to bring the crystal bowl meditative experience to communities.
"We consider this a cultural experience event and something good to have," said Lia Gallegos, a member of the Cultural Affairs Committee. "You usually have to go to Tampa or St. Pete for these things, but there are a lot of people here seeking them, too."
The Cultural Affairs Committee is a group of community volunteers appointed by the city council. It provides a voice for citizens who wish to see the arts and culture become an integral part of New Port Richey.
Committee meetings, open to the public, are held at 5:30 p.m. the third Monday of the month in the board room at the Recreation and Aquatic Center, 6630 Van Buren St., New Port Richey.
"It's letting artists, speakers and authors know that there is a need and want for the arts in Pasco County," Hays said.
There are many forms of traditional meditation, Hays told the class, but anything that relaxes you and gives your mind direction, such as taking walks along the river, cooking, or swimming in your pool, can be meditative.
"The bowls are only a tool," Hays said. "They're fantastic and I'm passionate about them but they're just a tool."
Hays emphasized to the class that there are many preconceived notions about meditation that discourage people from trying it. There's no particular way of doing it and you don't have to sit completely still or make your mind blank.
"That's an unrealistic expectation," Hays said. "Be comfortable and reposition as needed. Don't worry about what your mind is doing."
At the end of the 40-minute session, Hays laid down his mallets and tip-toed in sock-covered feet across the wooden floor closer to the still forms of the women. After a few moments of silence, he gently brought them back to the moment.
"Allow your attention to drift slowly back into the room," Hays said softly. "Roll your shoulders, adjust your neck. I want you to recognize how you feel in the space."
The meditative experience and the sounds of the crystal bowls are hard to explain, Hays said.
"I could stand up here all day and talk to you about meditative concepts and ideas, but until you actually experience what it's like to be in a meditative state, they're just concepts and ideas."
The class marveled over how the time had flown by. They started gathering up their yoga mats and blankets and talking about their experiences.
"When it's quiet, I can feel the different vibrations of the bowls in different parts of my body," said Katie Reschny, who drove from Dunedin for the meditation. "I'm fascinated by that feeling."
Ceci Martinez, whose business, Massage of Trinity, sponsored the event at Peace Hall, said it never ceases to amaze her how healing the crystal bowls' vibrations and sounds are.
Hays will be back at Peace Hall on March 30 and June 1 at Peace Hall on Grand Boulevard, across from Sims Park. You can register online at http://discovernpr.com/calendar -of-events/crystal-bowl-meditation-experience/, by calling (727) 372-9800 or visiting Massage of Trinity at 4152 Rowan Road, New Port Richey. Payment will also be accepted at the door.