By Gayatri, yoga, meditation teacher and gong practitioner
How does it feel when you hear a piece of music that touches you deeply? Is there a physical response? Do you find yourself moved to tears? Or is there an energetic movement, which means you can feel your heart open and your spirit sore?
In essence, because we all consist of energy vibrating at different frequencies, sound has an enormous impact on us. So it would seem natural to use sounds and vibration to restore balance and harmony to our whole being.
Sound healing has been in use for thousands of years. Many cultures, ranging from the ancient Greeks and Egyptians to Native Americans and shamans, have employed it as a way of restoring balance to the mind, body and spirit. For example, the Aboriginal people of Australia have played the didgeridoo for at least 40,000 years as a way of treating illnesses and conditions, which includes mending broken bones and muscle tears.
Sound and vibration is also deeply embedded in many spiritual traditions. The ancient language of Sanskrit, originally passed on in an oral tradition, has 48 letters/sounds, with each one said to produce a vibration that resonates with different parts of our physical and energetic body.
The Western world, meanwhile, began to rediscover sound as a tool to aid healing in the early 1940s when ultrasound was first used for detecting brain tumours. Music therapy also started emerging following the research of the French otolaryngologist, Dr Alfred Tomatis.
He discovered a way to improve and restore the damaged hearing of individuals by playing sounds they could not hear through an electronic device that stimulates the muscles in the inner ear. The Tomatis Method has since helped various other conditions such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, attention deficit disorder and autism.
One of the most powerful instruments used in sound healing today though is the gong. It has a broader range of tones than any other instrument and so can produce a huge range of sounds and vibrations.
An ancient instrument, it is not clear from where it originated, although it possibly first appeared during the Bronze Age. The first record of the gong dates back to the beginning of the 6th Century in Hsi Yu, a region located between Tibet and Burma in modern day China – even though the instrument is not originally Chinese. Instead its origins are in another unknown culture, which some historians believe was based in the area now known as Afghanistan.
Gongs as healing instruments
The use of gongs as healing instruments came to the West with Don Conreaux, also known as Baba Don and Guru Jagat, one of the original kundalini yoga teachers in 1969.
So how do gongs enable healing? Because the whole universe consists of vibrating energy from the sub-atomic level outwards, the more complex the organism, the more complex the range of vibration and frequencies that exist within it.
As humans, our bodies produce an orchestra of sound and vibration, with each of organ resonating at a different frequency. Because we consist of around 70% water, which is an excellent conductor of sound, gongs can help re-tune the orchestra so that it plays in harmony.
The first time you hear a gong played is a unique experience. The gong asks you to hear and experience sound in a completely new way. Unlike other instruments, you are taken on a journey through many layers of sound, consisting of overtones, undertones and vibration.
The initial sound that emerges with the first strike of a mallet is unpredictable. It swells and rises to a peak, before gently receding. The sound then re-emerges to reach a higher peak, before receding once more.
Other instruments tend to produce sounds that are more predictable and linear in their journey to peak and decline. But the sounds of the gong are non-linear, multi-layered and trans-spatial. Layers of different sounds and vibrations are built up to produce larger more complex soundscapes.
Don Conreaux described the gong as “resound”. He said: “Gong is not the sound, gong is the resound. Before resound you have no power. You go into the mountains and say one word, that echo will sound a thousand times more, for thousands of miles. That is the power of resounding sound.”
Because of this complexity, you will hear a multitude of individual sounds within the gong’s soundscape. These sounds may include instruments, such as harps, bells, singing or chanting voices, linear sounding music and noises from daily life, as the mind tries to make sense of the unfathomable.
As the gong bath unfolds, the vibrations and sounds produced move through the body and vibrate through its cells. Different areas respond to the different sounds as they pass through because the sounds vibrate at the same frequency as the cells of the body. This means that any blocks or imbalances are dissolved and, by re-tuning the vibration, harmony can be restored.
Any areas that are off–key are re-tuned by a process called ‘entraining’. Entraining can be seen when two metronomes are placed side by side but are set to keep different times. As they move back and forth, their timings begin to synchronise and eventually they ‘entrain’, or match, each other, thereby working in harmony.
A similar situation takes place during a gong bath. The gong’s vibrations move through your cells and when they come across an imbalance, the process of entraining helps the cells find their way back to vibrating at a healthy frequency, thus restoring balance.
Physical rebalancing may be felt as physical sensations. For example, people with an old injury often report sensations in that area. The same happens within the body’s energy field, with higher vibrations being felt as an emotional release or change in energy.
Gong baths may be given to individuals or groups, but the normal practice is to lie on a floor bed or sit on a chair, wearing comfortable clothing and using blankets for warmth. The experience is a relaxing and rejuvenating one as the gong sounds alter your brainwaves to enable you to enter into a state of deep relaxation – and in some cases even a meditative state.
Some people recall past lives or have profound healing experiences, while others may simply feel more rested and restored. But whatever the outcome, the gong space offers a powerful therapeutic energy. It provides a space of stillness, tranquillity and gentle holding that enables each individual to go on their own unique journey towards healing.
Gayatri (Gail Gibbs) teaches yoga and meditation and is a gong practitioner. She is passionate about creating space for those of any age to explore their transformational potential in a safe and nurturing way. Cultivating compassion for oneself is at the heart of Gayatri’s teaching and sound work, thus allowing the process of personal growth and change to unfold.
OTHER ARTICLES THAT MAY INTEREST YOU