Healing approaches

Finding your Witness: The power of the ‘neutral mind’

meditation

By Sarah Stollery, kundalini yoga and meditation teacher

When chatting with a dear friend the other day about coping with personal challenges, we wondered what it must be like to go through hard times without “The Witness.” I know I must have done so at some time in my life, but I could not tell you exactly when my Witness showed up – it was definitely post-children but only just. Which is a great blessing because, for me, becoming a mother has definitely triggered some intense personal challenges.

I am aware that I bang on about self-care as well as the benefits of yoga and mediation and having a regular practice, but I do not necessarily focus enough on why. My fear is that yoga and meditation have been so hijacked by consumerism that many people have already switched off and tuned out. These practices have lost some of their sacredness and potency, which is a real shame because we need them now more than ever – not least because we all need a Witness to support us through the hard times.

So what is ‘The Witness’? Although the Witness is the most meaningful term to me personally, in the kundalini yoga tradition, it is also known as the ‘neutral mind’. World-renowned kundalini yoga master and spiritual leader, Yogi Bhajan, defined the neutral mind as the global positioning system of the Aquarian Age.

He described it as “the part of the mind that has direct connection to our Soul’s guidance…Until our mind is clear, we are a slave to the emotion and commotion that makes us reactive to [the] unknowns that we meet on the road of life.”

In other words, the Witness is objective, balanced and is all about right action rather than reaction – and it is why I practice every day, not just when I feel bad. This is what it means for me:

The Witness is always available

It doesn’t matter how dark I feel or how completely consumed I am by frantic, looping thoughts, the Witness is always sitting in a corner, watching and waiting to be called upon without judgement or a need to be invited to participate in the conversation.

I will never forget the morning of the Paris bombings in 2015. It was a Friday. I was crossing the road with my children on the way to school and one of them stepped out too soon. I yanked him back in plenty of time, but it triggered a dread of the darkest proportions. The feeling intensified as the day went on and by next morning, I could not get out of bed because I felt so sad and terrified.

At this point, I was not aware of what had transpired the evening before, but on reading the news, it felt as though my antennae had picked up the sorrow and fear of the entire world and was downloading it straight to my heart. That weekend I did not leave the house, mainly due to my uncontrollable weeping.

But through all the despair and terror, I also knew this time would pass and that, despite the depth of my feelings over the state of the world, it would change nothing – only action would do that. I also understood that this tragedy, so close to home, was happening in other places all over the world in one way or another, and that every heartbreak was a projection of the human race’s collective suffering.

And yet, I also believe that progression towards a kinder, fairer, more tolerant and collaborative way of being was, and is, inevitable. Change is inevitable. Evolution is inevitable. Fact: Every day, someone somewhere awakens to their own consciousness, and it is like lighting a candle in the dark. So every day, the world becomes a little brighter.

Wheel of Life mandala

The Witness helps us heal

Here is the magic: The fact that the Witness knows all of this is what enables us to fully embrace the darkness, to visit the pain without being held back, so that we can move through it.

Without The Witness there to hold us in its unconditional presence, we can never fully feel our feelings enough to integrate them and heal. My Witness did not save me from the utter darkness of that time. I still thought all my fearful thoughts and cried my tears of grief, but I also knew, simultaneously, that everything would be OK. And lo and behold, it was.

The Witness enables us to change

Some say that the definition of insanity is repeatedly behaving in the same way but expecting the result to change. But achieving real, lasting shifts are tricky because we are hardwired to maintain the status quo. Our biology would suggest that such habits are efficient – but only if they continue to serve us.

The Witness is the element of the mind that says: “Hey, I thought you weren’t going to think that thought anymore. It’s self-abuse.” Or: “Hey, I know you love sugar, but it makes you feel unwell, so do you really want to eat that?”

For a long time, I heard The Witness loud and clear but chose to politely ignore it. Slowly, gradually, after many hours on the mat, my Witness has become stronger and louder than my ego-mind. More often than not, it overrules the habitual, unhelpful impulses that have kept me stuck in patterns that no longer serve me.

And I have changed. I have fewer looping thoughts. I feel lighter, clearer, and my thinking is more ordered. I am able to experience real, authentic joy and act on my creative ideas. I also feel more connected and loving and yes, cliché as it has become, present, in my relationships.

How to meet your own Witness

As to how to gain an introduction to your Witness, meditation is the exercise that will help you do so, and yoga is the practice that will condition your nervous system and endocrine system to follow its wisdom. And once you have found it, it will always be available to you.

You will know it because it has no capacity for emotion, even though it fully allows you to experience the depth of your emotions. It has no agenda, except that which is true, or in alignment with your highest purpose in this lifetime. It has no aim other than to reveal all those fractured parts of yourself, which are rooted in shame, grief and fear and need to be brought into awareness so you can integrate them and continue on your journey towards wholeness.

Your Witness can be your Best Friend Forever. It is the relationship with yourself that yoga and meditation can provide. So if you have switched off and tuned out to the promise of what a personal practice could offer, now could be the time to reconsider?

Sarah Stollery

Sarah Stollery is a kundalini yoga and meditation teacher and co-founder of The Cabin, a self-directed learning community for home-educated children. She is passionate about empowering people of all ages and stages of life with the tools to thrive in these challenging times by creating space to learn, explore and integrate a wide range of wellbeing practices.

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Uncovering the secrets of Ayurvedic yoga massage

By Theresa Banovic, yoga and yoga nidra teacher

Ayurveda, otherwise known as the ‘science of life’, is an ancient system of healing from India. It does not aim to treat the symptoms of a disease but rather to get to the root cause of the problem.

Health and wellbeing, according to the Ayurvedic philosophy, is a state of balance in which body, mind and consciousness are in harmony. If any of these three components moves out of balance, the door is opened to disease.

Ayurvedic yoga massage (AYM) was first developed in the early 1980s and continues to be expanded upon by Master Kusum Modak in Pune, India, who has dedicated her life to the practice. She created her own unique approach to Ayurvedic massage by combining her knowledge of Ayurveda and traditional Ayurvedic massage with yoga, which she learned directly from the late BKS Iyengar, who has been credited with popularising yoga on an international basis.

AYM combines deep tissue massage with co-ordinated breath work and yoga stretches. The deep tissue massage dissolves physical tension, while the assisted stretches and breath exercises realign the body and stimulate the natural flow of energy.

An individual session of AYM is given on a mattress on the floor. The length of the treatment may vary from between one and two hours and alternates between the therapist providing a deep tissue massage using their hands and feet and clients undertaking a series of stretches that cover all regions of their body to help create a feeling of openness and being present. Some of the other benefits that AYM brings include:

  1. Harmonising the flow of vital energy (prana) and inducing a deep sense of stillness and opening;
  2. Stimulating breathing and promoting the movement of all the body’s fluids, thereby improving circulation;
  3. Releasing muscle tension and loosening up stiff joints;
  4. Stretching fascia and realigning body structure;
  5. Increasing the range of possible movement and improving posture;
  6. Boosting flexibility, especially when undertaking yoga, dance and fitness exercises;
  7. Raising energy levels;
  8. Restoring harmony between the doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha.

Complementary oils and powders

Ayurvedic oils – most commonly sesame oil – are also used during AYM for their healing properties. Sesame oil, which is extracted from sesame seeds, is rich in antioxidants. This means that when it is used in massage treatments, it helps remove toxins from the skin.

Sesame oil is packed with healthy ingredients – Vitamin E, lecithin, minerals, proteins as well as high levels of oleic and linoleum acid. As a result, it is anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and wonderful for moistening dry skin. To obtain the full benefits following a massage, it should be left on overnight and washed off in the morning. 

Another unique tool of AYM is Calamus powder, which is used with just a little oil to remove toxins from the body, dispel physical and emotional blocks and promote correct posture, leaving clients with a deep sense of wellbeing. It also helps to improve therapists’ grip to enable a deeper massage, which contributes to awakening the skin, circulation and senses. 

Calamus is a plant, of which there are various species. The root, which is dried and ground to make a powder, is traditionally used in Ayurveda for its ability to enhance cognitive functioning, which includes possibly helping to boost memory and concentration. It can also help to relieve joint pain and promote relaxation.  

Padabhyanga (Ayurvedic foot massage)

Indian foot massage is called Padabhyanga and holds a very special place within the Ayurvedic tradition as it helps in both treating and preventing illnesses. Padabhyanga is commonly practiced as a daily ritual in India and is often especially effective before retiring at night. 

There is a wonderful ancient Indian saying, which goes: “Disease does not go near one who massages his feet before sleeping, just as snakes do not approach eagles.”

Feet are an important part of our body as nerves from many organs terminate there. So regular massage can help to strengthen these nerves and restore health to many parts of the body.

During Padabhyanga, the marma (vital) points are massaged, which helps to balance the dosha and can be very helpful for people with insomnia, fatigue and muscle cramps. An individual session lasts between 30 and 45 minutes and can take place on a massage couch or mattress on the floor. Some of the key benefits include:

  1. Helping to calm the mind;
  2. Assisting in the maintenance of effective eyesight and hearing;
  3. Promoting good quality sleep;
  4. Aiding foot health as it alleviates pain, improves muscle tone and nourishes the skin;
  5. Helping to calm and maintain the ‘Vata dosha”, which if present to excess is regarded in Ayurveda as the major cause of illness in the body.
Theresa Banovic

Theresa Banovic is a BWY yoga instructor and wellness advocate. She provides Padabhyanga by appointment at Mokshala Yoga Studio, Saffron Walden, Essex. Contact her at breatheformrelax@gmail.com. For Ayurvedic massage training levels one to four, contact www.retreatme-retreats.co.uk.

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Healing approaches

Kinesiology: Learning the Touch for Health phenomenon

By Anita Ramsden, kinesiologist

Although Touch for Health has been described as the most widely-used system of kinesiology in the world, it is actually a relatively young alternative and complementary therapy. Since the first manual on the subject was published in 1973, millions of people in more than 100 countries have benefitted from it.

According to the International Kinesiology College: “The Touch for Health model does not treat or diagnose symptoms, but works with the energy, lifestyle and aspirations of the client, offering a safe and effective way to maintain health, enhance well-being and upgrade performance.”

In fact, the approach was created by the incredible John Thie, with the aim of encouraging and empowering people to take an active role in restoring and maintaining their own health and wellbeing and that their family and friends.

How can Touch for Health help me?

The premise of the so-called ‘Triangle of Health’ is that all aspects of an individual’s system need to be in balance for them to feel good. These aspects are mental/emotional, physical/structural and biochemical/physiological. When each of these elements are all in balance, you have an equilateral triangle. But if any one of them move out of balance, the triangle (and therefore, your health) become distorted.

For example, being under stress at work could affect your mental/emotional health, which in turn increases your stress hormone levels. This situation can generate biochemical problems, leading to headaches/migraines, an inability to sleep at night and so on. It could also result in muscular problems in the physical/structural area due to tight shoulder and/or back muscles, which creates poor posture, a twisted torso or even digestive issues.

In other words, an imbalance in one area can have a knock-on effect on each of the other areas too, so Touch for Health takes an holistic approach. But its aim is not to diagnose or treat symptoms. Instead it helps individuals and their bodies to move back into balance, thereby enabling them to attain health more readily.

How does Touch for Health help achieve balance?

Although it may sound a bit dry to say that Touch for Health is based on muscle monitoring or testing that helps obtain feedback from the body, it is actually a fun and fascinating thing to experience or feel. To help the body return to balance, muscle monitoring is used to literally communicate with it and find out exactly what it wants. 

A hands-on therapy, Touch for Health is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine, using the same principles as those employed in acupressure, work with the meridians and nutritional therapy. While this may sound daunting, the approach is actually taught in a very easy-to-understand way based on simple-to-use techniques.

Essentially, you build on your knowledge as you move through four different levels. While level one acts as an introduction, in level two, you learn to use muscle testing to discover which foods are beneficial to the body and which are not, alongside incredibly powerful emotional stress release procedures. By balancing the body in this way, it becomes possible to help relieve aches and pains and gain more clarity.

In fact, from the first balance onwards, you can start to see postural changes. Stress dissolves and faces light up. There is always lots of laughing and a great connection between the students, who are encouraged to take responsibility for themselves and their needs by speaking up for what they feel and want during a session.

Do I need any prior knowledge to learn Touch for Health?

Absolutely anyone can learn this amazing technique. For example, when I was taught it back in 2004, one member of our class was a lovely, vibrant 72-year old nun who wanted to help the other sisters in her convent feel better. She was awesome. I am also currently teaching my daughter who would like to take this skill to university with her. While it does take practice, the two-day practical hands-on workshops give you all of the information and experience you need to start balancing others. 

How long does it take to learn?

Touch for Health is taught in four levels, each of which takes the form of a two-day workshop, or equivalent time (15 hours). Homework and practice is required after each level because muscle testing is an art that needs to be nurtured and practiced regularly if you are to become proficient. Working with as many people as possible makes it easier to feel different, possible responses, so the more you do it, the more confident you will feel.  

What can you do with Touch for Health?

Undertaking levels one to four enables you to work with friends and family, but if you choose to go on to the proficiency level, you can become qualified to practice on members of the general public. Just so you know, Touch for Health is both a stand-alone therapy and is also recognised as acting as a foundation for other branches of kinesiology – so if you would like to know more, please drop me a line.

Anita Ramsden

Anita Ramsden is a kinesiologist. She is emphatic about affecting positive change and her work encourages wellbeing for mind, body and soul. Anita is also a member of the Kinesiology Federation.

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Spring fever: Tackling hay fever the homeopathic way

By Lisa Glydon, homeopath

As we move into spring, it is time for many of us to start thinking about how to protect ourselves against allergies, such as hay fever. On a year-by-year basis, we are seeing a consistent increase in allergic responses brought about by reactions to airborne irritants and/or certain foods.

Allergens can consist of virtually anything that provokes a hypersensitive reaction. They range from pollens and pollutants, such as exhaust fumes, to foods, mobile phones and even, in certain cases, the sun. Such reactions can be mild to life threatening, and everything in between.

The three most common substances that people react to are pollen, dairy and wheat. Although there is no proven connection, interestingly all three are originally grass products. It may be that some hay fever sufferers become sensitised to proteins that are common to grains, grasses, and possibly milk.

Dairy products encourage mucus production and, in certain situations, should be avoided. Similarly, many modern strains of processed wheat are high in gluten content, which can irritate the digestive tract and likewise stimulate mucus production.

Depending on how severe it is, the reaction to such substances will determine whether you are suffering an allergic response or simply experiencing an intolerance. But when a homeopath treats hay fever, there are two aspects they are trying to achieve:

  1. To treat the acute hay fever symptoms that are presenting immediately: Here the aim is to select a remedy that is most similar to the condition itself as homeopathic medicine produces the same symptoms as those experienced by the sick person and, in doing so, provokes the body into throwing those symptoms off. In other words, like is cured by like.
  2. To provide long-term constitutional treatment in order to remove the body’s tendency to over-react to substances that it should be able to deal with: Hay fever is a more complicated condition than it first appears. As a result, it can take someone two or three seasons to get rid of completely, with each season demonstrating less severe reactions and symptoms than the last.

Here is why: An over-reactive, or allergic, response is often a sign of a weakened and stressed immune and nervous system. To achieve healing in this instance, a homeopath needs to discover why the ‘broken down’ system is reacting in this way. Careful management of lifestyle and diet will support and improve weakened organs, thereby reducing over-reactive responses.

Most people think of the immune system as simply ‘strong’ or ‘weak’. But, in fact, it consists of many sections, and each section must work well with every other one. Organising how these immune responses work together is the job of a group of white blood cells called ‘lymphocytes’. These lymphocytes organise the fine workings of the sections within the immune system.

For people with allergies, one particular type of lymphocyte seems to play an important role – the T cell. These regulatory T cells limit inflammation by turning off unwanted immune responses that are the hallmark of an allergy. So rather than fearing the allergen, which may have been in the environment for many years, it makes more sense to strengthen the immune system to deal with it.

When the body suffers a ‘stress’ of some kind, it is normal to release histamine, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. This ‘stress’ could come from the external environment or take the shape of a stressful thought or worry.

Histamine causes your capillary walls to become more permeable so that more antibodies and nutrients can reach the body to try and heal it. The result is local ‘inflammation’ and the involuntary smooth muscles (which are hollow and work unconsciously, such as the stomach, oesophagus and bronchus) contract to protect the body from invading pathogens or poisons. The result here might be either a cough or a build-up of sputum.

But in the case of an allergic reaction, the response is a lot more dramatic. The immune system goes into overdrive, causing other more severe reactions, such as extreme rhinitis, streaming eyes, sneezing and even asthmatic-type breathing issues, such as wheezing. This situation is essentially histamine gone wild and the usual medical treatment is to give the sufferer an anti-histamine tablet.

The problem is that such drugs tend to be overused, can cause nasty side effects and suppress the body’s ability to express itself. As a result, they are a nuisance to homeopaths as they mask an individual’s true allergic symptoms.

Root causes

Homeopaths are looking not only for the stresses around life circumstances that may have led to the attacks, but also the allergen concerned, and inherited traits. If a child presents with hay fever, there is often a family history of allergies and so the child could have been born with an inherited weakness.

Stress is also frequently behind the onset of many hay fever-based or allergic responses. This ‘stress’ may come in the form of fear, worry over exams or family matters, grief, anger, or even a recent illness, course of antibiotics, coming off the contraceptive pill or having a vaccine.

If there is nothing obvious, it can be helpful to explore an individual’s history to find out what has caused their constitution to behave in this way. A variety of forgotten situations could be the root cause, including negative or suppressed childhood ailments or traumas. The patient could also have an underlying infection, such as candida albicans, or a weakened digestive system, which allows pathogens to pass through and results in an inflammatory response. 

No matter how long ago these hidden situations took place, they will need to be addressed sooner or later as the body has a tissue memory. In other words, it finds ways to express these memories, and hay fever is one way of doing this.

This situation means that hay fever can take several years to tackle, with the symptoms becoming less severe each season as the remedies work through the historical causes mentioned. As part of the process, the body will reveal what needs to be treated through its symptom picture, and the homeopath matches these symptoms with the required ‘similum’ remedy.

But it is not always enough just to provide the appropriate remedy for that year’s symptoms, even if it does have the desired effect. The underlying ‘maintaining’ causes based on history and heredity also have a part to play, and it is they that make both seasonal and chronic hay-fever symptoms so complex to treat. This is why nutritional supplements are rarely sufficient on their own and why orthodox treatments simply offer relief at best and suppression at worst.

If you recognise the following symptoms during an acute hay fever episode, try taking the suggested remedy, in up to 10 doses. If they are not effective, change the remedy.

  • Allium 30c: Burning discharge from the nose and bland discharges from the eyes. Symptoms are worse indoors rather than outdoors. Light hurts the eyes, which are hot and itchy. The larynx also feels as if there are hooks sticking in it, which is made worse by warm food or drink.
  • Arsenicum albicans 30c: Your temperature is higher than normal and you feel utterly worn out but better in the warmth. Sniffing warm water up the nose gives relief from sneezing, but light hurts the eyes. There is wheezing and tightness in the lungs, a burning throat, restlessness and you are worrying a lot.
  • Arsenicum iod 30c: Thick, honey-coloured discharge from the nose, following three or four days of sneezing, sore nostrils and a burning sensation inside the nose. Warmth makes the symptoms worse. You also have a burning throat, an irritating cough, dry, scaly skin and feel worried and anxious.
  • Dulcamara 30c: Constant sneezing, stuffy or streaming nose, eyes swollen and watery. These symptoms are made worse by being outdoors or in a damp atmosphere. You may feel chilled after physical exertion.
  • Euphrasia 30c:Thick, burning discharge from the eyes, which are very swollen. There is a bland discharge from the nose, and you cough up phlegm. Symptoms are worse indoors.
  • Gelsemium 30c: Non-stop sneezing. Your eyes feel heavy and/or droopy, puffy and watery. You feel apathetic and listless and have no energy for anything. You may also feel dizzy and shaky.
  • Nux vomica 30c: Your body feels as if it is smarting, and you are very sensitive to light. Your nose is stuffy and tickly, although you sneeze less outside. You also have obstructed breathing and while your nose is blocked at night, it is runny during day. Other symptoms include itchiness inside your ears and eustatian tubes. You feel irritable and angry, want to drink coffee or alcohol, and have a headache that feels like a knife has been driven through you above the eyes.
  • Psorinum 30c: You are very sensitive to the cold and feel like you want to lie down. Your nose is streaming, but the discharge is bland or feels burning. You experience breathlessness, which is relieved by raising your arms away from the body. You also feel restless and hot at night, but in mood terms are generally low and melancholic.
  • Pulsatilla 30c: There is a bland yellow/green discharge from your nose and eyes, which gets better in the open air. You have no thirst, but feel weepy and need lots of support.
  • Sabadilla 30c: Symptoms include violent sneezing, watery eyes, red and swollen eyelids and a headache that feels as if your head is shrinking. Your thinking is slow and dull and you feel generally chilly, but your sore throat is soothed by warm drinks.
  • Silica 30c: Your nose is stuffed up, especially on waking in the morning, and your sinuses feel tender. You also feel generally chilly.

Foods that help

Eat at least nine servings of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables a day, choosing those which are high in folates, vitamin A and fibre. Folates from food are needed for cell repair and growth, immune and brain function. Brightly coloured fresh foods are high in flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and immune system boosting qualities – parsley and green tea are particularly high in these.

Dark green leafy vegetables and legumes, such as lentils and beans, as well as strawberries and grapes are other great sources. The Western diet often results in chronic inflammatory disorders as it typically contains about 1,000mg/day of flavonoids, whereas a traditional Asian diet contains four times that amount, much of it in the shape of herbs and spices.

Lisa Glydon

Lisa Glydon has been a qualified homeopathic practitioner since 2007, but she also uses herbs, supplements and Bach/Bush Essences to boost the body’s systems and help remove emotional blockages. She initially trained as a State Registered Nurse in London, specialising in oncology and palliative care, but now treats clients of all ages and with all kinds of conditions. Lisa also runs workshops and provides talks to school children and adult groups about all aspects of health care.

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Sound healing: Using the gong to restore harmony and balance

Gong

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.

Life force

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.”

harmony

Restoring balance

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 offkey 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

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.

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