Healing approaches

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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Healing approaches

Reiki: Healing with universal life force energy

Reiki
Reiki symbols

Reiki, in case you are unsure what it is, is energy healing. The word Reiki comes from the Japanese word, rei, which means ‘universal life’ and ki, which means ‘energy’.

At its simplest, Reiki is the transfer of life force energy from one person to another in a process that promotes balance and harmony in the spirit, mind, emotions and body, thereby stimulating wellbeing in the recipient.

While I appreciate that this may sound a bit ‘woo-woo’ to some or a bit out there and strange to others, please bear with me. As an energy healer, I am often met with curiosity, fascination and a bit of scepticism when I tell people what I do for a living.

But for millions of years, ‘traditional’ cultures have defined the human body as a ‘wholistic’ energy system with the innate ability to heal itself. From shamanism, which is thought to be one of our oldest spiritual practices, to India’s ancient spiritual tradition that is more than 5,000 years old, people spoke of a universal energy. Called ‘Prana’ in Sanskrit, it is the breath of life that moves through all forms of existence and gives them life.

The Chinese, in the third millennium BC, meanwhile, also referred to the existence of a vital energy that they named Ch’i. All matter is composed of this universal energy, which consists of two complementary forces: yin and yang.  When the yin and the yang are in balance, a living system exhibits physical health.

Even in our own culture, spiritual healing has been around for many centuries too.

But let’s start at the beginning. Reiki was first developed as a healing system in Japan early in the last century by Mikao Usui (1865-1926). Usui was a seeker of knowledge and spiritual understanding. He studied history, religion, medicine, psychology, and metaphysics, and broadened his worldview by travelling to Europe and China.

Although he faced many challenges in life, he is said to have met them always with equanimity and perseverance. Students described him as a gentle man who was always smiling.

Kurama, Japan
Kurama, Japan

Spiritual method of healing

Usui was a lifelong follower of Tendai Buddhism and Shinto, but also underwent three years of Zen Buddhist training later in life too. It is believed he first received Reiki energy in 1922 while meditating on Mount Kurama, a mountain sacred to both Buddhist and Shinto practitioners. He is said to have achieved enlightenment, or ‘a state of no fear’ at this time.

Although Usui declared Reiki to be a spiritual method of healing, it is not associated with any single religion. In fact, today it is practised throughout the world by people of many and varied faiths and cultures.

But Reiki is slightly different in nature to the spiritual healing that you may have come across elsewhere – even though both harness life force energies and both depend on a ‘healer’ to serve as a channel. Here are a few of the main differences:

  • Reiki practitioners undergo special training to learn the various philosophies, techniques and rituals that are part of the practice. Spiritual healers are intuitive healers who heal through their own connection to spirit;
  • A Reiki practitioner goes through a prescribed process of connecting with the energies, while spiritual healers follow a personal process based on their own experience and how they feel inspired;
  • Reiki is based on a defined approach, which involves asking a patient to lie or sit down. Spiritual healers do whatever they feel is appropriate in that moment.

As a Reiki energy healer, I strongly believe that all matter is composed of universal life force energy and, when this energy flows uninterruptedly through the body, balance is restored and individuals display physical, emotional and spiritual health and wellbeing.

Indeed, science is finally catching up with what ancient cultures have known for years by uncovering scientific evidence to support these ancient concepts. Quantum physics, for instance,  puts forward the idea that human beings have energy fields. As a result, modern technology has developed equipment and techniques to measure the electromagnetic field emanating from the physical body.

Scientist Albert Einstein, meanwhile, was able to prove that all matter, which includes human bodies, are made up of atoms – which are nothing more than interacting fields of energy. In other words, energy healing is not a new age fad – it has stood the test of time and has, in fact, been around for centuries.

Life force
Life force

Good vibrations

Without consciously knowing it, we transmit and absorb energy all the time. When you say someone “feels good to be around”, you are really talking about their vibrational energy. Happy people vibrate on a higher energy frequency, which means you can feel their positivity.

Have you every walked into a room in which a confrontation has taken place only moments before? Did you experience a dense or negative feeling that made you want to leave right away?

Or if have you been on a trip to the beach recently, can you remember how good it made you feel? Air by the coast has a light energy due to the salt it contains, which is a natural energy cleanser. The fact that the air tends to be moving also means it vibrates at a higher frequency and that helps us to feel good.

Another interesting point is that, as humans, we unwittingly use our hands to help either ourselves, or others, all the time. It is a very natural, instinctive thing to do. For example, if you experience back pain, your hands immediately go to touch the affected area. If a child falls over and hurts their knee, you instinctively rub it gently to make it feel better.

The same instinct to touch applies when you meet someone you know and like, and you give them a hug. At work, you may shake someone’s hand or pat them on the back to acknowledge a job well done. Pregnant woman likewise tend to rub their tummies to connect with their babies.

So one way or another, we all enjoy touch, but why? It is because, in using our hands, we transfer energy, which helps us, or someone else, to feel better. It is an instinctive reaction, an innate and inherent ability that we all have.

Reiki then is simply an exchange of energy but of the highest kind – and as it is transferred with positive intention, it intensifies and amplifies the power of touch. This means that Reiki increases balance, harmony and wellbeing emotionally, physically, spiritually and intellectually.

It is a simple, natural and safe method of healing that can be used to complement all other medical or therapeutic techniques, benefitting not only people of all ages but also our four-legged friends.

Debbie Walmsley

Debbie Walmsley has been a natural healer all her life, having first discovered the power of healing in her teenage years. She has studied various forms of energy healing, which included spending a month in Peru with a shaman. Debbie is a Reiki practitioner, master hypnotherapist and Three Principles facilitator. She is also a member of the International Alliance of Holistic Therapists and the Complimentary Medical Association.

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