Coming clean about gong baths and sound healing.
Let’s get one thing out the way; a gong bath doesn’t involve water. Oh yes, you may laugh but that was my initial concern when I first heard the term ‘gong bath’ about 10 years ago. “Ooh no,” I said, “I’m not getting into a bath to meditate…” Be assured though, you don’t get wet or undressed to have a gong bath.
My first gonging experience was in Australia in 2002. I was one of about 15 people sat in a circle of chairs in a community hall, the gong players were a husband and wife team and they’d set the room up with a selection of suspended gongs and Tibetan singing bowls, the latter make an extraordinary high vibrating hum when a rubber mallet is moved around the lip of the bowl.
We sat there, eyes closed and the gongmaster started playing and soon I was enveloped in an ocean of swelling, surging and soaring sound. Using various mallets covered with soft cloth, he evoked a symphony of harmonics and tones through a range of strikes, swipes and strokes of the different sized gongs.
In one instant, the sounds are like a thunderstorm or the spatter of rain on a tin roof, the next a saxophone or a schoolboy choir. I’d never experienced anything like it and it was beautiful – as though my whole body was being massaged inside and out by the deep vibrations of the reverberating gongs. Then, the gongmaster walked behind everyone in the circle and played a singing bowl over each person’s head in turn. The feeling is intense and wonderful.
Fast forward 10 or so years and I’m living in Dubai where, in the last 12 months, gong bath meditations have sprung up across town in various holistic centres. There are now about five certified gongmasters working in Dubai, each offering their own flavour of gonging for meditation, relaxation and healing. One of these people is Aspen Aman who hosts gong baths from The Gong House in Jumeirah 2 near Safa Park.
“I had my first gong meditation in 2009 here in Dubai,” Aman says. “The thing that attracted me was that I wanted to meditate but I was so bad at it. I knew meditation was supposed to be really good for you but I found it really hard to silence the monkey mind and stop the chatter in my head. Gonging for me was an easy way into meditation.”
Why is gonging so conducive to meditation? Because the sounds switch the brain waves into Theta state, which is the second lowest of frequency of brain waves, consequently and very quickly inducing a state of spontaneous meditation.
Theta brain waves cycle at about four to seven times per second (4 Hz – 7 Hz), you are in Theta state in the early stages of sleep and as you are waking up; while you’re dreaming; when you’re in periods of enhanced creativity, as well as deep relaxation.
The reason the gongs can change your brain’s wave frequencies is because there is no fixed rhythm to the ‘music’. The brain cannot follow this non-rhythmic throng of harmonics so it surrenders to the process.
“Gong players do not play a song, melody or a recognisable pattern,” Aman says. “So the brain quickly gives up trying to find
a pattern and lets go; it disengages from trying to process the sounds as having a logical structure. This allows the left, logical side of the brain to rest while the right, creative side of the brain is stimulated. That’s why gong meditation is great for creative inspiration and problem solving – because a different part of the brain is brought in to work on an issue.”
While the gongs will most often switch your brainwave frequencies to Theta, you may also go even deeper and slip into Delta (one to four hertz), which is the state of deep sleep and complete relaxation. Delta brainwaves bring a number of benefits including reducing cortisol levels – the hormone released by stress that can damage parts of your body,
“Humans are hard-wired at a primal level to respond to vibration and percussive sound, Aman says. This has presented itself for centuries across the globe where percussion instruments like drums and gongs are used by all cultures in rituals from calling on the gods to going to war to celebrating, ceremony, initiation and tribal rites.
“It’s very accessible. Vibration affects everyone; people respond to vibration, you can see that with drums, gongs or any percussive instrument. This can be seen through human history across cultures,” Aman says.
“I use the analogy of dropping a pebble into a still pool and observing the ripples spread. It makes all the water in the pond flow and oscillate together and because humans are primarily made of water, the gong vibrations do the same thing to our physical bodies. For a short time, all the water molecules in our body are oscillating in the same direction. It’s very relaxing, like an internal massage so it’s great for stress release and muscle tension.”
To attend a gong bath with Aspen Aman, join www.meetup.com/The-Gong-House.
GONG BATHS FOR BEGINNERS – THE FAQS
What is a gong bath?
A form of meditation or relaxation that involves being immersed in sound vibration from someone playing the gongs.
Some people believe the frequencies of these sound vibrations can be healing, emotionally and physically. This is why different gongs are tuned to different frequencies – in order to work on different parts of the body.
Will I get wet?
No. You’re immersed in sustained waves of primal sound… there’s no water anywhere, no need for wellies.
What do I need to do?
Lie back, relax and let the gongs take you on a journey for an hour.
What if I fall asleep and (oh horror) snore?
Don’t worry about it, lots of people do. It doesn’t matter and you’re still getting the benefits of the gonging.
What do I need to bring?
Something to lie on, like a yoga mat, a blanket for putting over you and maybe a pillow.
How much does it cost?
A group gong meditation is from AED 50 to AED 75 while a private gong meditation is AED 250 to AED 300.
What are the benefits of gong meditation?
The gong vibrations quickly induce a meditative state by calming the mind and stopping the internal dialogue. Gong therapy is used for stress related issues, depression, fatigue, anger, hostility and fear, as well as physical conditions. Gong meditation can:
• release tension and aid relaxation
• stimulate the circulatory and glandular systems
• rebalance the physical and emotional bodies
• awaken higher states of consciousness conducive to healing and transformation
WHERE CAN I GO TO HAVE A GONG MEDITATION?
The Gong House
Aspen Aman hosts regular group gong meditations as well as private gong sessions by request. Special gong meditations are also held for various events from full moon to sessions for children only. Go to www.meetup.com/The-Gong-House
Third Eye Centre
Lawrence Enderle offers gong baths and singing bowl tuition. 1101 Saeed Tower II Sheikh Zayed Road
Tel: 04 326 6539 or email email@example.com www.thirdeyeonline.com