Sound healing is an ancient form of natural healing that has experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent times due to its powerfully positive effects.
Everything vibrates at a particular frequency. People, animals, places and things are forever producing vibrations. In fact, we are each vibrating right now — and in every moment of our lives. Inside of us, our heart, brain and other internal organs are vibrating at a specific frequency.
Imagine the internal systems as a symphony orchestra. When each of the organ systems are tuned, harmony exists within our bodies. Disease occurs when something within us is out of tune in the nervous, circulatory, muscular, digestive or other systems. Living in a toxic environment with a lot of stress, trauma and anger can manifest as emotional, mental, and spiritual disturbances and cause our bodies to become physically ill.
Some mindfulness meditation techniques use sound as their focus rather than the breath or physical sensations. In this case, awareness of sound is not used as a therapy but rather as an anchor to help the mind return to the present moment. Just like being mindful of breath, paying attention to sound requires finding a healthy balance between gentle relaxation and alert clarity.
A brief history of the gong
Gongs are the oldest musical instruments of southeast Asia. Historians believe that the main gong-producing centers were in Java, Annam, Burma and China. The gong-making process was mysterious and secretive, an it involved both technical knowledge and the assistance of higher powers. In the Tibetan spiritual tradition, gongs have deep links with the cosmos and the spirit world.
In both ancient and modern times, the sounding of the gong has been used to make proclamations and announcements; accompany celebrations, funerals and theatrical performances; and, of course, assist with meditation and healing. For centuries, the gong was an important status symbol among Asian families. Today, we are fortunate to have relatively easy access to these potent instruments.
How does gong meditation work?
Gong baths are considered a shortcut to a peaceful mind and are especially helpful for people who find sitting meditation to be difficult. The harmonic sound vibrations emitted by certain instruments have a deeply resonant effect on the listener that leads to a sense of vitality and vibrancy. Employing the simple, powerful energy of various tones can help restore balance in the mind, body, heart and spirit.
A gong bathing session does not involve nudity or immersion in water. The “bathing” in this case refers to immersion in sound vibrations, just as forest bathing is immersion in a green area full of trees. Sessions are ideally facilitated by a trained sound healer and can be done one-on-one or in a group setting.
Gong bathing harnesses the resonance of gongs to create a meditative environment. Sometimes additional accompanying instruments are used, such as Tibetan or crystal singing bowls, tuning forks and other instruments with rich, calming harmonic frequencies. Certain forms of sound therapy include vocal toning, chanting and drumming.
The sound and vibrational energy of gongs is an ancient and powerful tool used to help focus and tranquilize the mind and enable deep relaxation for the physical body. It even empowers the listener to process and release blocks in their energetic field..
A gong bath can involve sitting or lying down while listening to the resonance of a gong, which has the amazing ability to transport us to another dimension. For countless generations, gongs have been sounded in Asian cultures to remove bad spirits, warn of approaching armies, heal the sick and invoke the spirits of those who have passed away.
Gong bathers typically lie down on the floor in a comfortable position, typically “savasana” or corpse pose from hatha yoga, which is traditionally done lying on the back on a yoga mat. The idea is to rest, relax and close your eyes — yet remain awake and aware of the sounds created by the gong.
To begin, the gong is played softly. As the meditation session progresses, the volume and intensity gradually increases. To avoid fixed, monotonous rhythms, the gong sound is changed frequently.
What are the benefits of gong bathing?
Sound therapy has been utilized as far back as recorded history stretches to heal a broad range of health conditions. Physicists have discovered that all forms of matter, including the millions of cells of the human body, vibrate at specific frequencies. Stress and disease cause cells and organs within our bodies to vibrate at non-optimal frequencies. Sound healing has been employed to treat symptoms of conditions from anxiety and depression and post-traumatic stress disorder to dementia, autism and some forms of cancer.
Scientific research has linked sound healing to loads of health benefits, such as improving immune system function; reducing stress levels; decreasing mood swings; lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels; reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke; and enhancing sleep quality.
Scientific studies are even beginning to prove that certain forms of sound therapy can prompt the self-reparation of damaged human DNA strands. Gong baths can help reduce stress and release emotional blockages. Certain tones are thought to promote vitality and healing and enhance feelings of happiness and contentment. More and more yoga and meditation centers, spas and natural health clinics are beginning to offer sound therapies including gong meditation to help manage various ailments.
Music has been shown to relieve a number of problems, including pain, loneliness and depression. Music therapy is now frequently offered in hospitals, clinics and hospice.
The auditory stimuli provided by a gong bath leads to entrainment, a method of synchronizing our ever-fluctuating brainwaves by producing a stable, solid frequency that our brains adjust to and then match.
The first state to be reached is alpha, which corresponds to brain wave frequencies between 8 and 12 Hz. Alpha brainwaves are associated with creativity and feelings of relaxation. In the alpha state, we may experience vivid daydreams, more associative thinking and a heightened imagination.
The next state is theta, in which brain waves are at frequencies between 4 and 7 Hz. The theta brainwave state is associated with deep meditation, hypnosis and REM sleep. Gong bathing provides resonance for dissonate vibrations within each individual to become tuned to the universal song and return to a state of greater harmony and equilibrium.
Our bodies contain an autonomic mechanism that syncs us up with external rhythms, pulses and beats. We entrain to the rhythms around us at all times, it’s just that we are not usually aware of this process. In a sound bath, no immersion in water is involved, yet our bodies will naturally and intuitively sync with the instruments’ vibrations, clearing away discord and cultivating harmony within.
Sound healing techniques like gong baths develop a sense of authentic rejuvenation in the body, reduce stress, inspire altered states of consciousness, and can help move emotional blockages from trauma. Sound healing sessions, especially when done regularly, can also bring about clarity and balance, improvements in memory and concentration, better sleep, a stronger immune system, enhanced creativity and overall heightened awareness and mindfulness.
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