Sound healing is an ancient form of natural healing that has experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent times, mainly due to its potentially powerful effects on mental and physical well-being.
Now let us begin this article by saying that everything vibrates at a particular frequency. People, animals, places and things are constantly 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 and health exists within our bodies. In contrast to this then disease occurs when something within us is out of tune in the nervous, circulatory, muscular, digestive or other biological systems. Living in a toxic environment with a lot of stress, trauma and anger can manifest as emotional, mental, and spiritual disturbances and subsequently cause our minds and bodies to fall ill.
Some types of meditation techniques use sound as their main object of focus, like say ACEM and some forms of TM, rather than the breath or other physical sensations. In the case of gong baths, awareness of sound is not only used as therapy but also as an anchor to help the mind return to the present moment. Just like being mindful of breath, paying careful attention and tuning yourself into the vibrations of specific sounds can result in deep physical relaxations and psychological serenity.
What is a gong bath?
A gong is an ancient instrument, a thin metal circular drum that you strike with a special kind of top-padded stick, called a gong mallet, in order to produce different vibrations in the form of sound. This in turn is believed to have an profound effect on our mental and physical states of being. A gong bath can be described as the process when the vibrations of the gong wash over your bodily senses and mind, hence the feeling of bathing in an ocean of healing sound overtakes your consciousness.
As you might have guessed, 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.
A brief history of the gong
As mentioned, gongs are old, in fact they appear to one be of the oldest musical instruments of southeast Asia. Historians and archaeologists believe that the main gong-producing centers were in Java, Annam, Burma and China. In many cases the gong-making process was enveloped in mystery and kept secretive as it involved both technical knowledge of how to make it combined with a belief in the spiritual present in existence. In the Tibetan spiritual tradition, gongs are believed to have deep spiritual links with the nature of the cosmos.
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 bath and meditation work?
Gong baths are considered a shortcut to a peaceful mind and are especially helpful for people who find sitting meditation or other types of meditations 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 alertness, vitality and vibrancy. Employing the simple, powerful energy of various tones can help restore balance in the mind, body, heart and spirit.
The most palpable and immediate effects of gong bathing is the ability to harness the resonance of gongs to create a meditative environment. Sometimes additional accompanying instruments are used, such as Tibetan 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 be done sitting or lying down, the importance lies in keenly listening to the resonance of the gong, the vibrations, the texture of the sounds, the resonance, the depth. This in turn allows us to meditatively gaze deeper into our own selves and thus potentially achieve mental tranquility. For countless generations, gongs have been sounded in Asian cultures to easier allow for meditative states of mind, but they have also been used for removing 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 the corpse pose from hatha yoga, which is traditionally done lying on the back on a yoga mat, as seen on above. The idea is to rest, relax and close your eyes – yet remain fully awake and aware of the profound sounds produced by the gong.
To begin, the gong is touched rather gently. As the meditation session progresses, the volume, intensity and power gradually increases. To avoid fixed, monotonous rhythms, the intensity of the gong sound is changed frequently.
The benefits of gong bathing
Sound or music therapy has been utilized as far back as recorded history stretches to heal a broad range of health conditions. In today’s highly advanced scientific age, physicists have discovered that all forms of matter, including the millions of cells of the human body, vibrate at specific frequencies. Viewed from a certain speculative perspective, stress and disease can be seen as causing cells and organs within our bodies to vibrate at non-optimal frequencies. Sound healing has thus been employed to treat symptoms of conditions from anxiety and depression and post-traumatic stress disorder to dementia, autism and even some forms of cancer.
Scientific research has linked sound healing to plenty 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.
Gong baths can help reduce stress and release emotional blockages. Certain frequencies and tones are thought to promote vitality, healing and enhance feelings of overall well-being 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 and relieve various ailments.
Music therapy has been scientifically shown to relieve a number of ailments and problems, including sleep, anxiety, pain, loneliness and depression. Music as a form of therapy is now frequently offered in hospitals, clinics and hospice.
Moreover 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.
The best gongs to buy online
Now that we’ve gone through what gongs and gong baths are, while also probing into the history and the various benefits associated with gongs and sound healing, we’ve decided to review some of the best gongs available online. Some of these gongs are rather portable and suitable for desktops while others on this list are bigger and require a little bit more space (though they make up for it in sound-quality and power).
Zildjian 12″: Best Gong for Desktops/Table-tops
At 12″ this table-top gong by Zildjian is one of our main picks for a smaller yet powerful gong to have on your desktop. The design is unique and the mallet that is included is sturdy. The material is brass and it has a “classic gong sound” and is partially lathed both in the front and rear. If you want you can purchase the gong and tabletop stand separately but unless you already have an existing stand we wouldn’t recommend that.
The only negative we can think of is that overly prominent logo of the brand at the front, but since its a cool sounding name, its not that big of a deal.
The exact dimensions of the square stand are L=16.75” W=6.75” H=16” and the gong is 11.75”.
Woodstock Chimes 10″: Best Small-Scaled Hanging Gong
If you’re looking for a gong to hang, not that the previous one won’t do, this masterfully hand-hammered gong made from bronze is a great choice. The design is authentic, simple and meditative. A mallet is included that can be comfortably attached to the topper/hanger, the hanger is made out of black ash wood. Now whether you use this gong for your daily meditation practice or as a call to order and attention its a great piece. The gong diameter is 10″.
Created by the esteemed brand Woodstock Chimes, a family-owned Business from New York that focuses on crafting high-quality musical instruments/gifts from different parts of the world.
Dream 22″: Best of the Bigger “Wind Gongs”
This 22″ gong by Dream has a powerful tone escalation as it has the capacity to go from a “a gentle murmur to a thunderous explosion”.
The gong comes with a rope, as seen in the picture, plus a nice mallet to make that baby sing.
Unlimited: Best Brand of Gong Makers
If you’re looking for gongs that are made by an awesome and dedicated brand, Unlimited is the uncrowned king of the gong makers.
Almost all of their 80+ products on their listing are either gongs or gong accessories. They offer a wide variety of different sizes, like the smaller cute desktop gongs that are about 7″ up to massive powerful gongs that are 40″. They also offer different types of gongs, like the wind-, chau-, chocolate drop gong etc. Last but not least the price range is quite wide depending on what you want. While most of their gongs are affordable for the average consumer, others, the bigger ones 30″-40″, can be quite expensive and climb upwards of 1000$+.
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.
References & Further Readings
- Music Therapy as a Potential Intervention for Sleep Improvement
- The effectiveness of music therapy for patients with cancer
- Why is Music Therapeutic for Neurological Disorders?
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