Through my journey so far, personally and professionally as a student, I have found the use of gong baths and sound meditations a valued tool for dealing with the stresses of life.
Life’s stresses come in all shapes and sizes such as health issues, physical and mental pain, poor mental health, lack of financial abundance, family and friend issues, work related stresses, being main care giver for elderly or disabled family, to name a few. Everyone is susceptible to stress because stress is an individual’s perception of life’s burdens they carry. A lot of people will not take the time or may not be in a position to do so for regular self-care and addressing these issues in a positive light.
We all carry stress in our minds and bodies, when that stress becomes overwhelming it can start to affect our mental and physical wellbeing. When we don’t address our emotional issues, this can begin to manifest throughout our body with aches, pains and even disease. Our body knows how to heal itself, our gut instinct if we listen to it will tell us what our minds and body needs.
Obviously personal circumstances play a big part of life’s stress, most people will firstly start with possibly looking at their diet and/or physical exercise, usually following that with hobbies etc. We all live busy, stressful lives which is why it is vital for us all to take time out for self-care and self-love, time to recharge as no one can run on empty batteries. Self-care is a vital part of all of this, I always believe in “an empty lantern provides no light. Self care is the fuel that allows your light to shine” Unknown.
Over a period of time with my gong case studies there have been some interesting results, from total relaxation to life changing decisions such as handing in notice to leave a job that was making client feel stressed, not sleeping, unvalued, worrying and not wanting to get out of bed in the morning for work. Most clients reported far better sleep, their bodies had never felt so relaxed, energized, started dreaming again, able to deal with life’s stresses easier, more focused, empowered, calmer, clearer decision making, dreaming, enthused them to start journaling (I gifted each case study client a journal, to do as they wished with), start up an abandoned hobby again or start something new, in tune with body and mind, then there is what I call the weird and wonderful response’s. For instance, one client with tinnitus, said it felt like the tinnitus was singing along with gongs. And these, a couple of quotes from case study clients.
“I feel like I had a weird experience with the sound. I recall you using all the instrument’s but at the end felt like I had just woken up, like I had an altered state of consciousness! It felt like a bit of shamanic and primal. Like that part of my brain has always been there but in our culture, we don’t tap into it! Strange but amazing experience”
“Whilst I had some idea from group gongs I have attended in various places, the individual ones with you have given me a richer and deeper journey. Each journey in my sound bath has been different in so many ways and yet the wider journey of sound baths has allowed me to become much more in tune with the earth, making me feel more rooted and connected, even though I felt rooted before. But now a sense of what feels important is more about my time, energy and space with nature and seasons, more than I have ever really realized. I talked about ‘each journey’ and then the bigger, wider journey, it’s really hard to put into words or describe but a sense of discovery. Again, my head becomes so clear and a thirst to be cleansed, so something is moving and shifting about, which is good. Nothing is static and neither should my internal world. So, I’m good with that. Driving home after my last gong bath, Rhianna’s latest sound came on, now whilst I wasn’t too fussed on it, it really chimed for me, around being held, safe and secure on my sound bath journey. So, thank you from the bottom of my heart, for amazing sound baths that have made me feel empowered, cleansed, ready and open eyed for what happens next. I wish you all the best on your ongoing journey with the gongs and further sessions. Many, many thanks.”
For myself I have a calmer home (gong studio in home) allowing me to dip in and out playing the gongs as and when I feel the need, I feel more at peace, more relaxed and in tune with myself emotionally, spiritually and physically, empowered, a deeper love, appreciation of nature and wanting to be in nature more so, increase in connecting on a personal level with my husband, we now have a deeper level of communication and are much more in tune with each other. My husband reaps the benefits of the gongs in a really positive way, feeling energized, destressed, with a calmer outlook to life in general, happier in himself, a much better sleep pattern which is really great as he is a shift worker and his sleep patterns are normally all over the place. He also always says the next day he is suffering from a gong over, to which he always gets told, that’s good, drink more water and listen to what your body is telling you it needs.
Some benefits to sound therapy are; relief from stress and anxiety, a deeper connection with self and self recognition, a boost in confidence and self-esteem, improved focus and clarity, increased energy levels, balancing the left and right brain, improved sleep, pain relief, help to strengthen the immune system, aides removal of toxins, assists cleansing of negative energies, a decrease in blood pressure, changes in behaviour patterns that no longer serve us and assisting addictive behaviours.
Sound is the term used to describe what is heard when sound travels through a medium to a person’s ear, all sound is created by the vibration of molecules through which sound passes. For example, when a gong is struck the striking action causes the gong to vibrate. This vibration causes the air molecules around it to move which in turn allows sound to travel around the room until it runs out of energy. Sound will travel through the physical body where it interacts with our energetic selves to encourage healing on a physical level.
Stress can be defined as any type of change that causes physical, emotional or psychological strain. Everyone experience’s stress to some degree however the way you respond to stress makes a difference to your overall wellbeing.
The parasympathetic nervous system is essentially made up of the vagus nerve, this not only controls homeostasis, but all the functions of the internal organs. As you stimulate the vagus nerve, this activates your parasympathetic nervous system, helping you generate your natural feel good chemicals such as endorphins, nitric oxide.
Stimulating the vagus nerve is an easy way to build resilience to stress. It does this by helping your body shift from a sympathetic state (flight, fight, freeze) back to a parasympathetic state (rest, digest, restore). This means it assists you to revert back after a stressful event. The vagus nerve is your body’s neurochemical pathway/highway, carrying signals between the brain and your vital organs. When you make a sound with your voice, your vocal cords vibrate, this inner body vibration stimulates your vagus nerve, positively affecting many aspects of health.
Endorphins help relieve pain, reduce stress and improve your sense of wellbeing, they are powerful neurotransmitters that block pain and contribute to feelings of pleasure and euphoria. People talk about an endorphin rush, this can be a sensation that is drug like in its ability to make us feel good.
Nitric oxide is a chemical that is produced naturally by the body and is essential for overall health as it allows blood, nutrients and oxygen to travel to every part of your body effectively and efficiently. As we get older our body becomes less efficient at producing nitric oxide on its own which leads to limited capacity of this in your body which can increase risk of heart disease, diabetes and erectile dysfunction. One of the most common ways to increase nitric acid in the body is through diet and exercise however not everyone likes exercise or is physically well enough to produce nitric oxide naturally within the body.
“The use of music as a means of inducing positive emotions and subsequent relaxation has been studied extensively by researchers. A great deal of this research has centered on the use of music as a means of reducing feelings of anxiety and stress as well as aiding in the relief of numerous pathologies. The precise mechanism responsible for these mediated effects has never been truly determined. In the current report we propose that nitric oxide (NO) is the molecule chiefly responsible for these physiological and psychological relaxing effects.” * Experiments with tuning forks, sound and cells in a petri dish. It was found that even cells isolated in a petri dish will release nitric oxide when stimulated by sound. **
We also know that liquids move in specific patterns in the presence of sound frequencies. The human body is made up of around 70% of fluids so the stimulations of sound affect us at a deeper cellular level.
So, what is a gong bath, a sound meditation, it is a unique experience in which you are bathed in the sound waves and vibrations of gongs and other instruments. All you need to do is make yourself cosy on your mat with your blankets and pillow, secure in the knowledge that you are in a safe, non-judgmental space, giving yourself permission, time and space to switch off and unwind from life’s hectic pace as the gongs take you on a journey of relaxation, de stressing, balancing and rejuvenating your mind, body and soul. Sound healing reminds the body of its optimal vibration.
During the session you may feel the vibrations, see colours, imagery, smell, hear or even feel sensations through your body or as quite commonly happens be completely out of it in a deep sleep. Whatever your experience it is unique to you at that moment in time.
Sound has been used as a catalyst for healing since the beginning of time and dates to prehistoric times when shamans chanted and drummed to heal people. In ancient schools of Greece, India and Egypt the use of sound healing was a developed sacred science. The two earliest known instruments used for healing where drums and rattles
Healing with sound has been used historically for illness and disease. It has also been used to sooth the mind and calm emotions. It is the oldest form of healing known to man. The harmonies created with many instruments now available work to heal the body at a cellular level. However, a lot of information around gongs and Tibetan singing bowls has been lost during time so history of these instrument’s is sketchy to say the least.
In a nutshell, there are two elements to sound therapy. Firstly, the physical effect of vibration where the sound of instrument’s we use pass through our energetic bodies to balance our frequencies and clear away any unwanted or blocked energies which may be keeping us from optimum health. Secondly sound works on a meditative level to create an altered state of consciousness which supports the balancing effect of the brain and restores mental harmony.
In summery gong/sound can be used to help relieve stress and restore a body’s natural harmony. Helping to improve and promote the overall physical and mental wellbeing of an individual.
*Sound therapy induced relaxation: down regulating stress processes and pathologies. Elliott Salamon, Minsun Kim, John Beaulieu, George B Stefano. Med Sci Monit 2003; 9(5): RA96-0 :: ID: 881368
**John Beaulieu, “Otto 128 Tuning Fork and Nitric Oxide Response,” Cell Dynamics Lab, unpublished raw data set.