Introduction to the Gong Bath
By Marco Dolce
The concept and practice of sound healing – the use of sonic vibration to effect a positive change in the mind and body – is experiencing a tremendous surge in popularity across the alternative medical, spiritual, and metaphysical communities. Once relegated to esoteric spiritual practitioners and renegade sonic explorers and musicians, instruments like Himalayan singing bowls, gongs, and didgeridoos, along with the more accessible tuning forks and so-called crystal bowls, are finding their way into mainstream use and awareness. More and more people from all walks of life have discovered these instruments and use them in their quest for healing, and spiritual development.
And while all of the above-mentioned instruments have some degree of effectiveness, the gong bath is emerging as perhaps one of the most powerful of all sound healing modalities.
The gong bath, also known in some circles as a gong massage or gong puja, is as its name implies: a prolonged immersion in the sustained sound of the gong. The experience can be thought of as a meditation, in that the sound of the gong engages the mind and can help quiet the mental chatter of waking awareness. The sound of a gong can also give the listener access to parts of the mind that are not normally accessible, thereby inducing a state of higher consciousness.
The gong bath is also regarded as a sound healing experience, because exposure to the sound of the gong can effect a positive and lasting change in the mind and physical body. As a sound healing experience, the gong bath is regarded as energy medicine, and is similar to modalities such as acupuncture, reiki, and jin shin jitsu, in that they all serve to remove blockages in the mind and body and restore the free flow of positive life energy, also known as chi, prana, or orgone energy. The gong bath is not as targeted as acupuncture (where very specific pressure points and energy meridians are manipulated) and does not attempt to address specific health issues, but rather, is used as a general tonic to rebalance and tone the physical, emotional and mental bodies. It is an excellent therapy for stress related issues, such as depression, fatigue, anger and hostility, feelings of fear, separation and loneliness, along with many other conditions related to the lack of balance and harmony in the body.
It is also worth noting that for some people, the gong bath proves to be a visionary experience, inducing mental phenomena of a visual nature. Many people describe seeing pulsating colors, shapes and symbols; some have reported out of body experiences, while others have described what might be termed a classical shamanic experience, of being taken on a journey and meeting spirit guides, totemic animals, or other benevolent entities.
But the most common experience during a gong bath is a feeling of deep relaxation, peace, and connectedness to a place out of normal space and time, where the consciousness merges with the divine and cosmic energies of existence.
Not all gongs are alike; while any quality gong can engage the mind and invoke a sense of the sacred, only the larger gongs are capable of producing the depth of frequency and harmonic complexity needed for a maximum therapeutic experience. The 38-inch Earth Gong is one such instrument. Tuned to the fundamental frequency of the rotating Earth, which is also the frequency of AUM (the primordial vibration from which all creation flows), the Earth Gong is gradually establishing itself among practitioners as the pre-eminent instrument for this healing modality.
Similarly, not all gong practitioners are alike; while it is relatively easy to extract a pleasing sound from a gong by simply striking it, the advanced practitioner draws upon a complex and intricate repertoire of abilities, which, simultaneously applied, include: mallet choice and mallet techniques; knowledge of tempo and rhythmic patterns, and their effect on consciousness; knowledge of dynamic musical concepts such as crescendo, decrescendo, envelope and attack; an experienced “ear” attuned to elements of consonance and dissonance; superior improvisational skills; and an intimate relationship with the instrument’s unique properties and capabilities. Only after mastering these elements can one truly claim the title of gongmaster.
The gong bath is therefore a healing art in the truest sense; combining art, spirituality, medicine, and consciousness, the gong bath is both ancient and avante-garde, pointing the way to a new understanding of healing and human potential.
Marco Dolce, a musician, sound healer, and teacher, is a bestselling recording artist (under the stage name Xumantra), acclaimed for his work with authentic Himalayan singing bowls and gongs.