Walking the Path of the Gong by Ali Gunning
Santosa welcomes Ali Gunning as she speaks to us about this history of the Gong, what to expect in a Sound Healing concert and how they came to be such a big part of her life
The ‘gong’ is believed to have originated in Persia or the Far East up to 5000 years ago. Ancient master makers in China honed its purpose as an instrument for raising consciousness. Therefore using it in both ceremony and healing. The many styles are hand crafted from a sheet of precious metal (nowadays Nickel Silver). From heavy embossed Balinese gongs, to the shimmering sounds of chinese wind gongs. Including modern planetary tunings and all encompassing symphonic gongs.
The gong came to the awareness of the yoga community in recent times thanks to Yogi Bhajan. He also introduced the Western world to kundalini yoga. His great student Don Conreaux developed the concepts of the ‘gong bath’, ‘gong concert’ and ‘gong Puja’. Today’s elite makers (now based in Europe) like Paiste and Oetken can barely keep up with sales demand. In 2018 there will be a world record gong bath with over 200 players from across the world.
So what happens in the gong space? It is different every time and for each one of us. Players weave a rich tapestry of vibration from gongs of various styles and tunings. Such as singing bowls, drums, the conch shell, voice, chimes and a range of other ancient, shamanic or healing instruments. The idea is not to create music with structure, order and listening pleasure. The playing is intuitive and the experience is meditative. It resonates within every cell of your body. Therefore balancing the energetic and nervous system, and leading your mind to rest and expanding your consciousness.
Why are so many people tuning into the gong? A wise client recently commented “where sound ends, the gong begins”. With yoga, mindfulness and meditation being familiar words in mainstream culture, people are more open to new experiences and to transformational inner work. In parallel to the gong boom there is greater receptivity to shamanic work, cacao ceremonies, ecstatic dance etc.
Sometimes it seems that times become more energetically ‘dense’; more corporate, more destructive of the planet. Luckily there is a counter movement towards light, compassion and alternative health that is growing stronger. With modern ‘ways’ not offering fulfilment, people are turning back to the old tools. These being sound, light, colour, vibration, nature and embodied wisdom.
The gong offers the widest array, perhaps of any instrument, of overtones and harmonics. Research suggests that specific frequencies can have specific healing effects on the body. The overall wash of sound fast tracks the brain to a theta wave state, creating the subconscious cleansing effects of deep meditation. It moves beyond our conditioned limitations. As a result, it connects us to the healing potential of our own bodies and of stillness. The experience may be relaxing. There may also be lessons and challenges. Both are necessary in any path of healing. For healing means a return to wholeness and integration.
My first experience receiving the gong stirred up lots of resistance. Nevertheless, I left feeling cleansed and calm. I was certain this instrument would play an important role in my life going forward. One day my sound healer friend handed me the mallets. ‘I’m not musical’, ‘I’m not trained to do this’, I thought, to my horror. But as 'I' let go, the sound simply flowed. As a result, it seems more that the gong chooses you and I am often reminded that playing it will bring me everything I need.
When you step onto the other side of the gong the transformation accelerates, rather than achieving some kind of immune mastery. Each new gong that comes into my life offers a specific insight. Which is in addition to the traditional qualities that would be attributed to its tuning, element or planetary association. For example Saturn told me to stop hiding and Sedna led me into a deeper connection with the divine feminine.
If you feel called to the gong path there are trainings aplenty out there today. From the College of Sound Healing’s one year course with the fantastic Sheila Whittaker, to intensive study over 5-10 days with Don Conreaux, Tom & Abby (Tone of Life) and Sarah Gregg. All are excellent guides as you learn from the master: the gong itself.
I started off playing in church halls, as a slightly out there thing to do. I am now playing the gong in a children's hospice, for baby showers, anniversaries and corporate gatherings. As well as therapeutically on an individual basis. The dream of every home replacing their TV set with a gong doesn't seem such a far off fantasy! In noisy and cluttered times, the gong is exactly the medicine we need to move towards a more resonant future.