I love gongs. Just think of the sweat drenched guy at the start of Rank films! This has been however, just about the limit of my gong-related knowledge. So when I heard of gong therapy for the first time recently I was curious.
The idea that a gong can provide relaxation and even healing didn’t seem too far-fetched. I’ve watched Evelyn Glennie, the world’s top percussionist perform. She’s profoundly deaf and feels her instruments rather than hearing them. Sound can affect your whole body and also your mind for the better. Who hasn’t felt calmer after listening to their favourite singer?
On the other hand, an awful lot of what I teach about wellbeing is now well grounded in scientific research. There’s no longer any need to try and persuade people that meditation, mindfulness or exercise will help their emotional wellbeing. Numerous academic papers can do that.
Other “alternative” treatments, and gong therapy would be one of these, have undergone less scientific scrutiny. In these cases, my feeling is that it would be arrogant to dismiss something which has been a central tenet of people’s beliefs for often thousands of years.
So on a cold Saturday evening, I and twenty-four other people, mainly women turned up to a warm, dimly lit yoga studio with blankets and pillows. It was like a giant sleep over for adults – the usual way to undertake sound therapy is well wrapped up on the floor. After a short meditation, the sound therapist Tracey West, began playing her gongs, which incidentally were gorgeous.
The two gongs were played very softly at first but the volume increased gradually and I was struck by the range of tones that the gongs can produce. Before we began, I hadn’t been sure how I’d react to a full hour of intense sound. Much like a meditation session I experienced relaxation, distraction, falling asleep and being totally absorbed. At one point my breathing sped up as though I was releasing tension or anxiety.
The session finished with some silent meditation and circle time. I felt calm and contented and this carried on well into the next day or two. Whether sound can create healing in cells, I don’t know but I would love to see some research. For me, the key is that stress creates illness, and anything that alleviates stress therefore initiates healing.
We are living in an age and society where stress induced illness is endemic. Its effect on our health can be horrific. Anything which can be used to reduce stress, is therefore a worthwhile thing. My belief is that gong therapy not only reduces stress, it is also rather lovely.

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