Since their invention in the Bronze Age, gongs have served many purposes: as Shamanic healing aids, to announce the start of ceremonies, as parts of orchestras or to eliminate bad contestants on a TV game show. Nowadays in Portland, Oregon, people relax on their backs in a dimly-lit yoga studio as Dr. Michelle Hebert skillfully strikes her healing gongs.Spirituality & Health talked to the chiropractor/hypnotherapist/Kundalini yoga teacher/gong healer to find out why people participate in this passive form of sound healing and how she got involved.
What does a gong healer do?
Sometimes gong healers work with one gong, sometimes more than one. I work with several. You’re sensing what’s happening in the room for participants. You get an intuitive feeling about when to increase the intensity of the volume and how quickly you hit the gong. Different rhythms, and the types of mallets you use, create different effects. The times when the sound is more intense, louder or a quicker pace, that pressure releases the nervous system of diseases and fears and any other emotional blocks. We bring forth a force that helps people release. The sound resonates and old thought forms and ways of being can be cleansed out of the energy system.
How does gong healing work?
It affects the physical nervous system, not just hearing it through the ears, but the sensation of feeling it on the skin. Sound travels and the body picks up sound. Sometimes it’s called a gong bath. It’s a cleansing process for the subconscious mind. It’s effortless; that’s why a lot of people like it. It’s not like going to therapy and talking about your problems.
How is it different from other types of sound healing?
It’s the combination of overtones and undertones. They make new undertones and overtones, so there’s a branching out of sound. It’s not like music that’s following a melody. The logical, analytical part of the brain can’t figure it out. It allows for that part of the mind to completely disengage and a person to connect to their spiritual self. That’s what the gong is really good at, helping people to bridge from physical to meditative states.
What are the benefits?
The gong heals the parasympathetic nervous system -- the resting, digesting nervous system, which typical modern day people don’t nurture much. They’re always in fight or flight. A lot of gong healers find certain people come back again and again to gong meditations. People say it helps them handle life better, to be more relaxed. It trains their nervous system to easily be able to get back into the space of peace.
How did you learn gong healing?
I first learned gong through Kundalini yoga teacher training I took in Phoenix. I’ve taken courses with Don Conreaux, who’s probably the most world-renowned gong healing master. But even those courses just teach you the basics. It’s still mainly an intuitive art.
Do you use a special kind of gong?
Paiste is the main gong maker for gong healers, although any type can be used. Paiste gongs are very beautiful sounding. They make gongs tuned to specific frequencies. D sharp or C have different healing properties.
What is the connection with yoga?
Yogi Bhajan is the main teacher who brought gong meditation to the U.S. The more neurotic or out of balance someone was, the more he recommended the gong. Kundalini yoga really focuses on purification of the subconscious. You can’t awaken if your subconscious is crammed with old memories, thoughts and emotions.