Article for "The Chalice", Summer 2015

GONG BATHS
Phil Leah

Gong Baths.......Do I undress, will I
get wet? No to both questions! In both individual and group Gong baths, one is
bathed by the healing, sacred sounds of the gongs.
In this article I will be discussing nada
yoga, the five yogic koshas, planets on the Kabbalah Tree of Life, entrainment,
the Chiometer, sacred sound frequencies, Schumann resonances, and details of
the Earth gong: its qualities and connections to the other planets and
ourselves.
Yogi Bhajan, who brought Kundalini
Yoga and Gong Yoga to the West, and taught my gongmaster Don Conreaux, says
"The gong is the sound of Creativity itself. One who plays the gong plays the
Universe. Out of it came all music, all sounds, and all words. The sound of the
gong is the nucleus of the Word."
Nada is the
primal vibration, the divine ever-present creative sound; the core of spiritual
practice. In Nada Yoga (the Yoga of Sound) we have Ahata Nadaand Anahata Nada. Ahata is the sound
that we hear or feel in terms of vibration, and Anahata is the cosmic unheard
sound that the yogi meditates upon in the final stages of Nada Yoga; it is
experienced in the silence of the meditative mind through the subtle vibrations
of prana (Zen Koan: What is the sound of one hand clapping?). The Maitri
Upanishad states: "There are two ways of contemplation of Brahman: in sound and
in silence. The sound of Brahman is OM. With OM we go to the End; the silence
of Brahman. The End is immortality, union and peace. Even as a spider reaches
the liberty of space by means of its own thread, the man of contemplation by
means of OM reaches freedom." The space between sounds is known as Sandhya. In
a gong bath the sound pulls the listener out; the silence returns one to the
centre.
Koshas:
The five yogic koshas explain how yoga works, and the
rôle of the gong in effecting transformation:-
We
humans are like a lamp that has five lampshades over our light. Each of the
lampshades is a different colour and density. As the light shines through the
lampshades, it is progressively changed in colour and nature. It is a
bitter-sweet colouring. On the one hand, the shades provide the individualised
beauty of each lamp. Yet, the lampshades also obscure the pure light.
There
are five sheaths of existence or layers from gross to subtle.
(1) The
outermost wrapper is the physical.
It is called Annamaya Kosha (Anna means food), and is strengthened
through asanas.
(2) The
energetic or breath body is next.
It is called Pranamaya Kosha (Prana means energy), and is strengthened
through the practice of pranayama.
(3) Next
comes the emotional body or mundane thoughts and feelings.
It is named Manamaya Kosha (Mana means mind), and is strengthened
through mantra and sacred sound. The gong acts as a bridge between the physical
body and meditative mind.
(4) Further
in is the knowledge body.
It is the Vijnanamaya Kosha (Vijnana means knowing), and is accessed
through meditation.
(5) The
innermost is the bliss body.
It integrates all five sheaths and is
called Anandamaya Kosha (Ananda means
bliss), and is experienced through integration of all five.
Anandamaya kosha is the
most interior of the koshas, the first of the koshas surrounding the Atman, the
eternal centre of consciousness. It is peace, joy, and love that is underneath,
beyond the mind, independent of any reason or stimulus to cause a happy mental
reaction. It is simply being, resting in bliss called ananda.
Yet even this bliss,
however wonderful it is, is still a covering, a sheath, a lampshade covering the
pure light of consciousness. It is the subtle most of the five koshas. In the
silence of deep meditation, this too is let go of, so as to experience the
centre.
Atman is the Self, the eternal centre of
consciousness, which was never born and never dies. In the metaphor of the lamp
and the lampshades, Atman is the light itself, though to even describe it as
that is incomplete and incorrect. The deepest light shines through the
koshas, and takes on their colourings.
Atman, the Self, has been best described as
indescribable. The realisation of that, in direct experience, is the goal of
Yoga meditation.

Tree
of Life:
Each planetary gong is
connected to the Kabbalah Tree of Life. Earth is Malkuth (Kingdom), the
material world; Moon is Yesod (Foundation), imagination, myth and the
unconscious; Mercury is Hod (Glory), intellect and invention; Venus is Netzach
(Victory), manifestation, victory and endurance; Sun is Tipareth (Beauty),
breath and balance; Mars is Guburah (Power), time and space; Jupiter is Chesed
(Mercy), expansion, first day of creation; Saturn is Binah (Understanding),
knowledge; Uranus is Chokma (Wisdom), expansion, compassion and action; Neptune
is Kether (Crown), containing everything, intuitive; Pluto is Da'ath
(Knowledge), transformation. Also, each day of the week has a ruling planet:
Sunday is ruled by the Sun, Monday by the Moon, Tuesday by Mars, Wednesday/Mercury,
Thursday/Jupiter, Friday/Venus, and Saturday/Saturn.
Entrainment:
When in 1656 the physicist Christiaan
Huygens invented the pendulum clock, he found that such clocks on a common
support synchronised exactly together, even if one of them was deliberately
disturbed. This was described by Joachim-Ernst Berendt: "Entrainment is
universal in nature....It is a physical phenomenon, but also is more than that,
because it informs us about the tendency of everything that vibrates - in other
words, everything - to swing together, to lock in. It informs us about the
tendency of the universe to share rhythms, that is, to vibrate in harmony".
When you meet someone at a party, and feel you are 'in sync' with them, it will
be your frequencies entraining together. Here are some examples of rhythms:
· Annual
rhythms: heartbeats (faster in summer than in winter), metabolic rate (lower in
winter than in spring or summer), hair growth, muscular and mental activities.
· Infradian
rhythms (cycles of several days or weeks). Included are Selenian rhythms:
Selena = goddess of the full moon (cycles of about 28 days).
· Circadian
rhythms: cycles of 24 hours, includes waking/sleeping cycles, breathing,
talking, walking, changes in body temperature, blood pressure, eating,
digestive and eliminating patterns.
· Our
heart rate, respiration and brainwaves entrain to each other.
· Music
and sound can slow down brainwaves, affecting heart rate and respiration.
Slowing one's breathing can also slow down brainwaves and heart rate.
· Schools
of fish swim together.
· Bees,
hornets and locusts fly in swarms.
· Geese fly together in a V formation.
Dr Jeffrey
Thompson describes brainwave entrainment as part of a larger biological
function called Biological Sympathetic
Oscillation: " Our biological clock sets itself to external cosmic events;
day length cycles, full moon cycles and seasonal cycles, to name a few. The body
will set itself to the most powerful external pulse cycle it is exposed to. In
this case we can create powerful sound frequencies pulsing at exact brainwave
speeds and cause the brainwaves to alter themselves to match the sound
frequencies - that is, entrain themselves to the sound pulses, thereby altering
one's state of consciousness."
Chiometer:
Devised by Don Conreaux; he describes
it as "a grand archetypal chart that synthesises into a unified field, separate
and diverse esoteric systems. At a glance, you can contemplate relationships
between the Eastern Meridian System with its 24 hour flow of Chi, and Western
Astrology with its relationship to the Tarot, Tree of Life, Colour and Musical
Notes." As an example, Aries is connected to fire, white, Mars/will power,
temperament and appearance, Geburah/Severity, 4-6am, the musical note C and
solar plexus. The phrase is: I am.
Sacred Sound Frequencies:
Every musical note has a
fundamental frequency, but also a series of overtones ie higher sounds
called upper partials, making up the harmonic series of that fundamental.
This applies equally to the human voice and musical instruments. If the fundamental
note sung is C, then the first harmonic will be eight notes higher,
called the octave; the second harmonic will be the G above. The series
progresses upwards: C, E, G, Bb and C; each successive harmonic becoming closer
to the previous note. The Greek mathematician, philosopher and musician Pythagoras used numeric ratios to
describe musical intervals and ultimately to define everything that we
experience, including our solar system. Pythagoras found that
by vibrating a string (he played the lyre) a particular note was sounded. Dividing
the string in half produces the octave higher, a ratio of 2:1. Pythagoras was
particularly interested in the intervals of octave, fourth and fifth. A
succession of fifths, with its pure ratio of 3:2 is known as Pythagorean
Intonation. It is the Golden Proportion in Sacred Geometry. The
fourth represents the Pythagorean Triangle. The octave has been described
as being complete, togetherness. To Pythagoras and his followers, all of this
was connected to the frequencies of the planets - the Music of the Spheres or Musica
Universalis. Although German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) discovered laws governing
planetary motion, and therefore specific musical notes for each planet, plans
were being made to change the natural frequencies as discovered by Pythagoras.
The new sounds are known collectively as the Tempered Scale. The main players in changing frequencies were Vincenzo Galilei(1520-1591), Andreas Werckmeister (1645-1706), Johann Sebastian Bach(1685-1750)
and Johann Philipp Kirnberger
(1721-1783). The mutation of frequencies is still with us in Western music;
equal temperament can be found in all musical genres. Following the discoveries
of Pythagoras and Kepler, Swiss mathematician and musicologist Hans Cousto invented the term The
Cosmic Octave in 1978. He
re-discovered a basic system of measurement in which it is possible to
transpose the movements of the planets into audible rhythms, musical notes and
colour. It is the universal harmonic relationship between all things, based on
sacred geometry from music, astronomy, meteorology and microbiology. The
frequencies of my gongs are based on his discoveries.
Schumann
Resonances:
These are quasi-standing electromagnetic
waves that exist in the Earth's 'electromagnetic' cavity (the space between the
surface of the Earth and the Ionosphere). Like waves on a string, they are not
present all the time, but have to be 'excited' to be observed. They are not
caused by anything internal to the Earth, its crust or its core. They seem to
be related to electrical activity in the atmosphere, particularly during times
of intense lightning activity. They occur at several frequencies, specifically
7.8 (strongest), 14, 20, 26, 33, 39 and 45 (weakest) Hertz, with a daily variation
of about ± 0.5 Hz. So long as the properties of Earth's electromagnetic cavity
remains about the same, these frequencies remain the same. Presumably there is
some change due to the solar sunspot cycle as the Earth's ionosphere changes in
response to the 11-year cycle of solar activity. The resonant properties of
this terrestrial cavity were first predicted by the German physicist W. O.
Schumann between 1952 and 1957, and first detected in 1954. 7.8 Hz is close to
the frequency of the Earth year: 8.5 Hz (C#). When we are in a relaxed and
harmonious state, our brainwave pattern is Alpha, this frequency. The frequency
of OM (the sound of creation) is C#.
Earth Gong:
Here's a description, as taught by Don
Conreaux:
Earth helps love and acceptance, is
Malkuth/Kingdom on the Tree of Life, connects to the heart chakra, musically is
the note C#, 136.10 Hz. It's connected to the sign Virgo and is coloured
blue-green. Earth will: manifest relaxing, psychic energy; develop compassion, love, acceptance and fulfillment; transmute insensitivity, passivity, closed emotions and sadness; Help cardiovascular problems, arthritis, respiratory problems, stroke and hypertension; work on the cardiac plexus, pericardium, thymus gland, heart and lungs.
        Combinations: Earth and Moon unites the Sex centre with the Heart centre; Earth and Mercury communicates your love to others; Earth and Venus unites the Heart with the Third Eye, the uniting of the greatest Love; Earth and Sun brings enduring love, increases compassion, brings relaxation to your efforts, heals a broken heart, and grounds your energy; Earth and Mars manifests love wholeheartedly, takes heartfelt action; Earth and Jupiter expands your love to include the world; Earth and Saturn helps understanding love; Earth and Uranus brings renewal to your love; Earth and Neptune brings love that is ideal; Earth and Pluto integrates your love, and brings your love to a transcendental state.
Yogic attainments:
           Om is the great gong tone of life, and life is the grand illusion because it is tangible to our senses. Examine the attributes of your dreamtime world, and you will discover correlation with attainments of the yogis. We all have paranormal powers and abilities during dreamtime. In the lucid awareness of gongtone reverie, we can experience what the yogis strive for in this 3D world, and what we feel as an 'actual reality.'
Earth and Sun = power of Soul and whole mind 
Earth and Mars = to acquire all creatures physical power 
Earth and Pluto = knowledge of the body 
Earth and Mercury = Divine hearing
Further reading:
Benton, Mehtab. Gong Yoga (iUniverse 2008)
Conreaux, Don. Gongs of our Solar System (Mysterious Tremendum 2002) 
Conreaux, Don. Magnum Opus of the Gong (Mysterious Tremendum 2002)
Cousto, Hans. The Cosmic Octave (LifeRhythm 2000)
Gardiner, Kay. Sounding the Inner Landscape (Thorsons 1997)
Whitehouse, Maggy. Total Kabbalah (Chronicle Books 2008)
Whittaker, Sheila. Sound healing with Gongs (Healing Sound 2010)