Article for "The Chalice", Summer 2015
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 Nada and 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.
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.
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."
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.
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. 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#.
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.
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
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)