I was stunned. I was clearly not going to be swimming alone for my first gong bath. The line stretched wide across 13th street to get into Integral Yoga Institute that evening, filled with people awaiting the chance to bring balance to their body energy by merging themselves with the powerful vibrations promised.
Eighty-five people filled the huge 2nd floor studio to capacity and took meditative seats on cushions. Some immediately stretched out under blankets, preparing for a yoga nidra aided by immersion in an ocean of sound. Towering before us were gorgeous gongs of many sizes, awaiting the Master that would transit us to this state.
The Master materialized in the form of the highly respected Don Conreaux, looking wizardly in his long grey hair and beard. “What date is today? he asked. It happened to be the ominous-sounding 12.12.12. “Any feelings on that?” “It's my birthday,” chimed in one bather to a round of chuckles, no one risked giving a deeper and more universal answer.
“People say it’s really a gateway,” said Don. In other words, Mayan Harmonic Convergence Day, the possibly transformative day of the Great Galactic Alignment, and the fateful moment that the ancient ones might have wanted to nudge us about.
“You know what that means, anybody?”
“We’re being ushered into an age of enlightenment,” says Don’s colleague Pascal DiNoia. “A quickening of the mind, a renaissance where we are discovering ourselves. And the gong, the sound, is the medium, which is beyond religion, dogma, philosophies. That is what is appealing in a universal way. A well-played gong…no mind will resist it.”
Would my mind be the exception? I wondered. We would see—it was time for yoga nidra, “Don-gong-style.”
“As you lie down, think about what it is you’d like to accomplish,” said Don as we closed our eyes, ready to be immersed.” No vagueness, just ‘this is what I want. This is my test, my initiation. What do I need to accomplish it? How do I want it to happen?’ See if that question is answered.”
Thus we were immersed for 45 minutes in the glorious sound bath, enhanced with chanting and woodwinds. It ran the gamut from a low, tranquilizing hum to a crescendo roaring like a thousand diesel trains blazing my past my bedroom window. I felt submerged and peaceful, and my very being tingled as if my cells were being shuffled. But just when I thought that I might be going somewhere deep, I found myself coming up for air, snapping out of the trance-like state.
Suddenly it was over, and the room was quiet. Don asked us to share what we had experienced. One listener said he felt as if he were being lifted out of his body. I confided that I felt my mind, or perhaps my ego, was possibly getting in the way of taking the full plunge.
“You might have more work to do,” said Don.
Agreed, and that work would begin with finding out more about the Gong Master and his instruments.
Don was one of the original Kundalini yoga teachers appointed by Yogi Bhajan in 1969, and later studied the gong writings of Dane Rudhyar in his journey to becoming Grand Master.
The gongs themselves can be traced back to 3500 BC, the Bronze Age. A Chinese gong dating to 600 BC is inscribed with the words, "The return of happiness and the spiritualization of matter."
“It’s the sound of the universe that created the world,” says Don. “It penetrates the DNA, the cells of the body. The main area where we can reprogram ourselves, correct any imbalances. The gong can act as a fast track to superconsciousness or the state of holistic self-healing. Because of its inherent nature it can instill a unity of diversity consciousness to the listeners.”
“The gong's destiny is to be instrumental in the coming of the first day of world peace,” Don continued. “When all the gongs and bells will ring together and we will finally experience a world without war and a world that works together in functional harmony.”
I was curious as to how long one has to study to master this ancient instrument. “It is not easy to say,” states Don. “If the gong masters the player, the player masters the gong of life. There is but one gong master within all gongs. Becoming that one is called the Adventure of Gong Consciousness. Dharma-wise, the more you play, the less you pay Karma-wise.”