On a cold, rainy Wednesday evening, I have somehow found myself in a Homerton basement, preparing for a ‘gong bath.’
Except, there is no bath in sight. Or any water. No, I’m here to meditate…but with a difference.
Gong bath meditation is the latest trend taking London by storm – and I want in. As a recent convert to ‘normal’ meditation, the hype surrounding its surreal cousin had me intrigued. Gong bath fanatics claim they see colours in front of their eyes during classes, and feel like they’ve taken something stronger than the elixir of life.
Although it might sound like a bizarre notion, the ‘bath’ concept comes from immersing yourself in sound, which is meant to give you an overwhelming sense of calm as the sound waves soothe your brain.
“Leo tells us to lie on the floor, with blankets covering us – and tells us we might feel a bit odd.”
Given just half an hour meditating leaves me feeling less anxious, stressed and calmer, the potential of this feeling times a hundred was too attractive to resist. Could I too become a peaceful, zen-like soul in just one hour?
Before I have time to back out, our instructor, Leo, arrives and ushers us into the studio. At first glance, he seems like a typical yoga instructor – until he opens his mouth, revealing an accent to rival JP’s in Fresh Meat.
It’s like any other yoga room, other than the massive gong inconspicuously tucked away in the corner. As Leo calmly explains how the meditation works, I’m eager to get started. But to my disappointment, he announces that before we get onto the chanting and bong banging, we’ll be practising some breathing exercises.
Hmm. Breathing exercises. Not quite the radical awakening I was hoping for. In silence, we sit and breathe in…and out. In…and out. But to my surprise, a sudden wave of calm comes over me.
“I’m a total convert to the gong”
Leo tells us to lie on the floor, with blankets covering us – and calmly tells us we might feel a bit odd when the meditation starts. A bit odd? But finally, the deep, life-changing experience is beginning.
As we pull the blankets over us and close our eyes, the gong banging starts gently, with Leo’s chanting of mantras slowly rising to a crescendo. It all feels pretty surreal and somewhat other-worldly – although Leo does, surprisingly, have an excellent voice (he later tells me later that he’s a trained musician.)
As the rhythms and sound of the gongs continue, I begin to feel like I’m just…being. Not thinking, not stressed, just…there. It’s such an alien feeling that at first it feels strange, but by the time Leo tells us to open our eyes, I’m a total convert to the gong.
After the class finishes, I grab Leo for a quick chat to find out more about gong baths and the future of this kind of meditation.
“I’m a composer, a singer, and I trained as a meditation teacher and also did yoga teacher training. I went to a workshop on sound meditation seven years ago and I thought to myself I need to buy a gong.
“Leo seems like a typical yoga instructor – until he opens his mouth, revealing an accent to rival JP’s in Fresh Meat.”
From there, he started doing gong baths for yoga teachers and in his words, “the rest is history.”
“Music, the way we know music, is one thing but actually, I think music started out as just sound, as a language, as a communication tool. “
Now with his own app, the Third Ear, Leo is hoping to make meditation using the sound of gongs accessible to all.
“With the app, it’s definitely helped to bring this to more people, to make it affordable as well, because not everybody can go to a workshop and not everybody lives in London,” he says.
“I think we should use technology whenever we can – we have to take advantage of technology when it doesn’t take advantage of us.”