I have noticed a huge surge in interest in the gong recently, with many people asking me where they can learn to play. So... we are delighted to welcoming such an authority on sound healing and gong, Sheila Whittaker, to host an introductory workshop and ALL-night gong puja at the well garden this Sept 19th. Sheila's was the first gong workshop I attended and has provided much inspiration for my personal and playing journey with the gong! Over to Sheila to tell you more...
What got you into working with the gong?
I was already working as a Sound Healer when I discovered the gong, about ten years ago - a series of synchronicities led me to discover it. I quickly realised it is the most powerful Sound Healing instrument and did the necessary training. Since then I have specialised in working with large high quality gongs.
How many gongs do you own?
About 28 I think
...Which is the most essential/ dear to you and why?
I love my 60" gong and it is an amazing healing instrument. But my 38" symphonic gong is my favourite - it's sound is like coming home to me.. it has everything and really moulds to the person it is treating, giving exactly what is needed.
You are a classically trained musician - does/ how does that influence your gong playing?
It doesn't really influence my gong playing - it's not necessary to be musically trained to play the gong as it's a spontaneous thing - we play intuitively. But I guess my musical training does come in sometimes as I often find myself playing rhythms or hearing certain harmonies. The musical training definitely helps with my teaching though - it's very useful in that arena.
What are the benefits of a 'gong bath'?
Stress relief, relaxation, increased ability to cope with life's every day challenges, feeling more chilled out and tolerant, plus a myriad of other possible effects such as pain relief, and help for conditions such as insomnia, migraines, fibromyalgia, kidney stones, and other conditions.
What is the difference between a gong meditation and gong/ sound healing?
A gong meditation would probably be for a number of people, who may be either sitting or lying down, like a group gongbath. A gong healing would usually be a treatment session on a one-to-one basis for one recipient, with the Gong Practitioner just focusing on that person.
How important is intention when offering or receiving sound healing?
I think it is very important. My intention is always to be a clear and pure channel for healing sound to flow through me for the Highest good of all present. Then there is always a positive intention, and that can only lead to a good outcome.
Where is the most unusual place you've held a gong bath?
I suppose that would have to be a huge basketball court in Perth, Australia, about 8 years ago when we took the on tour. Many people attended the group gongbath - it was an awesome occasion. I've also played at several garden parties, and it's nice to play the gongs outside - birds join in and animals tend to come and want to listen.
What are some of the common ailments/ conditions you use gong to treat?
As above - insomnia, pain relief, fibromyalgia, migraines and headaches, stress relief, energy imbalances of all types, both physical and emotional, blocks in the subtle energy system, moving people on spiritually by clearing old energy.
...And some of the more surprising/ unusual?
Yes, we've had results with kidney stones - scans showed there was one, then after a gongbath it had gone. We seem to be able to clear blockages to conception too - I and my students have successfully treated several ladies who wanted to get pregnant, and conceived following one or more gong treatments.
How do the benefits differ when playing rather than receiving a gong bath?
When you receive a gongbath you're able to just relax and receive. So the client may feel more relaxed than the therapist afterwards. However, I do feel that the benefits are more or less the same for giver and receiver - as Gong Practitioners we are so close to the gongs when giving treatments and gongbaths that we are bound to benefit from the vibes just as much as the client we are treating. We're not free to allow ourselves to go fully into Theta state and have visions and "journey", but we still get the effects. That's my feeling anyway, and my experience.
Why is the gong becoming so popular?
Because it has the broadest range of tones of any Sound Healing instrument. It works so well for relaxation, wellbeing and relief of stress, and people seem to be drawn to it somehow, when they are ready to grow spiritually.
As a healer how do you balance the need for technology with connection to nature?
Not easily! I use technology when necessary, and it is necessary to be able to utilise the latest technology for our work, while recognising that our connection to nature is of primary importance. Nature is our earth - our mother, and we need to be connected with her above all else. There are some destructive technologies today that I feel are not necessary or advantageous. We need to put nature first, not technology!
Who or what have been your greatest teachers?
Many! My parents; my first spiritual teacher Sri Vasudeva; the gong work and the gongs; certain relationships have been some of the greatest teachers! Mooji; James Eaton; Eckhart Tolle. My own self observation and intuition.
What keeps you in balance (gong and other treatments or practises)?
The gongs, chanting, listening to music, meditation of all types, playing the violin and performing, eating lightly and nutritiously, mixing with like-minded people, doing things which keep my energy vibration high.
What is the importance of honouring the equinoxes and solstices?
I feel we need to honour the natural cycles of the earth and celebrate the passing of the seasons. It is good to mark these times with rituals, as our ancestors did in times past - an opportunity for people to come together in celebration. The gong Puja is an ideal event to celebrate these special times.
Sheila's first introductory gong workshop takes places at the well garden, hackney on Sat 19th Sept - you can attend the daytime workshop 10am-5pm to learn more about the gong's history as well as how to play - plus participate (play and receive gong) in a sacred gong puja ceremony, running all night until Sunday 20th (breakfast provided)!