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The Gong’s Winding Road

By Dar Dowling
Posted On Sep 21, 2016
The Gong’s Winding Road

If you’re looking to shake off the stresses of the day or supercharge your feeling of spiritual connection, give yourself over to the healing vibrations of a gong bath. 

A few years ago I was lovingly coerced into attending my first gong bath at New York City’s Integral Yoga Institute. Upon first mention, I worried it would involve an actual bath. Thankfully it didn’t. Instead, I settled in on a mat, cocooned by pillows and a few strategically placed blankets within Integral Yoga’s beautiful, spiritual meeting hall. Fellow bathers and I were surrounded by gorgeous, handcrafted gongs of various sizes, played this particular night by Grand Gong Master Don Conreaux, who eased us into and out of the gong’s vibrations with a gentleness and cosmic knowing that made him feel like an old friend rather than a gong guru.

The sounds of the gong washed over me, weaving beautiful music—sometimes it sounds like waves crashing, other times like whales singing. For me that magic involved the shaking loose of some old, no-longer-needed mental baggage. This was replaced by a sense of deep relaxation and energy. After an hour or so, I felt a new relationship with my body, feeling as if those old judgments were somehow lessened. This was my experience. For others, lying in a gong bath and soaking up sound healing vibes inspires visions, a transcendental experience, an emotional breakthrough, a feeling of being led down a new path, or seeing new possibilities opening up in life. Then again, you may just have a really great nap.

Since that night I have been to more than my fair share of gong baths. Sometimes I bring reluctant friends who end up loving it. Other times I just go by myself. Each time I make the effort, Don Conreaux takes me down the sound healing path, opening up new worlds and leaving me a bit “gong drunk.” Naturally, I wanted to know more about who he is and why the gong called to him. I discover that it all started more than 50 years ago, when as a young man he received the spiritual call to study yoga and meditation. He became one of the first five Kundalini yoga teachers trained by the legendary Yogi Bhajan. It was during this time that he had a life-changing encounter with the gong.

“During Kundalini yoga classes, they often play the gong,” Conreaux says.  “One day as the gong played, it caused me to have an out-of-body experience, and made me want to know more.” It changed his life forever.

Today, you won’t have a hard time finding a gong master to tap out good vibrations or even teach you how to play. But back then, such was not the case. As part of Conreaux’s spiritual journey, he taught himself the strokes that make the gong sing. Along the way he realized the sound healing vibrations created by the gong were a great way to help people—emotionally, spiritually, and physically. “The gong is an Energizer bunny,” he says. “It puts you through the car wash and you come out new and fresh.” It wasn’t long before he started leading gong baths, where people could immerse themselves in the gong’s vibrations and experience “an adventure in consciousness.” Additionally, he also started training people all over the world—those he fondly calls “gong babies”—to play the gong. Or rather—as he likes to put it— to “have the gong play them.”

One of those gong babies is Conreaux’s daughter, Yaelle Shaphir, an acupuncturist in Los Angeles. When Don told her that people were combining acupuncture with sound healing in Europe, she couldn’t resist. Straightaway, she headed to Europe for her father’s gong master training. “It was an amazing experience,” Shaphir says; one she brought back home, where she began offering gong baths and incorporating the practice into some of her acupuncture sessions. And, like father like daughter, it went beyond that for Yaelle. “I use it in all aspects of my life,” she says. She even opted to have the gong playing while she was in the birthing pool as her children were born. There may well be a third generation of gong masters in the future… Her children love hitting the gong, too.

Clearly, gong baths offer potential spiritual perks, and serve as an adventure. They deliver broad physical and emotional benefits that bring invaluable healing and beauty to individuals living in today’s high-octane world—the kind of boosts that people seek in yoga classes, at the spa, and at the gym. These include a revitalized nervous system, relaxation, enhanced meditation, reduced stress, increased energy, a feeling of bliss, and a higher state of awareness. All of which you can easily get by simply lying down in a gong bath, opening yourself up, and letting your body “soak in the vibrations.” Imagine, receiving all those benefits without having to break into a single yoga pose (or a sweat)! It doesn’t get better than that.