“If you focus on what you left behind, then how can you see what lies ahead?”
Chef Gusteau, “Ratatouille”
It was just after 8 a.m. Sunday.
“How often do you think we should offer the gong bath,” Michael asked.
A wicked cold and the flu had grounded me for a good part of the last week. Sunday was the first time I’d practiced yoga in nearly a week. Plus, I was still feeling euphoric from the night before. Less than 12 hours earlier, I stood in the same spot at Essencia. Michael and I and about 30 others found our own sliver of a space to immerse our minds and cleanse our spirits in the “Gong Bath and Singing Bowl Meditation” offered by Gabriela Ramirez and Marian Kraus.
I responded, “Everything in moderation.”
“Maybe start out quarterly. If the demand warrants it, increase the frequency.”
Frequency. Yes, that is the perfect word. The correct word. Frequency is directly correlated to balance. For example, get too little sleep, you feel blah. Get too much, you feel blah. Finding our own frequency is tricky. It’s not FM. And it’s hardly digital. It’s AM. And it’s on an old dial. It takes a steady hand and a patient ear. It’s like Newsradio 780 AM, which I often listen to when I travel well outside of Chicago. AM is everywhere. It’s the stronger, yet trickier frequency to tune to. If you try hard, you’ll find it.
Michael was under the impression that the night before was not my first rodeo with sound. But it was. I had little experience with sound therapy when I signed up for the workshop. But like many things in life, I approached it with an open mind. I knew it was something I needed, that my body craved. The physical idea of nonsense being washed away by sound was so appealing to me, that last week I prayed that my fever would break in time so I could safely attend the workshop without spreading germs.
And it did.
Saturday was one bizarre day. My fever broke early morning. I wrote. And then grief came knocking. I didn’t know why I spiraled into grief, but when the flood came I allowed it to rain. I felt the afternoon was a preface to the cleansing that I sought that evening. A cleansing and healing that I fervently welcomed.
There are too few experiences in our lives when we solely concentrate on one sensory experience.
- Think massage, touch
- Think stargazing, sight
- Think symphony, sound
- Think an eclair, taste
- Think a fresh cut Christmas tree, smell
Think of quieting the mind to focus on just one sense.
That is what we experienced Saturday.
As Gabriela guided us through a meditation, we found ourselves in a circle. In my vision, I stood in a place that was safe, pure, unadulterated, and filled with light. It was peaceful and inside I found my best self. Her words allowed us to take a journey where negative thoughts had no place, no home. I was forced to surrender the nonsense, in order to embrace the light. A cacophony of ocean sounds erupted, mimicking waves, wind, thunder, sand and more, and my mind envisioned a release; tears confirmed its exit.
For the hour that followed, I could hardly believe my ears when the gongs, chimes, bells, and singing bowls produced a symphony of sound. The experience was similar to the way my mind checks out when I closely listen to the lyrics of a song, complemented by the instruments in the background. But, it was better than that. Saturday’s experience was like was a long warm bath, its temperature never decreases, the salinity of the Epsom salts is perfect, the perfume from the lavender oil permeates the room making my nose smile, the light from the candles is just enough to close my eyes and quiet the mind, yet prevent me from sinking, sleeping, and drowning.
Bliss is inadequate to describe the impact of the absorption of sound. In the physical world, I believe the gong’s vibrations ran through me, picked up the nonsense, and took it away on a magic carpet ride to nowhere. It’s as if God’s hand came down, tidied things up, then He tapped my heart and assured me those worries are to be no more.
“Enjoy the light, Karen”.
Sunday morning, the light shone through Essencia’s storefront windows. As Michael, Nadia, and I discussed the beauty of the night before, I was sure that the experience was not something to be squandered or cheapened through an increased frequency. Like a fine wine, swirling through your mouth, back and forth, pausing before you swallow, its bouquet and acidity triggering your senses, a sound immersion should also be savored.
It was a sacred experience.
Early Sunday evening, I spoke with my mom. Over the last nine years, there were a few April 7ths when I could not call my mom. The pain of the day, the loss of that day, was too much. I was surprised that I didn’t realize Saturday was April 7th. That is the day her mother, my grandmother, Bridget’s great-grandmother, Dorothy Ann Burns (nee Hannigan) died. Special is not the word to describe her. There are no words. I do know, as I waited days to write this, that she remains present in my life.
Saturday afternoon when I sat in my family room and thought to myself my God I haven’t cried like this since my Grandma died, she was there.
Saturday evening, as Marian and Gabriela orchestrated the gong bath, the sounds from it compelled my body to move into forward-fold, eyes closed, my head and heart nearing the mat closer than they had ever been to the ground before, yes, she was there, twisting the kitchen towel to squeeze all the nonsense out and help me find the light again.
And Saturday night, when I placed a washcloth under the sink, then sprinkled it with lavender, and placed it over my eyes, to stop the piercing pain, she was the one caressing my temples and helping me to fall into a deep slumber.
And Sunday morning when I looked at my watch at 6:40 a.m., she was the one who softly kicked me out of bed and told me to go to Michael’s class at Essencia.
Yes, she died. But her spirit has never left. All of us whose lives she graced, know that she is there celebrating our best moments, and kicking us in the ass when we are too distracted to live the best version of ourselves.
April 7: I could not have asked for a better day to quiet my mind and welcome sound into its cobweb filled spaces. I believe in the power to heal, in our ability to heal ourselves, and nature’s and man’s ability to heal us through sensory experiences.
On April 8th, I found peace in the grief and loss associated with April 7th. Given the opportunity, in a heartbeat, I would recommend experiencing all that Marian and Gabriela have to offer because when we open our mind to new experiences, seeing our own light is but one note away. Of course, honor it, and adhere to the golden rule: Everything in moderation.
You can learn more about Marian and Gabriela here.
Life is a song. It has its own rhythm of harmony. It is a symphony of all things which exist in major and minor keys of Polarity. It blends the discords, by opposites, into harmony which unites the whole into a grand symphony of life. To learn through experience in this life, to appreciate the symphony and lessons of life and to blend with the whole, is the object of our being here.
— DR. RANDOLPH STONE