projects and writings of T.A. Burkholder
In September, 2016 I started a year-long personal challenge of doing something each week that I’d never done before then writing about it. This is week 29.
I was going to take a picture of the old-school yoga space tucked nearly anonymously into the corner of an ungentrified building on lower NE Broadway. I was going to take a picture of the large and slightly larger gongs hanging opposite the studio’s altar. But, apparently, gongs make me forget.
The gongs make me feel soft and slow. The gongs make me irrationally happy that the cafe I’m writing this in is playing “Lounging,” a favorite from way, way back in the day. I slowly, softly eat my soup and sip my beer. Sun on the new leaves outside the window are so tempting that I want to hold them, one by one, against my cheek to feel their tender, pliable coolness. This, apparently, is what a gong bath does to me.
I lay on the floor of the yoga studio with four others. We close our eyes and for 75 minutes the man plays the gongs. For 75 minutes we let the waves of sound roll over and through us. There are too many layers of tone and rhythm to pay attention to all at once and there is no attention needed anyway. The sound fills everything: the air, our skin, our torn rotator cuffs and heart chakras, our bellies and our junk.
The gongs conduct a hail storm on the dingy skylights. The gongs make me think about whether or not I’ll go out later. The gongs make me think about the ache in my hip. The gongs make me stop thinking and just feel the butterfly undulations inside my chest. The gongs bring the rain to a close along with the last fading note.
Then the gong man sets a piece of chocolate by each of our sides and slowly we sit up to eat them.
While I’ve never been comfortable with chanting in yoga class since, to me, it feels forced and disingenuous, the small body rumble of the Om has always been a pleasure. The gong bath feels like an extension of that. There are all sorts of theories about sound healing, the specifics of which I’m not particularly interested in. Right now, lounging with my soup and beer and spring leaves, I only care that it feels good. I only care that the sound, long and layered, is still singing to my cells.