Last week some of the PE staff went to a meditative gong concert at the Conduit Center in East Hartford. I’d been wanting to try it for months, but all day, I kind of felt like it was going to be lame and that I really didn’t want to meditate for 90-minutes. How was the girl whose record meditation is 45-seconds going to lie there for 5,400-seconds? That’s a lot more seconds.
Then I walked into the building, went up the stairs and immediately felt good. I saw the familiar faces of our staff and was hit with the feeling of warmth and comfort. Granted it was 30-degrees outside and they had the heat cranking, but they had the heat cranking and it warmed the cockles of my heart. They had me at heat.
The room had an option for chairs or lying down with blankets. I went for the floor and colorful throws. I told Cathy, a PE instructor, to wake me if I started snoring. Owen led the meditation and started by telling us to be mindful of each other, but to do whatever we needed. We had permission to get up and use the bathroom and move as needed. I felt instant relief. One my concerns was feeling trapped in a space like the time I tried Hot Yoga where they want you to stay no matter how ill you feel.
Owen, Jeff and Lindsay (I think) play multiple gongs at various times and tempos (I don’t think tempo is the right word for the gongs). And I started off on a little journey. My thought and desire for myself was to feel calm and let go of my worries. When I caught myself worrying, I let it go. Told myself I couldn’t do anything about it now and recognized that what I was worrying about was silly and trite. There was relief. I felt relaxed.
Then a loud gong went off right by my ear. It was shocking. But it made me realize that any thought was okay. This was not just an exercise in relaxing or they wouldn’t be banging gongs right next to my head. This put me at ease some more. Awake, with the lavender-scented eye mask on my face, I felt as if I was having very vivid, colorful dreams, as if transported from one quick snapshot of a scene in a movie to another. Greens and pinks stood out to me. I remember trees and floating like I was a balloon in an outfit that had suspenders and though very 80’s somehow was spectacularly cool in my dream mind. The thoughts changed with the sound of the gongs as if they caused each image to suddenly change whether I wanted it to or not, reminding me that life is fleeting, which made me feel sad, but I just went with it. I felt like I couldn’t hang on to the thoughts or the moments, but I was grateful when scenes I didn’t like passed.
The gongs got loud and ominous—a sense of fear crept through me. Still something felt safe and good about it. I can’t quite make sense of it. I think I just kept telling myself to go with it. I was experiencing and not judging. I felt my whole body vibrating and thought I must be crazy. That couldn’t possibly be happening. My entire body stopped vibrating, except where the vibrations lingered in a very specific spot in my right hip where I’ve been having pain. And I suddenly felt ease and relief in that spot—a sense of wonder. Then my mind kicked in: How did the gongs know? How did my body know? I don’t believe this stuff. This can’t possibly be happening. Is there science to back this up? I’m not buying that this is actually happening to me. Let it go, Maggie. Just feel what you feel. And I did.
I must have fallen asleep. For how long I’m not sure. When I came to I felt startled, but somehow still safe. I was irritated. I didn’t want to be woken. I was annoyed at the gongs for waking me. I felt uncomfortable, mostly because falling asleep in public is awkward. I moved and the comfort sank back into my body.
The gongs stopped. I remember a sense of surprise. 90-minutes when by in what honestly probably felt like forty-five. I was disappointed. I didn’t quite want it to be over. The gongs were so beautiful and felt so good, even the scary ones. I noticed every time a loud one went off right by my head, the corners of my mouth turned up into a smile as if caused by the tone. I didn’t want it to be over and yet the silence felt so silent (like a void), so nice. Like something was missing, but all the noises could be there again in an instant if someone wanted them to be. Like it was this pristine quiet that enabled me to hear anything. Like I should be grateful for the silence because it is through the silence that I hear the noise. My thoughts felt so profound, calming and happy. I wondered if it was like when you watch a movie and 3A.M. and it seems wonderful, but it’s terrible. I realized that calm was what I came seeking. I’d felt somber all day after watching a movie that struck a chord with me and made me sad. I wasn’t sad anymore. I was happy and awed.
Afterward the PE instructors huddled together on the floor to kibitz.
All our instructors felt the vibrations. It wasn’t just me. One felt them specifically in a point where she had pain, but unlike the ease I felt it made her uneasy and restless, but the vibrations seemed to hone in on a chronic point of pain in her body. Jeannine, another Pilates instructor, was impressed with the sounds of the gongs and said they reminded her of the sounds of the universe. Jeff, one of the players, explained that the larger gongs are cast and then hand hammered to a particular pitch or frequency that matched the Hertz of certain planets. She was in fact listening to the sounds of the universe.
Jeff showed us how when they bang a gong you can put your hand near it and feel the vibrations. Then he placed a gong on each of our backs and played so we could feel the vibrations directly. It had the same effect of the ones near my head, making me smile. But it wasn’t just that I smiled from happiness. It felt more like a nervous response. Like when a doctor hits your knee and your kick. When he hit the gong my mouth just smiled. It wasn’t my happiness causing me to smile. It was like a nervous tick that made me happy. I know it sounds ridiculous.
I’m in awe and shock of what I felt. I’m interested to see how trying it again would compare. This could definitely be my form of meditation. I should have guessed. It was a meditative concert. Leaving I feel like after you’ve seen a good movie or read a good book. I want so many people I know who I think would be intrigued to try it and then I want to talk about it with them.
So here is my advice: Go to the Conduit Center in East Hartford, Connecticut and try it out. I think if you like to meditate you’ll like it. If you don’t like to meditate I don’t know what you’ll think. If you’re curious how disappointed can you be? Dress warm. You are still and it’s always better in my book to feel warm rather than cold when you are lying still.