A powerful playing technique for adjusting sound volume
By Dr. Jain Wells
This text is part of an excerpt going into my Gong Consciousness Self-Healing Through The Power of Sound book update – that will be available in June, 2023 – called the 2nd edition as I have been adding new information to it over the last few years. This gong nervous system reset is so important I believe, that I wanted to make it available to anyone who has already purchased my book. I also have videos about the Gong Nervous System Reset on my YouTube channel and website.
The sympathetic nervous system plays a vital role in human functioning as it helps an individual prepare to respond quickly if a sudden threat or danger presents itself. This is known as the flight-or-fight response. When this response is activated the heart rate immediately goes up, and the body conserves energy in different ways, ie., minimizing energy for digestion and immune function, for example, to allow for as much available energy for responding to the threat. Quite literally one fights or flees from a threat or perceived threat for self-protection. The response is automatic. In normal conditions however, once the threat is no longer present the body relaxes and begins to function at a more optimal level through the parasympathetic nervous system – with breathing returning to normal, immune system function restored, improved digestion, and the body’s innate healing activity in general returns to normal.
For a variety of reasons however an individual can easily get locked into chronic stress mode where the sympathetic nervous system is in constant over-drive; never allowing for physical, emotional, or mental relaxation, or healing to occur. Those in a state of constant stress and fatigue are usually easily triggered and on edge, and don’t usually sleep well either, to allow the body to regenerate itself.
The nervous system reset involves making adjustments to the sound volume of the gong in a specific way from soft to louder and back to softer again over a certain length of time. It directly and quickly resets the nervous system to allow for greater levels of openness and relaxation so that the body can naturally regenerate itself, and allow for present moment awareness versus a state of distraction. The gong is an excellent sound tool for facilitating this shift. In general, long sustained sounds will activate the parasympathetic nervous system and a sudden or quick high-pitch sound will activate the sympathetic nervous system. It’s important to develop how you listen to the sound of the gong and sense into how the sound wave vibrations act upon your body. You learn to intuitively know when to adjust the volume by how you feel, and of course through experience.
The basic process: If you are playing for yourself you sit directly in front of the gong with your face and body as close to gong as is comfortable.
- Begin softly tapping the gong – typically in the lower area of the gong – for 7-8 minutes, making the sound audible and continuous.
Obviously you don’t have to play with much effort if you are immediately in front of the gong, so make adjustments according to where your client or participant is in relation to the gong – bring them as close as possible. If it’s only one person you are gonging for the reset they could sit up close to the gong as well, while you play the gong on the other side from the side position – allowing you to play and observe them as well. Experiment with different levels of softness, playing at a steady level, and sense into the difference of how it feels in your body and energy. Depending on the type and size of gong you are using, become aware of how the lower tones affect your body as you are playing softly (larger gongs have a broader bandwidth of frequency with lower tones, which are helpful in the healing process. I recommend as a minimum a 28”-30” gong, or ideally a 32”gong (or larger if you prefer).
- Activate different gong overtones by slightly moving the mallet head around, and gently build the volume until you are creating and sustaining more sound and power at a higher level – without overplaying or making any harsh or abrasive sounds. Sense into how this feels and sustain this level for another 7-8 minutes so you feel more power and impact on your body.
- Go back to very soft playing for 7-10 minutes to complete your session, and you should feel a tangible shift in your body and nervous system that feels relaxed and pleasing. If you want to play longer, I always recommend playing a full treatment session of 45 minutes to an hour for optimal benefit. You can also repeat the reset process if you like.
As you are playing, if at any time you feel overwhelmed or buzzed with sound, this is the time to immediately go back to playing softly. You will have to experiment with just the right level that allows you to play at a certain volume for at least to 5-7 minutes, or until you feel a tangible shift in your energy. See my website under Teaching Videos in the gong section or my YouTube channel to see my demonstration videos.
Be careful to never over-play the gong, but find just the right level of increase in sound and power to facilitate the reset.
Any time you feel agitated or overwhelmed when playing your gong, don’t stop playing, rather immediately start playing very softly.
Take a few deep breaths of air or engage in long slow breathing to help regain a sense of inner balance. You can naturally glide into a gong meditation by remaining awake and present with the sound. As you become more comfortable with the technique you develop greater sensitivity to sound and volume. As Gong Kundalini yoga teacher Mehtab Benton says about the volume shift, “It’s like the thunder before the storm and then the resulting soft sound of falling rain.” He adds, if you play with greater volume you must also play softly, and if you play softly you must also increase the volume – at least as far as the nervous system reset is involved.
Here is a research study that gives insight into the loud vs soft sound on the nervous system and its effect on the relaxation response:
Note: The Vagus Nerve is the longest nerve in your body and helps the switch back and forth between your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. It is an important part of the nervous system to understand if you are engaged in healing work. There are many simple practices to stimulate the Vagus Nerve besides regulating sound volume. I recommend doing a search online to find out more as there are simple practices you can do that are hugely beneficial to quickly bring you back into balance. Search ‘vagus nerve stimulation’. Teach them to your friends, clients, family and children.