Author Rebecca Campbell, in her book Light is The New Black, defines lightworkers as "anyone who devotes their life to being a light in the world". According to Campbell, they are people who "wholeheartedly make [sic] the decision to make the world a brighter place by being in it." The way I see it, lightworkers lend their light on certain issues to help the world heal. In the last 3 years, I have dedicated my time to learning more and more about the various modalities around us that can heal the psyche. Today, I am happy to start talking about more practitioners and the healing work that they do through this series that will allow them to start Shining Their Light.
We begin with Madonna English.
I met Madonna when I attended my very first Gong Bath in her shala. The experience was one of a kind, the music of the gong filled my physical body and took me in and out of a deep trance. Having come out of it on a high, I was determined to write to Madonna to have her tell me a little bit more about the path that led her to this practice, and how this healing modality translated into science. Below is a transcript of our conversation:
Could you tell me a little bit about where your journey began as a healer? Who you are and your types of healing modalities?
My journey as a healer began when I decided to commit to becoming a Kundalini Yoga Teacher back in 2013. I guess you could say that I was my first ‘patient’. Through a devoted & consistent practice of Kundalini Yoga, I began to heal myself from a lifelong addiction to pain, drama & substance abuse.
I’m a certified Kundalini Yoga Teacher and also hold a certification in Gong Therapy. I practice self healing using Reiki and Pranic healing.
What led you to learn how to play the gong?
My very first gong bath experience was nothing short of transcendental. It was amazing. Just a few minutes into it, I experienced a buzzing sensation almost like low voltage current crackling above my head. It was invigorating, comforting and mystifying all at once. I said to myself: ‘Wow! There really is something extraordinary about this! And I wasn’t quite sure what it was but it was tangible. It was very intriguing and fascinating to me – the whole experience.
The incredible vastness of the soundscapes. The tones, the harmonics that came out of that one instrument. There was a moment where I actually experienced the ‘Big Bang!’ It was as though I was right there at the creation of the Universe. After the Gong Bath, I was left speechless and just wanting for more. I never wanted it to end. That’s when I actually decided I wanted to play the Gong!
Do you play any other instruments? And do you ever mix them up?
I can’t really say I ‘play’ the guitar but I do like to strum it every now & again. I also have a harmonium that I would play occasionally. For the Gong/Sound Baths, I do play with my Crystal Singing Bowl before the Gong and end the session with the grounding sounds of my Tank Drum (tuned into the frequency of healing 432hz). I have recently added a new addition to my Gong collection: a 22” Chinese Wind Gong. I have had a 28” Symphonic Paiste Gong for sometime.
You are the first gong player that I have met in Manila, are there others?
Yes, there is myself and my friend Rosan Cruz who is also a fellow Kundalini Yoga Teacher. We took our Gong Certification together.
Studies have shown that music can have tremendous effects on the brain. Could you tell me a little bit more about how the sound of the gong can facilitate healing?
The Gong is an intervibratory system, they say that it contains the sound of creation itself. From it comes all music, all sounds and all words like a multitude of strings as if you are playing with a million strings. There is no other instrument that can produce this combination of space vibrations like the Gong.
As you said, music can have tremendous effects on the brain. Everything you see around you is vibrating at a frequency, whether we hear it or not. (Wifi being a prime example of frequency). Sound frequencies can affect us on a cellular level, influence how we feel & function. Gong baths uses vibrational sound & frequency to help reduce stress, alter consciousness & create a deep sense of peace and well being for better health.
Is there a certain frequency at which it plays?
There are several types of Gongs and they are mostly aimed at sound healing and meditation practitioners. Planetary Gongs are tuned to a specific pitch based on a natural harmonic series derived from the orbital properties of the Sun, Moon, Earth & other planets in our Solar system. Symphonic Gongs on the other hand offer a full envelope of sounds having a calming, relaxing effect to the listener. Most Gongs broadcast a tremendous amount of positive energy promoting creativity, vitality & well being.
Are there any special tools you need to use to achieve this?
I use multiple mallets to bring out the full spectrum of therapeutic vibrations & frequencies & play the gong using 2 varying techniques. The first one is the ‘build & release’ cycle where the sound waves rise & fall, gradually escalating to a point of intensity and then breaking up the pattern with a single or multiple strike/s. This is the deep relaxation & therapeutic healing phase of the session.
The second technique promotes a spontaneous meditative state where it locks & engages the mind creating a deep immersion between the sound & the meditative mind merging them in unison until you literally become one with the sound.
This deep absorption alters your brainwave activity, allowing you to access a profound theta state, ushering you to experience the expanse beyond the finite self.
What kinds of ailments / issues / wounds have been healed through gong therapy? Is it right to call it gong therapy? What’s it properly called?
Gong/Sound therapy has been known to heal whether a physical, mental or spiritual problem using certain sound frequencies. The pure penetrating sound waves allows you to break free of old patterns and re-generate and re-balance yourself. As it works within the parameters of the body, there is nowhere that the resonance of the gong can not penetrate. It bypasses the mind and goes straight to the root of the problem. The sound influences our brainwaves and alters consciousness to help treat myriad ailments including insomnia, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, sleep disorders, PTSD, dementia, broken bones, muscle tears, heart irregularities and is now even part of Cancer treatment programs.
Having experienced a gong bath myself, I know what it feels like to be under the trance of the gong. There is something magical and magnetic about the sound of the gong that can pull you in and out of, what would you call it? A brain wave? A state?
Theta brainwave is often where the sound waves will take you.
Are participants meant to come with an intention to heal? Or do things just come up as they experience it?
Setting an intention to heal will undoubtedly amplify the effectiveness of a Gong Bath. When we add good intentions into everyday living, even though you may not believe in this things – just being open to positive outcomes such as having an amazingly productive day or visualizing overcoming a challenge – already the success of the outcome is intensified because the energy of intention is such a powerful tool.
How is this similar or dissimilar to hypnosis?
The Sound of the gongs, singing bowls, bells, drums are hypnotic and consciousness altering, deeply relaxing & rejuvenating so it is in a way a form of hypnosis to bring about a state of harmony.
Whenever we experience pain or we are stressed out, anxious, we tend to repeat these to ourselves: that we are in pain, we are worried and so on … This acts as negative form of self-hypnosis where it begins in our conscious mind & often gets tuned out. We send these messages over & over to our body consciousness & our psyches where along with our life experiences, perceptions, thoughts & beliefs gets stored in our bodies. This then turns into a major source of physical, emotional & energetic blockages.
It is not very dissimilar to hypnosis in the sense that the soundwaves act to remove unpleasant or painful experiences. Where the sound penetrates the organs of the body down to the cellular level & then to the sub-cellular realms of molecules, atoms down to the level of micro vibrating bits of conscious energy that are the manifestation of all that is.
Who are the people that you would recommend this kind of modality to?
Every stressed out person! Children with special needs, people who are hurting, sick, depressed, cancer patients or anyone who just wants to feel better, have more energy & vitality.
How might gong therapy be helpful to people who experience depression or anxiety? (Can you share a case with me?). How many sessions are recommended?
Gong baths deliver participants in a very relaxed state which suggests that it is very helpful for those suffering from stress and/or anxiety. Based on the high prevalence of anxiety disorders in our society right now, Gong baths should be a highly sough-after intervention.
I have had a sound healing client who had experienced trauma in the past telling me that the feeling is ‘less activated’ after our sessions. I have also noticed that people with developmental disabilities are drawn to the Gong.
It is a case by case situation with every client. I can not really say how many sessions will be required for a shift to take place. It may take several or it might just take one! As with most Energy healing, it really depends on the receiver.
How can you be contacted?
My contact details are all on my website: madonnaenglish.com. My email is email@example.com
Where do you practice?
I practice from my home/shala in Urdaneta Village Makati. I have named it Sat Nam Shala : ‘Sat’ meaning Truth and ‘Nam’ meaning My Name, my Identity. In the language of Gurmukhi, Northern India.
Do you do individual sessions? And how much would you charge? Yes I do!
Pricing for Gong Bath Therapy Sessions (first session lasts for 90 mins which includes initial assessment/counseling. Succeeding sessions are 75 minutes which includes a pranayama/breathing meditation at the start of the session)
Individual Session: P2500
2 sessions: P4000
For groups of 2 or more people:
2 people: P3500
3 to 4: P4000
Group rate (5 and over): P900/person