What is Gong Meditation
Dr. Karambir Khalsa hosting a gong meditation in La Verkin, Utah

A commonly-asked question in the field of psychology or mental health in general is, “What is gong meditation?”. Gong meditation (also, gong bath, gong wash) refers to the practice of playing a gong or gongs for an individual or group. There are a wide variety of gongs and settings in which gong meditation may take place including: yoga classes, stand-alone sound bath, individual/private session, to name a few. Stand-alone sound baths (i.e., not offered as part of a yoga class) often include gongs as well as other instruments such as bells, rattles, didgeridoo, harp, handpan (also known as hang drum), guitar, and voice. The terms gong bath and gong wash derive from the German term Klangbad which translates literally as “sound bath”. However, the word Bad in German refers to a spa which, for those who have not lived or spent time in Europe, is different than spas that might be found in an urban setting in the United States. Thermal baths are fairly common in Europe and date back to the Romans and beyond. People going to a thermal bath go to soak in the warm water which can be both relaxing and healing. So by comparison, a gong bath refers to soaking in the sounds or vibrations emanating from the gong(s). Those attending a gong bath usually experience deep relaxation and may also experience altered states of consciousness. A gong meditation as part of a sound bath can last upwards of 30 minutes during which participants rest comfortably lying down on a yoga mat.

There are many statements about the benefits of gong meditation and/or sound bath, but few are based on more than anecdotal remarks (i.e., the equivalent of someone stating an opinion). While some research has been conducted on sound baths, it is mostly qualitative in nature or lacking a randomized/controlled design. As such, it cannot be used as evidence which might help to establish the practice for use as an adjunct treatment for individuals being treated for a mental disorder such as anxiety. The dissertation research conducted by Dr. Khalsa as part of the degree requirements for his doctoral degree in clinical psychology (Sofia University, 2021) measured change in trait anxiety for individuals who listened to a recorded gong meditation as compared to those who listened to a recording of water sounds or individuals who went about their daily activities. The findings showed that those who listened to the recorded gong meditation showed statistically significant reductions in trait anxiety when compared to the other groups combined. To be clear, the study was too small (n = 26) for the findings to be definitive, but the results do suggest that the practice known as gong meditation as a mental health intervention is worth further study. I encourage you to explore the information provided elsewhere on this site to learn more about our plans to conduct clinical research which might help to better understand the therapeutic effects of gong meditation for individuals with anxiety.

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