Remedial meditation via gongs

I know that I would benefit from meditation, but the very reason I’d benefit from it makes it seemingly impossible to get started.  Even guided meditation, in person, isn’t really enough for me. I require either Xanax, or something that roars through my body.


I wrote about my first experience with gongs here:

The two worst days of my life took place a month apart that summer of 2013–the second one was the day before I went to that first gong bath. Obviously, I was very raw and vulnerable at the time.  I had such a positive experience that the sound healer’s house permanently became a “safe” place for me.

I’m in need of a safe place.

I hadn’t been in about a year, and I don’t know exactly what made me consciously think of it, but I went to a group gong bath on Saturday night. It’s a little odd, but this does for me what a manicure or massage does for other people. It’s also an intense experience, but without the social anxiety/inability to forget the fact that I’m visible (which is why concerts and the like are difficult for me).  Everyone was just laying down, with their eyes closed, and while I didn’t feel lonely, I was able to feel however I wanted without self-consciousness.

I listened to Fur and Gold–one of the three albums that were my life boat in the early days–on the way there, probably as a way of getting into the mindset of going into a safe space. “Horse and I” was (is) so important to me.  I could have fallen apart, could have relapsed after he left…in theory.  Really, I didn’t consider it an option. I was in charge now.  I don’t at all mean to marginalize my ex’s role as a parent–that’s not at all my point. If you had told me months or years before that I was going to become the default parent without backup/checks and balances, I would have seriously doubted my ability to shoulder that responsibility.  But I did it and–even though it may sound melodramatic–I gathered strength from this song.

Before the player goes into the gong, she does a guided meditation with bells or singing bowls.  It’s usually similar the the kind that I sometimes did to prepare for rehearsal back when I did theater–diaphragmatic breathing, ball of white light, going through and releasing the muscles from the toes to the top of the head.

She didn’t do the usual, and she went WAY too fast for me. I couldn’t even get a mental picture of a ball of light. Maybe I would have if I had had more time, but I’m not sure. She went into a more narrative, fantasy meditation, and I very quickly gave up and just let myself focus on whatever it was I hoped to see/feel once the gongs started.

I was totally tuned out until the first gong hit, and then it was like when you fall asleep for half a second before your head jerks upward.  I was in corpse pose, and every muscle except for the ones involved in breathing were completely still the whole time.  Some time in, my eyes started doing crazy things. I could feel it because I had a weighted eye pillow on them.  I think it was like what goes on in REM, and I was absolutely not controlling it.  It would go on for a while, and then stop for maybe a minute, and then start up again.

During one of the lulls, I thought about going to the grocery store after the gong bath.  I remembered how I went straight to the grocery store after euthanizing my cat because I’m so stubborn about continuing to function when something bad has happened. And then I felt grief hit me very suddenly. I thought about his ashes–which are in a tin in the drawer by my head–and I started to cry.

Apart from a short period in which I was able to focus my energy into “happy thoughts” and mental pictures, it wasn’t a happy experience.  Instead of seeing a ball of light at the top of my head, or anywhere, I actually saw a black cloud close in from either side.  I wasn’t afraid, because it wasn’t fear or anxiety. I just accepted that I wasn’t going to have a beautiful, drug-free trip.

After it was over, I felt drained and headachy (crying headache, perhaps), and my vision was blurry for a good half hour.

I did a lot of thinking during the 45-minute trip back.  I’m still debating whether to make that a separate post. I feel so naked lately with the fallout from the drama that happened a couple weeks ago.  It may be exposing myself too much, but the short version is that I acknowledged some very uncomfortable thoughts about myself.  I’m also very uncertain/nervous about starting over with a therapist–but I did reach out to the one who seems promising, and we’re going to talk on the phone tomorrow morning. I’m afraid to get my hopes up too much that she’ll work out, because my inflexible schedule makes that unlikely.

I wish that this state of meditation was something that I could access myself, without outside help, without spending money. But that’s just going to have to be a goal for the future.


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