fitness to finesse: gong bath.
Updated: Mar 11, 2020
Living in any new city has its firsts and so far, Paris has been my firstiest. Sure, there are those regular Parisian firsts that every expat experiences in the city of light...your first French admin induced headache, your first tiny apartment, your first night at a French sex club, your first taste of escargot, your first time getting robbed, your first visit to Musée d'Orsay. The list goes on...
Lately, I’ve been plowing through firsts, but most of mine revolve around unconventional fitness or wellness classes – and I need to talk about it.
Zen & Sounds | 88 Boulevard de Charonne
Walking into the studio for my first Gong Bath, I felt sweat beading down my forehead. I wondered if the single flight of stairs leading up to the studio was enough to produce this schvitz. Maybe it was a lingering symptom from that morning’s hangover. Maybe it was all the iced coffee I consumed to remedy said hangover. Maybe it was a physical manifestation of my general uneasiness from showing up to take a Gong Bath without attempting even the slightest amount of due diligence.
“Bonjour, ça va,” the woman standing behind the counter said calmly. She had long brown hair past her shoulders. It was parted down the middle and had a natural flower-child waviness to it. Her clothes were bohemian, chalk white, flowy and cotton. “Je m'appelle, Fanny.” she added, with a wondrous energy. Her voice was soothing. My worries melted like the moisturizer that was dripping down my sweat-drenched forehead. She offered me some tea then sent me off to the changing rooms.
The changing rooms were coed. I’m not sure if this was a hippy ‘it’s-just-a-body’ statement or there was just not much of a need to separate them since no one really needs to get buck-naked or shower after lying down listening to gong songs for an hour.
I quickly slipped into some gym shorts and a tee and made my way barefoot to the meditation room. The spacious room was set up like a luxury yoga studio. The one noticeable difference was that the front wall was covered with big metal gongs. The floor directly in front of the gong wall was strewn with all kinds of steel bowls and mystical sound-making equipment.
Thick foam mats placed in tidy rows filled the majority of the space. Each mat was dressed with a leg pillow, a neck pillow, a beanbag sleep-mask, and a blanket. I chose a spot in the very front row so that I’d be positioned to soak up as many gong vibes as possible.
There were about 15 other bathers in my bath. Or as I saw of them, 15 spectators who were about to witness the most intense sleep apnea-fueled snore show of their lives. I’ve been told I sound like a faulty radiator, not to brag or anything.
The teacher took her place at the front of the room and began giving an endless but calming monologue. I have no idea what she actually said because it was all in French, but if I were a bettin’ man, I’d say it was something like this:
A Gong Bath is a meditative sound practice that involves using therapeutic gong sounds and vibrations to promote attunement.
Basically, everything makes vibrations, people, places, and things...so, I guess nouns. All nouns vibrate at a particular frequency.
In your body alone, you have like 69 nouns all channeling Robyn and dancing on their own. Unless your appendix decided to be a dick and leave the party early, then you’re down to 68. Oh, and if you’re one of the lucky ones like Skylar Limkemann in first grade who got to have his tonsils removed and eat lime sherbet for a week – then you’re down to 67.
The goal of a Gong Bath is to get all these nouns dancing together to the same beat and create harmony within your body and soul. In theory, your body instinctively wants to be healthy and have everything synced to the same frequency – all the way down to a cellular level.
By providing something external (gongs) in which they can attune, the nouns in your bod and the nouns in your head (ideas are nouns everyone forgets that) can get in tune with the song of the universe... and everything can chill the eff out.
I laid back and slipped the weighted sleep-mask over my eyes. The gongs started to sound, then some steal bowls chimed in, then something that sounded like a seashell wind chime, then I was out.
I went to this in a weird state of consciousness, aware of where I was, but not constrained to remain there. My mind flew away. I jumped from my office to Outerspace to my childhood home. Buddhists have coined the term “Monkey Mind” for when your brain becomes unsettled, restless, confused, or distracted during meditation. My monkey of a mind was going apeshit.
I snapped back into my body to feel a full bladder that was ready to burst. The gongs were still gonging away. Should I make a run for the restroom and disturb the entire class? Maybe the session was almost over. Had I been asleep for two minutes, fifteen, did I even sleep?
I turned to my side, clenching my abdomen, as my need to pee turned from uncomfortable to painful. "Just get up," I said to myself. "No, it’s almost over," I argued back. This internal dialogue went on for what felt like 12 hours, but it might have been 3 minutes. I have no clue.
Then the clinking sound of those seashell wind chimes began to trickle in. That soothing French voice that I’d heard earlier began to massage my eardrums "Dormez-vous? Sonnez les matines. Ding, ding, dong...Frère Jacques?"
She was mid-sentence, but I couldn’t wait. I shot up and turned to make my way toward the restrooms. I took a few steps and noticed that my vision was both clear and hazy at the same time. I felt something like a relaxed buzz – similar to an after-sex cigarette – without any of the deeply-ingrained religious guilt.
The piss was glorious by the way.
Sitting on a changing room bench, I pulled my shirt over my head. Then I just sat there. I felt peaceful. Relaxed. Clear. I wasn’t anxious for the first time in weeks. This must be what people who eat breakfast feel like.
I don’t know much about the metaphysical or the universe, but I’ve returned for 2 more Gong Baths since. Each experience has been just as unique, relaxing, and borderline otherworldly
A 90-minute bath costs €28. Like regular bathing in the 1800's, I suggest taking a Gong Bath on a weekly basis – ideally on a Sunday afternoon – so that you can give your nouns a good wash and you're not a total stinkpot during the week. Gongasté.