Staying home, staying well

This article was written and initially appeared February 1, 2020 on my Chinese platform under the title “Long holidays, slow living”. As coronavirus hit China right before Chinese New Year Break, the city of Shanghai where we live officially extended holiday break for one week to avoid mass travel, crowding and spread of the virus.

Initially, it did feel like a continuation of a vacation – despite inability to purchase masks and having to use our pollution ones instead of recommended surgical type, to venture out for grocery purchase and a permitted stroll late in the evening or early in the day when not many people were outside. Then things got strange – despite official finish of the holiday, work did not resume fully, companies and clients did not flood back to the city and the suspension mode hit everyone.

Now, as the rest of the world is staying at home in order to avoid the spread of the virus, I am hoping that my experience in navigating this period of time, staying at home in Shanghai, can be useful for others. As I joked with my friends, we are finally getting some return on investment into our exorbitant megacity rents by staying in! I hope you find your balance, too, and that you and your family stay well, healthy and mostly indoors during these times. Onto my original piece:

Coronavirus outbreak have put us on forced holidays, and Shanghai is eerily empty. The feeling is unsettled – most of us are anxiously checking the news, some are trying to get in or out of the country, and regardless of our current location in the world, we are all in the middle of a huge unknown. 

How soon will we all heal from this? We don’t know, but what we do know is that China has taken extraordinary measures to protect all of us living here from the spread of the virus and that health professionals are working tirelessly to heal those who have fallen ill.

How safe is it to get outside, shop for groceries, travel? A personal decision for everyone, you know best what works for keeping you calm. I put on a quality pollution mask and run a few errands every day – this keeps my body and mind well, as well as brings necessary groceries and supplies home and keeps one foster kitty fed and checked on daily. 

How will my work and business be affected? It remains to be seen. But I know for sure that this, too, shall pass. All of us, small business owners in Shanghai, talk about how it affected inflow of customers, but I believe we can all emerge on the other side with a lot of new lessons learned about how to adjust business model and offerings based on how we are affected now. 

We have a lot of time on our hands to consider these, but please do not go into disaster scenarios and focus your attention on the fact that what you never had the time for – now you do! How to spend the most precious resource of TIME this extra-long holiday when you are at home in Shanghai? Here are a few suggestions:

Meditation practice

Put a chair or folded blanket on the floor, sit with straight spine and just breathe. First attempts may be difficult, as you progress it may not get easier. That is why we call it a practice and we show up every day, regardless. 

Every second in (even attempted) meditation is beneficial. You will start noticing emotions and thoughts that have been stuffed deep inside. You may need to express them with tears, movement, writing. You will have to be compassionate to yourself while all of this is happening. 

In the end, we all just have the present moment, and now is the time like no other to actively practice trust and living in the moment and creating peace inside of yourself. Meditation practice helps with building and maintaining your nervous system resilience as you sit in non-action with what actually IS. And extend you parasympathetic bliss by following these few simple steps.

Journaling practice

Writing stream of consciousness, pen to paper, is actually proven to take the burden off the nervous system and crystallize what exactly it is that bothers you. From the clear ideas and fears you can take constructive, proactive steps to protect yourself, understand which fears are unfounded or connected to old triggers, and process those, and yet again affirm the habit of taking it moment at a time in life.

Working with your wellness team online

Whether a coach, a therapist, a healer – technology allows us to connect in real time, and when it comes to energy healing, it knows no boundaries. 

I have a scheduled call with my therapist this week which actually has nothing to do with current state of events and is part of my long-term work with her, but this mental health routine certainly grounds me.

I am also seeing clients from all over the world for distance Reiki treatments – just in past few days I connected with people in France, United States and Vietnam as part of our long-term healing work, but each one told me it was reassuring to have this work to fall back on.

Home workouts

My beloved MeWellness gym is closed, like many businesses in Shanghai, for our own safety, but we get daily home workout plans and community support when people post clips of creative use of homewares as equipment. 

YouTube is full of bodyweight HIITs, all kinds of yoga and stretching. Something as simple as blasting your favorite music and moving, shaking, twisting, dancing free-style to it will get your heart pumping, blood and lymph moving and endorphins racing. Living room dance party is a great way to burn off adrenaline and cortisol, get the whole family in a better mood and create amazing memories.

In Dragon lady toolkit you can find a simple set of restorative yoga poses that calm the nervous system and allow you to drop anxiety a few notches down.

Myofascial release 

I want to give this one its own space because in my circle of friends almost everyone does a lot of hard exercise, and almost everyone has very little time dedicated to mobility, fascia and slow, mindful movement, myself included. Now, instead of sporadic foam roller on IT band, we have time to get into the slow and regular work with fascia. 

A tennis ball to roll your feet’s plantar fascia daily will rebalance gait and posture (can be done while you’re watching that Netflix, too!).

Foam roller under your shoulder blades will open the chest, helping to create spacious breath. 

Rolling out hips and buttocks will counter hours of sitting – whether generally for work or now, during holidays. 

Internet will give you so many plans and ideas!

Home spa

When was the last time you pulled out that fancy all-natural scrub or had a facial? Had a good foot soak? Had time for hair mask? Used that amazing crystal guasha tool?

Even if you don’t have products in the bathroom, kitchen will be a perfect source of safe all-natural ingredients. Yogurt, honey, turmeric, sugar, coffee, matcha, cucumber slices, sea salt, olive oil for your face, hair and body.

Apply some yogurt mask on your face – or use the clean beauty products you never had time to use.

Mix oil and sugar or coffee for a delicious body scrub. 

Heat up some sesame oil for an Ayurvedic ritual of abhyanga, gentle lymphatic self-massage – or a treat for your partner.

Use simple sea salt and a few drops of essential oil for relaxing foot soak, then give your feet some extra love with a tennis ball and a foot rub, working out all tense points. 

Word of warning: caution with turmeric and matcha required as they stain, although if you have kids they will probably love a homegrown Shrek, hehe. Don’t ask me how I learned that!

Julie & Julia in your kitchen

Thanks to the business owners of Shanghai who are working with shortage of human resources, we do not have shortage of groceries and other supplies. Avocado lady is open and carries so many items, it is often hard not to end up being overly ambitious with kitchen projects. What are the dishes you always wanted to make but never had the time? What are the appliances you bought but never used? 

Reading all those books

How many do you have on your Kindle and bookshelves, honestly? And which ones have you been planning to read? With all this time, you can actually read many – and actually have time to realize that some are just not that interesting to you, and declutter them. 

Below is a loose list of my recommendations.

Pema Chodron “Comfortable with uncertainty” which is very fitting for current situation, but in fact, any and all of her books

All Brene Brown books

All Esmeralda Santiago’s books

Any of Thich Nhat Hanh’s books

Elizabeth Alexander “The light of the world”

Michelle Obama “Becoming” 

Lori Gottlieb “Maybe you should talk to someone”

Jennifer Lewis “The mother of black Hollywood”

Lisa Taddeo “Three Women”

Bianca Bosker “Cork dork”

Thordis Elva “South of forgiveness”

Maya Angelou – any and all!

And ones below are closer to my specialty, but are incredibly interesting for everyone who wants to take care of their health and wellbeing

Jill Blakeway “Energy medicine” 

Lee Know, ND “Mitochondria  and the future of medicine”

Catherine Shanahan, MD “Deep nutrition”

Gabor Mate “When the body says no”

Carolyn Myss “Sacred contracts”

Gary Taubes “Why we get fat”

Bruce Lipton “Biology of belief”

Lissa Rankin, MD  “Mind over medicine”

Candace Pert, PhD “Molecules of emotion”

Special place goes to HSK books – I know we all have them! Take an hour every day to read in a foreign language you don’t comprehend fluently yet, or just get in that HSK prep mode. 

*HSK is an acronym of Hanoi Shuiping Kaoshi, a standardised Chinese comprehension test like TOEFL or IELTS are for English language. Apply the language paragraph to any foreign language you always wanted to work on, but barely had time to.

What are you reading now? What have you read that touched you deeply, opened the new worlds to you or educated you lately? Share in comments so we can all build on this list!

Decluttering 

It is the perfect season to get into the nooks and crannies and clear out things you haven’t used for a while. Books, memorabilia, clothes and shoes, toy chests, kitchen cupboards and spice drawers, your phone memory and external hard drives – cleaning actually gives sense of control and purpose and in this vast big unknown you may benefit from a dose of that. 

Maybe there is GoPro footage that is waiting to be edited into the video? A few gigabytes worth of vacation pictures that are waiting patiently to be sorted into folders? 

Sort into “sell, donate, recycle” boxes, take pictures of things you want to resell, take the recycling out, find out which organizations may need the things that served their purpose in your life already, thoroughly vacuum the corners and enjoy more space and less anxiety.

I went under the sink the other day – the stuff you can find in there! Now every time I wash the dishes I just feel that energy of cleared sink cupboard radiating to my knees, haha.

Online courses

All those programs with long video classes, contemplating and journaling assignments or home workouts, photography classes, posture work, coaching work, new language,  webinar recordings – I have a huge note of those I am yet to finish on my phone, and I am slowly chipping away at those now in a calm, systematic manner. 

Slow living

When else do we just LIVE? Vacationing in a foreign country is usually different from slow, simple LIVING, as it is full of new emotions, places, activities. When, if not now, can we just be, just live, just feel the spaciousness?

Wake up, unrushed, deliberately noticing details that make your life good – a warm bed, a favorite teacup, a cozy pajama (is anyone getting out of those lately?:), a deep book, a family meal,  a smile of your child and rustle of your pets, feeling gratitude that it needs not be a hectic morning or urban hustle.

If you are feeling unsettled and anxious these days – reach out to schedule Reiki healing, which is available over distance so you can stay safe and protected at your house and be anywhere in the world. Hold yourself gently and enjoy the slow life, it won’t be long before Shanghai and all of China and the world is healed and back to its usual bustle. Wherever you are in the world, I hope you are well and find those tiny silver linings in a rustle of real paper pages, your child’s smile, your cat’s paws and all the cosy home things we get to enjoy now – unlike many medical professionals around the world, tasked with frontline healthcare.

With a big warm hug,

Valeria

Gong story: Peppermint Sparkles

The author of this article asked to stay anonymous and chose a name Peppermint Sparkles, which I thought was the coolest thing to read on a Tuesday, especially accompanied by a unicorn portrait they sent over representing their feeling about gong baths!

“Shanghai has a crazy rhythm to it.  I had moved to Shanghai from small town Vermont (USA) in 2012 and was trying to find ‘balance,’ as a teacher.  I had tried meditation and singing bowl sessions to try to ease this tension I felt in Shanghai, but nothing seemed to work. I found it challenging to ‘let go’ as singing bowls moved around the room or as the musicians seemed to evoke melodies that did not really seem to ‘transcend’ me or the people around me for that matter. We kind of left thinking ‘oh, that was nice’, but then the next day it was back feeling unhinged.  The group meditations I attended were filled with people trying to unwind, but I could not help but want to laugh out loud as we all took turns adjusting ourselves because our backs were killing us due to the hours just spent sitting in office chairs. We had gone from a long day of ‘tense-work sitting’ to a long meditation of ‘relax-letting-go sitting.’ I couldn’t find the right release. I remember being told about Gong Baths by a friend and a little while later reading an article entitled “I Submitted to the Healing Tides of the Gong Bath,” by Morgan Short (Jan. 13, 2017) in SmartShanghai.  The universe was obviously telling me something, so I decided to reach out to Valeria and try it out. I mean, if Morgan Short could succumb to the Gong, maybe I could, too?

The first thing that was different about the Gong Bath compared to that of other ‘well-being’ practices I was dabbling in at the time, was the warm welcome. The space seemed calm and cozy. I attended my first bath during a cold February evening. There was a warm rug on the floor that greeted me, as well as a deliciously flavored warm herbal tea sitting on a table in a room wrapped in a soft salt lamp light. There were pillows and blankets available and Valeria had a calm soothing voice that assured me everything would be fine during this sound vibration journey (And no, we did not have to get naked).  

She was right. It was more than fine. I felt as if I was flying through a cosmic wonderland as her soft mallets danced around her Gongs. It was bliss. This bliss, to my surprise, lasted more a whole week. After my first bath I noticed I was shockingly happier and in a calmer state of mind throughout the week. I was hooked. I started attending Valeria’s Gong baths regularly in order to feel this state of calm and joy. After a while I drank the Kool-Aid, full on, and converted. I ended up taking a Gong Master course with Valeria’s teacher Don Conreaux and bought two gongs of my own. I now play privately in my family’s home or offer the ‘gong experience’ to children and teachers at Shanghai United International School, Hongqiao campus. I am so grateful and humbled by this experience. As I play I not only experience the benefits that the gong offers (clearing blockages, supporting mitochondrial growth, stimulating healing, allowing your intentions to become actions, and more), but I am also able to witness what Valeria is able to each time she plays: the power of healing through love and sound. It is pretty far out and a trip I highly recommend.”  

Stay tuned for Peppermint Sparkles’ guest apperance at one of the gong sessions soon! Read about what gong baths are, post-session care and questions, and discover more stories from SarahSophieAndrew and Candice-Lee, or just contact me to book your private or group session for your own slice of gong bliss.

Wishing you a sparkly week!

Valeria

Gong stories: Candice-Lee

In the past weeks, I have been sharing personal gong stories and I am so humbled to read each one when it gets to me. I enjoy playing gong and all the calming and stress-reducing benefits of it, but to see how it positively affects others takes my joy to a whole new level.  

My teacher Don Conreaux says we play the gong for world peace, and seeing people more relaxed, content and a little less anxious after each session affirms me in this belief, even if we first have to push through discomfort. Seeking ourselves and meeting our own expectations is the hardest job we will ever have, and as you will be able to see from the story, it is not linear, nor is it instant and requires a tremendous amount of self-compassion and self-awareness. Candice-Lee first joined my gong baths in 2016 and has been a regular since. She shared her incredible story:

“Some time ago, I started asking myself necessary, uncomfortable questions about my place in the world, what type of life I wanted to live, and what I could draw on to keep me growing along this path. I wasn’t seeking anything in particular, I was keeping my eyes and ears open with a beginner’s mind of curiosity. I knew what didn’t work for me: anxiety, Fear Of People’s Opinions or FOPO, imposter syndrome, negativity – the list goes on. But how to change this mindset? Is it conscious? Unconscious? I started yoga, and built a meditation practice around it. The benefits were amazing: better decision making, a better understanding of myself, less concern about others’ opinions (the worst!), less anxiety, a more rational mindset, the ability to not be reactive in situations, and most importantly: the beauty of ‘letting go’. I was thrilled! And I wanted more. But I didn’t know how or where to find it. 

Through searches for relaxation and meditation music on Spotify (yes, a music platform led me to sound healing), I was drawn to singing bowls and gongs. I didn’t know gong baths existed – or that they would be in Shanghai – and was thrilled when I saw Valeria’s profile in a Shanghai health store highlighting the work she does. Serendipity! I messaged her on the spot and was booked in for a gong bath a few days later. I was hooked instantly. For me, the gongs are a very personal experience. They are a teacher who believes fully in you and your capabilities, even when you waver in your own belief. 

My first experience was huddled with other first-timers and experienced gong bathers in Valeria’s space. The atmosphere was inviting, calm and friendly. I wasn’t nervous, more eager to understand how I’d feel afterwards. We can’t always process emotions or events on a conscious level. At the time I couldn’t articulate exactly what my motivation was, other than a deep intuition that this is what I needed. I started with an intention to ‘let go’ and it wasn’t easy. My first instinct was to tense up, and it took me a few sessions to understand how I needed to engage with the baths personally. Everybody has a different process. I set an intention at the beginning of the bath about something I want to work on, to clarify or that I need help with. My favourite phrase from Valeria’s pre-gong bath sessions is your inner you saying to your higher self: ‘’I didn’t know I could ask for help, but now I know. I release myself’’. Wow. 

Not all gong baths were the same for me. Some were very uncomfortable and restless. Some are blissful. Some make me cry, and some make me sleep 12 hours afterwards. 

Two memorable gong baths left me with no voice the next day and a constricted feeling in my throat. I had no desire to talk and felt dazed. After consulting with Valeria, we discerned that the session brought up issues with my Throat Chakra, to do with expression and articulation. I had had a stressful few weeks in my relationship and thought the throat constriction was due to me not feeling heard and not saying what was truly on my mind. ‘Got it!’, I thought. The next week I did another gong bath. I woke up the next day with an even more restricted throat, no desire to eat, inability to talk and no interest to engage with people. Again, Valeria and I discussed it. Whilst the Throat Chakra is linked to expression and articulation, this does not mean it is MY expression it’s linked to. Could it be that I have not been listening to my significant other during difficult conversations? Could it be that I’ve been using my own expression to drown out his? As soon as Valeria and I considered this, I knew it was true. After weeks of hard conversations at home, I knew then that I had not allowed my partner to fully voice his point-of-view and his thinking. A few days later, my partner and I sat down and, learning from the guidance from the gong bath, we shared a beautiful, meaningful and inclusive conversation, which changed our relationship.

I continue to use sound healing in the firm belief that those things we cannot process consciously are processed unconsciously. Sound baths are an amazing way to process, heal, surrender and celebrate. The true magic of the gongs is they show you that everything you need, and any answer you desire, is within you. Let go and surrender. In the stillness, the answer comes.” 

You can read Sarah’s who was a regular for nearly a year, Sophie’s, who had incredible shifts after one session and Andrew’s, who was making time for himself amidst chaos and difficulty, stories in previous articles, and if you have no idea what gong baths are, this article will help to understand the basics, while here I write about aftercare and answer frequent questions.

Join one of my weekly group sessions in Shanghai, or book your own – date nights, birthday party naps, bridal showers or retreat gatherings, we have hosted them all.

Wishing you inner peace,

Valeria

Gong stories: Andrew

I have published Sarah’s and Sophie’s gong stories, and today I want to share Andrew’s experience. Andrew was a regular at gong sessions for 6 months while he lived in Shanghai, and I know he was actively looking to continue gong baths in new country he moved to.

Here is what he has to say about his gong experiences: “I liked doing gong baths because it was just 45 minutes a week where I got to reset. Something I always noticed after a gong bath was that the filters on my senses were dropped. There’s too much stimuli in everyday life to pay attention to it all, but blocking all that out can make me somewhat too focused. After a gong bath I had more awareness to my surroundings and also sense of self. But also each gong bath was an experience in and of itself. Over time I was able to go a little deeper during the session, not each session, sometimes I went “backwards” but on the whole forwards. But, essentially, I just felt like a gong bath was a reset. I came out relaxed, happier and more open.” 

As someone who have seen over 2000 people through gong experience in the past 5 years of my gong offering, I can tell you that familiar presence adds extra tones to the sound vortex. “We have done this before and we are ready to go deeper this time” as if a silent agreement. It is especially heartwarming to see men leading other men through the doorway, as wellness had often been considered a female domain. Andrew was invited to join gong a gong bath by a male friend, and he stayed on, and his quiet solidness always grounded the room and took the group a little deeper. 

Socially, boys and men are still often conditioned to hold emotions in and keep pushing through pain, tough times and emotional turmoil without as much as stopping to inhale. Adding another layer, Shanghai is a city of wild energy that can take a toll on every nervous system, even the most resilient one, if not allowed to recuperate regularly. I am really happy to see this “keep pushing!” attitude to be replaced with adequate, balanced rest, and for men to be as open, curious and willing to explore self-care and relaxation as women.  

My sessions are always a safe space to go inward. There are no pictures, no forced group discussions, no need to talk if you don’t want to. The gong will never take you beyond what you can handle – be it a regression, meditation, emotional release or a catnap, your nervous system will always collaborate with sound to give you what you need.  Read about gong bathsaftercare and other gong experiences, and book a private or group gong session with me in Shanghai to go on your own gong journey. 

With love, 

Valeria

Gong stories: Sophie

Last week I shared Sarah’s gong story, which resonated with many people who are busy living life in Shanghai and other fast-paced giant cities. Reclaiming time to rest is an issue faced by many people. Just today we were on one of many messengers that connect people, and Sarah, who now lives thousands of miles away from Shanghai in another bustling urban area, was recalling her final gong session in 2018 which allowed her to access her inner wisdom and brought some important messages that are now playing out in her life. But she already knew and was prepared for it as she was able to join the gong to quiet busy mind and listen.

Sarah was coming regularly for a long time, making gong baths part of her self-care habits, but what about people who cannot dedicate so many regular hours? Even one or two sessions can make a difference, as it did for Sophie.

“My first experience with Gong Bath Meditation was more than surprising for me as I actually wasn’t going for the meditation but to listen to the sound with an artistic interest. Indeed, as an artist choreographer who works with the body and minimal sounds, such as drones and different type of vibrations created by sound, I came to the Gong Bath to discover and potentially find another source of inspiration for my own work.

However, not a firm believer of meditation in general, out of respect I’ve let myself immersed in the rituals of the session. Started with some relaxation exercises, drank herbal tea, and laid down on my back. The Gong started and I remember that I could feel the vibrations passing from the floor to my body/skin and from my ears to the inside of my body. I was immediately amazed by this feeling and little by little I started to let go, focused on my breathing, emptied my thoughts and opened myself to the space surrounding me.

Then the unexpected happened, at a certain point, a hit on the Gong might have been stronger or I don’t know really exactly what but I felt like an explosion in my guts and my chest. Similar of when a balloon filled with water explodes. Once the session ended, I cried a lot, not because I was sad, just because it needed to go out and anyway I couldn’t control it. Then I spent my usual week, back to my routine of work and such, so light, open and greeting the positivity of the surrounding environment. 

I keep from this session an extraordinary experience and believing then in the power of sound for meditation and its benefits, whether on a mental level or physical level, as after this session my back aches relieved as well.

Sophie”

I messaged Sophie as we were going through details of the post, and she wrote: “Even a year later I am still wondering what happened, search for logical explanations where there are probably none. But I’m forever grateful for what I felt”.

Whether a seasoned relaxation practitioner or a novice in the art of parasympathetic bliss, gong delivers what is necessary for each particular person in the moment. The interplay between what gongs give and what nervous system and body wisdom are ready to take will always be fascinating to me, as people in the same session can have such different experiences. Read more about gong bathsaftercareFAQs, and other personal gong stories, and catch my sessions in Shanghai!

With gongs and magic,

Valeria

Gong stories: Sarah

I write a lot about gong baths – as a practitioner I am asked a lot of questions, and I love digging deeper to understand how gong sound baths are capable to facilitate such profound changes, from pain and emotional relief, or better sleep and fewer wrinkles to deepest meditation and spiritual awakenings.

I love it even more when I can share stories of those who have found sound therapy of gong baths healing. Seeing familiar faces, in their favorite spots, is always so reassuring for me as a gong player, as we all know each session will bring new energy and fabric of sound, with every interaction of notes being unique, even if all the same people are present. The beauty and pain of impermanence!

I always tell gong bath session participants (also known as gongstasJ): make sure to practice relaxation every day, in whichever shape or form it comes. Meditation and relaxation are not just states – they are actions, practices. We schedule exercise sessions to allow the body to adapt to running a marathon, to stand on our hands or to master perfect calligraphy strokes, yet I heard many a human say “I can’t meditate, my mind is too busy!”, or “I have difficulty being still for long periods of time”. The habits of stillness and relaxation are cultivated through practice, practice, practice, just like violin or gymnastics. Some training days are drenched in sweat, and some are effortless and breezy. It’s all SUCCESSFUL practice, because practice is about repeatedly showing up.

Sarah have made gong baths her weekly relaxation ritual for 10 (!!!) straight months. That is about 40 consecutive sessions. Some weeks we had lively chats the moment she arrived, and some it felt more natural to let her settle in and have a moment to herself before the session. I always extend invitations to share experiences after the session is over, but they are strictly voluntary and most people choose to wake up slowly and digest their journey in silence. Some don’t know what to share, some want to keep it private – it is my approach to give people space to figure it out.

I carefully asked, a few months after things settled for her,  if she would be willing to share her unique experience, and she graciously agreed! Word to Sarah now:

Cleansing, healing, mind-opening, clarity, memories of hurt and anger, and wholeness. These are my experiences with the gongs. 

I was going through a break-up and was desperately seeking some form of peace and healing. A friend had invited me to go to a gong bath and I remember thinking that it sounded super cool and needed, but at the same I thought with uncertainty, “Will I have to get undressed for this?” 

The first couple of times I had gone to the gong bath, I was restless and didn’t know how to truly relax and let the gongs do its magic. Though, even within my restlessness I could feel the cleansing micro massages doing their thing within body, all the while, my mind was racing within its turbulent thoughts. Then one day I finally fell asleep. During that sleep, my mind raced with images and loud voices. I could feel my heart pounding rapidly even as I slept. Those images and loud voices were memories of hurt and anger. When I awoke to the calming wind chimes and to the refreshing sound of rain water my heart continued to pound, but I had clarity! I had better understanding of the things I had kept hidden deep away from myself.

As time went on, I became dedicated to the gong baths, I went every Sunday for almost a year. There were times I would come to the gongs with a seriously heavy heart and I would sometimes fall asleep and snore a little bit, and would awake with not having clarity or a cleansing feeling. But, later in the week, the calm, the peace and the clarity would arrive to my seeking soul. 

My dedication to the gongs gave me a feeling of inner tranquility that would carry on within my being from week to week, it was wonderful. I believe it enabled me to understand myself and my emotions better. I also believe it opened me up to better understand and interpret the energy of others. 

Then my time with the gongs came to an end.  It came during the end of my almost one-year dedication. I remember that day clearly, when the gong bath was over, I knew within my heart that what I had come for, I had received. I felt that something had healed within my being. I can’t name what the something is, but it was a feeling of wholeness. Yes, I was still heartbroken over my break-up but something deeper and more profound within my being had healed. And I felt more secure and stronger within myself. This is my experience with the gongs. 

Sarah Jones”

Sarah writes about her dedication to gongs – I believe it was first a dedication to herself that happened to be facilitated by my gong baths. Scheduling time to attend a session, to claim an evening to relax, settle down, to ramble with hidden emotions – that requires a lot of self-love and self-compassion, and water-tight boundaries regarding one’s personal right to downtime.What a beautiful way to take care of yourself in this crazy beautiful city that we love and live in!Read about gong bathswhat to expect post-session and frequently asked questions in my previous articles, and join one of my weekly sessions in Shanghai to discover your own bliss!

With love,

Valeria

Gong bath: your questions, answered

Sound baths are both an art and a healing modality that uses power of vibrations and sound to bring balance and ease into human mind, body and spirit. A sound bath is part assisted meditation, part relaxation and, for some, a restorative nap. It is a perfect tool for beginners in meditation – as vortex of overtones builds up, it becomes hard for the brain to think of anything, so we get a welcome respite from thoughts. 

Gongs have been around for millennia – used in rituals, ceremonies, as a status symbol and as musical instruments. The Balinese have historically used gongs to treat schizophrenia and addiction. While sound baths with gongs have been used by Yogi Bhajan since approximately 1960s, they are still sometimes labeled as “out there”. Yet Western medicine conducted numerous studies on musical therapy that show effects of music on variety of physiological functions: 

·   reduced anxiety

·   slower heart and breathing rates

·   lowered blood pressure

·   increased immune cell messengers

·   drop in stress hormones 

·   natural increase of “feel-good” endorphinsour body’s natural opiates that reduce pain and discomfort

I have written more about sound baths here and the aftermath of sessions here, so please check these articles out if you are new to the gong! As new people try gongs more questions are asked and I try to answer them to the best of my knowledge and experience with gongs.

How did you find out about gongs?

My love for gong and regular practice of sound baths comes from profound effect that it has on sensitive nervous system of a city dweller. I was first exposed to gong bath as part of kundalini yoga class, and it appears that Yogi Bhajan was the first yogi who started using gongs as a healing tool in yoga classes. Kundalini is a very challenging and intense yoga practice that exposes resistance and old, deep-seated trauma, and my first short gong session happened while I was lying exhausted in savasana after a VERY intense and physically challenging kundalini class. When the unfamiliar sound of gong started gaining force, I had a panic attack – while my body was paralyzed on the mat as if in REM sleep, painful memories that were dislodged by the practice started rising up like a nightmare. I could not breathe, move, escape, or even faint as a way out. I was desperately gasping for air that just seemed to refuse to enter my lungs, just like during asthma attacks and one highly unpleasant, but very necessary gastroscopy that felt like a very close brush with suffocation. I honestly can’t tell you if the experience was physical and if my air gasps were actually performed by my body, or it was all a purely emotional experience, but lying in a puddle of sweat at basement yoga studio in downtown Moscow I felt I was dying and I was not feeling at peace with it. #Fun, with sarcastic emoji.

But things let up fairly quickly, and I then entered bliss. It felt like intracellular brain massage while my body was levitating on sound waves, above the basement, the city, the planet. The sound was still very unfamiliar, with impossible-to-pin tune, and way too many melodies going in different directions, so eventually my very control-obsessed brain had to give up trying making sense of experience and I fully embodied just being IN the experience. This was many years ago (possibly 10 at this point), I play the gongs myself to create a safe, healing sound space and enter restful meditative state. I got my first gong and received first training nearly 5 years ago, and coming up on 4 years and 1500 participants of public sessions.

How does it work?

Ultimately, sound affects our nervous system and can have bidirectional effects, both exciting and causing stress and calming and reducing it. Now on for nerdy bits: “acoustic experience such as sound, noise, or absence of sound induces structural or functional changes in the central auditory system but can also affect limbic regions such as the amygdala and hippocampus. The amygdala is particularly sensitive to sound with valence or meaning, such as vocalizations, crying or music. The amygdala plays a central role in auditory fear conditioning, regulation of the acoustic startle response and can modulate auditory cortex plasticity. A stressful acoustic stimulus, such as noise, causes amygdala-mediated release of stress hormones via the HPA-axis, which may have negative effects on health, as well as on the central nervous system.” Simply put, unpleasant noise can cause extra stress – just think of working next to construction site all day, and pleasant music can uplift, relax and energize, making us dance in the shower, increase running pace or just bust out some moves, cue the air guitar.

I learned from my Gong Master that gongs have de-materialization abilities, and that is why a lot of people have out-of-body experiences during gong baths, and this can include floating up and seeing yourself lying in the space, regressing back to life experiences we have long archived, and the typical sensation that people often describe as: “I was sure I was not asleep as my mind was busy with visions and thoughts, but then heard myself snoring”. 

How many sessions do I need?

There is truly no limit at how often you can join the sessions. “The more the better” will sound a bit biased coming from me, but just as we sleep, shower, exercise, eat, pray and meditate daily, sound baths are a great tool for an “emotional shower”. I have between 1-7 sound baths a week when I am next to my gongs. An only occasional deep dive into parasympathetic nervous system bliss may be enough for you, but for your partner /friend/neighbor a daily (sound) bath may be just right, no pun intended.

How effective and long-lasting effects are for a particular person will be is influenced by:

Sensitivity: how sensitive you are to sound and energy. If you find that you are particularly sensitive to sound or often get vertigo, this may be a sign of adrenal fatigue, and regular relaxation practice is a necessary part of recovery. For a highly sensitive person or a deep introvert introspective time is key to wellbeing and health, but they may also be easily overwhelmed by overtone vortex, which is not a bad thing per se because this would crowd out repetitive thought patterns, if only for a few hours, even a short respite can help with gaining new perspective on things. You would know what’s best for you and how much you can handle.

Character traits: they determine how easily you get overwhelmed, triggered and exhausted by demands of life. Some are blessed with the ability to hit the pillow nightly with contentment of having done their best, and some find it harder to avoid overthinking.

Acquired stress resilience toolkit: family and culture conditioning and personal practice of stress management. This may include daily meditation, prayer, exercise regimen, positive habits that anchor and nourish your foundations and allow feeling of safety and security in the face of adversity. 

According to those who regularly participate in gong baths, gongs eventually manage to overtake even the busiest brain and push anxiety out. Some gongstas have reported feeling very celebratory after they “finally fell asleep in the gong bath”, and now there are quite a few that start nodding off the moment they get comfortable on the cushion, before the first sound is made by the gong. I completely agree that this is the cause for celebration as it often means successful relaxation conditioning!  Remember – it takes PRACTICE to feel all zen, om and shanti, and demanding instant fluency in relaxation from an overworked nervous system that hasn’t seen a nap in years is madness. The beautiful thing about our nervous system is that it is forgiving and malleable, and subtle skill of not giving a blip can be learned. I highly recommend reading works by Brene Brown to build emotional resilience toolkit, and set aside the time for gong, spa, massage, floating, naps, walks in nature to actually embody relaxation phases.

Your current phase of life: even with natural disposition and strong practice of resilience, some phases of life demand more of us and our ability to put one foot in front of the other and get through the day. People with chronic illnesses, exhausted mothers, overworked fathers, busy brides-to-be – many have found relief with help of sound baths. Ideally, we would have an assortment of stimulating days and restful days, or even busier and calmer hours during the day. But there are times when we have to give our all and then some, and in these instances more frequent relaxation sessions with gong will be a great support.


I read the claims that sound baths treat headaches, pain syndromes and other illness, but I am skeptical. How is that possible?

The harmonics of gong sound baths are capable of aiding chronic stress reduction, activation of self-healing through parasympathetic nervous system dominance; helping to ease headaches, fatigue, digestive unease, muscular spasms and menstrual pains. Insomniacs or those with interrupted sleep report improved sleep, often after the first session; those with depression find renewed sense of wellness and purpose and people who have long been disconnected from their body find new awareness and appreciation of their wholeness and physiology. Healing and cell repair is only possible when parasympathetic nervous system is dominant – that is why people with chronic stress tend to have poor physical health and slow wound healing. Once we get into that bliss – anything the body has to repair gets dealt with, and the longer we stay in parasympathetic dominance, the deeper the healing process. 


I often hear that after people lie down for the sound bath and go through guided relaxation I offer before I start playing the instruments, they become acutely aware of tension in their neck and shoulders and lower back. These are common stress points for all of us who don’t have good posture (who does?), but going through the day we shun pain signals and power through. Naturally, when you lie down to relax, the body finally has a chance to express the pain, and you actually have a chance to hear it. Relaxing regularly and employing simple postural exercises on the daily basis can help with these pains, too.I find that gong helps me personally to overcome jet lag. I’ve experimented with herbal teas, melatonin based jet lag supplements, valerian root, and gong sound baths, hands down, are the best remedy to put me to restful, prolonged sleep, even with 8-hour lag.


What frequencies are your gongs? Are there magic frequencies?

432Hz has been touted as a “magic frequency” which singing bowls, tuning forks, gongs and other traditional instruments supposedly employ as their base frequency, but this seems to be closer to wishful thinking rather than reality. I am not a sound engineer, nor have I done lab research with sound, but some people have. This article has a great summary of myths and facts surrounding the magic frequency and the basic takeaway is that it does not really exist and that tuning of the instruments is a matter of conscious choice. Yet the work of Fabien Maman, a fellow acupuncturist and sound healer, specifies frequencies beneficial for certain organs. 


There is a direct link between lowered blood pressure and listening to music, regardless of frequency: ‘A total of 48 adults ages 45 to 70 who were taking medication to control mild hypertension took part in the study. Of these, 28 listened to 30 minutes of “rhythmically homogenous” classical, Celtic or raga music daily while practicing slow, controlled breathing exercises. The remaining 20 participants, serving as the control group, made no changes to their daily routine. Blood pressure readings obtained one and four weeks later showed that systolic blood pressure – the top number in the blood pressure reading – dropped significantly in the music listeners. In contrast, the control group experienced only small, non-significant reductions in blood pressure.” Bottom line, music makes us feel good and lowers blood pressure.


I currently own and play four gongs: 2 symphonic and 1 planetary from Paiste and a custom WOM. Only one of them, the planetary Nibiru, has indication of frequency on a sticker, and the rest are not concerned with such details. They have distinctive voices, get deep and moody during rainy days (oh, how I love to play gongs on a rainy day!), and are really hard to pin down precisely with a frequency measuring app. Where I strike on the surface of the gong, what mallet I use, what technique I use and with which force, how big the space I play at is – there are so many variables that make sound fabric of each session unique. Most often gongstas call these sounds “planetary”, “cosmic”, “other-worldly”, and whether you choose to believe in frequency unicorns or not, you will reap the health benefits of sound bath relaxation.


Are gongs and singing bowls the same?

In short – gongs are more powerful, based on their shape and size. Bowls are deep, concave instruments and a lot of vibrations are contained inside the bowl, as if soup, and they are great for placing on the body and playing in a smaller space, although some giant singing bowls can accomodate even an adult curled up inside. 


The sounds of bowls and gongs are quite different. Flat thin gongs, also known as tamtams, swing back and forth while played, creating gusts of wind that carries sound further. It is much easier to agitate the gong with a mallet than it is a singing bowl, and some contemporary bowls are made of crystals which require fairly delicate touch of the rim. I happen to be in love with the gongs – but I have singing bowls in my arsenal, too. Just because cello is more powerful doesn’t mean we need to cancel out violin.


I hope this demystifies a few things about sound baths and answers important questions, if you have any more – please let me know! I will be happy to see you in a gong bath!


In resonance,


Valeria 

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22440225https://patricialohan.com/sound-healing-can-cure/

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-listening-music/listening-to-music-found-to-lower-blood-pressure-idUSCOL65690420080516

https://journals.lww.com/jcardiovascularmedicine/Abstract/2014/06000/African_drumming___a_holistic_approach_to_reducing.2.aspxhttps://steemit.com/music/@iksnerd/432-hz-the-magical-frequency

How to maintain parasympathetic bliss

Parasympathetic bliss is a term I started using to describe post-gong bath the state of being completely empty, yet completely full, wanting for nothing and being simply content to exist. This is what parasympathetic nervous system dominance feels like, when we give it space to switch on and do its job of repairing the body. 

There are people who attend my gong baths or book Reiki sessions with me regularly to keep it blissful, but many busy urbanites have to find ways to extend relaxation beyond a few days post-session, and it is not always an easy task in such bustling city as Shanghai. I described my dragon lady toolkit before, and here are more very small, simple steps that can help to maintain your well-deserved bliss. Most importantly, it does not require adding anything to your life, this one is all about subtracting – I feel relief from this approach just as I am typing this! 

Maybe you will remove things one by one, giving yourself a week or two to adjust to new habit before proceeding. Maybe you just go cold-turkey – it’s all highly personal and I am not surprised when people tell me they have intuitively been adopting this approach.

So, for the sake of extending the calm after a gong bath or Reiki session, after calming acupuncture, if you are experiencing anxiety, for our stable, healthy nervous system and thriving mental health:

No reading news – this one was huge for me. I understand, there is value in being informed, sometimes directly related to the job one does. For those living overseas it can be another link to home country. But at one point I realized for me it was an awful habit of loading my brain with horrors of the world first thing in the morning, when I was reading 2(!) news apps on my way to work. I removed both, and it’s been a few years of “blissful ignorance”. 

“Headline stress disorder” is a psychological term that surfaced in 2016, and it describes anxiety, depression and hopelessness as results of being tuned to the news around the clock, which is especially tough on empaths. It is not surprising, that it would fuel emotional eating, sleeplessness and general sense of overwhelm. I remember hearing Oprah Winfrey describe in an interview about her career how everyone eventually becomes desensitized to the tragedies, and news outlets have to make everything bigger, bolder, louder, just to get through. My mental health is more important at this point than having some conversation starters from newsfeed.

No horror movies or blockbusters or computer games – same idea. Yes, an adult probably knows it’s all make-believe, but just knowing it is not enough and it all looks awfully realistic these days. The same neurological pathways that process the sensationalist news headlines are involved in processing this load of fantasy world, and movies are very good at creating anticipation, fear, shock and all the other emotions by artfully manipulating visuals and sound. Where there is emotion, there is biochemical feedback, and while the guts and glory on the screen are fake, the anxiety is very much real. 

No coffee. It’s delicious (well, some of it for some of people:), it’s synonymous with energetic start of the mornings, and you can’t take a step without seeing a new hipster roastery pop up. It is also a VERY strong stimulant that can be associated, in large quantities, with osteoporosis, adrenal fatigue and even menstrual disorders due to strong action on body’s hormonal regulation. 

I just had a conversation with a friend who quit coffee recently – she said first couple of days withdrawal headaches were bad, but manageable, and then she experienced such profound improvement in quality of her sleep that it instantly cancelled out all the temporary negative symptoms she had.

When you are tired – you need to rest, not borrow energy from your future self by downing a cup of coffee, which is basically stress in a cup that taxes your adrenals, elevates cortisol and disrupts blood sugar regulation. Stable blood sugar is the biological basis of calm, so while you are at it, avoid sweets, including date and cacao energy bites. I love me some raw cacao desserts, but they are caffeine wrapped in sugar all the same.

Careful with tea as well – it has very strong stimulating properties as well, especially if tea leaves are ingested whole, like matcha. If you want something to awaken your senses in the morning, lemongrass and ginger infusions are excellent, just cut up fresh spices and steep in boiled water. 

Minimalism – not giving away every last thread, but a “meaningful life with less” as perfectly described by The Minimalists duo, Ryan and Joshua. They have a book, a great podcast and a documentary, and are the most non-judgmental minimalistic duo ever. To me it feels like everything we own takes up space in our auras, and adding possessions can feel like a burden. We spend energy to earn money that we use to buy things that will later require energy to be maintained, dusted, stored, and even flea-marketed, that is a lot of energy spent on stuff. Everyone’s minimalism will look different, but some areas that immediately come to my mind are:

1)    Kitchen. We are so inundated with the need to eat variety, that we often end up with load of items that perish before we consume them. I did a series on home cooking that touches on everything from basic kitchen equipment to pantry to storage that can help keep you stay nourished and minimize waste. I am not a minimalist kitchen owner, but I like my organized clutter of gadgets, spices and a giant freezer. My minimalism is sticking to just a few fresh items in weekly shop, cooking bulk and eating “leftovers” for days, I’m happy with that.

2) Skincare, haircare and makeup. With all the product layering, must-haves and rainbow highlighters I would probably leave the house by 3 pm, so I keep it really simple and the 17.5-step programs are really not my thing.

3) Cushions, throws and rugs, travel memorabilia, wall art, books on shelves, vases and trinkets, photography walls and vignettes – every item creates visual anchor and to me they seem overwhelming. And each one has to be dusted. There is a reason spas are so minimalistic, and mid-century modern and Scandinavian styles haven’t gone out of fashion for what feels like decades – there is so much space and beauty in restraint. Have you ever been to a Japanese zen garden? When I grow up that’s what I want my garden to be like! My souvenir trick on travels is to buy spices or foods and natural kitchen towels – and while I cook with them and wipe with them, I am always reminded of the great time on a trip.

4)   Digital clutter. As of today, I have 14,168 pictures in my phone memory and about 28G of podcasts. Cleanup is in order *shocked emoji*

5)    Wardrobe. Full closet with nothing to wear? Or just things that we didn’t really like but purchased to feel better, or to change things up, but slide back into comfort quickly? Reasons are many, footprint is enormous and fashion marketing is relentless. Along with phone picture memory, this one is probably the hardest one to just declutter once and for all, as gatekeeping is in order afterwards to prevent new things flooding in. How is your wardrobe minimalism expressed?

Marie Kondo’s book “The life-changing magic of tidying” can be a great starting point, her ideas about clutter are way beyond “throw everything away” but more about giving yourself permission to live with less and only the things you truly cherish. If you do declutter – there are many ways to find new life for your old items through second-hand groups, giveaway groups, swaps or open houses, charity donations and recycling projects for things that are beyond repair. I use WeBox and Green Initiatives Re:form boxes for electronics and worn-our textiles.

I hope you give yourself permission to drop some things from your plate and find more bliss, and sustain this state. Whether in sound vortex of a gong bath, or through meditation, yin yoga, acupunture and myriad other modalities, make sure to take daily sips of rest. Just lying down and thinking of nothing for 20 minutes a day can bring a sense of inner space and being one with the Force.

Blissfully,

Valeria

What is distance Reiki treatment?

Reiki is a form of energy transfer therapy that works on the body holistically – on physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels. In my previous article, I dove deep into what Reiki is, the basics of how it works and the ethics of my practice.


What is a distance Reiki treatment?

It is Reiki energy healing that is sent via distance, when practitioner and receiver are not located at the same rooms, cities or even continents.

Some of the most emblematic items of distance energy work, are, perhaps, voodoo dolls, that are dramatically pierced and pricked with needles in multiple movies, causing great discomfort to protagonists. While this strong magical practice, voodoo, is not often depicted to be used for the benefit of the receiver, we probably have sensationalist filmmakers to blame for such inaccurate perception and false attribution of atrocious practices to voudon religion. Voodoo (voudon) is a rich, complex animistic spiritual practice that calls on many gods and spirits to help heal and promote wellbeing, and it is not limited to stuffed figurines and pins. Speaking of dolls and needles, as an acupuncturist, I would love to one day get access to an MRI machine, some volunteer patients and test out how well distance acupuncture can work! After all, as acupuncturists we also manipulate energy running in the body’s meridians.

People who come to my Reiki and gong sessions often unknowingly point to meridians described by TCM, when they recall electric sensations running through their bodies. Distance Reiki treatments are just as effective as hands-on therapy, since the energy field has no boundaries. Just like radio waves and WiFi connect while staying invisible, Reiki sent over distance heals, and while it does remain invisible, the sensations of both therapist and receiver can be very vivid and obvious.


The skill of sending Reiki via distance is usually taught during the second level of Reiki practitioner course. It includes three sacred distance symbols and a proxy – a stuffed toy, pillow or folded blanket that be used as a stand-in and help visualise the areas of the body. The practitioner energetically connects to the person they are treating, and administers the treatment in the same way a hands-on session would go – gently moving hands along the areas corresponding with major chakras, noticing if any messages arrive or particular areas feel different. Both the sender and the recipient may feel the effects of energy transfer: heat, cold, tingling or vibration, seeing colors, or not much at all.


 For a beginner, it can be challenging to calm down the rational mind, the intellect, as our mental body tends to question everything: how is it possible? Is it working? Are my hands placed on the teddy bear’s liver now?? It is the skeptical part of us that is crucial for discernment, but can be a weak spot when we deal with delicate energy matters.  

Strong mental bodies are what drives research – including MRI studies of distance energetic treatments – but they also sometimes limit our perception of things that can’t be measured, at least not just yet. This meta-study of Reiki shows […there may be a scientific explanation for Reiki therapy to be found in quantum physics, a branch of physics studies extremely small particles and attempts to describe the interactions of energy and matter. Not only can these very tiny particles be in more than one place at once, some theorists say they have to be in more than one place at the same time (Rosenblum & Kuttner, 2006) … Biofield energy may be gathered and directed by the practitioner to the recipient as explained by quantum physics, e.g., thought produces change in how the particles work (Rosenblum & Kuttner, 2006). Distance healing may be explained by energy particles being simultaneously present at the location and time of the Reiki practitioner and the location and time of the recipient through the intention of the Reiki practitioner.


Not all Reiki practitioners are quantum physicists, and beginners often have to go on pure faith, at least until they amass multiple evidence of accuracy of their readings. A proxy, toy or pillow, allows to direct the awareness to a tangible object and helps the beginner to connect. Even when no specific information arrives during those first practice rounds, people on the receiving end who gave their permission to be treated almost always have visions or sensations of energy running through. 


I, too, had to clock in hours with a stuffed toy, airplane pillows and yoga bolsters to learn to trust my intuition and psychic skill. I still use them now, but for a different reason – they are a nice platform for crystals when those are used for treatment, a great hand-warmer and just an overall comforter to allow me to drop quickly and deeply into theta state to channel Reiki.

Later in my Reiki development, I trained in weeklong, full-time DPA meditation course, Developing Psychic Awareness, and learned to send treatments without use of a stand-in, and those are just as effective. Over time, the more treatments practitioner gives, the stronger and more clear intuition becomes. Each practitioner has a set of skills that one way or another contributes to their treatment structure and clarity of information they receive, regardless if they see someone in person or over distance. Some people see auras and spirits since childhood, some are born with mediumship abilities, some utilize intellectual knowledge they consciously acquired. My training in co-active coaching helps during post-treatment chats when we dive into information and see what this may mean to a person and how to move forward. There are many MDs, acupuncturists, osteopaths, nurses, massage therapists, counselors and psychologists who practice Reiki and benefit from having several healing skillsets.  

For me, another quantum leap in quality of readings after DPA happened when I started medical school and learned detailed, clinical human anatomy and physiology plus TCM meridians and points maps. I started seeing bodies as if on colored 3D X-ray/MRI combo, with organs and systems highlighted differently when there are physical health issues, emotional congestions, old injuries or pain, with energy meridians sparkling and guiding me to the source of discomfort.  This does not mean I will be listing every busted knee someone had since the age they started climbing trees, but deep, fibrotic scar tissue conducts energy poorly compared to healthy tissues, and over time can contribute to gaps in body’s electromagnetic field and nutrient delivery and tissue detox surrounding the area.

From my experience, people often report sensations of intense, but not unpleasant heat, in the area of damage. When scar involves joints, they often feel improved mobility after the treatment. 

Who opts for distance treatments?

Anyone and everyone who has no ability to be physically present have opted for distance treatments. 

Some people have been coming regularly, but moved away and want to continue the work. 

Some prefer privacy and comfort of their own homes, when they can receive treatment and roll into bed straight after, instead of a long commute. 

Some are not physically well with acute illness or a flare-up of chronic ailment, and want an extra boost to their healing.

Some have relatives and friends who come to see me “offline” regularly and trust word-of-mouth recommendations more than searching for a practitioner in the area. 

Some have temporary difficulty scheduling their regular hands-on session in, and so we schedule our meetings for their airplane or commute time.

In the same way, if I am traveling, we find the way to work over distance. I have the luxury of access to some of the best Reiki healers in Shanghai and use their “offline” services, and I still receive regular distant treatments. Over time not just Reiki, but a relationship with the therapist contributes to sessions, and if we got to know each other well and trust each other deeply while living in the same place, there is no reason why we can’t continue sessions over distance. We laugh about old triggers resurfacing, marvel at similarities and parallels in our lives, empathize the transitions and refer our own wellness team members – therapists, coaches, other professionals. When the going gets rough, I’ll take all the help I can – hands-on and over energy WiFi. 

Reasons to choose distance Reiki sessions are many, but healing is always deep. I am based in Shanghai, China, and I travel regularly, but this doesn’t prevent Reiki I send from reaching across the world. I worked with a criminal lawyer in Europe who was going through a particularly rough case and wanted to get neutrality and peacefulness for the proceedings.

I sent healing to a young mother-to-be in the United States who was getting anxious before delivery.

I saw a relative in another continent through a prolonged illness.

I sent healing to people’s dying relatives all over the world, to ease their pain and suffering.

I treat a few people with autoimmune conditions, both during flare-ups when they are hospitalized and cannot be present in person, and during quiet times.

I continue working with former Shanghai residents who moved, but have had Reiki on their roster for years and find a lot of healing and personal growth.

I try to help rescuers with sick or missing rescue animals. Together with other healers, we support people (and even their pets) from our tribe when they go through life’s difficult transitions, illnesses and losses.  

What comes through in distance Reiki session?

Short answer: the same information that would surface in a hands-on session. I offer free distance group treatments on auspicious days like new moons and full moons, which does not include a personal reading, but very specific personal messages do seep through for those who really need to hear them at the moment, and they are always accurate.

A woman once enrolled, with their permission, two relatives into a distance full moon session. I have not seen their pictures, was not told what ailed them (not because I wanted a double-blind study, but it’s hard to collect personal stories from 50+ people that usually enroll into distance treatments), just knew their names. I still remember now (and I am sharing this with their permission), one of three ladies had a very tight jaw and wound in the mouth that energy was healing, another one had severe constipation and the third one had a small energetic congestion in her ovary, all visible in my “3D Reiki anatomical body scanner”. Very clear information came through for them personally, which I forwarded and went to bed – we had a huge time difference. 


The next morning message came – one lady bit her lip in unfortunate way and the flap in her mouth was very painful, but it disappeared overnight after distance Reiki. The second one usually needed coffee before she could eliminate in the morning – and she woke up that day and headed to the bathroom before she could even take a sip of water. The third was in menopause for 9 years by then, but felt some movement in her lower abdomen and discovered she bled for a few hours, which was painless and resolved on the same day. From my knowledge, her health checkups were up-to-date and she had no gynecological issues. Of course, Reiki is not a panacea and definitely not a replacement for medical care, even if administered by an MD – so I always urge people to monitor their health and assemble their personal wellness team, so everything is covered, from allopathic to naturopathic. 

Receiving distance Reiki

Receiving the distance treatment is most effective when people take time and care to receive it – not enroll themselves into the list or book a private session and forget about it. I encourage to lie down and rest, to meditate or receive in your sleep (works well when time zones separate us). Several times, I have messaged with personal information that came through in the group treatment, for people to admit they forgot about it, were doing something else “to be productive” or “not feeling much” as they were out and about. This never happened when people booked 1:1 treatments, but occured during group sessions. How we do anything is how we do everything – if we hope to get benefits, there is the giving part and the receiving part, the yang and the yin, the respect toward the energy and the practitioner who offers their time and effort without asking for payment (some people want to contribute to charity as gratitude for free group treatment – I am eternally grateful to those who have been doing that over the years!). Energy is a subtle force, and feeling and receiving it requires a bit of quiet concentration. 

Being in the middle of a loud dinner and booking oneself for a Reiki healing session at the same time is just not the best choice. In the same manner, booking in friends or relatives whom people believe would benefit from the treatment, without asking their permission, is not the best idea. A person needs to fulfill their part of the deal, to show up to the rendezvous, to show respect to the energy and the healer’s time, to be mindful of their choices and requests, so energy can work with their aura. Sometimes, it is not an outward “Yes”, as people may be out of consciousness, and pets don’t often talk, but allowing space of quiet and asking the question from a meditative, not panicking mind, will always yield an answer. Of course, families request healing for those who may be in coma, out of consciousness due to trauma or post-surgically, but there is usually an understanding of Reiki and recepient’s general openness to Reiki.

In a few cases, people said they felt such overwhelming emotional feedback, they were glad to have allocated the time to be alone during their 1:1 and group healings and really RECEIVE, and have the space to break down and really feel everything out, sobbing, moving, shaking, being sad and overwhelmed with waves of emotion, but still feeling the healing. Truth is, healing is not about unicorns and rainbows and accepting an analgesic and instantly feeling better, sometimes healing means dismantling and destroying first: to build a better foundation on the ruins, to let the light in through the cracks. 

How to receive distance Reiki?

In the perfect world, people try to follow these recommendations, but if you have no choice but to be squeezed in the small airplane seat, take care of children, or wear a corseted gown and receive Reiki on your long limo ride to Nobel prize dinner – we take what we can! So, absolutely no judgement if these conditions are not aligned. A present, relaxed mind and nervous system intending to accept healing is a great start. But if you are ready to make a true ritual for yourself and allow the energy to soothe and rock you gently:

Wear comfortable clothes that don’t disturb lymphatic circulation. Remove tight jeans, elastic bands, belts, bras – they squeeze delicate layers of the skin and fascia, where many energy meridians run and prevent lymph from moving. Detox is all about lymphatic cleansing of waste. Every emotion has biochemical messenger molecule in the body, so we want the passageways to be unobstructed as we work on layers of the body with Reiki.

Allocate 90 minutes of your time and find the space where you won’t be interrupted or disturbed much. Young mothers, who don’t have extra pair of hands for childcare, often opt to nap with their little ones, or, when time zones are on our sides, schedule their sessions for nighttime. Some stay in bed, some lie down on the floor with comfy props in any of the restorative yoga poses – legs up the wall, extended yin forward fold, savasana, some prefer to sit in meditation on the floor, chair or sofa. Falling asleep is a great sign of nervous system relaxing! This is the reason I don’t recommend lighting a candle or incense if you are alone at home when you receive distance treatment. By all means, smudge your sacred space beforehand, but make sure to put the fires out before you lie down.

Reiki treatment lasts between 45-60 minutes, and then we choose one of the following: an email or text follow up, which is preferred when time zones differ drastically, or a 15-20 minute Skype call immediately, or later, to chat face to face and go over the information that came through. 

Try not to schedule strenuous activities, physical or social, after the session. Some feel lightness and ease, some need to have a good cry and stay alone – healing comes in all shapes and forms. Many say they are sleepy and ready for bed, some become so energized they can (and do) train for marathons. Nervous system receives a tremendous amount of electromagnetic energy during Reiki treatments, sometimes it needs time and care to recalibrate, but it is hard to predict what individual reaction will be before the session.

Drink a lot of water or herbal teas and avoid any stimulating foods and beverages – coffee, tea, adaptogens, cacao, sugar, for a day (or several) after. This applies to a lot of healing modalities – acupuncture, Reiki, sound healing and many more. Spending all this time and effort to bring the nervous system down into the state of parasympathetic bliss, about which I wrote beforeis quickly undone by injecting cortisol-stimulating substances. Water is the universal solvent that will help flush any dislodged molecules of emotion that are not necessary anymore.

But, again, if things don’t align perfectly, don’t let it stop you. I had some luxurious, long Reiki naps by the ocean, but I have also received Reiki on long subway and taxi rides on my way to airports and exams, hacking the noise with headphones that played gong recordings, and using my scarf or hat as impromptu eye mask. I get and give distance treatments like a pro on the planes – with my customs playlists, noise-cancelling headphones, smidge of essential oil and my favorite sleeping mask (I am always auditioning new favorites!), I am not bothered by loud hum of engines, blue screens, food smells and flight attendants.

If you are ready to receive Reiki, whether in person or through distance, connect with me through Wechat or email, WholisticTherapiesShanghai@gmail.com, to book a session. I hope whichever way healing comes to your life, your mind will be present and relaxed to receive it!

Valeria

Reiki Healing: tried and tested

The article below was written by Claire Lily Squire for ShanghaiWOW! and I am reposting it here with permission from the author. She is incredibly brave to talk openly about her deep emotional experience connected to Reiki. Please understand that this sincerity was both Claire’s personal choice and part of her journalism assignment to describe her personal experience, and that depth and intensity of personal reactions may vary.

I had no influence on her opinions or editing of the article apart from verifying details. To learn more about my approach and code of conduct please read this article I wrote covering Reiki as energy transfer therapy. Word to Claire now!

I have been hearing a lot about Reiki from friends lately. One of those friends once traveled to Thailand to be a Reiki healer and claimed he could heal my foot while I slept, while another friend had an unexpected life-changing Reiki session from the comfort of her own living room. I tend not to be a massive believer in mystical things (apart from ghosts which are obviously real), so I went along to a Reiki session to find out what it was all about.

What is Reiki?

Reiki is mash-up of two Japanese words: Rei – which means ‘higher power’ or ‘god’s wisdom’, and Ki which means ‘Life force energy’. Stick the two together and you have something like ‘spiritually-guided lifeforce energy’.

Reiki healing is based on the idea that there is a limitless supply of ‘life force energy’ all around us. A trained Reiki healer can tap into this life force and channel it into the body of their patients. The basic idea is that if you are physically, mentally or emotionally unwell, then your life force energy is low and it essentially needs ‘topping up’.

Most Reiki healers practice a little differently from one another, but they all lay their hands on a persons body and channel life force into it.

What does Reiki feel like?

After spending quite a pleasant afternoon reading up about Reiki, I decided to give it a shot. I got in touch with Shanghai-based Russian Valeria and met her in her home studio where she practices Reiki and explained the process to me.

She asked me to lie on a massage table (fully clothed), placed small crystals over my body, and just told me to relax and shut my eyes. She said that she would work her way down my body by placing her hands on different chakra points and that she would often learn things about the people she works on – about their body or their mental state – and that we would discuss that together at the end of our session.

As Valeria placed her hands on my head and I listened to the very stereotypical ‘spa’ music, I prepared myself for a much-needed nap.

To my surprise, I didn’t drift off at all at the beginning. I saw what seemed to be bright flashes of swirling blue and yellow colors in my eye lids. These blues and yellows would ebb and flow and change colors. As she moved her hands to my chest, the colors became much more intense, almost darting around behind my eye lids. Then she moved to my stomach and the colors faded away entirely and from then on, I drifted off.

Valeria woke me up gently and it was like waking up from the best sleep of my life. I was a little disorientated and slightly embarrassed that I had so fully nodded off. She left the room for a moment and gave me some time to collect myself.

When she came back, we sat down and discussed what she had found when giving me the Reiki session. She said that my liver was working very hard, and that I had been drinking a lot lately (It was a Monday morning, so yes). She gently suggested I put the wine down and pick up some green tea for a few days.

She asked me if I had had an important relationship in the summer of 2013, to which I replied that affirmatively. She said that there were still things I needed to work through from this. I was a little puzzled as I feel like I have resolved all my feelings from that. We discussed the idea that absorbing positives are as important as ‘getting over’ negatives from any relationship. I decided to spend some time thinking about this.

Most spookily she asked me if something violent had happened to me around my home in December 2017. I immediately felt my heart racing and replied that yes I had. I was mugged outside of my apartment in Shanghai by three guys who roughed me up a fair bit before a passerby stopped them. She asked me if I had fully dealt with this and I replied that I hadn’t. She said that this was blocking a chakra in my chest, which explains the bright colors that were flashing and swooping around behind my eyes.

I left my session in turmoil. I felt that a lot of things had been brought to the surface. I went to the office and sat staring at my computer screen before realizing that I needed to go home. I needed to cuddle my dog, be on my own for a while and speak to my friends.

Ever since my Reiki session I have begun to deal with some of the things that were brought to the surface, I reached out to people close to me for help and in general, I feel happier and healthier than I have in a long time.

I have gone from being a non-believer to someone who would really recommend Reiki. If you are interested in booking a session or you have any questions about its process, I suggest you get in touch with Valeria using her contact information listed below.

Email: WholisticTherapiesShanghai@gmail.com

WeChat: wholistic_therapies

Price: from RMB 600 per session, packages available.

Gong bath: aftermath

Over the past 5 years I have had the privilege of playing gongs for more than two thousand people in Shanghai. Each session has been unique both in sound and energy.

Partially it is due to the fact that it is very hard to play gongs the same way as, let’s say, a piano, following a pattern of composition. Gongs keep sounding long after you strike them with a mallet and create multitude of overtones, so any sort of rhythm is lost, and they also sound differently based on weather, humidity, phases of the moon and, probably, my mood, even I always aim to staying neutral.

Another part is group energy – every time different people gather and set intentions, we have a cocktail of personal vibrations, and each gets what they need – some go astral-travel, some get lost in a blend of sound and color, some sleep all the way through.

Then comes day after – and many questions and experiences that people share with me. I have collected some frequently asked questions and explanations – to the extent that my training as gong player and future TCM doctor allows.

If you are new to the gong, please check my previous article here.

How does it work?

In short: entrainment. Entrainment means synchronization, in which two objects start moving with the same cadence. In sound bath that would be synchronization of the brainwaves with the frequency of the sound. With sound waves taking center stage in your head during the sound bath we hopefully get to either enter state of thoughtlessness or uncover unprocessed emotions to clear them out and then get to “blank space”.  The brain is not able to analyze the complexity of overtones as soon as gongs start playing in full force, so it gives up, allowing lower frequency brainwaves to take over – that is why we say that gongs have the power to alter brainwaves and consciousness.

What happens physically in the body follows – relaxed mind is a relaxed body, since they are one and the same “bodymind”. When we are relaxed, especially since most gong sound baths are received lying down, parasympathetic nervous system takes over and further enhances true relaxation.

Parasympathetic nervous system dominance is a primary state for healing and recovery, both from a hard day at work and from life trauma, illness or permanent stress. Any practice which allows deep relaxation is beneficial for overall well-being, as only in “rest-and-digest” mode the body is able to take notes on what needs repair and get to business of fixing it. I call this state “parasympathetic bliss” and my students seem to agree that gong evokes blissfulness.

I could not relax, was I doing something wrong?

Is it impossible to take a sound bath “wrong”, so first of all lay off the judgement. Typically, sound baths are marketed, for lack of a better word, as practice of relaxation, but we forget the key word: practice. How long has it been since you allowed yourself to fully relax, and I mean stare-into-the-abyss-blissfully kind of relax? If it’s been a while, then your relaxation “muscle” is likely to be weak and all it needs is a bit of practice and time to grow stronger.

The kind of relaxation that places us in repair mode is often not what we happen to reach for when we try to unwind. Movies and digital media are strong stimulants for the brain via optical nerve, and glass of red may overwhelm the already tired liver. A great movie can be relaxing, and dinner with friends and a few bottles of fermented grape juice as nourishing for the soul as a month with a therapist, but make sure to include some time alone with yourself in silence.

A long shower, a sneaky nap in a meeting room, a lie-down on the floor when you come home after work, just to allow yourself to switch over to home mode, or a meditation session – they all train the mind and the body to just be.

Typically, the more sessions you attend to train yourself to relax, the faster you will be able to drop down into calm, and regular spiritual practice of any kind – meditation, prayer, journaling – will help to ease off the intensity of deeper and longer sessions like sound baths.

Is it normal that it felt intense? Why do I feel so emotional?

Yes, intensity is just as normal as complete relaxation. Depending on what you are going through and how fully you have allowed yourself to express some emotions, they may rise up to the surface and demand to be noticed. It is not socially acceptable to anger, to rage, or to act “unprofessionally” (whatever that means), so at the end of the day all of the emotional imprints are bottled in.

In the same way, if grief was not given enough time or loss has not been fully felt, they would rise and possibly bring tears, either during or after the session. Relaxation with gongs mirrors back to us what we have not yet had the chance to process, consciously or subconsciously avoiding it.

It sounds a little fluffy, “emotions can get stuck and we need to release them” but having studied physiology I can assure you that every emotion has a very concrete chemical formula. “Molecules of emotion” is a phenomenal book that will help to understand how emotions influence our physical bodies.

Why do I see sound as color?

This phenomenon is called “synesthesia”. Simply put, when we stimulate one neurological pathway (hearing, in the case of sound bath) another cognitive pathway lights up. Most people tell me about seeing colors that match different tones. Synesthesia is not only related to sound, some synesthetes perceive texture in response to sight, hear sounds in response to smells, or associate shapes with flavors. I have heard that many professional musicians are synesthetes – may it be a reason why world of music is so enticing to those who dream of becoming musicians? I don’t know, but a few times I have experienced it I was utterly fascinated.

Why am I so thirsty?

I always warn people that they need to stay hydrated for the next 24 hours and recommend avoiding caffeine in any form as it can be more dehydrating.

I have to be really honest here: I do not know the exact reason why, but my thinking is that sound waves give a micro-massage to the body tissues and entrain cells to vibrate in healthy pattern. There is a theory that every cell of the body has its own healthy frequency – the liver, the heart, the connective tissue. Sound vibrations of gongs are believed to contain many overtones that match the frequency of healthy cells, which entrains them to drop the dead weight of toxins into the interstitial fluid. This cellular detox causes kidneys, which constantly filter blood, to dump contaminated body water to be expelled via urine, and we feel thirsty.

Another explanation that I heard from other sound practitioners and my teacher is that sound travels faster in water. Due to high content of water in our body, we basically rock the tub and it spills out from the cells, carrying away the toxins.

Either way, hydrate and hydrate and hydrate more and stick to herbal tea and water instead of tea, coffee, cacao and energy drinks.

If thirst persists no matter how much you drink, add a pinch of sea salt or Himalayan salt to your water, load up on celery and cucumber juice, the electrolyte champs, or eat some watermelon, if in season. I recommend avoiding commercial electrolyte drinks due to sugar, colorants, fragrances and preservatives.

Why do I have a headache?

Most likely dehydration and cellular detox, as mentioned before. It may also have to do with releasing mental and emotional blockages from the energetic body, and physical body is “catching up”. When people have Reiki or gong sessions with me in which we uncover old trauma and blocking patterns, and when I go through intense healing sessions myself, I may feel under the weather and I take it as a sign of a good release.

Hydrate well, move around in any comfortable manner – whether a brisk walk or a full sweaty workout or a good stretch – and avoid additional stimulation by sound, smell or too much interaction.

Why do I need more sleep or feel low on energy?

It is very likely that prior to attending a gong bath you were hustling, handling and fixing like a boss and your body was habitually producing high amounts of cortisol and adrenaline to keep you focused, fast and together. Finally allowing your nervous system to relax gave a signal that it’s safe to switch gears and finally get to long-overdue repair, and it is very hard to get back up to crazy levels of stress again.

People ask if it means that I would recommend holding off with sound baths or any other modalities until they have time to relax. There is a difference between not planning a loud dinner after a session and not taking any time for yourself for months, hoping that one day all the to-do’s will magically be crossed off the list. Pushing oneself for weeks on end as akin to driving a car with a flat tire thinking that you can fix it all together when all 4 wheels get a flat.

My recommendation in most cases is – take sips of bliss daily instead of running yourself to the ground first, when only CPR would revive you. Any athlete would tell you that muscles grow strength during rest, not during the workout. It is the same with everything in the body – we repair and grow stronger only on the periods of rest.

I couldn’t sleep, why is that?

Most often people who report that cannot sleep tell me they had recent change, trauma or massive stress that they didn’t have time to process properly, so during the gong bath all of it was rising to the surface.

Few reported that they were visited by ancestors and spirits and that energy kept them awake. I recommend energetically cleansing your space on a regular basis so that only spirits of highest of good are allowed in. I use white ceremonial grade sage and therapeutic resin-based incense, plus Reiki energy to cleanse the healing space before and after each session.

Sometimes in conversation it turned out that people had to continue working on their computers or had social events after the session, so that circadian rhythm was interrupted. Make sure to control your screen time before bed, even if you have brightness regulators and blue blockers installed and reduce the amount of stimulants like caffeine and sugar in the diet. When you use pick-me-ups you are running on borrowed energy and overstimulating nervous system, which can interfere with sleep as well.

Just like I mentioned before, relaxation “muscle” can get weaker when we lack practice, and for someone who is always ON it can be hard to let go. While it is not pleasant to toss and turn all night, try to stay calm, do a few rounds of slow, deep, diaphragmatic breath or sit up to meditate. Chances are you will soon be able to fall asleep.

Why do I feel electricity running through my limbs?

Vibration of the sound travels through all the tissues in the body, not just the brain. People often tell me they felt heat and pressure in the areas of old trauma, and several participants with lower back pain reported feeling of heat and comfort not just during the session, but the next day as well.

Vibrations try to break through the scar tissue, activating blood circulation, and that can explain the sensations of warmth and pressure. When people point to the areas on their limbs where they felt electricity, I see them often corresponding to meridians in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Some described it as the sensation they get when they receive acupuncture. Sound is energy, and it is possible that for those with more body sensitivity it’s easier to feel subtle, or not so subtle, qi movement.

I have experimented with acupuncture plus gong bath on a couple of willing subjects and they reported that wave of sound gently trembled the needles, adding gentle stimulation, yet it was more pleasant than typical twisting and thrusting with the needle that we sometimes employ in acupuncture sessions for stronger effects on certain patients.

Is it safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding period?

Yes, my teacher Don Conreaux always says gongs are suitable for anyone, he only cautions us to play gently when pregnant women are present or to move them further away from the gongs when we play “the big boys” in a large space as baby ears are sensitive.

I also asked my mom this question – she is a neonatal pediatrician and an obstetrician with 25 years of medical practice. Her answer was “if a mother is feeling great during the session, the baby will also enjoy it, but if mother keeps thinking and worrying if it could potentially negatively affect the baby, it’s best to avoid it”.

Just like some women continue to lift weights and run during pregnancy and some are ordered to stay on bedrest, there is not one size fits all, and mother feels and knows best.

I had women at various stages of pregnancy enjoy the sessions – and some came throughout, from first few months up to 38 weeks. The biggest challenge is positioning yourself comfortably on the floor – but I have extra bolsters and pillows for that. You know what is best for you in this miraculous period of time.

Do you use recordings in your sessions?

I have to address this one as I have been asked A LOT lately if I add pre-recorded music or sounds to gong sessions, possibly due to the fact that I have expanded my gong park and their sounds are very different and very rich. Or maybe I am getting better at it? Hehe. Either way, I never use recordings!

All the sounds in the session are live and nothing is pre-recorded, apart from the soothing spa-ish music you hear before the session start when you arrive.

I have 3 full-bodied gongs and some other instruments – singing bowls, chimes, drums, rattles and special mallets – that contribute to the fabric of a sound session. I use them to add interest and magic, but I am a gong girl through and through and most of the sounds you hear and feel are gong overtones.

Do you know any gong players in (insert the city or country)?

Chances are that I do – and I have already found some practitioners across the world for Shanghai gongstas who moved. Gong world is a fairly small world and most practitioners have been trained by Don Conreaux himself or some of his senior Gong Masters. If you are moving, or just visiting and happened to come to my gong bath, let me know if you are looking for a practitioner anywhere in the world and I will check with my network.

I hope this answers a lot of post-gong questions. Please know that I am always happy to hear about your gong experiences, so send me an email at WholisticTherapiesShanghai@gmail.com

Reiki – energy transfer therapy

Reiki is a Japanese word for “universal life energy”, which can also be called prana, qi, or even, for Star Wars appreciators among us, “the force”. Reiki is a healing art that is believed to have originated thousands of years ago and carried different names, with the current name originating after a Japanese man named Mikao Usui has re-discovered it again. There are definitely a lot of opinions about what Reiki healing is, ranging between “a bunch of woowoo” to “I don’t know how, but it worked” to “no more pills or surgery for me”, so as a practitioner I want to answer some very frequently asked questions.

A trained Reiki practitioner acts as a channel for the energy and transfers it into the recipients’ body by placing palms over clothed areas that correspond with major 7 chakras in an energetic body. This energy transfer relaxes the nervous system, and the most common results that people report after Reiki treatments are calmness, reduced anxiety, improved sleep quality, digestion and elimination; quickened repair and recovery of wounds and physical trauma, and feeling of lightness and wellbeing. During the session a practitioner may come across congestions that are connected with specific dates, events and people, scan the physical body and check organ functions, and recommend lifestyle modifications or further steps to alleviate pain and continue healing after the treatment.

How is it possible to heal with energy?

Cyndi Dale writes in “The subtle body”: “Everything is made of energy: molecules, pathogens, medicine and even emotions and thoughts. Each one of our cells has electric pulsation, and our tissues, organs and whole bodies are not just physical, but electromagnetic”. Diffusion processes between the cells and capillaries of all the bodies happen due to charge differences in ions – we have electrically charged particles inside of us that are responsible for vital processes. All disease has energetic component – a blood clot in an artery is as much a palpable mass, as it is an energetic mass that blocks the flow of electromagnetic energy. Even the word “physical”, which we typically apply to tangible items, comes from “physics”, the science that studies not just matter but its smallest particles, their behavior and effects of energy (!) and force.

As Bruce Lipton, pioneer of epigenetics, writes in his book “Biology of Belief”, “[cellular] receptor “antennas” can read vibrational energy fields such as light, sound, and radio frequencies. The antennas on these “energy” receptors vibrate like tuning forks. If an energy vibration in the environment resonates with a receptor’s antenna, it will alter the protein’s charge, causing the receptor to change shape […] because receptors can read energy fields, the notion that only physical molecules can impact cell physiology is outmoded. Biological behaviour can be controlled by invisible forces, including thought […]”. This may also explain why Reiki treatments are effective and precise over distance, when the practitioner and receiver are continents apart. I have regular treatments from someone who lives in Europe while I am in Shanghai, I swap treatments with a friend while we travel on airplanes, treat family members on the other side of the world and offer free distance group sessions over full moons. The precision of information that comes after treatments is astonishing. We are all able to connect to universal energy field to channel Reiki and to individual energy fields of willing recipients to scan and offer information and healing. Just like satellite and Wi-Fi allow us to transmit information across space, energy treatments have no boundaries and are not confined to a healing room.

The ethics

Accuracy of information from both hands-on and distance Reiki capabilities sometimes brings up fears from people who do not want to disclose any personal details about themselves and are afraid to be read like an open book. It is true that some people are able to “read” others and deliver very precise information, even when their advice is unsolicited. I have been stopped on the streets several times by “mediums” who have read something in my field. Whether information was true or false was irrelevant, it felt like invasion of privacy. As a practitioner I abide by the rule that a person needs to give me a permission by asking to receive a treatment – booking time for hands-on or distance treatment or enroll their name into a group list.

Diane Stein, a famous Reiki teacher and practitioner, writes in her book “Essential Reiki” that permission is of vital importance as we cannot violate anyone’s free will, but that permission may not only be given on a physical plane. When a practitioner meditates and visualizes the person that may need healing, they ask for permission and depending on whether it is granted or not either proceed with healing or withdraw from offering one, with love and non-judgement. People often ask for healing for their friends and relatives in critical health situations – it is a good idea to check with receiver if they wish to accept the energy.

In the same manner, people often ask if they would receive “bad energy” from the practitioner. The answer is that if a practitioner is properly trained and accepts Reiki as a way of life, they must keep strict personal energy hygiene. Daily meditation and regular self-treatments are our way of life, as well as regular cleansing of the healing space and any tools, both energetically and physically. Another detail is that a practitioner does not transfer their own energy – they channel Reiki from universal field, which means that they are the first “patient” on the way of energy, receiving a healing and at the same time being a clean channel for Reiki.

Reiki treatment is performed with receiver fully clothed, and hand positions are respectful of personal boundaries. In case of open wounds, skin issues, breast cancer, or diseases of urogenital area where Reiki treatment is sought after specifically to help these conditions, Reiki healers hold their hands above the skin, without touching sensitive areas. There are modalities like “Reiki massage” that I came across, where licensed massage therapist performs massage and Reiki energy is flowing, but typically the main focus is on massage therapy, although I would recommend that a client clearly asks the practitioner about what a session entails.

The healing

Reiki works on several layers: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. Depending on severity of congestions and how much energy is required to remove them, recipient may feel tingling, heat, swelling or nothing at all during the session. Old scars sometimes feel like they move in wavelike motion, and energy ziplines through arms and legs (as I study acupuncture I observe that it is often along the meridian lines). Many people fall asleep and snooze happily through the hour, some do not sleep, but go into the sweet theta brainwaves in-between state, not quite awake, yet not asleep. Often when nervous system is in overdrive and finally catches a break, receivers feel sleepy for the rest of the day, of even the next day. Some do a “detox” of emotions and physical body – with heightened awareness and a bit more sensitivity to noise and presence of others. These are typical, but not guaranteed sensations, and many don’t feel anything unusual during or after the treatment.

A very frequently asked question is “how many sessions will I need?”. Even after several years of experience and several hundred treatments my answer is “I don’t know”. I cannot know how different people will respond to energy, in the same way any allopathic medical professional will not be able to tell how long a particular patient will need medication for, except  they can suggest an opinion based on general guidelines, their experience and monitoring particular patient’s condition and blood work. As I mentioned, I get regular treatments, both self-healing and from other Reiki masters. I have met people who chose different approaches: some come every week when they are going through serious trauma, have an injury or difficult patch in life and once it gets better they move on, sometimes coming back a year later and sometimes not until another rough patch. Some choose monthly tune-up, or bi-monthly, or follow new or full moons, or gift themselves with a treatment every birthday, but there is not one-seze fits all.

Despite strong physical healing effects that clients often report, this subtle energy medicine does not substitute qualified medical care, but is rather a component of integrative medicine, a symbiosis of allopathic and traditional, or alternative, medicine. Neither is Reiki a panacea – receiving treatments may not cure chronic or life-threatening illness but may well serve palliative purpose and alleviate suffering and pain.

Famous fashion designer Donna Karan and her friends Colleen Saidman-Yee and Rodney Yee created Urban Zen Foundation, a wellness non-profit that uses yoga, Reiki, essential oil therapy and mindfulness exercises to provide more holistic care in hospitals. After Donna Karan lost her husband to lung cancer, and found solace in practicing “grief yoga”, she partnered up with the Yees, very experienced yoga teachers and Reiki practitioners, to first create a non-profit and then launch a training program to make Reiki and other holistic healing arts accessible to hospitals in the US. Reiki is becoming more widespread and accepted, and many people benefit from the gentle, soothing energy of a Reiki treatment.

How do I know a good practitioner?

Number 1: listen to yourself. Someone may recommend a practitioner they love who just doesn’t sit well with you. Trust that voice or feeling inside of you. People may be professional, courteous, very experienced, and have a lot of other health-related qualifications, but just not resonant with you.

Number 2: ask those who have received treatments about their experiences. There is, of course, the risk that someone may have had a wonderful treatment, but you have a different idea of “wonderful”. Check back with yourself – does the practitioner feel resonant?

Number 3: ask a practitioner about their certifications, training and practice level, teacher(s) and experience. Typically, you can trace their lineage back a few teachers and/or find full, relevant information about their practice. The world is a global village, so there is a chance, of course, that your practitioner’s teacher(s) lives abroad, but with current access to information it is not difficult to find the details.

Recently someone asked me about my training and certification – a request that I appreciate, respect and happy to respond to with full information, but I know many people feel uncomfortable with when they are in the shoes of receiver. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of when you want to check practitioner’s credentials. Teaching methods and training varies from teacher to teacher: some train to only use hands, and my training as a Reiki Master included so much more: crystal healing, pendulum diagnosis, Akashic records, psychic meditation. All of these are tools that I employ in a typical Reiki session. Being part of a global Reiki community, I have the privilege to know, study with and get treatments from the healers I fully trust, but if you don’t ask, how would you know? So please do not be shy to enquire.

I hope this answers some questions about Reiki. Whether or not you are ready to experience it, here are 5 Reiki principles that are applicable for anyone:

Just for today, do not anger.

Just for today, do not worry.

Just for today, be grateful.

Just for today, do your work honestly.

Just for today, be kind to every living being.

To book a hands-on or distance Reiki treatment with me, please email to WholisticTherapiesShanghai@gmail.com

Many blessings your way!

Valeria

Gong sound baths

Sound is a wonderful healing tool and most of us recognize uplifting powers of a favorite song, soothing energy of a mother’s lullaby and mood-enhacing morning song of birds outside the window. Sound is much more than what can be recorded and enjoyed through the speakers afterwards – it’s the energy and vibration, just think of live performances of opera powerhouses, mega stars and symphonic orchestras. As a sound healer I use traditional multi tonal instruments – gongs, singing bowls, chimes and cymbals, for example – to create sound space for healing and rejuvenation. Sound baths are somewhat new and I have written an article below to answer the most common questions about what a gong sound bath is and what makes it a wonderful addition to restorative health practices.

What is a gong bath?

Gong bath is a form of sound healing that uses gongs and sometimes other ancient multi-tonal instruments. The “bath” part refers to being enveloped into a vortex of overtone sounds and vibrations of gongs. Everyone’s clothes stay on and no water is involved.

How is a gong bath taken?

A typical gong bath starts with simple exercises to warm up the spine and get the qi flowing. After that you lie down in a comfortable resting pose (savasana, also known as corpse pose), close your eyes and relax. A group gong bath lasts about 45minutes and during that time all you do is receive therapeutic sound waves and prana that the gongs produce. There are longer sessions for those who are brave enough to go deep for 90 minutes  – or even an all-night 450 minutes “gong puja” with multiple players.

Why are gong baths healing?

Gong is a very powerful instrument that has an ability to alter brain waves and adjust vibrational fields of cells and bodies. Gongs produce powerful vibrations and only part of them are heard by the ears, the rest is felt and absorbed by the whole body. These vibrations entrain cells, just like a bigger musical instrument would entrain a smaller one to eventually catch up to its rhythm. This entrainment allows toxins to be expelled into interstitial fluid and cellular energy to be renewed. Given that our bodies are roughly 70% water, powerful effects are often felt after even a short session.

Typically, the first few minutes take your brain to Alpha waves state, into relaxed daydreaming. Then the sound takes you into deep meditative state – asleep but awake, the domain of Theta brain waves. Some people quickly progress to Delta waves, the state of deep healing sleep. During the gong bath you may be switching between the states, come in and out of sleep and dreaming. Over the course of the session nervous system typically calms down and switches into parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) mode, allowing for improved mood, digestion, sleep and possibly even a few chords of gentle snoring. Your body and your spirit know what’s best for now and there is no metric to your experience. We call all gong experiences perfect.

 

Who needs a gong bath?

Gong baths are beneficial for everyone and suitable even for children, pregnant women and pets! It’s a gentle and unique form of sound therapy that reduces mental, emotional and physical stress, helps with low energy levels and brings body, mind and soul into balance. Gong vibrations work on cellular level, rejuvenating body tissues, removing blockages from body’s meridian system and balancing chakras and aura. Gong baths have a strong relaxing and detoxifying effect – just ask nearly a thousand participants I have welcomed over nearly 3 years how deep their sleep is and how rejuvenated they feel. In the world where everyone’s adrenal glands are fried like barbecue charcoals we all can benefit from timely relaxation. I call this state of deep relaxation “parasympathetic bliss”.

Gong baths are a wonderful tool for both beginner and seasoned meditation practitioners – the sound waves really help to drown out the mental chatter and guide toward spaciousness of a light mind. Those who say they “cannot meditate” often manage to get a glimpse of unburdened state of being with the help of  gong sounds.

What will I feel after a gong bath?

Every experience is unique and every single one is “pukka”, perfect. Some people have reported feeling very relaxed, rejuvenated and even blissful afterwards, some still feel gong vibrations a few days after and some discover emotions that they were not aware of.

People have reported getting over severe jet lag and bouts of insomnia after just one session, dramatic reduction of anxiety and stress, and even discovering astonishing creative talents! Those with old injuries often say they feel warmth and pleasant tingle in the area, sometimes for a few days after the session  – as blood flow is activated and meridians are being unblocked, gentle sound massage brings more oxygen and nutrients to gently break up scar tissue.

It is recommended that you don’t plan strenuous activities after a bath, let yourself relax to process the emotions and drink plenty of water to facilitate detoxification. It is very common to feel thirst beyond regular need for water – listen to your body and replenish as much as needed.

What is the difference between a group and a private gong bath?

The love and care that goes into group gong sessions and one-on-one healings are the same. Depending on how sensitive people are to surrounding energies, some find it easy to relax in a group and some prefer to receive the healing alone. Often people start with group gong baths to get familiar with the experience and opt for 1:1 healing sessions when they feel ready for a deeper, more intense healing, but one doesn’t exclude the other.

Did you study to play gong?

Yes, I studied under magnificent Kundalini yoga and gong teachers, Jabpir Kaur and Grand Gong Master Don Conreaux, the creator of Gong Master title and gong yoga. Master Don has decades of experience playing gongs, healing and training new gong therapists around the globe. I continue to train with Don and Jocelyn to expand my knowledge of holistic sound healing.

Contact me for schedule of weekly sessions in Shanghai, private or small group reservations: WholisticTherapiesShanghai@gmail.com

In resonance,

Valeria