Conduit Center uses gong meditation to spread wellness

By Frances Taylor - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Fri., Sep. 16, 2011
Jeff Nickell holds a singing bowl, which emits tones as the mallet is moved around its rim. Photos by Frances Taylor.
Jeff Nickell holds a singing bowl, which emits tones as the mallet is moved around its rim. Photos by Frances Taylor.

At the Conduit Center on Burnside Avenue in East Hartford, a group of about 15 people were lying quietly in reclining chairs in a darkened room, listening to a range of sounds produced by tapping gongs and metal bowls. It is the goal of the members of the Conduit Center to “gong the planet,” or to spread relaxation and wellness using gong meditation.

Meditation through use of gongs “is accessible to anyone and everyone - something that anyone can feel and appreciate,” said Owen James, director of Conduit Center. “It’s a spiritual journey and out-of-body experience that is different for each person and can be different each time.”

Gong meditation, a spiritual practice created by Tibetan monks, was a deeply-held secret for many years. The practice includes use of large, traditional gongs, as well as a series of bronze-colored bowls of different sizes known as “singing bowls.” The bowls emit high and low sounds, depending on their size. The sound is achieved by the use of a felt-covered wooden mallet that is moved around the rim of the bowl, causing the bowl to vibrate and a sound to gradually grow louder and louder.

“The monks held this secret very closely, and when asked what the bowls were for, they would say they were for eating,” James said. “We think that eventually travelers to Tibet who were visiting the monks as they were passing through learned about the true use of the bowls.”

The sound and vibration has a calming effect on the body, James said. “These vibrations do affect the body,” he said.

The Conduit Center opened a year ago, and is the only center of its type in the state. “We are a network of gong meditation enthusiasts who travel around and attend festivals and other events to spread the word and the experience,” said James, who has “played” the gongs for about four years. The experience of using the gongs and the singing bowls during a session is also meditative, James added.

The group will hold a demonstration during an upcoming festival in Coventry, and will also travel to Rockport, Mass. They also bring gong meditation to business groups, seminars, yoga centers and therapy workshops.

Conduit Center member Jeff Nickell conducts a monthly workshop at Kimberly Hall nursing home. “We go out all time – we think the best way for people to receive this is to experience it,” Nickell said. “It’s so difficult for people to let of their distractions and find a quiet place and to meditate. Through the gong, the space is created for you automatically.”

Their “gong the planet” strategy is beginning to pay off, as it travels by word of mouth from those who have experienced it. “We have people who may have been gonged a couple years ago come back to us to say, ‘I tried this, and I never forgot it, and I've been wanting to do it again,’” said Nickell.

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