Preparing to "Dream In"
AS WE EASE INTO 2018, our third annual Gong Sound Meditation brings the perfect opportunity to "Dream In Your New Year." Next Sunday, January 21st, we'll gather together with GongLab, local wellness partners, and guests at the beautiful South Shore Cultural Center for a guided sound meditation experience to activate our dreams for the coming year.
This week we chatted with Shu Shubat, the creative force behind the unique GongLab ceremony, for a little insight on what she anticipates being "an exceptionally magical evening."
A Chicago native, Shu developed an early interest in the mind-body connection as a means of self care when she was a teen. She is a certified instructor of the Realization Process (body centered meditation), a graduate of the Clinical Training Program in Analytic Psychology at Chicago's Jung Institute, and the former Artistic Director of the renowned Jellyeye Drum Theater, which she co-founded in 1992.
Shu's ritualistic performance theater roots became a foundation for experiences she now creates with her group, GongLab, drawing on "a palette of energetic sound" to connect to deeper states of relaxation. GongLab uses a 38" gong, vocals, and other instruments to guide participants through a healing meditation journey.
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Tell us about the unique role of sound in the meditation ceremony.
The sound acts as an aid. In sitting meditation, you sometimes have to do the heavy lifting of working through layers of distraction before really getting settled. But the particular multi-tonal frequencies of sound produced by the gongs actually slow down the brainwaves and carry you into deeper states of relaxation. This works as a sort of a fast train to get you there.
Sometimes when you're feeling shut down or overwhelmed, you wish that you could just curl up somewhere and have your energy rebooted and more positive messaging funneled in. The sound, in combination with the guided visualization, can be really effective at creating that kind of shift.
Participants unfamiliar with this practice may try drawing connections to yoga. Any similarities?
Yoga focuses on ‘prana’ - the life force energy of the natural world. We constrict ourselves through tension and stress, and the yoga postures work to open up energetic channels in the body allowing more life force to flow through you. That's why you have that 'yoga sparkle' afterwards, not just from the physical exertion. The gong sound pressure waves work in the same way - to energetically open up channels in your body.
Yoga Nidra uses guided visualization to take you into a waking dream state in which a lot of repair can be done to the nervous system. You practice it laying down and it’s not something you can really do wrong even if you fall asleep, so there’s overlap there, too.
But my Jungian training and work in theater has also had a huge influence on my work. So there is also this quality of 'bedtime story' or 'lullaby' about the experience of a sound journey the way we put it together.
What are three things our guests can do to prepare for the evening?
Dress comfortably, and bring your pillows, blanket, mat, bolsters if you need support – whatever helps you create a cozy space and make you comfortable laying down.
I would avoid having a big meal or being over-caffeinated prior to the experience, and you wouldn’t want to have a full bladder as we begin. That can add layers of discomfort, distraction, heaviness, or anxiety to work through initially because the gong has a way of stirring stuff up for release as it opens the channels.
I would say that taking a walk in nature beforehand would be about the most ideal preparatory activity, and the South Shore Cultural Center would be a beautiful location to do that - serene groves of trees and the gorgeous lake just steps outside the door!
Can you talk more about how the South Shore Cultural Center location adds to the experience?
The room is palatial, heavenly, but at the same time intimately connects you with nature.
Writers like Mary Oliver and Thoreau, going all the way back to the ancient mystics, are all getting at this idea that the Divine is revealed in nature. There is something very jewel-like about the construction of the ballroom. To me, it almost seems like it was built as a tribute to that exalted, bejeweled quality of Divine feminine energy that’s humming from the natural world surrounding it.
You know, the thing about meditation and nature is that both are taking you out of the 'clock time' reality construct that we’re in, and connecting you with a bigger reality - 'eternal time.' It’s a little flowery to describe, but the purpose of ritual is to escort you over the threshold of chronological time back into eternal time for revitalization, and that movement is considered sacred space. These are streams of thought that inform what we are reaching for in our work with the Earth Gong. I’m really excited to present the program we’ve been developing for the Chicago Parks Foundation event this year and I really can’t imagine a better space for it. I think it’s going to make for an exceptionally magical evening!
Is there a special significance of holding this event so close to the New Year?
By late January, people are breathing a sigh of relief from the stress that seems to ratchet up as we run the obstacle course of the holidays – trying to maintain balance with our jobs, family commitments, cold weather, flu season… This is a way to say that we’ve made it through that labyrinth and now we want to take a little time out for some self care.
It’s an opportunity to address our new year in a personal, introspective way, but with a sense of community involved. It’s a social occasion even though we’re all there to do an inner reboot. It’s a very relaxing, chill, restorative experience.
This is our third year organizing this event. How have you seen it grow?
In the first year, we were in a smaller ballroom. The transition to the larger ballroom was an evolution. There’s something about it that is so breathtakingly beautiful - an oval space instead of square, massive crystal chandeliers, an intricately tiled floor, surrounded by towering floor-to-ceiling windows. I mean, at what other time do you get to experience gorgeous architecture by taking a nap in the room! It’s a time to contemplate and absorb all of the history that has transpired there.
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