The Rain Stick: imitating nature in a relaxing Gong Bath

When I went to my first Gong Bath, I was surprised to hear a Rain stick and you may wonder, as I did, how and why it is included in a session. What follows is a brief description of the instrument, how to play it and why and how it is used in a Sound Therapy.

Participants in a Gong Bath have contrasting reactions to the sound of the Rain Stick; some people dislike it, and others love it so much that they decide to buy one. Most participants enjoy the way it imitates rain or of surging waves chasing pebbles on a beach. People usually dislike it because it signals that the Gong Bath is coming to an end “I want this lovely feeling to go on forever, don’t stop now!” I was very surprised though when one participant told me she really disliked the sound of it because it caused her the physical sensation of being pebble dashed with hailstones. Love it or dislike it, it is an interesting instrument. It can be hypnotic and mesmerising if you manage to get the pebbles to tumble seamlessly from one end of the stick to the other. It can, on the other hand, be very energising and stimulating when shaken vigorously.

What is a Rain Stick?

It is an ancient instrument found in countries where cacti grow – for example, Australia, Africa, Chile, and America. The Rain Stick would have been used as part of a ceremony to encourage rain. It is made from a fallen cacti spire which when cleaned out and dried, has its thorns pulled out and nailed back in to penetrate the central hollow tube. Pebbles, beans, or seeds are placed in the tube and the ends sealed. When the stick is tilted from one end to the other the pebbles trickle through the thorns to imitate the sound of rain. Simple but very effective, durable, easy to transport and, in ancient times all the basic materials were to hand.

How to play the Rain Stick?

The Rain Stick can imitate rain or be used as a shaker. To imitate rain, you need to hold the Rain Stick it at the midpoint along its length and let all the pebbles cascade to one end. This will ensure you will have the full length of the stick available for your first ‘shower of rain’. The Rain Stick will need to be tilted very gently and when the pebbles reach the other end you need to reverse the tilt. You need to keep this as seamless as possible, take it slowly, and it will take a little practice. If you wish to use the Rain stick as a shaker, the beads/pebbles need to be spread along the length of the stick, keep the stick level, and shake the Rain Stick vigorously with small, sharp hand movements. Both techniques are used in the final section of my Gong Baths.

Why and how is a Rain Stick used in a Gong Bath?

The Rain Stick is used in the final section of Gong Bath session as a signal to participants that the Gong Bath is coming to an end. It is time to become more wakeful and conscious of your surroundings. It is used alongside a range of percussion instruments that suggest sounds from nature, to begin the grounding process and bring participants back to the ‘here and now’. The first instrument to be introduced is the Thunder Drum to provide a smooth transition from the gongs; the sounds are so similar that it is difficult to tell where the gongs end and where the ‘thunder’ starts.

When it is time for the gongs to fall silent this leaves a free hand to pick up the Rain Stick and produce a backdrop of falling rain to the ‘rumbles of thunder’. After a while the Wind Chimes take over from the Thunder Drum and subtle, tinkling, soothing sounds create a beautiful atmosphere of calm as the ‘storm’ passes. Gentle trickling sounds from the Rain Stick continue throughout to frame this allusion to nature.

Finally, the Rain Stick moves into a more energetic phase with brisk rhythmic patterns that signal that it is time to move on from this pastoral scene and return to a wakeful state. The primitive sounds of shakers exchange rhythmic patterns with the Rain Stick and increase in speed and volume. When the instruments are at their most vigorous and exciting, they come to an abrupt halt.

The instruments are held motionless for a couple of minutes, there must be no sound from the instruments at this point. During these few minutes of silence clients begin to integrate the experience and start to reconnect with the environment both inside and outside the venue. The everyone is asked to open their eyes, have a stretch, sit up in their own time and have a drink of water.

Please contact Sue to find out more or book an event or session.

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