Today we’d like to introduce you to Valerie Weyrich.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Valerie. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
After I graduated from college, I found myself working my dream job at a fast-paced advertising agency in Texas. I was working long hours and maxing out my creativity, but I loved it. What I didn’t realize was that my lifestyle and pace was not sustainable what so ever. Fortunately, a good friend of mine, who likely recognized how stressed out I was, invited me to attend a yoga class after work one day. I absolutely loved it! I went to class every day for the next two years. I even ended up working the front desk at the yoga studio in exchange for a yoga membership.
I feel like yoga truly saved me. I was less stressed and my life felt better than it ever had before. I realized that my career had a new calling. I wanted to become a yoga teacher! I ended up taking a sabbatical from my job at the advertising agency to attend a summer intensive 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training at Yoga Yoga in Austin, Texas. I’m sure that my lead yoga instructors could tell how tightly-wound and stressed out I was as soon as they met me. But they gently encouraged me and taught me truly adaptive, nurturing Hatha Yoga.
One day during my Yoga Teacher Training, a tall, slender man with long white hair and a white beard, dressed in all white joined our class. He lifted a blanket to uncover a very large shiny gong. I had no idea who he was or what was about to happen. Little did I know at that time the impact that this experience and this teacher would have on my life. The teacher was Mehtab Benton, the owner of Yoga Yoga in Austin, Texas. He is a highly-respected Kundalini Yoga Instructor, Jyotishi (Vedic Astrologer), and — Gong-Master. That’s right, Gong-Master.
He proceeded to instruct all of the teachers-in-training to lay down in a relaxation pose and get comfortable. I don’t remember if he gave any instructions or information about what was about to happen, but I remember just feeling completely open to whatever this white wizard was offering. Mehtab began to play the gong. It was a sound I had never heard before. He played it softly at first and then the sound began to grow. I started to feel the vibration running through my body. At first, I felt anxious because of the deep rattling vibration. But I reminded myself that I was completely open to whatever Mehtab was offering.
So I went with it. I let the vibration completely take me. I felt it in my bones. Rattling me to the core, surfacing things, emotions, thoughts that had long been buried. Although my eyes were closed, I saw colors. Colors! Blue and red orbs of pulsing light calling me to go within. Through the big swells of sound and crescendos, I could hear the gong and I could feel the gong washing within and all around me. Mehtab played for about an hour. It felt like an eternity.
After he finished playing we were given instructions to gently come back, roll to one side, and slowly come back up to an upright posture. I remember feeling like I had just traveled through outer space and I was worried about where I would land when I opened my eyes. As I came to and packed up my belongings to leave the studio, I remember walking out of the room feeling like my feet were not touching the ground. I was floating. Was I still on earth? Or had I floated away to another place?
I spent the rest of that evening replaying the event, trying to process what I had experienced, and wondering if anyone else saw colors or felt crazy during Mehtab’s gong playing. Maybe something was wrong with me… The next day at yoga school, I talked to a fellow student who I was close too. I asked, “So, did anything ‘happen’ to you yesterday during the gong playing? I mean, did you see any shapes or colors or anything like that?”
I was so worried that she was going to say “no” and that would confirm that something was in fact really wrong with me. But her answer was simple, “oh yeah! That is really common.” Ok! Apparently having a hallucination, seeing colors and shapes, and feeling completely rattled through your whole nervous system is completely normal and common when receiving what I learned was called a “gong bath”. Ah! Wonderful, it wasn’t just me losing it.
I was grateful to understand that my experience was completely natural. But I felt like I needed the rest of my life to process it. Throughout the rest of my teacher training when Mehtab entered the room, I thought to myself — I really hope he isn’t going to play that gong today! And he didn’t play it for the rest of the training.
I ended up going to a few Restorative Yoga with Sound classes (the sound being singing bowls and a gong) taught by a teacher named Everitt Allen, to fulfill my public class attendance requirement for Yoga Teacher Training. Although I was still worried by the sight of the gong in Everitt’s class, fearing that he might play it — I was pleasantly surprised by Everitt’s soft yet very transformative gong playing. Softer in nature and ultimately very transformative. I wasn’t scared of the gong anymore. During the last few weeks of Yoga Teacher Training, I attended and floated out of Everitt’s class as often as I could and by the end of my 200-Hour Yoga Teacher training, I was eager to learn more.
Everitt recommended that I attend a training with Judith Hansen Lassiter to become a certified Restorative Yoga teacher and a gong training lead by himself, Mehtab, and another Gong-Master named Siri B. I signed up for both!
Shortly after I graduated from my 200-Hour Yoga Teacher training, I was also a certified Restorative Yoga Instructor and gong player. My life totally changed. I ended up leaving my job at the agency and took a job as part of the in-house marketing team for an Ayurvedic products company, Maharishi Ayurveda. And I began teaching a weekly Restorative with Sound class on Friday nights.
The first few years, I played with only one singing bowl and I slowly began to add to my collection. I couldn’t afford a gong but the studio I taught at, the Yoga Shala in Lubbock, Texas, was very open and supportive when I asked if we could host a fundraiser to raise money for a gong. Although many of the students at the Yoga Shala had never even heard a gong, they graciously donated to the gong fund. Through community donations, a generous discount through the University School of Music, and contributions from the owner of the Yoga Shala, Lisa Santa, the Yoga Shala became the first yoga studio in Lubbock, Texas with a 28” Paiste Symphonic Gong.
I loved and have the best memories of teaching my Friday night Restorative with Sound class and playing the beautiful Shala gong to yogis filling the room. Ah, that gong and I bonded. I taught my Restorative Yoga with Sound class in Lubbock for almost four years. I found myself in a new relationship with a partner who accepted a job transfer to Denver, Colorado. So we packed up and moved, leaving the Shala gong behind. I ended up taking about seven months off from teaching yoga. It was the longest break I had taken from teaching since I started.
I began craving the gong. I woke up on New Years Day, with a deep craving to be rattled by the gong. I searched the events happening around town and was so excited to find a gong bath happening that day!
I packed into the large studio space with around a hundred other yogis at Samadhi Yoga and settled in for a gong bath. Through the big swells of sound and crescendos, I could hear the gong and I could feel the gong washing within and all around me. I knew that I needed to buy a gong for myself. It took months of saving, a lot of intention, and donations from family to buy my first gong, a 28” Paiste Symphonic Gong. And shortly after that, I was teaching my Friday night Restorative with Sound class again!
Eight years after attending my first 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training, I still work for the Ayurvedic products company and teach weekly yoga classes. I teach Restorative with Sound events throughout Denver and Boulder. And recently, I lead two of my own Introduction to Sound Healing trainings in which I taught teachers how to play the singing bowls and gongs.
In my Sound Healing events, I am witness to the impact and effect that the beauty of sound healing has on so many people. I start the events with soft encouragement for each of the students to “have the experiences they came to have” and to know that whatever experience they have in the gong bath, they are ready to receive it. Just let it unfold.
Many of the events, I am brought to tears from the palpable sense of relaxation, acceptance, and release that I can feel around the room. So many bodies, tired from working and living the fast-paced, not sustainable life that I’ve known so well, that are completely open and willing to drop-in to the offering and receive deep relaxation and healing. Thank goodness for sound healing! And thank goodness for the courage of the brave yogis to dive deeply, to embrace that which has long been buried, surface what is ready to be processed, and have the experiences that were meant to be had.
Sound Healing has become a part of who I am. Throughout my moves from familiar places to new places, in and out of relationships, and all the days in between, I am a gong player. As my last relationship ended, I purchased a planetary gong, tuned to the frequency of the moon. I found comfort and so much healing through playing my gongs and attending gong events myself. Sound truly is medicine.
Earlier this year, I found myself in a new relationship with a wonderful partner. On our second date, we attended a gong bath. On our fourth date, I played the gong for him. And just a few months later we got married. My husband, a master of audio and video production, and I work together to produce Sound Healing videos which are available on my YouTube Channel.
I’ve continued my studies with my teacher Mehtab Benton including a course in Jyotish (Vedic Astrology) last year. And to my list of offerings, I have added Vedic Astrology chart readings. I’m ever grateful for the experiences I have had that lead me to where I am today. And I can fondly look back on that day when I heard the gong for the first time and the course of my life truly changed!
Has it been a smooth road?
Becoming a gong player and sound healer takes a large investment in dedication and funds. It has taken me around eight years to collect my entire collection, including two gongs (a 28″ Paiste Symphonic Gong and a 24″ Paiste Moon Gong) and ten singing bowls.
We’d love to hear more about your work.
I am a gong player and sound healer specializing in deep relaxation and Restorative Yoga with Sound Healing. I find so much encouragement and gratitude when I hear about the experiences that students have when they attend my Sound Healing events. At the end of each event, as the students are packing up, I walk around the room and check-in with them. I ask the students about their experiences and I love hearing their feedback. Often times the experiences are profound and positive and often times the students may find themselves rattled, as I was the first time I heard a gong. Whatever their experiences are, it is astonishing that they were experienced as the result of listening to an instrument being played for a short period of time.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Denver has a very nurturing and inviting meditation and yoga community. It has been a wonderful place to offer sound healing. I’ve found that I’ve met so many teachers and connected with so many students who are open and curious about sound healing. If you are interested in experiencing sound healing, please find an event in your area! And if you are curious to learn about sound healing and dive deeper, my recommendation is to train with Mehtab Benton and Everitt Allen.
- Website: www.wwval.com
- Phone: 512-422-0320
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @valbrown
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/valerieweyrich
All photos by Brian Weyrich except the photo titled “20150822-HWY108-headshots-136-Edit” which is by Tiff Holmes