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Harmonies in the boom of a gong are transporting busy brains into a meditative state

Leo Cosendai used to be an acutely anxious young man. “I couldn’t cope with taking the train,” he says. “I never felt safe.” So when he moved to London from Switzerland in 2008 to study music, he tried yoga to calm him down. But it was when he discovered gong meditation sessions, otherwise known as sound baths, that he started transforming into the smiley, serene person he is today. He was so deeply affected by the practice that he ditched his singing and composing career, invested in some gongs of his own and embarked on a mission to pass on his newfound contentment to others. “I’m not saying I’m happy all the time,” he qualifies, “but I’m comfortable with life even when it’s really uncomfortable.”

To find out exactly why banging a loud gong can have such a transformational effect on mind and body, I try out one of his sessions along with 20 other sound-bath novices. We gather on the top floor of a building near London Bridge with panoramic views of a sunset so dazzling it’s impossible not to sneak a phone snap, even though this feels unmindful and decidedly not in-the-moment. However, Cosendai remains characteristically nonjudgmental as he checks his three beautiful gongs are in order. Yoga mats are laid out with eye pillows placed at one end. Once we’re all reclined and quiet, the bright lights, noisy air conditioning and squeaky floor all feel amplified. Cosendai begins by listing these as things to simply notice and acknowledge, along with how our bodies feel on our mats, as he directs our awareness to the present moment.

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