We often write about people who, at a certain point in their lives, have re-evaluated their trajectories. After a certain amount of life experience, sometimes work that used to feel like a good fit is no longer what we wish to do. Martha Collard, 61, has made a rather radical move from a very secure, orderly, left-brain occupation in the corporate world to something entirely opposite: becoming a gong master in Hong Kong.
Hi, Martha. When did you leave your corporate job and open a gong studio?
I left 28 years of consulting in the areas of human performance and effectiveness at the end of 2014. Using my personal savings on a wing and a prayer, I opened Red Doors Studio, six weeks after signing a lease on March 17, 2015, featuring the world’s foremost Gong Master (who lives in NYC), Don Conreaux, for our first workshop and concert.
Biologist, Consultant, Gong Player
How did it feel to make a change like that?
I am a marine biologist by choice, consultant by necessity, and now gong player by passion. My life has taken many turns, each building on the other in terms of skills and experience culminating in my role today. From 1986-1992 I was a head hunter with Swiss-based TASA Executive Search, making partner in 1989 (youngest globally). I left in 1992 to gain experience in areas of Human Resources other than recruitment. Necessity required more regular income and my project-based consulting continued primarily in Fortune 200 banks. Bank Boston, Salomon Brothers, Manulife, Bankers Trust gave me the experience in evaluating people, psychometrics, and motivation as well as leadership development. Starting in 2000 I worked in advertising with Grey Global Group, GroupM and Universal McCann where I learned the importance of brand.
I was essentially a left-brained, type A personality. My MBTI type is ESTJ meaning very planful, structured and highly resistant to change.
Creating a Holistic Wellness Platform for 5K Staff
From 1992 my career was one of freelance project work for multinationals, usually to create order from chaos. From 2000 I started coaching for the Center for Creative Leadership in Singapore as well. The chairman of this privately held group tasked me with creating a holistic wellness platform from scratch for 5,400 staff in four companies. It was here that I understood the importance of motivation, values and meaning and their link to performance.
“Set up your own studio”
How did you make the decision to leave?
Actually, my boss suggested “set up your own studio.” Enjoying challenges, I set out to do so. And once I had set my mind to it, resources appeared seemingly out of nowhere. An acquaintance offered to translate with the builder and essentially act as a project manager. A student found a second-hand pile of yoga mats that had been used once — the only catch was that I had to buy all 140 mats. This was my first expense for the studio. The large sums required for the rent deposit and construction were daunting. Fortunately, I had sufficient savings and never had to borrow money. I was also fortunate in having consulting income for the first two years.
Scary, New, and Exciting
It was scary, it was new, it was exciting. If I had a business plan, I can’t find it. In the realm of spiritual work, you learn quickly that you are not in control. I feel my journey thus far has been guided by a force other than myself. Opportunities present themselves, individuals enter my sphere of influence, and I live pretty much one day at a time. I am not planful now, I do not market or pursue business development activities in a proactive fashion, yet here I am.
First Gong Experience
What was your first experience with the gong?
Seven years ago, during Kundalini yoga teacher training in New Mexico, I had my first gong bath. It was a one-hour experience within a 21-day intensive program. I felt my body drop and my soul soar through the universe where I witnessed the Big Bang.
Kidney Stones Cured by the Gong
I understand that the gong cured your kidney stones. What was that like?
A year later, I met a couple from the UK who had moved to Canada and were gong players. They said gongs would “rearrange my molecules.” I didn’t really believe them. The gong bath was on a massage table in a yurt near the ocean in an apple orchard. Expecting another cosmic experience, you can imagine how disappointed I was in that the entire time all I could fixate on was an ice cube melting on my side. For the life of me, I could not understand why they would have done that. It was only when I woke up that I realized there was indeed no ice cube and then the penny dropped that my kidney stone dissolved. If you think about it, the use of sonic lithotripsy in hospitals will have the same effect. I looked around the massage table and decided to buy three big gongs.
Gong Baths and Big Life Decisions
How did making such a radical career change feel?
I instinctively made the decision and never looked back. I rarely rest on my laurels and reflect on my progress or accomplishments. Every time I have a gong bath myself, I tend to make a life-changing, seemingly rash, spontaneous decision. After my first gong bath during a Kundalini yoga teacher training in New Mexico 7 years ago, I bought a gong. After my second gong bath in Nova Scotia, when my kidney stone dissolved, I spent $10,000 on 3 more gongs. This is not a rational decision for a single self-employed mom with 2 children in university. After my third gong bath, I left a career of 28 years and built the studio. Needless to say, I do not get gonged often now.
I have trademarked my company. My logo has deep meaning in my part of the world. Being made of two Chinese characters, door and mouth, meaning to ask or to question, and by coming through my doors you will receive the answers.