Let the sounds of chimes, drums, gongs and singing bowls take you on a new wellness journey.
By Ashley Burnett
When we think about meditation, we often think of practicing it in complete silence if we truly want to be in the moment and reach spiritual enlightenment. However, the practice of sound meditation completely goes against this notion, and instead uses a cacophony of noises to help practitioners on their path to wellness. But it’s not a new concept—in fact, the idea dates back to ancient times, from gong baths to its modern form that’s often practiced at yoga studios.
Or, as Ra Yoga instructor Simon Ballard says: “As long as there has been sound, we have been meditating on it, consciously and subconsciously. We are sound.” Ballard teaches classes on sound meditation at the Newport Beach-based yoga studio, where students can reach inner peace with the help of a chime, flute or even a voice. Here, Ballard shares some insight into the practice of sound meditation and what to expect from your first session.
What does a typical sound meditation class entail?
Simon Ballard: In some meditations, there is a focus on tethering the mind. I invite participants to untether the mind: to let it move freely from thought to thought, shape to shape, landscape to landscape. The weaving of instruments [such as] planetary gongs, Nepalese and Indian singing bowls, native flutes, ocean and Yaki drums, Koshi chimes, shruti box and voice, creates a cacophony of sound that, if open, allows the participant to travel beyond linear thought and deep within the expansive subconscious.
What are the benefits of sound meditation?
Sound in any medium is affecting the right and left hemispheres of the brain, changing our brainwave format. If we can lower our brainwave format to a lower hertz range—theta wave, then we can move through stressful situations with a little more ease.
Do you have any tips for someone interested in attending a sound meditation session?
Enter this field with no ulterior motive or hidden agenda. Simply show up for the experience without needing to know what that experience may be.
What made you interested in the field of sound meditation? How did you get started in it?
I spent many hours away from the deafening sounds of my hometown—South London—to seek the calming sounds of nature. I found great medicine in the company of trees, and would lay close to their trunks and branches so I could hear their beating hearts and creaking sighs. I also spent many years as a DJ … [and] eventually would create more of an ambient landscape for early morning party revelers, an abstract journey for the mind. … Through the practice of Kundalini yoga, I encountered the gong and the first real use of an instrument as a tool for meditation; the shift was instant and I, soon after, began using gongs and bowls in my movement classes to facilitate a deeper Savasana.
Do you have any tips for students who find meditation, in general, difficult?
Maybe change the perspective on what meditation is: If one is submerged in an activity that moves beyond the confines of time and space, beyond illusionary boundaries and borders, then one is in meditation already. Sometimes the path is the obstacle.