Companies are popping up everywhere around the city offering a meditation haven to go to and escape the city. And depending on your personality, there is something out there for everyone. Do you work a lot? No problem, someone will come to your office and the entire team can zen out in a conference room. Do you find it hard to quiet the mind? There’s a sound bath to help you clear those thoughts and bring you to the present moment. Do you have a hard time sleeping? Yep – there’s even a class that helps your mind prepare for a deep sleep!
Personally, I love to go to these different meditation classes. I usually go by myself and end up meeting the coolest people – so not only am I going to zen out, but oddly enough, end up socializing. I truly enjoy the the community aspects (my friends tend to get a bit bored when I talk about yoga and meditation too much). I’ve been trying to meditate every morning before work, but things are always popping up and intervening, making it harder to be consistent. When I book a seat at a class, I end up committing more time to the practice. Because it really is just a practice, something you have to keep working on, quieting that mind of ours. I have tried traditional guided meditation classes and they were good, but then I stumbled upon gong baths after a Kundalini class and I was blown away. My mind finally felt like it could stop. There was so much sound radiating in the room that I couldn’t help but be entranced!
So, let’s just take a minute, have you heard of MNDFL? It’s not only beautiful but it is a space that offers simple, traditional meditation techniques in an accessible manner and when classes are not in session, their meditation room is open to the public for self-guided practice. No judgement, just people looking to deepen their mediation practice in a less traditional manner and hopefully, come out with clear, more peaceful minds. And in the madness of our day to day lives, couldn’t we all use a bit of that?
In an effort to understand how sound meditation works, we met up with Sara Auster, Certified Yoga Teacher and Integrative Sound and Music Practitioner at MNDFL.
How did you become interested in meditation and sound?
In 2002, an accident left me with a broken back, chronic pain and an inability to continue my work as a musician and artist in NYC. I received several different types of treatments and although many were helpful, I realized I needed to be a more active participant in my journey of self-healing. I found yoga and meditation were the most powerful and essential therapeutic practices that lead to my recovery. Soon after I became a certified yoga teacher and went on to complete my Integrative Sound and Music Practitioner training to become a sound therapist. Through my exploration of teaching yoga and meditation, I began to incorporate my love of music into my classes through the therapeutic application of sound. This led to facilitating sound baths and offering one-on-one sound therapy sessions.
Do you have any advice on finding the best meditation technique to fit with one’s personality?
Yes, there are a lot of options out there. You can start by looking for class descriptions with the words ‘basic’ and ‘beginner’. Generally those types of settings should offer the most introductory explanations and instructions. Also, try not to get discouraged if you have an experience that that’s not to your liking. Stay open to trying different styles, techniques and teachers. It’s sort of like trying on clothes…sometimes you have to go to a few different stores to find something that fits and sometimes the first thing you try on is perfect! We’re all different shapes and sizes, and we also have different needs mentally, emotionally and physically. There is definitely something out there for everyone!
Could you describe what is sound bath, and how it works?
A Sound Bath is an experience of vibration. It is an improvised concert in which various resonant instruments are played, including, but not limited to, crystal and Himalayan singing bowls, gongs, tuning forks, and voice. The term “Sound Bath” is used because you are “bathed” in the vibrations, or sound waves, of the instruments. During a typical Sound Bath, participants are invited to lie on the floor or sit comfortably, and just take in the sounds.
In your opinion, what are some of the biggest misconceptions people have about meditation?
Hmmm. I think there are so many misconceptions about meditation. Here are the top three that I hear the most:
“I’m not good at thinking about nothing.” – Many people think meditation is all about not having any thoughts. They have a hard time doing this, and feel like they’re “bad at” meditation as a result. Instead, meditation is more like setting time aside to guide your mind. It’s a peaceful, yet active process. You’re not sitting back with a blank mind; instead you’re softly moving your mind towards more awareness, consciousness and choice.
“I don’t have time to meditate.” – When you first try meditation, it might seem like it takes too much time. How can you set aside 10, 20 or even 30 minutes a day, when it seems like there’s no time in your day to begin with? But if you stick with it, you might find that meditation actually seems to add time to your day. This happens because you’ll have more control over your mind and spend less time feeling distracted. You’ll feel more energized and rejuvenated, allowing you to handle your daily tasks with focus. You can start meditating just 2-5 minutes a day. Only increase the time once you start seeing the benefits.
“Meditation is religious.” – It’s true that meditation is often practiced by various spiritual traditions. Meditation itself is non-sectarian, non-religious and non-theistic. It’s basically a mental exercise that has been tested by clinical science time and time again. Researchers have proven that PTSD sufferers, high blood pressure, ADHD patients and even cancer patients have experienced improvements from meditation.
Any books you recommend for those of us who are starting out?
How To Meditate by Pema Chodron
Sit Like a Buddha: A Pocket Guide to Meditation by Lodro Rinzler
There Is No Right Way to Meditate: And Other Lessons by Yumi Sakugawa
Sara teaches weekly meditation classes at MNDFL and offers sound baths and workshops all over New York City and abroad. For more information visit: http://saraauster.com/events-1/
Special thanks to MNDFL!