Finding Zen: Sound Meditation in a San Francisco Landmark

Finding Zen: Sound Meditation in a San Francisco Landmark

The ancient practice of sound healing is quickly becoming a relaxing ritual for busy urbanites. Rooted in age-old meditative practices innate to Hindu culture, sound meditation aims to restore balance and promote inner tranquility. The 10,000 recently travelled to San Francisco to experience our first sound meditation at Grace Cathedral. Later we caught up with co-founders Guy Douglas, Simona Asinovski and Support Lead Celine Rezvani to ask about sound healing and a typical experience at one of their meditative sessions.

What is sound healing and what are its benefits?
Sound healing, sound meditation or a “sound bath” is a term used to describe a meditative experience in which one relaxes as they are bathed in the soothing sounds of instruments such as gongs, chimes, crystal bowls, flutes, and so on and so forth. While personal experiences vary greatly, generally speaking, benefits are primarily relaxational, as they can bring one to a very clear and calm state, both physically and mentally. We prefer the term “sound meditation” over “sound healing,” because we find more people are open to trying the experience this way. Some can perceive “healing” as a grandiose promise, or something the practitioners are providing to the participants. Many have experienced what they would call “healing,” but that healing comes from within, from your deepest meditative state.

Why did you chose the Grace Cathedral as your venue?
We found that Grace Cathedral was the ideal venue to bring the vision we had for the Sound Healing Symphony to life. The sheer beauty of its architecture is astounding, and its large stage provides enough room for our many musicians to play all together. The stone structures deliver great acoustics, and the massive size of the cathedral fits up to 1,400 people. We wanted for this event to be a convergence of epic proportions- to have 1,300 beings meditating all at once, and that wouldn’t be possible without Grace.

How long have you been involved in Sound Healing?
Guy Douglas, one of the co-founders of Sound Meditation Presents, has been involved for well over a decade. Simona Asinovski, the other co-founder, has been involved for six years with a two year break.

How does one become a sound healing master?
In my opinion, there is no one correct way to get involved with facilitating sound baths. We hesitate to use the words “master” to describe ourselves because it’s really the instruments that have the power and potential for creating such beautiful experiences- we’re just mediums who deliver the sounds. Some knowledge or background in music definitely helps, but more than anything I think listening and paying attention to the instruments is what makes a great sound meditation facilitator.

What does a typical sound healing session involve?
A typical sound meditation session usually starts with a few breaths all together as a community, just to release tensions that have collected throughout the day. Afterwards, a progression of different celestial instruments begins, including more intense sounds at first, such as gongs and drums, then transitioning into more ethereal sounds such as chimes, crystal bowls, flutes, and so on. A usual sound bath lasts about an hour to an hour and half, and we like to close out the practice by vibrating in our own harmonic, sharing three Om’s with everyone in the space.

Who is your typical target audience?
We strive to make our events accessible to people of all genders, backgrounds, and financial standpoints. Sound healing need not be limited to any particular community- nor is it only for those who consider themselves spiritual! All we ask is that you come in with an open mind and an open heart.

How does the aesthetic experience relate to the sound experience in a typical session?
While we believe that sound baths are best enjoyed as a purely auditory experience, and often supply eye masks, the aesthetic aspect of the venue plays an important role in setting the overall ambience of this event. We’ve been working with Marco Ferrero to create a stunning visual welcome for each event.

Photographs by Jess Sorensen

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