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Pema Chödrön: “Compassionate Abiding”

How do we find a sense of stability when everything seems so groundless? Pema Chödrön is celebrated around the world for her ability to help us turn toward things that are difficult and embrace our uncertainty. In this week’s podcast, Pema joins Tami to share her one-of-a-kind guidance, including a special practice she calls “compassionate abiding.” Tami and Pema also talk about how to stay embodied when panic arises, accessing the wisdom inherent in our emotions, and the importance of cultivating “unconditional friendship” and befriending even those parts of ourselves that we want to reject.

Sarah Blondin: Kneeling at the Doorway of Your Heart

Sarah Blondin is an author and spiritual teacher whose guided meditations have been enjoyed by thousands of people around the globe. She is also the founder, writer, videographer, and creator of the podcast Live Awake. In this week’s podcast, Tami Simon and Sarah discuss her new book, Heart Minded: How to Hold Yourself and Others in Love. Their conversation explores the profound shift from living “above the neck” to fully inhabiting our hearts, how we can transmute suffering and discomfort with the energy of our hearts, connecting to our inherent wisdom and compassion, and much more. 

The Life-Changing Science of Spontaneous Healing

Dr. Jeffrey Rediger is a licensed physician and board certified psychiatrist who also has a master’s of divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. An assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and the medical director at McLean Hospital, Dr. Rediger has spent almost 20 years researching the factors present in cases labeled as spontaneous healing—the topic explored in his bestselling book Cured: Strengthen Your Immune System and Heal Your Life.

In this eye-opening, hope-giving podcast, Sounds True founder Tami Simon speaks with Dr. Rediger about his personal journey—from an upbringing in a traditional Amish household, to how he “ran away to college” and began a deep exploration of the connection between faith and medicine, and what is truly possible on the journey toward health and healing. Tami and Dr. Rediger discuss the sometimes competing, sometimes cooperating worldviews of science and spirituality; the unfortunate absence of curiosity in so much of science and medicine; lifestyle illnesses as the root cause of most health challenges in the Western world; his four pillars of health: nutrition, immunity, stress response, and what he calls “healing your identity”; retraining the beliefs that are holding us back; understanding and healing trauma; facing our shadows and waking up to our own inherent value and dignity; and much more.

Michael Singer: Living From a Place of Surrender

Michael Singer is a spiritual teacher, entrepreneur, and the bestselling author of the spiritual classic The Untethered Soul. He has collaborated with Sounds True to release the online course Living from a Place of Surrender: The Untethered Soul in Action. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Michael about the core idea of his teachings: that it is only through complete surrender to the essence of the moment that we experience life’s full potential. They talk about what this sense of surrender actually means when it comes to decision-making and day-to-day activities, as well as how to recognize when we are still clinging to resistance. Michael explains how to take a “witness position” and let go of the arbitrary attachments that inhibit surrender. Finally, Tami and Michael discuss the application of these ideas to those things we truly value, including bringing the idea of surrender to social and environmental activism. (63 minutes)

Turn your understanding of meditation inside out and u...

Meditation has found a home in the West. Countless scientific studies tout its benefits, and a multitude of students proclaim its life-changing value. I am one of those students. For over forty-five years I have practiced this ancient art, and I continue to reap its remarkable rewards. While I remain a follower of many wisdom traditions, and believe that no one has a patent on truth, thirty years ago I took refuge in Buddhism. The adage “Chase two rabbits; catch none” points out the necessity of commitment, and the dangers of spreading yourself too thin.

My passion for meditation led me into the traditional Tibetan three-year retreat, where I became a monk with robes and a shaved head, meditating fourteen hours a day in a remote monastery. I even slept sitting up in meditation posture, practicing the nocturnal meditations of dream and sleep yoga. Three-year retreat is like a meditation university, providing the opportunity to practice dozens of meditations in the most nurturing environment. It remains the most transformative experience of my life.

Of the many practices I was introduced to in retreat, one meditation stands out: the quirky, intense, multifaceted, and revolutionary practice of reverse meditation. I learned these practices within the context of Mahāmudrā (Sanskrit for “great seal”), a lofty tradition in Tibetan Buddhism that explores the nature of the mind. This was over twenty years ago, and since then these radical meditations have become a cornerstone of my spiritual path.

They’re called “reverse” meditation for a number of reasons. First, these practices are the opposite, or reverse, of what many of us associate with meditation. Most people think that meditation is about feeling good, getting “Zen,” or otherwise chilling out. But this is just one small aspect of meditation. Complete meditation is not about feeling good—it’s about getting real. And getting real requires dealing with the reality of difficult situations.

Second, these unique meditations are designed to reverse our relationship to unwanted experiences, which means going directly into them instead of avoiding them. In so doing we can discover the basic goodness of whatever arises, which is deeper than interpretative goodness. Basic goodness refers to the ineffable “suchness, isness, thatness” of whatever occurs—good or bad.

If we capitulate to our usual avoidance strategies, we push the acute, conscious psychological discomfort of avoidance into becoming a chronic, unconscious mental cramp. The discomfort is still there, but now it’s buried deep in our body-mind matrix, where it works backstage to dictate much of our onstage life. The rejected experience then manifests symptomatically—it becomes an undiagnosed reflection of an underlying discord that expresses itself in virtually everything we do. Our actions then become evasion tactics—reactivity, psychological duress, physical illness, and all manner of unskillful responses to the challenges of life—as we try to skirt these buried, uncomfortable feelings.

The reverse meditations give us the opportunity to relate to our mind instead of from it—and also to establish a relationship to our evasion tactics, which otherwise become obstacles that act like scar tissue to sequester the unwanted experience from consciousness. Relating from our mind, from our reactivity, is no relationship at all. In place of conscious relationship, we respond with knee-jerk reflexes to difficult experience, a reactivity that kicks us out of our feeling body and into our thinking head, and into unnecessary suffering. Instead of dealing authentically with the challenging somatic sensation, we leap into inauthentic conceptual proliferation (confabulating and catastrophizing) to buffer ourselves from the discomfort of our feelings. We run from the honest pain and real news that come with being human, and into dishonest commentary and fake news. The truth is that many of the worst things in our life are things that never really “happened”!

Third, the reverse meditations upend our sense of meditation altogether. They represent a revolution in spiritual practice that turns our understanding of meditation inside out and upside down, and therefore radically expand our practice. Situations that were once antithetical to meditation now become our meditation. Obstacles that previously obstructed our spiritual path now become our path. This means that everything becomes our meditation. Nothing is forbidden. We can enter lifetime retreat in the midst of ordinary life.

Excerpted from Reverse Meditation: How to Use Your Pain and Most Difficult Emotions as the Doorway to Inner Freedom by Andrew Holecek.

Andrew Holecek is an author, speaker, and humanitarian who offers seminars internationally on meditation, lucid dreaming, and the art of dying. His work has appeared in Psychology Today, Parabola, Lion’s Roar, Tricycle, Utne Reader, Buddhadharma, Light of Consciousness, and many other periodicals. Learn more at andrewholecek.com.

What Are Your Five Healing Music CD Picks…That Don...

by Andrew Young (Writer at Sounds True)

Can you help me out here? I need more great “background” music for de-stressing and sparking my creativity.

The skinny: I review healing and meditation music CDs for Sounds True and other retailers and labels and have listened to well over two hundred over the years. Most of them are, uh…just okay. Some totally suck the pranic wind. Of course, you’ll find none of those at soundstrue.com (nudge nudge, wink wink).

I play this kind of music for relaxing, writing, and drawing, so I don’t like distracting melodies, in-your-face vocals, cheesy synthesizers, or stuff that I’ll get sick of after a few weeks of frequent play. Recommendations please!

In the meantime, here are five of my faves:

1. Sampradaya – Pandit Shivkumar Sharma (Real World Recordings). Great for when I’m feeling mentally sluggish or “stuck.” Not marketed as a healing music CD—but incredibly effective as one. The Indian hammer dulcimer (santoor) master plays here with his son Rahul and tabla wizard Shafaat Ahmed Khan. These are traditional ragas, but sound nothing like the familiar sitar/tambour offerings: uplifting, resonant layers of bell-like melodies and jaw-dropping overtones arise independently from the actual struck notes and float beyond the room. Joyful and mind-expanding, sparkly and fresh like cool sunlit rain.

2. Crystal Bowl Sound Healing – Tryshe Dhevney (Sounds True). This is my favorite CD to play when writing, drawing, or photoshopping piles of photos. 100% organic (no synths), beautifully recorded in a giant natural cave (seriously). Tryshe uses rare customized gemstone bowls perfectly tuned for expanding consciousness via the Om frequency and other well-tested resonances. It’s so good that when I first got the 8-minute sample track for writing the CD package copy, I set it on “repeat” and listened to it looped for hours. Tip: if you download this album, don’t “re-rip” the tracks to make them smaller. You’ll want the highest sound quality to fully experience the effect of the pure, subtle harmonics.

3. Aural Resonance Astral Harmony – Simeon Hein (Mount Baldy Press). Yes “astral harmony” sounds really new-agey, but this recording is not, and it is amazing. My massage therapist played this for me during a session years ago. It’s just a sustained, multi-layered perfect-fifth harmonic chord that goes for 70 minutes. Made with 100% synth, but works so well that I grant it full amnesty. This CD is my sure-fire last resort for insomnia and clearing writer’s block, BUT it is not for everybody: the effect is so intense that the first five times I used it, I would sometimes hear it resonating in my head for hours after turning it off.

4. Relax – David Ison (Sounds True). I play this album on my iPhone so often that if it were an old-fashioned LP, it would be worn out. What makes it so good? For one, David doesn’t use brainwave frequency entrainment—he builds his compositions using healing principles based on sacred geometries and proportional tonal relationships and rhythms from ancient Greece, Egypt, and his own intuition and rigorous experimentation. He also uses some very unique studio sound production tools to create tuned ambient spaces that have a clear and calming somatic effect. Even more relevant though is that the music on this album is simple yet incredibly beautiful. The first time I played it, it gave me the chills. The primary “voice” on this album is Ison’s guitar (a massive dreadnought Martin acoustic I think). David has been using this music program to help war veterans in the healing process with powerful results. For maximum effect, play this on a good stereo speaker system or with high-quality headphones.

5. Audio Serenity (iAwake Technologies). These folks are at the far event horizon of brainwave entrainment research. For example, they’ve addressed the problem of frequency habituation—your brain adapting to sound entrainment so that it no longer syncs to beneficial effect. Problem solved here (don’t ask me how, but it works). And they use a suite of other acoustic technologies to massage your brain, nadis, meridians, and positronic circuits (if you’re a Star Trek android). Sound-wise, this program does in fact use synth, but it’s very gentle. Get ready for an extremely quick and deep calming effect. My only caveat is that it’s pricier than a conventional music track (iAwake’s first-hand research takes time and resources). That said, I can tell you that this program is as effective as the awesome MindSpa [http://avstim.com] audio-visual entrainment device that we reviewed here at Sounds True a while back—at a fraction of the cost.

Okay your turn: please recommend some of your favorites so we can all have more relaxation and creativity music options!

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