When I first experienced a sound bath from New York native Sara Auster, I felt soothed with continuous magical vibrations and relaxed from head to toe. Laying on the floor of MNDFL meditation space, comfortably covered with blankets, my head was facing Sara and numerous Crystal Singing Bowls surrounding her. I was hooked when the first sound waves flowed through my body.
The sounds affected my body, my mind and my emotions and gave me a feeling of deep connection to the earth below me. Sara guided the group through the experience and made it extra clear that everyone should take care of themselves. Meaning: If you feel like moving, move. If you feel like leaving the room to get some water, leave.
Simply put: It was like a dream. It took some time for me to be ready to face the hectic NYC life after this session.
“So, how does one become a certified Sound Therapy Practitioner?” I asked myself while sipping on hot tea in the lobby. I had been to many sound baths around the world but none touched and moved me as much as the work I had just experienced. I wanted to know more, and soon I sat down with Sara to get all the insights into her work.
With her wonderfully deep voice, Sara tells me right at the beginning that music has always been part of her life— being on stage, playing various instruments, singing and being part of experimental sound installations. Music was also at her side when an accident suddenly changed her life at 23. She describes it as a wake up call.
“I fell 15 feet through the floor of my studio space and broke my back. After this, I suffered from chronic back pain and it really wasn’t until then that I started to first look into alternative medicine.” Sara emphasizes that she sees life from an analytic point of view and is driven by her wish to understand. “I tend to be very analytical and somewhat cynical. I am definitely a seeker of truth, facts and evidence,” she laughs. “I didn’t really pay too much attention to my body before.”
Sara started to seek out different kinds of treatments and therapies, which ultimately led her to Restorative Yoga. Yoga made her feel empowered, she says. “It wasn’t just somebody doing something to me. I was engaged in the process. I felt more in control of the outcome.
I started to realize that certain blocks in my yoga practice had very little to do with my physical limitations and much more to do with the trauma that I had went through from the accident.”
Using Yoga, meditation and music as powerful tools in her healing process, Sara soon became a yoga teacher but made sure to let people know, she never wanted to actually teach. For her, it was all about being curious and learning more.
Also, using sound without the pressure to write a hit song gave her the freedom to experiment. “When I started to explore music differently, not as a performance on stage, but for connection and physical health, I realized: Oh, yes, this makes sense. At first I was like: It’s crazy, it’s noise, but I realized it felt really good to participate in that. It opened me up to this freedom around music and sound and how I interact with it.”
Sara, still healing from the trauma of her accident, found new balance and started to use all her research, knowledge and resources from Pythagoras to Rudolf Steiner to start this path.
Today, she is giving her Sound Baths to classes, in one-on-one sessions and on retreats. Often, she attracts clients who recover from injuries. Is there a style in working with the bowls that Sara would describe as her own? “Coming from a yoga background, I believe that each person is a blend of all of their teachers. I believe that I am becoming a unique blend as well.”
Teaching and learning the act of listening, to truly be able to receive, is a big act of awareness for Sara. “Meditation and listening help us to be more present in what we are hearing. Just the act itself is a tool to bring us into the present. The level of receptivity and being aware of what you hear in this moment is exactly what it does: It brings you back into the moment. You might be uncomfortable. Your body might be uncomfortable; there might be a sound that you don’t like. That doesn’t mean that you need to feel attached to that. That you need to judge that. Let it come up and then move on.”
Consuming sound in this way and switching from reacting to receiving can be a bit of a challenge at first. Because in a Sound Bath, you consume through your heart and body and let the waves of sound stream through you. It’s a delicious experience, and you should book your seat asap.
Listen to Sara on Soundcloud
Images by © Deneka Peniston 2015