It’s Saturday night in Los Angeles and there are 101 things to do, but our agenda features just two activities: a New Moon Crystal Sound Bath and the Calabasas pumpkin patch, Nights of the Jack (I know, so cultured).
Meditation isn’t your typical Saturday night activity, but here in LA where CBD oil and yoga leggings are in abundance, it doesn’t feel so unusual. Wellbeing is a key theme here, and you know what? They seem to have the work-life balance tipping just the right side of the scales.
Of course, you can practice meditation anywhere – you don’t need to travel 5000 miles. Apps such as Headspace and Calm now make it easier than ever to find inner peace on the go. It’s also not a new concept. Meditation has been practiced in many religions and cultures, and the earliest record is in India in around 5,000 BCE. It features heavily in Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and in early Eastern Christianity.
Put simply, meditation is the mental and physical exercise of entering a completely calm and stable state. At home, at work – whenever and wherever you need time out. It’s a skill, an experience and is different for everyone. It doesn’t guarantee relaxation and serenity and it doesn’t always result in a clear mind. But it is worth trying.
Today, importantly, it’s becoming heavily recognised and respected as a way to calm our busy minds and improve our mental health. I’ve tried a few types of meditation and I’ll be honest, this isn’t my first crystal rodeo. I’ve tried a sound bath meditation before and found it seriously relaxing. But this was a different experience altogether.
My friend (a Brit, but now based in LA) joined me at The Den in Studio City, LA’s home to the best nail salons, brow bars and baseball-cap wearing celebs dodging the paps as they leave Pilates classes.
The Den is a trendy Meditation Studio founded by Tal Raibinowitz, a former entertainment industry exec. It’s home to classes including ‘Self Compassion’, ‘Breathwork’, Reiki, ‘Happiness’ and of course – Sound Bath Meditation.
Upon arrival, we were asked to ‘book’ our phones into the desk, essentially handing them over in exchange for a ticket, so that they wouldn’t disturb us during the class. We were invited to make a herbal tea and sip from our branded mugs while attendees started to gather and spoke in hushed whispers. We removed our shoes and entered the room.
Dimly lit and lightly scented with incense, it featured thick cloth mats and round Morroccan-style cushions, laid out in neat little rows. Each mat also featured a folded fleece blanket for ultimate comfort.
We each laid on the floor, tucked ourselves in and shimmied our way to comfort amongst around 30 other men and women. Asha Kalka, the class teacher, told us she would be using quartz crystal sound baths for the class, and spoke to us briefly about the new moon.
The gong began and we concentrated on a guided breathing technique to relax us. We were warned we may experience varying emotions, we may fall asleep (but try not to), do not under any circumstances snore, and sit up if you feel you need to.
The sound of the bowls being ‘played’ with the baton is an unusual sound, a low and deep feel-it-in-your-stomach ringing that is meant to heal, relax and calm you. After a while, the rhythm of the bowl sound combined with your gentle breathing can make you feel all sorts of contentment. You’re then awoken by delicate chimes.
“While listening to these tones and absorbing the vibrational frequencies, the physical and emotional body responds to the sound vibrations,” teacher Asha tells me after the class. “This is the idea that all matter is vibrating at specific frequencies and when using these tones as a form of meditation can deepen the meditation experience and have profound effects on our mental wellbeing.”
I didn’t relax as much as I wanted to – perhaps because I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to do so – and to enjoy it. My mind wandered and I found it hard to switch off. But in any meditation session I’ve taken part in, I’ve always felt that any practice of digital detoxing or mindfulness can’t be a bad thing – even if I was wondering if there’d be any Kardashians at the pumpkin patch.
Rebecca, outside The Den, where the sound bath took place.
My friend also struggled to switch off – her description of the ‘snore-chestra’ around us still makes me laugh and I definitely resonated. The snores and loud chorus of deep breathing was a little distracting, as were the strangers’ feet either side of my head. So, just a little oversubscribed. But perhaps that’s a sign of its popularity. So why has sound bath meditation seen such an influx of studios, classes and enthusiasts?
“Sound healing is a practice that uses a variety of instruments from tuning forks, gongs, Tibetan bowls, crystal bowls, and drums to name a few,” adds Asha. “This is a powerful form of meditation as it uses sound vibration frequencies and tones to induce a state of relaxation.
“I believe this has become popular because most of us can relate to sound at its core. The first tones we hear are in our mother’s womb, the sound of her heartbeat, the blood flowing, and digestion. Music has long been linked to human emotion and sound healing is no different.”
While I’m yet to reap the benefits of ‘vibrational medicine’, I have tried to see the new moon as a new beginning, and to be more positive and thankful post-holiday. I do believe meditation is helpful in relaxing the body and mind, however you choose to practice it. And if you do fall asleep, well, in my eyes a nap is always a win.
Visit www.denmeditation.com for a quick Google search will help you to find meditation classes near you.