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Friends of Six Senses with Leo Cosendai: The Power of Sound

Can sound baths act as a form of ‘fast-track’ meditation? As most of us feel time-poor and bombarded with information, ways to drop into meditation easily and quickly have become a necessity.

Sound healer and author Leo Cosendai talked with Wellness Pioneer Anna Bjurstam about the power of sound and the ways that sound meditation can befriend the noisy and overactive mind.

(lightly edited for clarity)

Anna: Leo, how did you get into sound healing?

Leo: Panic attacks brought me to sound bathing. And my wife, who brought me to my first sound bath. I’ve never looked back. I’ve always loved yoga but sound took me to a place I never got to with yoga.

Anna: There’s a lot of research on sound healing and its profound effects on reducing anxiety and stress. Have you seen that?

Leo: Yes, that’s right. I’m currently working with scientists in Italy, Germany and France, and sound is pretty remarkable. A lot of research focuses on music but working with sound has even more therapeutic power in my opinion. And there are so many growing applications. For example, truck drivers are being submitted to audio tests in some places to see if they are fit to drive.

Anna: What’s the difference between sound and music?

Leo: Music is organized sound so in some ways, music is the result of a man or woman messing around with sound in an artistic or intellectual way. Sound is very neutral, like Switzerland. Sound is entrainment and music is entertainment too. Entrainment goes beyond happy and sad. It’s almost something you can’t describe in words. An amazing transformational sound experience is not something you can describe. It’s also adaptogenic. It will do whatever you need it to do.

Anna: I went to a sound healer in Bali years ago and he worked with a gong over my body. I was skeptical but then I went back to the hotel and I got so tired and slept over 24 hours and when I woke up, my body had changed. It was profound. The sound adapted to what my body needed.

Leo: That’s right. I have experienced it myself and have held thousands of sound baths so I’ve seen all sorts of reactions. I don’t want to sell it as a psychedelic experience. I want people to feel like it’s safe, it’s something we’ve been doing for a very long time but yet it’s very modern in the way that we’re doing it. It’s evolved whereas something like mindfulness has not been modernized, it’s just been put into your phone. I feel like sound bathing, though, has evolved and the way we’re doing it now is fresh.

Anna: Let’s talk about Hertz. People say there’s a magical Earth frequency, for example. Is that something you use?

Leo: I’m aware of these frequencies but I believe that pitches have changed over history to suit us as musicians and to suit our ears which have evolved over time. I think it’s important to stay with what we know and what we experience. In terms of frequencies, there’s an idea that certain frequencies are good for various organs, I haven’t found a lot of science to support that. But I like disagreement and different points of view about this stuff because that’s what we need to grow.

Anna: Another thing that is big right now are binaural beats, which has some conflictual ideas about it.  What do you think?

Leo: The instruments that I work with create binaural beats but they are organic. The majority of binaural beats that you hear on Spotify or other places are synthetic. I do believe in the effect of two tones from gongs or chanting or overtones from singing. I don’t listen to synthetic ones but I really like the real stuff when you have a gong or singing bowl and you can hear all the different tones. That’s amazing. What sound does extremely well is it makes meditation very accessible. It turns it into an experience and everyone wants a bit of that right now.

Anna: The world needs mindfulness and resilience and the use of breath and sound are key. Meditation is difficult to do and sound can be a very good help to relax. My problem when I go to a sound bath is that I fall asleep.

Leo: I think that it is ok to fall asleep because it’s not about having the perfect experience. Sound is something different, it makes us more resilient, and it might not teach you how to do lotus pose but it teaches you how to listen and how to be… and how to be with others and that’s why I like to do sound in groups. I love to hold sound sessions as a collective because that’s what we used to do as a species.

Six Senses Spa Singin Bowl Ritual

Anna: Why does sound, not music, have the power to soothe us? Does it have to do with frequency or mindset or something else?

Leo: I find that music somehow is a performance and structures your experience in a way that sound doesn’t. If you play a familiar song to a lot of people, most of them will describe it in the same way. But if you make a sound bath, everyone listening will describe it differently and have a unique experience.

Anna: What else can sound do?

Leo: If you’ve never been to a sound bath, it’s adaptogenic meaning it’s very specific to the person receiving it. The intention of both the person receiving and giving has an impact. To think that the intention is more important than the frequency or instrument that is being played is magical to me. The idea is to listen not just with your ears but with your whole body. It can increase the immune response and helps increase dopamine and serotonin, which are our feel-good chemicals. Sound meditation is like a sound massage. You can really feel the sound in your body and it’s great to do at night, especially to help increase one’s deep sleep.

Anna: Would you share a sonic meditation with us?

Leo’s Simple Sonic Meditation

Leo: I’ll share a sound version of a classic Ayurvedic breath called alternate nostril breathing. So start by taking a few normal breaths. Then, close your right nostril with one of your fingers and you’ll breathe in with your left nostril. Hold the breath for a second and then hum as you exhale out of the left nostril. Continue just on this one side for about 10 breaths. Then, release your finger and breathe normally for a few breaths. Notice the difference. Now switch, closing your left nostril with your finger and breathe in and out of your right nostril, humming on each exhale. Do this for about 10 breaths on this side as well and then release the nose and breathe normally. Notice how you feel. This will send a rush of nitric oxide into your bloodstream and it will be extremely calming and grounding. It’s a great breath to do if you feel anxious or frazzled.

Anna: To close, what are your five tips for staying healthy?

Leo: That’s a great question. Here are my top five tips:

  1. Stay active.
  2. Surround yourself with good people who love you and whose love you can accept and whose love you can return.
  3. Give more than you take.
  4. Eat seasonally and eat when you’re hungry, drink quite a bit of water.
  5. Do something even if you aren’t being paid for it.

Anna: And let’s add a sixth one - download your Third Ear app and do some sound bathing!

Biography

Leo Cosendai is a published author, teacher and founder of the #1 sound meditation app, Third Ear. To download his app, click here thirdear.com.

Leocosendai.com


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