So you’ve carved out time for a virtual sound bath. Equally as important is carving out the space.
One of my favorite ways to relax and de-stress at home has always been to take a bath. This ritual is about more than filling a tub with water and cleaning myself. It’s about literally and figuratively soaking in the moment and spending some time alone, undisturbed, with no distractions. If you’re also a fan of baths, you’ll know that the secret to a great bath is all about ambience. Dim lighting, scented candles, soapy bubbles, the perfect temperature, some soothing music and maybe a glass of wine.
A virtual sound bath is no different. The key to a great experience is to ignite all of the senses and to create a space that doesn’t feel like it’s the same spot where you just binged on Netflix the night before. You can even establish a ritual around setting up for a sound bath.
Especially at a time when you are spending more time in your living space and less time in new environments, a virtual sound bath is an opportunity to temporarily transport yourself elsewhere without leaving your home. Our environment shapes our experience, and while life feels a bit like Groundhog Day recently, you can cultivate a sense of novelty at home by setting up a personal sanctuary even in the smallest of spaces.
In a moment, I’ll get to a few tips on how you can do just that, but first I want to briefly highlight the science behind why it matters.
Your mind has two key networks: 1) the narrative network (where you interpret your experience, where thoughts arise, and where you guard ‘the story of you’), and 2) the direct experience network (which governs sensations, emotions, sounds, and being present – ie directly experiencing what is happening around you without any filter).
You probably spend a lot of time in your
narrative network – thinking, planning, analyzing, judging… However, it’s just as important to engage with your direct experience network to give your analytical mind a rest so that it can function at peak performance when you really need it.
A sound bath is an opportunity to do just that, but it can be really difficult to go from 60 to zero – especially when the barriers between work and home are already blurred. By igniting your sense of smell, touch, taste, sight and sound, you shift from the narrative network to the direct experience network. This helps you to drop into the present moment and brings you to a state where you will be most receptive to the positive effects of the sound bath.
So here are some tips we’ve learned from our community during the past few months to create the perfect set and setting for a sound bath:
1. Create space: pick a spot in your home that will be comfortable and as free from distractions as possible. Choose this spot with intention: your couch may be a good option, as long as family members or housemates won’t disturb you. Your bed is comfortable, but you may have a higher tendency to fall asleep there. Choose whatever spot will give you the most privacy and comfort. You can even pour a bath and listen from your bathroom! Most people choose to lie down for a sound bath, but you can also listen while sitting in a chair or cross-legged on a padded surface. Staying seated can be helpful if you want to work on staying awake for the entire session.
2. Create comfort: Now that you’ve picked a spot, you can fill this space with cushions, pillows, and blankets to lie on and wrap around you. You’ll be lying (or sitting) for an extended period of time and your body temperature will start to drop, so you’ll want to make sure you are well supported, warm and cosy. Choose textures that you take particular delight in – a touch of silk, a fleece throw, or even grab a fluffy stuffed animal to keep by your side. The more at ease your body is, the more likely your mind will follow suit. If you want to take the experience to the next level, try using a weighted blanket.
3. Create aroma: What you smell and taste can simultaneously shift you into the present moment while also transporting you elsewhere. Just think of that feeling you have when you stroll past a lavender bush or bite into a perfectly ripe strawberry. Your attention immediately goes to the pleasant sensation, and it may also bring about some nostalgia or specific memories.
To create a relaxing ambiance for your sound bath, choose smells and aromas that bring you joy and make you feel relaxed. Light some incense or a pleasantly scented candle. Use essential oils in a diffuser or rub them into your wrists and temples. Citrus smells tend to be energizing, while herbal and minty smells like eucalyptus and rosemary are refreshing, and floral smells like lavender or chamomile are soothing. My favorite scents to use for sound baths are sticks of sage (an herb) or palo santo (a wood) – you can light a stick, waft it around the room, and then allow it to smolder in a small dish by your side.
To ignite the sense of taste, pour yourself a cup of your favorite tea to enjoy before or after the sound bath, or have a small piece of fruit just before the session as you start to relax. Use can even engage in a short mindful eating exercise to prime yourself for the sound bath by following this script.
4. Create a glow: Lighting is another critical element to consider when creating your sanctuary. Unlike other virtual meetings you may be having, during our sound baths there is no need to be on camera so you can be in complete darkness if you choose to. I strongly recommend closing the curtains, turning off the lights and using an eye mask to cover your eyes. Enveloping yourself in darkness helps you to go deeper into the experience. At the same time, you might want to light a small lamp, fairy lights, or a candle by your side to create a warm glow as you transition into and out of the experience. Make sure to dim the light on your computer or use a blue light filter so that the illumination of your screen doesn’t ruin the soft glow you’ve created.
5. Optimize the sound: The finishing touch is to set up your personal sound system. Ideally, listen to a virtual sound bath with headphones/earbuds or an external sound system. The speakers from most laptop devices will not do justice to the unique sound of the gong. Any pair of headphones or a Bluetooth speaker will do. If you’re using a speaker, play around with the placement – maybe resting it on your belly, placing it by your head, or pairing two and placing one on either side of you. If you have a fancy surround sound system, by all means give that a go too.
At the end of each session, you might like to pour another cup of tea or drink a tall glass of water, use some more essential oils or palo santo/sage to clear the air, and open the window to refresh your space and clear out anything you might have released. Write in a journal to capture how you feel or any insights that came up during the session, or simply write down 3 things you’re grateful for after every session.
Now these 6 steps might sound like a lot to think through at first, but once you find what works for you and you get your kit together, you can create a ritual for transitioning into and out of the sound bath.
TLDR: here’s the condensed checklist for creating your perfect sound healing sanctuary:
1. Carve out a niche in your home where you’ll be free from distractions
2. Make sure you’ll be lying or sitting on a comfortable padded surface and grab some pillows and a blanket to keep warm.
3. Light a scented candle, use essential oils, or light palo santo or sage to ignite your sense of smell
4. Close the curtains, grab an eye mask and create darkness (and be mindful of the blue light on your computer screen!)
5. Listen with headphones or an external speaker
Let me know in the comments below if these tips are helpful, and if you have any to add to the list. I’m amazed by how quickly we’ve all adapted to virtual wellness practices from our homes, and we can keep learning from each other to improve those experiences.