Restless mind? Anxiety levels on high? In the perfect world, we’d all be soothing our spirits with afternoons-long meditations followed by Pranayama and eight hours of sleep. In the real world? Well, we can dream. For now, allow us to introduce Leo Cosendai, the London-based sound master, gong guru and founder of the Third Ear sound meditation app, whose galactic sound baths have the power to wring out your nervous system and all you have to do is close your eyes – no hours of spiritual soul searching necessary. For La DoubleJ’s latest Zoom wellness workshop, Leo and his orchestra of planetary gongs led a sound bath to welcome in the new moon. Scroll down to immerse yourself in the full recording. But first, what is a sound bath, exactly?
J.J.: OK, Leo, tell us about sound meditation and gong baths for dummies: where does this practice originate from?
Leo: Gongs may have appeared thousands of years ago in what Turkey is now. It’s mysterious and I like that. Sound is a universal language that we have used to communicate, entrain ourselves and come together as tribes.
J.J.: What goes on in your sound sessions? What are the benefits and how does sound heal us?
Leo: Sound enables us to heal, rather than heals us. During a sound ceremony anything can happen, just like at a pizzeria. You could have someone doing house cleaning internally and you could have someone having a deep sleep. It can be very relaxing, or it can be very challenging and triggering. The kind of experiences you have can be very layered and random and can’t be planned for. I believe that sound is adaptogenic, which means it will do exactly what it needs to do with you. I like this practice because there is no control involved. I am a big yoga fan, but there is a certain amount of control involved in these kinds of worlds. My point is that sound is very organic and bespoke. It feels old and new at the same time.
J.J.: I do a lot of energy healing stuff and when I use my Tibetan bell to meditate, the sound in my head makes me feel as big as the Milky Way. It’s unbelievable.
Leo: The beauty of sound is that you don’t need to have had 20 years of yoga and energy practice; anyone can lie down, pitch their tent and have a transcendental experience. It isn’t anything to do with me or anyone who is facilitating. People are reclaiming their resonances and their body as musical instruments.
“The beauty of sound is that you don’t need to have had 20 years of yoga and energy practice; anyone can lie down, pitch their tent and have a transcendental experience.”
J.J.: How often should people do it?
Leo: Little and often is essential whether it’s sound, exercise, reading – that’s how you build neural pathways and change and edit them. I practiced a lot, often, because I had an impaired nervous system. I had panic attacks as a child, but it has taken me to some cool places in the end.
J.J.: So sound meditation can be a form of a mental and emotional therapy?
Leo: Yes, but it can trigger unpleasant sensations. Some people don’t need an hour ceremony when their nervous system is fried – it’s too much. It can be a challenge – it’s not just a rub down the back – but that’s what it’s supposed to be. Everything I do revolves around retraining the nervous system and focuses on the vagus nerve. Many of my ThirdEar app customers are using the app to help them with insomnia and sleeping.
J.J.: Who is in your orchestra?
Leo: I’ve got Saturn, Mercury – just kidding. In my band I’ve got planetary gongs, which are made using frequencies calculated by NASA. I have a huge 84-inch gong, crystal bowls, symphonic gongs, different rattles, singing bowls. I have a gong that is tuned to the synodic cycle of the moon: when I strike this gong, it creates the cycle’s very frequency, which is amazing, like you’ve got the moon in your ears. Every night I upload a meditation with this gong to the app. People seem to love the moon ritual because they feel like they are connected to the moon, and, in a way, they are because everything is frequency.
J.J.: How important is the breath?
Leo: I like to extend the exhalation as long as possible. Take an inhale through the nose, hold it for a second, then exhale with a tiny hole in between your lips as if you were playing a trumpet, exhaling so slowly it takes almost half a minute to exhale. At first it’s hard, but if you take three breaths like that you will feel the results of your vagus nerve activating.
J.J.: Where is the best place to practice?
Leo: A bed is great. Some people with anxiety or high blood pressure might find their chest feels heavy when they are lying fully flat, so I always recommend comfort: sitting on a sofa or propping yourself up with a few cushions. Make it into something like a pyjama party with a tent in your bedroom, candles and essential oils like frankincense, vetiver, mandarin, black spruce.
J.J.: Do you ever listen to heavy metal?
Leo: You could say that playing gongs is heavy metal?! I love a great song; I fall in love with a melody. God Only Knows by The Beach Boys, James Blake. It gives me a feeling – a type of goosebumps – that sound doesn’t. Music is organized sound. In terms of therapeutic properties I think sound is a lot more potent, but both are important.