Sara Auster has spent the past decade introducing sound baths to audiences and unique environments all across the globe. But, this wasn’t her original path. At age 23 when working as an artist and musician, the floor of her apartment collapsed. She broke her back in four places leaving her temporarily paralyzed. She was told she’d live a life of chronic pain, limited mobility, and prescription drugs. It was at that moment she decided to take matters into her own hands. She created a uniquely approachable method of sound therapy based on over a decade of study in psychoacoustics, yoga and meditation, and a lifetime of experience in music and art.
Auster’s transformative experiences have made her a leader in the sound bath movement, helping deep listening and sound meditation go mainstream. Conducting guided meditations at iconic sites like MoMA, Lincoln Center, Central Park SummerStage and Madison Square Garden, her work explores how sound and listening transform space.
“Listening to sound is a universal experience,” Auster tells Nutritious Life. “My goal is to make the sound bath experience accessible to anyone and hold space for all—from hard-core believers to skeptics.”
She says that sound baths are helpful for anyone who wants the benefits of meditation but may be intimidated by the so-called “rules” of meditation. “Instead of a meditative practice which requires you to sit up straight or have a point of focus, recite a mantra or count your breaths, to fully participate in a sound bath, you simply need to have an open mind, get comfortable, and listen,” she explains.
Auster shares with us how she is living a nutritious life at this time and the benefits of slowing down (even for a minute).
How have things changed for you since COVID-19 hit? I’ve long seen the effect that sound baths can have on people to calm the mind, release stress and invite in compassion and connection. While sound baths are typically in-person experiences, technology has allowed us to connect in new and innovative ways. Even though we aren’t together in a room, we are connected through a shared experience of sound. As the world feels more chaotic with each passing day, it’s even more important to find moments of pause together, and that has been our goal with these virtual sound baths.
It was difficult to imagine not being able to facilitate in-person group sound baths once the demand to shelter in place began. The thought of not being able to connect with people in that way inspired us to take IG live on March 14th for our first at-home sound bath. Over the past few months, there has been a global outpouring of gratitude from all over the globe.
What are some of your tips to stay focused…especially now? My daily meditation practices and self-care routines are a top priority. Phone fasts and taking breaks from news, social media, and emails are essential. I’ve found it even more important to get outside for walks and reach out to friends and family more often.
How does a sound bath help us? A sound bath can help to relieve the effects of stress on the mind and body. By practicing with regularity, you’ll be able to downshift into the body’s natural relaxation response helping to lower blood pressure, and improve heart rate and breathing. When you sink into a sound bath and guide your awareness to your listening, you allow your brain waves to slow, shifting from a more active state to a more relaxed state, or even a dreamlike state. The sounds introduced during a sound bath are an invitation into a deeper state of consciousness, an opportunity to unplug from external stimuli, and allows you to gain perspective on what’s going on within you. The goal of the experience is to invite deep rest and relaxation and explore self-inquiry and self-discovery.
How often do you exercise, and what’s your workout of choice? I practice yoga almost every day. I love Pilates and swimming, too.
How do you motivate yourself to work out? My husband is a great motivator. It’s helpful to have a workout buddy.
If you had to name your healthy diet, what would you call it? Everything in moderation (even moderation). I mostly try to eat locally-sourced food and do a 30-day cleanse twice a year (spring and fall) in addition to one fasting day per week.
Has it been hard to stay on track with your nutrition while in quarantine? Actually, it hasn’t. Cooking more and not eating out has been super helpful to stay on track.
What’s your go-to breakfast? An egg and a piece of toast.
Your go-to workday lunch? Greens, grains, protein of some sort (in a bowl).
What’s the one food you always have in your fridge? Cucumbers.
Other than water, what do you sip regularly? Ginger tea or lemon water.
What causes you stress? What’s your go-to tool for managing stress? Watching the news is stress-inducing. I use deep breaths and meditation to combat those feelings.
How do you pamper yourself when you need it? Spa day (hopefully we’ll have those again soon). In the meantime, I’m making my own spa day at home.
How do you express and spread love? Through listening and attention, and teaching people how to listen deeply to themselves and others.
What is your evening routine to wind down at the end of the day? Long after-dinner walk.
Meditation or massage? BOTH
A hot shower or a soothing bath? Bath
Almond butter or peanut butter? Almond butter
Coffee or tea? Morning – coffee, night – tea
A long run outside or a dark spin class? Run outside
Auster’s first book, SOUND BATH: Meditate, Heal and Connect through Listening, was published in November 2019 by Simon & Schuster.