The Tranquil Benningtonian: Quieting your mind with sound meditation
Editor's note: This is the fifth story in a holistic health series
ELIZABETH A. CONKEY
BENNINGTON -- Tomek Regulski sits cross-legged and barefoot on a colorful wool blanket, clad in a striped polo shirt and loosely fitting linen pants. Neatly arranged around the edges of his blanket is a medley of exotic musical instruments: a sitar, two singing bowls, tuning forks, bells and chimes, among others.
He invites me to lie flat and relax into my own blanket in front of him. I close my eyes and listen to his gentle cues, directing me to breathe deeper and sink into the ground.
After a few moments, Tomek lightly raps one of the singing bowls, which emits a long-lasting, droning hum throughout the room -- a hum I feel resonate throughout my body. I relax immediately.
Asking me to flex my feet, Tomek taps two tuning forks against the floor and holds them to the bottoms of each of my feet.
I feel the vibrations travel from my feet to my legs, thighs, stomach, chest, all the way to the top of my head. I relax even more deeply.
A few more cycles from the singing bowl and then Tomek begins injecting bouts of vocal improvisation, deep and lulling, which sends me into a trance.
Unaware of anything outside of this space, I am completely present, relaxed, in a limbo of sorts, asleep and awake simultaneously -- a state of being I had never before experienced.
Intermittently, Tomek offers cues and suggestions for relaxing further, then begins circling my spot on the floor, announcing his presence with the tinkling of hand chimes.
Another round of his improvised basso profondo, hums from the singing bowl and the half-hour session is over too soon.
I slowly open my eyes and find that I am breathing fully, deeper than before, and that my mind has been cleared of the day's "clutter." I feel rejuvenated and very much awake.
Regulski, although not always a leader in sound meditation, has always had a passion for music.
As a graduate of Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y., with a B.A. in musical composition, he was first introduced to Indian music, sitar, mainly, and yoga, during his junior year after meeting one of the college's guests lecturers, Roop Verma, a world-renowned sitar master and yogi, who consequently encouraged Regulski to explore a deeper connection between sound, music, and meditation.
Following his undergraduate education, Regulski completed a master's program in musical composition at The State University of New York at Binghamton, and then obtained a doctorate in the same field from the University of Maryland last spring.
Regulski is still in contact with Verma, who, he noted, really served as his inspiration to pursue his present line of work as a leader of sound meditation.
Regulski first began playing music for yoga classes in March of 2011 when he was invited to accompany a yoga teacher training class at Frog Lotus Yoga Studio in North Adams, Mass.
Following this experience, he played sitar during various classes in yoga studios throughout Northeastern New York.
After moving to the Bennington area two years ago, Regulski made connections with the proprietors of local yoga studios and has been leading meditations and playing for classes ever since.
Although he continues to enjoy musical composition and performance, Regulski said that he has found his chosen path to be equally, if not more rewarding.
"Writing and making music is a great thing and I'm still very active in both, but when I do this (sound meditation), it's unlike anything else," he said. "It fills me up with inspiration to continue learning and growing as a musician and a teacher, and I've always wanted to help people on some level. It's the most rewarding thing I've ever done."
According to Regulski, when a person participates in sound meditation, it allows for deep relaxation, deeper than if someone were to simply to just lie on a couch, for instance. This is due to the fact that our minds are constantly attached to sound.
"Silence is sometimes a ‘green light' for our minds to wander," he said. "By giving your mind something to hold on to, something formless, full but empty at the same time, like sound, it allows you to completely let go and just be present."
It's at that time, Regulski said, that true relaxation can occur.
"This method of meditation is very effective," he said. "It allows you to really hone into what's going on inside your body and examine any issues or concerns you might have -- It takes you away from whatever is happening in the outside world and allows your mind to unravel and clear."
Regulski explained that everyone can benefit from regular or even semi-regular sound meditation sessions, but especially those who suffer from chronic stress or generalized anxiety.
According to Regulski, cultures across the globe have been using sound to heal for thousands of years.
Furthermore, music has long held a deeply sacred space in many cultures, and has been used as a pathway to deeper insight, wisdom, transformation, and growth.
The Hindus have a saying, "Nada Brahma," meaning, "all is sound," or "all of creation is sound."
They suggest that the sound of creation is the sound of "Aum," or "Om," used frequently as a mantra during yoga classes to become centered and self-aware.
During his classes, he keeps in mind that his students all come from different situations and backgrounds, and that each deals with a certain amount of stress. However, he believes his sounds are unifying.
"We all come from different places, but the music bring us all to the same level -- a place of calm," Regulski said. "It can be pretty transportative (sic) for people."
This summer, Regulski trained intensively with a master in sound meditation based in Ascutney, Vt., Zacciah Blackburn.
Blackburn has been involved in the field of healing music, sound and shamanic practices for more than 35 years, according to Regulski, and was instrumental in his recent growth as an instructor.
"I plan to continue studying with him," Regulski said. "There is so much depth still to be explored."
Regulski said it was during this training that he truly realized the responsibility he held as an instructor and leader.
"During the sessions, you really have to create a safe, welcoming and supportive space for your students," he said. "They have to trust you. You're helping them get to a vulnerable state, a sensitive state, where they can heal. You have to keep that space sacred."
According to Regulski, his classes have thus far been well-received throughout the region.
He hopes to branch out further in the future, perhaps even bringing his classes to New York City.
This fall, Regulski plans to produce two CDs with recordings of his sounds and music for interested parties.
Regulski will be offering half-hour and hour-long, private sound meditation sessions at Karma Cat Yoga Studio beginning in the fall.
He will also be playing during next Wednesday night's restorative bhakti yoga class at Karma Cat Yoga at 469 Main St., Bennington.
Contact Regulski by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Register for a sound meditation class online at karmacatyoga.com or by calling 802-449-2900.
Contact Elizabeth A. Conkey at email@example.com, or follow on Twitter @bethconkey.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.