“It’s not the notes you play, it’s the notes you don’t play.” Miles Davis’ thoughts on the space around musical notes resonates with Daniel Lauter, the self-described meditation DJ. Layers of interesting compositional ambient textures are formed out of the brief, quiet moments. Not unlike a DJ in the traditional sense, he times transitions from one tune to the next, playing each note consciously. What’s interesting about Lauter is that rather than a mixing board, his instruments range from crystal and metal singings bowls to hanging gongs that he plays during sound baths and deep relaxation mindfulness meditations. While listeners are allowed to relax in these immersive sessions, Lauter shares how his sets become one whole instrument comprised of many.
Locally, Lauter hosts sound baths at Yoga Shanti in Sag Harbor, One Ocean Yoga in Bridgehampton, and the Southampton Arts Center. In sessions, a series of crystal bowls, hand-hammered Tibetan and Himalayan singing bowls, crystal gongs, a hang drum, a South African ocarina, and other objects of sound are arranged to create a collection of soothing sounds that have beneficial effects, such as reducing stress, anxiety and worry, among other daily pressures, says Lauter. Combined with meditative breath work while lying in a relaxed posture, similar to Shavasana or yoga nidra, vibrations travel through instruments through the air and begin to penetrate the skin membrane; a sympathetic resonance.
“There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that our central nervous system has a good response to sound baths,” says Lauter. “It’s connected to everything and creates a nice beneficial effect on mind and body. From my perspective, these sound baths stimulate the sound body and our ability to tune body and mind through sound.”
By stimulating the sound body, cortisol levels are reduced, production of beneficial nitric oxide increases, blood pressure is lowered, heart rate is reduced and a person can quickly reach relaxing brain wave states. Lauter finds he can see a person’s stress on their face when they enter individual or group sessions. After entering this deep state of relaxation, the physical difference is profound.
Lauter studied at Purchase Conservatory as a classical clarinetist, and also composes and performs saxophone in a jazz trio on the East End. He approaches his work through both a sound point of view and transformational point of view. Arranging the bowls by cord structure, he groups binaural matched pairs that are close in pitch to create beat tones that flow through the air. Lauter combines harmonies and melodies with slowed-down rhythms, and has found people respond well to this as well as the spaces between the music.
The idea of being present is one that many struggle with in today’s fast-paced society. “The idea of being in the present moment is something people take a little too literally sometimes and kind of confuse themselves when they need to be compassionate to themselves,” Lauter shares. “The idea of being in a meditative state is to be aware of the present moment, focusing, if you can, on the pattern of breath in and out. The idea is to give less priority to those other thoughts.”
Sound baths impact people differently. One person may love the powerful sounds of a singing crystal bowl while another finds the hanging drum is enchanting and soothing. It depends on personal taste, just like with rock versus hip hop music, or jazz versus Motown, says Lauter.
The word “healing” is one that Lauter tends to shy away from. “Often times people expect practitioners to snap their fingers and someone will be healed,” he explains. “I recognize what’s really going on is creating space for people to do what’s innately natural in their own holistic body and mind.”
On Saturday, May 25, Lauter will lead a special 90-minute sound bath meditation at One Ocean Yoga inside Channing Daughters winery in Bridgehampton at 3 p.m. Themed around George Harrison’s “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth),” the session will focus on unconditional love. The sound bath will include a heart chakra poetic guided meditation and will be followed by an opportunity to interact with the sound tools to feel what one resonates with. Learn more at meditationdj.com.