Sound Baths Helped Center Taleen Kali; Now She Pays It Forward With Free Songs For Meditation EP

Photo Credit: Devon Ingram

Last April, as soon as Taleen Kali and her bandmate Miles Marsico were vaccinated, they headed to a warehouse in Glendale, California, just outside of Los Angeles, with a bass, a harmonium, some synths and singing bowls. Then they hooked up the bass and synths to “a mess of pedals” and recorded a sound bath. On November 5, the fruits of that session were released as a five-track EP, Songs for Meditation, for free, a gesture that Kali describes as a “gift to the universe during these wild times.” 

Songs for Meditation is divided into five improvised compositions that take their titles from the components of narrative structures; it begins with “Prologue” and ends with “Denouement.” The EP is also structured similar to a traditional sound bath, although some of the techniques they use aren’t. “It’s a meditation record, a sound bath record, but sometimes it also sounds like a post-rock record or an ambient album,” Kali says on a recent phone call. It’s also a culmination of a rock musician’s journey into the healing power of sound baths. 

Back in 2013, Kali, who plays multiple instruments including piano and guitar, had been experiencing tendonitis and was noticing the beginning of carpal tunnel syndrome. That’s when she headed to her first yoga class, which quickly became a passion. In a class she took early on, the teacher played a singing bowl; Kali was instantly intrigued. “It sounded holy. It sounded beautiful,” she recalls. Kali wanted to learn everything about singing bowls, so she trained to become a sound bath practitioner. 

Singing bowls, particularly the crystal ones that Kali often plays, have some major differences from traditional rock instruments. “With rock and roll or punk, you can thrash. You can thrash on your guitar and it feels amazing. You can feedback. I feel like when I play traditional rock instruments, I can be really volatile with them and channel anger and channel all sorts of things that come up,” Kali explains. “However, with singing bowls, if I do that, I’m going to break the crystal bowl.”

In fact, Kali did have a crystal bowl once that broke when it fell, even though it was packed inside of a gig bag. The fragility of the instrument lends itself to a different type of playing style. “You really have to play the singing bowl with reverence and be very grounded while you play it, otherwise, you’re going to hurt the singing bowl or hurt yourself,” says Kali; it’s more like settling in to a balancing pose in yoga.

Still, there are elements of singing bowl techniques that Kali, who released the rock-oriented EP Soul Songs in 2018, has been able to transfer over to her work on guitar. “It was great practice for me for relearning to play guitar in a safer way in order to avoid injury,” says Kali. “The practice of playing the crystal singing bowl really has reeducated me in thinking, getting grounded, taking a few breaths before I play, so that I’m playing from a more centered place.” 

A few nights before our interview, I sat in on a virtual sound bath where she played three crystal quartz composite bowls that were tuned to the notes D, F and A, respectively. “They make up a perfect triad, a perfect chord, a major chord,” she explains. The bowls were already tuned to those notes in order to achieve the harmonic sounds that they can produce. 

In the sound bath, she encouraged viewers to set an intention and gave journal prompts. The latter activity, she says, is the result of the amount of people in the creative fields who attend the events. “They can be really creatively generative,” she says of sound baths. Something like a journal prompt can help direct that inspiration.

Kali has been creating sound baths for about three years now, but, for a while, she had put the practice aside due to touring. “My singing bowls were in the studio in the gig bags,” she says. “I didn’t have them out anymore.” That changed, though, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when Kali brought her bowls home from the studio. “Within the first few weeks of the pandemic, I started doing these virtual sound baths because I needed them,” she says. “I needed to come down off of all the anxiety related to the start of the pandemic.”

She kept going with it, and has more recently started doing one-minute sound baths on Instagram, where she plays at times that are unannounced, although they typically come at the top of an hour. These mini sound baths are a response to the phenomenon of doomscrolling. “I also fell prey to so much doomscrolling and internet addiction, especially in the middle of the pandemic, when I couldn’t socialize normally,” Kali says, noting how she would end up spending time on social media networks even when she didn’t want to. “It started to not feel good. That’s how I knew that it was addictive.”

The Instagram pop ups are a way to offer some of her sound bath work for free, something Kali felt was important to do. “By playing the instruments, it’s actually helping me too,” she says. “It’s a fair exchange of energy. I’m not giving anything away. It’s helping me, it’s helping others, and that feels really good.” 

Follow Taleen Kali on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

WOMAN OF INTEREST: Sound Healing Practitioner Lavender Suarez Rides Transcendent Waves


Prior to the pandemic, sound healing – a practice that utilizes relaxing vibrations in the hopes of easing participants’ anxiety, insomnia, or other ailments – usually took place in person, on a blanket or a mat with a real life human being playing gongs, Tibetan singing bowls, tuning forks or other esoteric instruments right there in the room. Since March, sound healing has moved to the virtual domain, though its practice still hinges on vibrations and frequencies tuned specifically to help people emote and relax. If you’re new to the experimental world of sound healing and meditation, Transcendent Waves, the debut book from healing practitioner, meditation teacher, and artist Lavender Suarez, has arrived just in time for your new found exploration. 

Out December 15th via Anthology Editions, the hybrid how-to guide stretches beyond sound healing as a trend, and deep dives as an immersive artist’s workbook. Rooted in scientific evidence, the anecdotes and spontaneous writing prompts open up new perspectives listening can bring to our inner lives and creative bubbles. It also outlines how listening can unlock moments of creative spark, self-awareness, and mindfulness.

When asked about the transition from analog to virtual, Suarez commented, “I think it’s really great to experience a sound healing treatment from the comfort of your own home.” Certain frequencies can activate our body’s healing system, and increase clarity, energy, better sleep, focus, and tranquility. For that reason, says Suarez, some folks may explore sound healing right before bed, or at the beginning of their day. “You can cater it to exactly your schedule, avoiding any commute, which can be stressful,” she adds.

Photo Credit: Jenn Morse

Suarez’s relationship and connection to sound developed in early childhood. As an eight year old, Suarez serenaded her neighbors with her beloved companion – her saxophone. “I didn’t like the feeling of the neck strap, I just liked holding the saxophone,” she says. “I don’t have distinct memories of this, but my mom would tell me I would just walk around the street in my neighborhood playing the sax. I just had so much fun with it.”

Her study expanded from her passion for the tactile feel of the sax, into electronic synthesizers, and bass and percussion during her teenage years. “I just wanted to absorb sound in my own way. I’ve always had a very intuitive and therapeutic relationship with music,” she explains. “In school I was glued to my discman. Even if I had just 30 seconds between walking to another class in school, I would throw my headphones in and listen to part of a song before my next class.” 

During college, Suarez found herself studying psychology and art therapy, eventually configuring a way to fuse these passions with her personal connection to sound. “When I learned the methodology of sound being used therapeutically with people, I thought, ‘Wow, that’s exactly what I want to do.’”

 Suarez has hosted educational and meditative listening experiences and workshops at MoMA, the Guggenheim, the Whitney, the Hirshhorn Museum, and the Rubin Museum of Art. The Rubin was one of the first major museums to approach Suarez to speak on sound and movement. Initially asked to lecture on how brain waves sync with sound and movement, Suarez decided to speak on how the power of sound specifically aids in relaxation. The event evolved into a 45-minute presentation about neuroscience and the powers of sound on the mind, closing the talk with an electro-acoustic sound bath (she felt it would be a tease to explain, but not offer, the experience). This became a stepping stone in her career, and opened the gates to the expansive world of museum programming. “A person may never think about walking into a yoga studio, but someone wandering through their favorite museum may see a free meditation class advertised in a space they already love visiting and give it a go,” Suarez says.


Suarez teaches an ongoing hybrid art therapy sound bath workshop called Meditation for Creative Expression. “I’ve always had a strong mission to help artists and musicians, particularly with my therapeutic practice. These communities are often uninsured, and don’t have access to certain health resources,” she says. “I had a lot of friends who were on extreme touring schedules, and suffered from anxiety and exhaustion. Not everyone is necessarily seeking out healing methodologies, but I really wanted to provide a healing service.”

It began as an in-person four week workshop at the Brooklyn Public Library in January, and has continued virtually at Pioneer Works. After a guided meditation, participants are given time to free write or free draw while Suarez creates meditative music in the background. At the end, people share what came through to them, and what they created.

“We feel more fluid creating art, when we can clear our minds,” Suarez explains. “I love it, because it’s for people of all levels of artistic practice. This book came out of teaching many workshops since 2014, it’s accessible, and catered to all creative people, age groups, and backgrounds, not just artists. Even if we don’t think that we’re artists or creators, we express ourselves every day. There’s always a creative process going on in our minds; this workshop is meant to let that process come through in the most fluid way possible.”

The book’s remarkably relatable tone sets it apart as a dynamic, accessible and enriching read. It guides the reader to discovering their sonic sanctuary, where the sound quality of the space provides you with the emotional state you desire within that moment. “A sonic sanctuary might be a quiet park that you return to when you need to clear your head. Or a bustling coffee shop if you want that caffeine energy bustle to finish a term paper,” Suarez says. “During the pandemic, a sonic sanctuary for me has been riding my bike through Prospect Park. I love riding the trail, and the sensation of hearing little bits and pieces of all the different things going on. There’s the element of nature, but then you catch people talking, or a jazz band in the distance. I love the sensation of riding my bike straight through, hearing the ducks, birds, sometimes small private parties. I’m moving through so much sonic stimulation that I otherwise don’t necessarily get when I’m at home.”


Too often, wellness providers set the tone of having secret knowledge that they’re going to share with you, as a form of gatekeeping. This book shares knowledge, with a friendly, open-minded approach. Suarez effortlessly displays the interconnectedness of clinical science with inquisitive philosophical ideas. “I wanted to create a book that really appreciates how much goes into what happens when your ears hear a sound,” she says. “I wanted to spark inspiration to give options for people to go down their own rabbit holes and paths with sound – what happens when you’re standing in a certain building, and you can hear a whisper from the other side of the room? Those phenomenon are fun, and bring us into the listening world in a way where we’re really understanding what’s happening.”

Suarez found narrative inspiration from Yoko Ono’s book grapefruit, deriving from The Fluxus movement, an avant-garde art movement of the late 1950s which emerged from a group of artists who had become disenchanted with the elitist attitude they perceived in the art world. “These abstract poems are about the ways you interact with your art. They could be taken literally, or they could just be philosophical. Make a painting, leave it in the moon overnight, the next morning, burn it,” Suarez says. “I wrote this book to counter the visual-centric world we live in. I wanted to share my belief that all artists of all types can be inspired by sound and listening. A lot of the time, sound likes to stay in the corner of music, and then visual art is in a different realm. It doesn’t have to be that way. I would like readers to walk away with a deeper connection to the impact of listening in their lives, and listening to themselves and the world around them, and how that can open up creative possibilities for them.”

Follow Lavender Suarez on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

HIGH NOTES: Healing With Sound and Cacao

Two weeks ago, I was checking out a yoga class in Ubud, Bali when the sole other student observed that I kept tripping on steps. “Not a good step day for you, huh?” he asked. We got to talking, and I asked what he did.

“I help people find their life purpose.”

“Sounds like something I could use.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Well, I’m in the middle of a transformation of sorts.” Like everyone in Ubud, I thought to myself. “I’m healing from Lyme disease, and I’m starting to build a new life. Rethinking my career and stuff like that.”

“Take my number, then, and let me know if you want to do a session.”

I met him in a small house by the water that was so newly built it didn’t have an address. In the bathroom, I tripped on a step. “I’m trained by shamans in Mexico, and I do reiki,” he explained. Not exactly what I expected — but maybe better. “Do you believe in spiritual entities?”

“Um, yeah — I believe I have one on me, and I think it’s causing my illness,” I replied. I’d arrived at this conclusion after many plant medicine ceremonies and sessions with spiritual healers.

“Tripping a lot can be a sign of that,” he nodded. “They’re trying to bring you down to a lower frequency, because that’s the environment they thrive in.” He went on to explain that people unconsciously agree to host entities and that they feed off our resources and control our minds so that we feed them. Most people have some bad entities, but they have enough good to quiet them. Sometimes, though, the bad take over. Entities sounded like bacteria. I became even more convinced that an entity (or entities?) was causing my sickness.

The shaman had me lie on a bed and said a prayer to get the entities off me. “I got almost everything, but there’s one that won’t leave,” he said afterward.

“Where is it?”

“Can you tune into it?”

“I’m not getting anything,” I said as I rested my hand right below my heart, where my ribs meet.

“Why is your hand there?”

“I don’t know.”

“I think it’s telling us where the entity is. It’s in your solar plexus.”

He invited me to come back to clear the early childhood trauma he saw in my solar plexus and to participate in a cacao ceremony he was attending at the healing center Pyramids of Chi. In a cacao ceremony, a ritual originating from the Mayans and Aztecs, people drink cacao together to elevate their state of consciousness. Apparently, it’s the thing to do in Ubud.

The next day, I tried to order a ride to Pyramids of Chi, but my Go Jek app (like Uber for Bali) wasn’t working. So, I asked the nearest taxi stand on the street for a ride. They didn’t have any cabs, but they had motorcycles. I held my breath as I got on the back of a motorcycle and grabbed my driver’s shoulders for dear life, and I didn’t let it out until I heard a dog howling at the entrance.

The center’s name is literal: It consists of giant white pyramids, including one where they held the cacao ceremony. Several dozen people sat on little cushions as the leader explained the purpose of the cacao, which was mixed with water, palm sugar, and spices: to open the heart. Then, we stood and pivoted to pray to the four directions, and the leader chanted the names of spirits ranging from Ganesha to Mother Mary. After we drank the cacao, the room erupted into ecstatic dance. Dreamy, spiritual sounds filled the pyramid as people hopped up and down and swayed from side to side.

During this dance, I contemplated such things as the Biblical family tree and whether the frequencies of colors correspond to sounds. I also began to plan the next few months of my life, suddenly feeling confident in possibilities that seemed distant. Why did people use coffee — or cocaine, for that matter — when they could just use this?

Next, we paired up for two activities. For one, we and our partners gazed into each other’s eyes and “bowed” to each other in our own way. I pulled the sides of my dress up and curtsied. My partner gazed at me lovingly and whispered, “You’re beautiful.” I felt like a princess. A line from the movie A Little Princess came to me: “All girls are princesses.” It brought tears to my eyes. Even with everything happening, even when I felt like I had nothing, I was a princess.

For the next activity, we and our partners put our hands on each other’s hearts and sang along to a song: “I love you, I’m sorry, thank you, forgive me.” As I looked into my partner’s eyes, it felt as if we were giving each other permission to forgive ourselves. I saw my beauty through her own and felt deeply that I was not my mistakes.

The last stage of the ceremony was a sound bath. In a separate pyramid, we each lay on a little bed as people hit gongs. The idea was that each of these gongs creates a healing frequency, causing our bodies to vibrate at these frequencies as well. The leader told us to close our eyes and just take in the vibrations, but the excitement the cacao was causing in my mind turned to anxiety, and I spent most of the ceremony contemplating how to overstay my visa in Bali without getting in trouble.

But then, just as it came to a close, a thought came to me out of nowhere: “It’s OK. The Lyme isn’t there anymore. I told it to leave.” I felt the muscles surrounding my heart release as if they were letting out a breath of air.

The next morning, I kept coughing up mucus. It came in waves, almost like purging during an iboga ceremony. I realized it was coming from that exact spot right in the middle of my chest. It was as if the shamanic healing and the cacao were cleaning out my heart and solar plexus.

Afterward, I walked through Ubud and bought myself a pink jeweled dress. “All girls are princesses,” I thought. The time had come for me to claim my crown. I was glad I tripped over those steps.