Back in early October, I attended a press event for Kassia + Surf in NYC. The company and its namesake founder were introducing a new line of wetsuits made from recycled neoprene and salvaged tires, along with a collection of other eco-conscious surf apparel. Considered perhaps the best female longboarder ever, Kassia Meador’s graceful and effortless surfing style is legendary — cross stepping and tiptoeing up to the nose of the board, hanging out there in a crouch, or maybe topping it off with a twirl.
The press event was hosted at Mndfl, one of the new breed of meditation studios that have popped up over the last few years, and a featured part of the morning would be a sound bath meditation led by Kassia herself. If you have never experienced a sound bath, it is style of meditation that uses vibrational sound waves produced by chimes, gongs, drums, and crystal bowls as a relaxation technique. As you “bathe” in these tones, it facilitates a shift in your brainwaves to a state of deep relaxation and rest. For those who are new to meditation or have found it a challenge, a sound bath is a great place to start. Focusing on these vibrational tones can help tune out distractions to attain that deeply meditative state many of us find so elusive.
As with any group class, there are those special instructors that elevate the experience to a new level. I had done a sound bath once before – in fact it was my introduction to meditation – but this session led by Kassia was a whole other level. Though my eyes were closed, I could feel the sounds shifting and engulfing me as Kassia walked around the room producing different notes and tones from various instruments. With a newly broken foot and bummed-out attitude to go with it, I was in need of some healing – and this was transformative.
Unbeknownst to me, Kassia has become as well known for her sound sessions as her surf sessions — proving equally adept at riding both waves. She sets an intention before each class, a focus around which the sounds and their energy are channeled. That first session was focused on sustainability and those small changes we can make for exponentially greater results — back when the environment was our global focus before the pandemic.
Fascinated by her transition into this world of what she calls vibrational therapy or sound healing, I spoke to Kassia after that session about the experience. We chatted again last week, and I asked her to share her thoughts on the Coronavirus pandemic — the intentions we can be setting now for some much needed spiritual sanctuary. The following is excerpts from both conversations:
STYLE OF SPORT: Kassia… I have been wanting to meet you for so long! I’ve known of you as a world famous surfer, but had no idea you were as talented leading sound bath meditations.
KASSIA MEADOR: Thanks! I’ve been working with this medicine for some time now. I love it so much! I’m doing more sound than almost anything these days. In fact, more people know me now from sound than surfing.
SOS: I like the word sound bath because it sounds like something you’re submerged in, but it’s deeper than a bath… like the ocean. I’m so curious how you got into this.
KM: I was first introduced to sound baths in 2008. I was out in the Mojave desert and stumbled upon this place Integratron. I’d never experienced anything like it. It felt very familiar. It felt like surfing sound waves. It was so transformative and stuck with me. For a couple of years I kept thinking about the experience. I was surfing professionally then but getting a little disenchanted. I was feeling like wanted to do more in the world. Give back in deeper ways. In 2011 I moved from San Diego back to LA where I’m originally from. I was walking down the street and saw sound bowls in a shop. I thought. ‘Oh my god… that’s one of those things I experienced!’ I walked in and started playing it — and walked out with it on my head. Carrying it home, I called a couple of musician friends and we all started playing these sound bowls together. We started performance art group called UFO in 2012.
SOS: How did you transition from that into sound healing and meditation?
KM: I’ve been working with sound and vibrational therapy for 9 years. I realized there was so much more to it than just the experimental piece. It makes us feel so deeply, like a hypnotic meditation. Nobody was really talking about it then and I knew it was something I wanted to dive deeper into. I started doing sound baths at friend’s yoga studio, and studying with different teachers. I feel so fortunate to have been able to experiment with it in early days as art, and then transition into healing.
SOS: I had done a sound bath before and not gotten that much out of it. Like anything — a spin or yoga class — there are good teachers and bad teachers. You are so gifted. What are you actually doing when you lead these sessions?
KM: Really it’s about energy. It’s about helping people bring harmony and balance back to their being. My focus is getting out of my own way and going with it — letting the sound come through me. Tapping into the energy of the room, holding a neutral space, and creating a safe container for people to drop into. I work with intentions and ask everybody to set one for the session. Intention is huge.
SOS: I remember the intention of that session was focused on sustainability. We were talking about progress, and what progress means.
KM: Yes… progression and evolution. Progress doesn’t have to be more. Sometimes it can be less, but in more conscious ways… efficient and effective. If you change your direction by 1 degree, you won’t notice it in 10 feet… but in a mile you will be someplace else.
SOS: That is so profound and such a simple concept — especially when it comes to the environment.
KM: I think that’s what it’s about, not getting overwhelmed. If you can shift your life by 1 degree, how that will bring progress and evolution — and the betterment of the planet.
SOS: Public consciousness has raised awareness about single use plastic waste and ocean pollution. But you end up at Starbucks and there you are with a plastic cup and straw. You start to beat yourself up, but I think the fact that we’re even mindful of it is huge and can bring change.
KM: Awareness is the first opportunity to transform. Be the change you wish to see.
SOS: So good to connect again! I got so much out of our conversation in October. The world has changed so much since then. Our focus and priority were the environment, but right now we are consumed on a global level by the Coronavirus pandemic. I wanted to get your thoughts on intention now, and how we can be using sound to heal in these overwhelming times.
KM: Sound therapy offers a huge opportunity to support the nervous system. We are being inundated and overwhelmed by the news. There’s nowhere to go to get away from it, because literally there’s nowhere to go. So this is the time when we are asked to go inward and that is often not easy for people to do. It’s really important to choose to tune out and tune in. Put your phone on airplane mode. The current of how the majority of people move is towards the hysteria. If there’s a crash on the highway, everybody looks to see what’s going on. You need to be careful and follow all the social distancing guidelines – not expose yourself to others, and others to you – but at the same time not getting swept up in the hysteria is massive.
SOS: I think people are very checked in to their physical fitness, and maintaining that, but less so on their mental fitness, which is more important than ever now. There are endless Instagram workouts, but mindfulness practices are not as obvious or prevalent. We just ran a feature on simple ways to boost your immune system, and meditation was one of them.
KM: This is an opportunity. What do we hope to get out of this time? We can choose to be in chaos, or we can be like, ‘Wow, all those things I wanted to do!’ Maybe take some time to write it down, then you can see it all in front of you. Even if you never look at it again, you brought it out of your head. A lot of people have been wanting to meditate but didn’t have the time or motivation. Now everybody has nothing but time.
SOS: I remember when we spoke last time in relation to my broken foot, you said things don’t happen to us they happen for us. It’s an opportunity to slow down, take inventory. I think this is so relevant now.
KM: This has been a devastating time for so many people, and I’m so sad for anyone that is going through a hard time financially, with their health, family, friends. In that it sucks, and I’m not going to say it doesn’t, but it is also an opportunity to be able to sit with yourself, sit with your thoughts, and sit with your feelings.
SOS: Are there any tools to share with our readers about creating a sound bath environment at home?
KM: Tuning forks are a great way to work with sound and vibration. The brand is Biosonics. They are very grounding and harmonizing. There are oscillating ones you put on the body. I recommend 128 hurtz in the note of C. There are also auditory ones you ding and put next to your ears on either side. I like C and G for the notes. It’s very balancing. Koshi chimes are also very soothing. They are another great way to get into meditating, just playing those bells. The different chimes represent different elements — like air, wood, earth, fire. You can listen to them on the site and choose your vibe.
Photograph by Greg Fulks captured at Rise Up Surf Retreats
SOS: If it’s possible, can you tie what we are experiencing now as a global community into surfing? How do we ride this wave?
KM: The ocean is one of those elements that reminds you the minute you think you have control over anything, you have control over nothing. This is more like a wipe out. The more you fight it, the more you get pounded. If you’re underwater and fighting to get back to the top, it’s going to hold you under that much longer. So this is really about letting go and surrendering. Letting it take you and conserving your energy, so when the time is right you have that energy – and that’s usually when it lets you up.
SOS: It really is about going with the flow. Thanks so much Kassia!
Check out Kassia Surf for Instagram sound sessions and more with Kassia! Also Mndfl is hosting the “World’s Largest Virtual Soundbath” this Wednesday, April 22 — Earth Day — at 7:30pm. And for more sound surfing, check out this combo session from Nowness.