Nate Martinez is many things — a professional musician of twenty-five years who’s toured various corners of the world, an avid student of shamanism, and most recently, an ambassador of sound therapy who has helped bring the healing and regenerative benefits of sound to a wider audience in NYC and beyond. Certified in sound therapy from the Open Center, Martinez established his own private practice NTM Sound in 2014. Xuyoni's writer Tenzin Tsagong caught up with New York’s resident sound-healer over email and discussed all things sound, spirituality, and the pandemic blues.
I can hear a podcast playing downstairs, creaks and clicks from my old house, a truck backing up with the beep sounds far off in the distance and the subtle, but constant hum of NYC.
Thank you for asking this question— I grew up there but left almost 25 years ago and haven’t been back in a long time so I had to really give some consideration to this. When I look back to growing up there I think about nature sounds. I spent a lot of my youth in nature- hiking, making forts and just exploring. The sounds of birds, insects, wind moving through tall grass, rain and shoes getting stuck in mud all come to mind. I also spent a lot of time by the Niagara River which has quite a fast current so the sound of the water constantly moving is also imprinted in my memory.
I think, in some instances, there is an assumption that sound therapy related to mindfulness is by default a spiritual experience. In my opinion it’s no different from any other experience— people have spiritual experiences eating, sleeping, running, etc and some do it without thinking about spirituality at all. People find the most interesting ways to connect to divinity. And for as many people who have a connection to spirituality there are countless who don’t, or rather it’s that they find their own way of communing outside of the more structured and organized ways that some prefer. It all comes down to the existential questions: who am I and what is this thing called life?
I’m of the mindset that we should treat others with respect and dignity, and most important– listen to one another regardless of the spiritual beliefs that give us comfort and a sense of security.
My education and life experiences are something I've definitely been able to draw from as I transitioned into sound therapy. I think ultimately we can only offer a depth of knowledge for what we truly know and have experienced. It’s certainly helpful being able to draw on my knowledge of music theory and physics of sound, and more recently rely on my engineering background to be able to create high fidelity live streams. As a trained musician, it can sometimes be hard to mentally let go of some of the conditioning and judgement that come with it. The child-like curiosity that often fuels creativity can also be a source of judgement for others. But all in all my education and experience has been essential to my foundation in sound therapy.
Moving to virtual offerings has actually been pretty amazing. I wasn't sure how it would work but I've been able to connect with more people and more companies on a global level and that's something I wouldn't be able to do on the same scale in physical spaces. I am incredibly grateful for how it's worked out. For as heartbreaking as this pandemic has been, I think the innovation due to the circumstances will propel us into a new phase eventually where we get to re-imagine how we live and integrate and change to adapt and hopefully excel in the next chapter.
For now in-person human connection is suffering greatly but once we can figure out the new normal we'll be able to reconnect and my hope is that it's an even more meaningful way.
I've created multiple series of sound meditation recordings through the past year (most recently being the Sleep Series) as a way to offer sound experiences that aid in meditation, relaxation and sleep. These have been well received and helped people and they’ve also been helpful to me by being able to immerse myself in the sounds and process of creating them. I've found that space, silence, and Alice Coltrane have been very helpful.
Try to turn off the phone and computers for moments, and when you do just try to close your eyes and listen to your environment. It's incredibly hard to shut off technology and our brain, especially when it's projecting into the near future if there are deadlines and life responsibilities. But in projecting hours ahead, we are not in the moment. Breathing and listening have an ability to root us in the moment and when we can do this we can shift our perspective and that can have positive effects on our nervous system and our whole being.
By Tenzin Tsagong / Editor at Xuyoni