The Sound of Freedom
“So, there are two ways that we can go about this interview,” I said. “We can either aim it towards the sound baths and try and drum up some more business for you, or we explore the career transition you made. The latter would hopefully be inspirational for people who feel stuck.”
“Go with the transition,” Susy said without as much as a blink. “People need to chase their dreams. If this can help, let’s do it.”
My first experience with Susy Markoe Schieffelin, founder of the Copper Vessel, was at a morning meditation in Santa Monica. After the meditation, I had a chat with her. She mentioned that she performs “sound baths” and that I should try it sometime. I thought, “Fuck, yeah. I love sound, and I love baths. This is gonna be epic.” However, I soon learned this would be a waterless bath, which left me with a few questions. A sound bath is a meditation supplemented with a particular kind of sound. Susy works with crystal bowls that are designed to resonate with body and chakras when they are rubbed or tapped. The vibrations given off by the bowls gently shift your personal vibrations into alignment. During a soundbath session Susy “plays” these crystal bowls and fills the space with layer upon layer of sound, melting your defenses and easing you into your body and the present moment.
If you have never tried meditation, or have had a difficult time in the past, start with a sound bath. If you have never experienced a sound bath, Susy is your girl. One hundred percent. Every time I see Susy walk into a room I expect doves to explode across the threshold behind her. She is a blue-eyed angel whose smile shines so brightly that when she laughs the battery life of every iPhone in the room jumps 25%. She will introduce you to the practice of self-exploration in the most benign and comfortable setting possible. “Bring a comfy pillow or two,” she always says with that radiant smile on her face. Sage words. My only piece of advice is try not to fall asleep in the first five minutes, because a meditation session with Susy is a transcendent experience.
The most pleasant surprise of the session was that Susy isn’t just a spiritual guide, she is also a musician. I’ve listened to a string quartet perform Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at the Sainte-Chapelle cathedral in Paris and the weight of the reverberations produced by Susy’s crystal bowls is strikingly similar to that of the violins and cellos cascading off of the cathedral walls. She is a one-woman orchestra. The sounds created by these bowls are thick. They wash over you like the waves of a warm ocean. It moves around you at times, and sits right above you at others. I know it sounds nuts because Susy was sitting in the same spot the entire time, but it really did feel like she was playing just for me. I’m sure this was the experience of each attendant.
I’ve done a few guided meditations in the past, but Susy has a way of guiding that comes in through your ears and wraps itself around a specific part of your soul. We all have different parts of us that need a little reassurance. Susy speaks to that part. Meditation is not about wiping the hard drive so you can fill it up with more crap. It is about pausing. Breathing. Understanding the things in your life that you are responsible for and the things you are not. These are very important distinctions, which can seem very indistinct when life gets busy.
Susy is just like you and me. The only difference is that she has come to terms with the harsher realities of her humanity in a unique and inspiring way. She suffers the same way we do. She has the same doubts. She has the same fears. She has made the same mistakes. She has the same internal demons that whisper sweet nothings in her ear when the lights are off and nobody is around to protect her from herself. Being alive is a bitch, and it will drive us to crazy places if we let it. But hey, man, it’s the cost of doing business. You cannot shut this out. Not only does Susy understand this from first-hand experience, but four years ago she woke up one day, looked at her reflection in the mirror, said, “I can’t fucking do this anymore” and decided to make a change. In that moment of surrender, Susy found a sliver of freedom that has allowed her to walk this earth in search of answers with her head held high.
Before becoming a practitioner of her form of meditative healing Susy first worked in the food and beverage industry, then in luxury lifestyle management. When I asked her what her job description was she just smiled and said, “Making the impossible possible.” All right. The shift from crystal champagne glasses to crystal bowls seemed dramatic, but Susy explained that her intentions hadn’t changed. Her definition of happiness did. She became a spiritual nomad. A humbled seeker of serenity and truth. She found teachers. She found mentors. She takes classes. And at some point along the road of happy destiny she synthesized a lifetime of experience and directed it towards helping others.
Susy: My life’s purpose is to help others find happiness. At first, I thought I should do food. Then it seemed like luxury. But that’s not lasting. It’s not real happiness. After I got sober and was having my own spiritual awakening. I thought this work was great but I’m not really helping anyone. It wasn’t feeling so right anymore. So, I took lessons and continued working while training, and eventually the time came that I thought let’s do this.
David: What was it like crossing that threshold?
Susy: Everything in my life had led me to that moment. And like it all made sense and came together. I have a background in marketing and throwing events, so throwing my own events and marketing them came very naturally. I worked on my branding. Worked on my website. I worked on my business plan.
David: That seems like a lot of pressure for one person to manage. Were people supportive of your vision?
Susy: My parents were supportive, but they were like: Susy be practical about it. You need to have a plan. You need to be calculated. But everyone knew that I have been building this. They saw that this was something I felt very passionate about, and I had a plan. I definitely had the support of people. If it were just me, and everyone was saying “You can’t do this,” it would be a lot harder, but people said to me, “We see how this has changed you. This is your calling. This is your gift.”
And just like that the Copper Vessel was born. Susy’s dream became reality. But only because she has taken the mind-numbing work ethic and experience she gathered over the course of her career and applied it to her vision. It never stops with her either. She’s got one of those unbreakable spirits that just won’t quit. Spiritual healers come in many shapes and forms, and Susy, I assure you, comes in great shape and in great form. Seriously. Right now, she’s preparing for a trip China where she will perform a week-long residency in Shanghai to deepen her spiritual practice even further. The dedication she exerts towards her work and the people coming to her for relief are the two most apparent qualities of Susy’s personality once you get to know her. They’re admirable traits we can all learn from.