For quite a while, I had the idea that a guided meditation could take on a little more life than it normally does—that the listener could be brought in more and connect with the meditation more fully, be more engaged. Over time it came to me, what if we merged some sort of storytelling element in with the guided meditation or whatever the vehicle we wanted to use to teach people how to access their own inner resources?
The first kernel of this came to me 15 or 20 years ago with the idea of a virtual shaman type of character, and the question, how could we bring that to life for people, taking a guided meditation one step further so that you’re not just passively experiencing? How could we bring it to the next level, where you feel like you’re really involved or really connected to the experience of being taught by a Zen master, a shaman, a spiritual leader, or whatever? I had different thoughts over the years and different incarnations of what that character would be like. More recently, I realized it doesn’t have to be one particular prototype; it can be whatever we come up with that fits the different lessons that are there to be taught or experiences to be had.
And then, maybe six months ago at the most, Wan-Tsu as a particular character came into existence, poof! He seemed more accessible than some of the previous things I had been working on in my head. For whatever reason, bringing the thought into reality seemed like a straighter shot for me, really he was the manifestation of years.
The Making of Wan-Tsu
After having several different ideas, the idea of Wan-Tsu just occurred in my mind one day—a Chinese sage. What if you could press play, sit back, and interact with a Chinese sage? That would be pretty cool. Then it was a matter of figuring out how to structure the story, so that it would make sense to be interacting with a guy who had been gone for the last 1,500 years, or whatever the timeframe turned out to be. That is what led me on how I structured the storyline. It was kind of organic in that way, and I just had to sit with it.
The more I did that, the more the character of Wan-Tsu took on a life of its own; I visualized him… what kind of personality would the guy have? What kind of qualities would he have as a teacher? What would his background story be? I had to make some choices with that, because at first I thought of making him the perfect Zen guy with the perfect Buddha life, but then I realized that wouldn’t really have made sense. Bringing him into the human realm was important.
I honed in on the Tang Dynasty in the 8th century, because, based on what I was reading, it seemed like a time of relative peace that was allowing literature, the sciences, and the arts to flourish. With the Chinese empire expanding, it seemed like a nice, ripe time for a teacher to come out.
Creating an Authentic Sounding Soundtrack
I wanted the teachings to have something of an Eastern flavor that matched the time frame and cultural background of Wan-Tsu. I sifted through some entrainment tracks I had and found one I thought would work; then I added some elements to it, and it ended up having a fluid, flowing feeling (in my mind, anyway) and kind of a nature-inspired feel to it.
I started with that and then realized, hey, I have a guzheng, which is a Chinese zither. It seemed like it would be a mistake not to use it. So I started to record some music with the guzheng until I came up with some stuff I felt resonated with the Wan-Tsu piece. Once I did this, it felt like the flavor of Wan-Tsu was really locking in.
The Brainwave Entrainment
As to the entrainment level, I wanted people to have plenty of alpha awareness, or brainwave activity, as well as theta brainwaves. So, between the two, between the calm focus and receptivity and also the imaginative quality of visualization, I guessed that people would be able to get kind of lost in the story.
Adding Hypnotic Techniques to the Meditation
There are definitely some hypnotic techniques used within the storytelling itself—more of an Ericksonian hypnosis method with nothing direct that you could point at. The intonation of the voice is part of it, but it’s mostly the sequence of events and how listeners allow that to form pictures in their minds.
But once the dialoguing was really going on, I didn’t have to rely on hypnotic technique heavily, because I think between the entrainment and the story itself, after about five minutes into it, you can kind of set that stuff aside and just let the story develop. Of course there were also parameters I was working with around the storytelling, so as to make sure to keep people engaged at that level.
Future Teachings of Wan-Tsu
These tracks are called “Lesson 1,” because the overall idea is that this can be an ongoing serial. Now that you know Wan-Tsu, we can bring him back again and again. There’s that familiarity, and we can start expanding the story. Not that you can’t go back and reference and re-experience the older elements you’ve already listened to—for instance, the adaptation where you’re going into the temple. You can re-experience that later and the symbols coming from your subconscious mind, higher self, or whatever it is you believe they come from might change.
Nonetheless, it’s meant to be progressive, so that over time, you look back and say, “Gee whiz. I’ve learned this from Wan-Tsu… and this, and this, and this.” Hopefully, what will occur is an unfolding of awareness and relationship, much like a mentor-student type of relationship, even though it’s an audio recording.
Leigh Spusta, creator of iAwake’s Deep Delta, Solar Infusion, the sound/entrainment track for Deep Recovery, and iAwake Mini Meditations is a behavioral scientist, hypnotherapist, and Certified Therapeutic Imagery Facilitator, specializing in the use of sound frequencies to produce deep, relaxing trance states. His work has become internationally recognized, enjoyed by thousands around the world. He has worked with several therapists in Los Angeles, producing a variety of therapeutic audio CDs, and has been hired as a consultant and producer working with companies in the United Kingdom. He also works with HMI College of Hypnotherapy and the American Hypnosis Association as Director of Media Production. Leigh combines his talents as a musician and his knowledge of hypnosis and related states, in an effort to pioneer new approaches to creating rich, resonant soundscapes for greater efficacy in healing and meditative products. Leigh is the developer of the proprietary PsimatiX™ therapeutic approaches and technologies.
This blog was created by Heidi Mitchell, iAwake’s blog editor, from an interview John Dupuy, iAwake CEO, did with Leigh Spusta on December 7, 2016, in one of iAwake’s weekly coaching calls. You can hear the audio version of the interview in our teleseminar archive.