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A Practice Suggestion: Just Listen

Recently we received an email to which solu co-founder Alene Sibley responded. I’ve edited the original email and Alene’s response for privacy, but the essence of the question and answer is intact. Alene speaks very compellingly for the power of N.O.W.  Her message? Just listen.

Original email exerpt: “The three minute duration of N.O.W. may be good for some people, but all I am doing after using the device for a month is anticipating the end of the cycle and it is disrupting to have to reset the device to capture the “peace” that is almost (for me) generated.”

Alene’s response:

You articulated so well how you feel that you are on the verge of peace, when suddenly the rug is pulled out from under you as the 3-minute tone session is up. 

I thank you so much for reaching out with your suggestions and your interest. What I really hope is that you won’t give up using N.O.W., just yet, even if it is only three minutes of sound on the set of speakers. Here is why:

I have a feeling that if you keep using N.O.W. on a regular basis you are going to witness extraordinary and unexpected changes in your life — changes that will be experienced well outside of the times when you are actually listening to the device.

Wanting 20 or 30 minutes of respite into peace seems like the best thing ever (I KNOW), but this listening system of tones devised by Michael is something very different than a tranquility-inducer that makes you feel good. It is that, but not only that — it is actually something far more wonderful; I describe it as more of a quick window into the essential Self as well as being a reset into your day here on 3-D earth. 

I’m going to suggest a little something to practice here, because I am just like you and will look at and analyze my experiences in much the same way as you describe very well in your short email. Take the N.O.W. and use it twice a day or more, deliberately, and let go of anything you wish you could feel from it.

Just try this for a few days, but really try it. Your only responsibility is this: Listen with full intent, attentively, without judgment. 

Every time you have the thought “the N.O.W. session is going to end soon,”  just listen. Every time you think you are beginning to feel peace, just listen. Every time you realize you are realizing anything, whether it is positive or negative or a straying thought or a connected-to-the-experience thought, recall that your practice is to, again: just listen. And then do just that. This might sound repetitive of me, but N.O.W. will bring you what it can bring you, personally, if you just listen. Then it will shut off and that’s that.

I understand there is a trust factor involved, so do not take my word for it. Just give it a try in this way for a while; you’ll know soon if my suggestion leads to a truth for you, in your relationship to the device.

But do know this: if you are anticipating the ending, you are actually not listening. You are not present in the moment. You are “thinking-forward” in time.

I think you might have a profound shift awaiting you, because having identified this factor of anticipation, you have a real chance to step out of mental, time-based experience of the tones and find out what happens when they bring you out of time altogether.

Our point with N.O.W. is to help change lives altogether, so be gentle toward yourself and simply observant with your N.O.W. system. You’ll be rocking this peace in no time. (You may take or leave that as a pun!)  🙂

Click to discuss these ideas in our forum

N.O.W.’s Rare and Surprising Echo Feature

Sooner or later you will hear a rare and surprising feature of N.O.W. – “echo play”.

Instead of each N.O.W. speaker playing a completely different tone sequence (as is the norm), on rare occasion the two N.O.W. speakers each play the same tone sequence. The effect is subtle, and may not even be noticed, but it is a possibility built into the N.O.W. system. The “echo play” feature exists for several reasons.

One, this feature keeps you on your toes! It’s sort of like riding a merry go round knowing there’s a small chance a brass ring may be captured. When you know there is a tiny chance one of N.O.W.’s speaker will duplicate the sound of the other this lends an additional aura of interest and attention to your listening (we’ve built several features into N.O.W. that help attract and keep your focus on the present moment). And if you forget “echo play” can happen, you’ll be surprised when it does occur–and this will rejuvenate your listening sessions going forward.

Second, N.O.W.’s “echo play” feature is subtle teaching on “the sameness of the other”. N.O.W.’s “echo play” offers a direct experience of two separate sound objects producing the same tone sequence. When this occurs, one can take this opportunity to contemplate (wordlessly) the spiritual truth of “the other is another me”.

Third, “echo play” is a direct experience of the truth of the reciprocity of giving and receiving–one receives as one gives, and this can be a contemplative focus as well. 

And fourth, the “echo play” feature allows for the unusual experience of noticing the present moment moment twice, or hearing an echo of the present moment, but taken together this is still a New Now Moment.

N.O.W’s “echo play” feature is a bit of the “trickster” at play.

The 3 Minute Life Cycle

New listeners to N.O.W. sometime comment on its 3 minute duration. “Why is it only 3 minutes long?” “Can you make it longer?

We could have very easily made N.O.W.’s duration longer. But while your thinking mind may want a longer duration, your essential self (the non-thinking, observing consciousness that is “you”) does not. I’ll explain.

N.O.W. is far more than a device that brings stress and anxiety relief. N.O.W. offers a healing experience of Oneness. If you could go to the gym for just 3 minutes a day and end up physically transformed, wouldn’t you do it? N.O.W. helps you experience a transformation of consciousness in just 3 minutes. Why wait any longer?

The Life Cycle of Formlessness and Form

I find it helpful to think of N.O.W. as a teacher. Or if you like, a non-verbal message delivery system that works with the student to create individualized Teachings. While I invented the hardware and software that is N.O.W.’s physical form, I’m continually amazed by what comes through N.O.W. as Teachings. For example, N.O.W. offers an elegant Teaching on the cycle of formlessness, form, impermanence of form and return to formlessness. 

The first intentional act when using N.O.W. is your conscious decision to pick up the speakers and turn then on. You’ll notice there is no sound for 3 seconds after the power on button is pressed. This is intentional. You are being given an opportunity to intentionally be aware of nothingness, no-sound, no-form, “the un-manifested and un-born”, emptiness … the ground upon which sound forms shall shortly emerge and be heard. In this way N.O.W. gives you an opportunity to intentionally experience and contemplate (I use “contemplate” in its classic sense of “non-thinking reverent awareness”) stillness and empty spaciousness–the source of all form.

In short order the New Origin Waveform tones begin to play. Now you are aware of, and enjoy, the lovely pure tones of N.O.W. as they continuously emerge, combine in the space around you and continuously evolve and change–”the dance of forms”. The present moment has been made alluring, friendly and easy to inhabit. And because inhabiting the present moment is so rare for many people, (past and future-focused thinking obscures present-moment awareness) it is a fairly common reaction to desire a longer experience.

For many people, listening to N.O.W. and having their mind’s attention pulled towards following the tones and largely leaving their thoughts behind, is a remarkably new, joyous and loving experience of being aware of their essential self.

But one should be careful not to seize upon N.O.W. as a physical form that brings the experience of one’s essential self to the forefront and become attached to it. For to do so would continue the egoic mind’s desire to “have and to hold” as a means of substantiating its insubstantial self. And besides–the practice of being aware you are aware needs no device ; )

In relatively short order, N.O.W. moves from sound form to formlessness again. The tones begin to fade, N.O.W. begins to teach dissolution of form and a return to the spacious stillness of emptiness.

Dissolution of form is part of the life cycle of: formlessness manifesting into form then dissolving again into formlessness–the life cycle of all creations; human, animal, plant, machine or building. N.O.W. gently Teaches dissolution of form, and allows one to become familiar with, and comfortable with, dissolution of form. The shock of the death of a loved one is partly due to a lack of experience with, and contemplation of, dissolution of form on a daily basis.

If N.O.W. was longer, say 30 minutes, you would not be able to observe a succinct and palpable cycle of: stillness, form manifesting, then form dissolving into stillness–as a whole experience.

So this is another reason why N.O.W. is only 3 minutes long. N.O.W. wants to teach non-attachment to form and provide an experience of the wholeness of the life cycle–quickly.


Click here to talk about this blog post in our forum

Travels in Presence – An Introduction

I’m the owner-caretaker of a 1977 GMC Royale motorhome called “Presence” (in honor of Eckhart Tolle).

This section of the blog is about both adventures in Presence (the motorhome) and Presence (the consciousness state of mind).

Because I can say this about owning a 40 year year old motorhome – it provides ample opportunity for one to practice being aware of the present moment, non-judgmentally while in the midst of it’s steady stream of challenging mechanical events and sublime moments of stillness and wonder.


More About N.O.W.’s 3 Minute Duration

NOTE: This post was originally created as an email response to a user. I’m reposting here for the benefit of the broader community – Alene.

We have been collecting a lot of customer feedback that speaks directly to the effectiveness of N.O.W.’s 3 minute duration.

Since a product like N.O.W. has not existed before, we have found that there are certain expectations as to what it should do based on other modalities, and audio products currently available in the mindfulness meditation genre–but N.O.W. really is different.

I hope you’ll find my explanations as real and as compelling as I know them to be. 🙂  And my information is wordy, but please be patient with me this one time because it’s all really good stuff.

Based on our prototypes and earliest user testing, we have known before N.O.W. was officially released that people felt we should offer a longer tone sequence length (various suggestions were made – 10, 15, 20, 30, 60 minutes).

But, we have also known from the start that the three minutes is completely correct. It may seem counterintuitive to not offer more when some people say they want more, but here is our reasoning, and it is entirely directed by something a bit larger than us–like any truly special product, there is a level of nearly unexplained inspiration, and with N.O.W. that has been unescapable:

When people experience the tones, it often feels incredible–for some, it is the first time in a memory that they come into awareness and a release of thoughts–and this can be incredibly profound. It can also create the desire to keep it going, to give more of that good feeling. But in fact N.O.W., in that 3 minute session, already did all it needed to do–it brought in some Presence. Boom. No time required. 

We want N.O.W. to be as easy and habitual as brushing your teeth. The only way that we have found that normal people will in fact use this regularly, every day, is if the sessions are short. The very moment a longer duration is offered is the very moment that people have to create “special” time to listen for longer, and then soon it becomes the exercise that must be put off until later, when there is more time. And later often gets put off to the next day. And so on. What we ask with this product is for the opportunity to give a dose of eternity in a very short time, and let that dose work on you for the rest of the day.

The most important work of N.O.W. comes not during the session itself but in-between sessions. We are less about the enjoyment of the tones (although the tones are beautiful and very enjoyable) than we are about what happens to a life when it starts to be less ego-driven and more informed by consciousness–it is this consciousness that allows for huge change, deeper connections, a play of synchronicity in life. 

We had talked about making choices available, but it was soon apparent that people would feel they were failing themselves if they only chose the shortest time and ignored the longer times–we would be inadvertently setting people up to feel they were failing themselves, or giving them a chance to compare poorly with what could happen if they chose a “longer ” session.

MOST IMPORTANT: While solu co-founder Michael Joly is an audio product designer, he is also someone deeply related to sound in a way that is unusually metaphysical; during development we came to know, without question, that if the sessions are longer they will quickly become tuned-out background sound and not an experience for intentional listening, and this is a serious destruction of what the tones are meant to offer. This might not be true if we are marketing to the meditation practitioners of the world, but in fact it is our desire to bring this release of stress and ego to everyone, not just the mindful-initiated.

We might one day offer a product that runs longer, and we are open to this, but it won’t be N.O.W., it will be another product for a new reason.

What exists now, is N.O.W. in all its strange perfection. 

Yes, so many people have wanted a N.O.W. session to last longer–almost everyone who was an early tester in fact. But then an amazing thing happened: as these people incorporate using the N.O.W. system, twice a day or at least once, things start to change for them.

We hear about documented physical results, mental changes, emotional breakthroughs, and inexplicable life shifts. Time is going to show a consistency in these early patterns, but they are already too much to ignore as we have had glowing testimonials from our early users. We are joyous.

So my suggestion? Take this gift and use it twice a day for 3 minutes. And judge the results for yourself.

Microphones – Carriers of Presence from Creators to Listeners

Boost your recording impact–be present when using microphones.

Huh? “Be present when using microphones?

You might wonder “how else could I use a microphone? I would have to be present in the tracking studio in order to use it!” 

But in fact, many times when you have a mic in your hand and are placing it you’re also engaged in the usual banter between recording engineer and musician. You’re not truly Present–you’re multitasking and relying on past experience, not what you’re experiencing in the moment.

I’m talking about a different meaning of the word “Present”. I’m talking about being consciously aware–being aware you are aware–while selecting and using that microphone.

Let’s unpack this a bit …

Be Present to Accept and Transmit Presence

Being Present, or being in a state of “Presence”, as I use the word here, simply means you are aware of, and accept the “is-ness” of the present moment, non-judgmentally. You are simply paying attention with the totality of your being. You cannot do this completely if you are thinking or bantering with the musicians.

Whenever you still your mind of mental thought-chatter, and focus on the present moment, even very briefly, Presence begins to blossom and be felt more strongly. You’ll notice I capitalize “Presence” because “being aware you are aware” is awakened consciousness, something that is noteworthy, and deserving of capitalization.

By stilling your mind you’re actually making space for Presence to arise, and with Presence you have entered a very powerful creative state that only inner stillness can bring. No amount of thinking-it-through, or engineer / musician banter will ever give you the same creativity and connection to others that makes for powerfully impactful recordings.

When Presence blossoms you are more aware of the unique moment you are living, whether you are playing an instrument, singing a song, recording a take or mixing a track. This is because almost all thinking is either past or future-focused and not of the moment. Thinking keeps you from experiencing the moment you are presently living.

The more you welcome Presence—be it taking a breath, meditating, using simple listening, etc., your own work more easily connects with the work of others around you. There is something deeply attractive about a person who carries the confidence inherent in Presence, and it is as easily felt as it is seen or heard.

More Presence in your recording work can virtually guarantee a more attractive end product for the listener. Your work will also become more intuitive as you find that you become a receptor of the vibes being put out by those around you. Synchronicity is almost always a byproduct of Presence–engineer, producer and recording artist all lock in and deliver greatness together.

Bringing Microphones Into the Picture…

Microphones are energy transducers. They take sound pressure energy and turn it into electrical energy. But the process is not perfect. All microphones exhibit non-linearities and generate artifacts in the process of converting sound energy to electrical energy. These non-linearities and artifacts include frequency response aberrations, harmonic and inharmonic distortion products, directional sensitivity and the collapsing of a complex three dimensional sound field into a single point perspective. 

Microphones, because of their imperfect nature, impart their personality (and the presence-personality of their creators,) onto the music being recorded. Let’s be aware of this and use microphone imperfection and personality to our advantage by being Present when we use them.

When you place a microphone (with all the personality it possesses) while in a heightened state of Presence you will be more sensitive to the Presence of others—the “vibes” being put out by the vocalist or instrumentalist—one who (hopefully) is so engrossed in their performance moment that they are not thinking, but rather purely emoting. 

You’ll find that your choice of mic, and mic placement will be guided largely by your Presence and less by your thinking mind, the very mind that is so often distracted by thoughts of the “past” and of the “future” (“the last time I mic’d a guitar cab I used mic X at position Y”; or, “should I choose this or that mic?”). These thoughts obscure your essential self (pure, aware, consciousness) which is far more knowledgeable and creative than your busy mind. 

Great music is about conveyance of non-material energy. There are subtle energies, fields, sensations to be transmitted to the listener. We’re talking here about conveying feeling, “touch,” vibes—it isn’t hard to imagine how much more powerfully those musical expressions will be conveyed if they are recorded from a state of Presence and interconnected inspiration. Very subtle stuff, with the power to vastly maximize the reach and receptivity of your work—whether as a sound maker, sound recordist or sound mixer.  

Even if none of this makes sense at first, just try it.

When you begin to select and use a microphone take a few to become still. Do not think about mic placement, but instead allow Presence to arise within you and direct your actions. This Presence and confidence will be carried through your recording to eventually be heard and experienced by listeners, allowing a connection back to the moment as created by the performer at the time of recording.

And that can be a more powerful, hit-bound recording!

solu co-founder Michael Joly 2007 Interview

Many people know me as a “microphone guy” because my MJE / OktavaMod mics have been helping people make great-sounding recordings for over 12 years … but mics are just one of my pursuits in the realms of sound, transducers and consciousness. You see … I’ve been interested in the metaphysics of sound and the intersection of sound and consciousness for a long time. That’s how we got to N.O.W.  😉

Back in 2007, I did a long interview with a recordist / musician named Andy DeLapp. A shortened version of this interview appeared in the May / June issue of Tape Op Magazine in the “Behind the Gear” column.

I recently just came across the original long form interview after not reading it for quite a few years. I’m republishing an excerpt here, because I feel this is important material that sheds a bit of light on who I am, how I think and how our N.O.W. Tone Therapy System is just another step on this long path in sound.

Here is Andy DeLapp’s original set up of the 2007 interview. Our conversation in question and answer format follows.

Andy DeLapp“In 2007 I had the opportunity to interview mic modification wizard Michael Joly.   OktavaMod (Michael’s company) was really starting to take off in a big way.  I’d purchased a mic mod on an Oktava Mk-319 which (as it turns out) was about to completely change my world. 

I was not too long out of seminary.  My head was still buzzing with all manner of aetheriality, and I was flush with enthusiasm for the minutiae of my new-found passion for recording…” 

AD: In reading your writing both on OktavaModshop.com and elsewhere (that’d be the TapeOp.com and GearSlutz.com message boards) I’ve noticed that you seem to see a certain element of transcendence in what you do.  Are you a person of faith?  If so, how does your faith interact with your work?  What is it that makes a microphone more than the sum of its parts?

MJ: Good eyes!  I rarely get asked about this aspect of my work.  I’ll try and give an answer that makes sense in this context.  I am a person of faith.  I believe that the work I do is but one of many jobs along a nearly infinite and reiterative path of spiritual growth back toward the Universal Origin.  My work is essentially that of one who clarifies patterns and strives to reduce dissonance in communication systems so that messages can be heard more clearly. 

I don’t sing the call to prayer but rather, I make it heard better. The essential nature of my work is carried out with a cognizance that the materials I touch have the same ultimate origin as my own spirit and form.  So they are divine and have a “desire” to be reunited with their Universal Origin.  The manipulation of material objects—putting them right, is a small gesture toward this goal of reunification. 

This idea is sometimes expressed as “God in everything” (which I acknowledge) but I’m usually more aware of this faith as a melancholic longing for union that arises from the Original Separation.  My faith has been strengthened and clarified by reading, at one time or another, the works of Hazrat Inayat Khan, Dane Rudyhar, Teilhard de Chardin, Dhyani Ywahoo and the Urantia Book (ed: and more recently by Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now”, The Stephen Mitchell translation of the Tao Te Ching, Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations” R.W. Emerson’s “Essays” and A Course in Miracles—MJ 11/28/17)

As to a microphone being more than the sum of its parts—if one accepts the idea on faith that the materials in a microphone are divine, and have been previously acted upon by the hand and mind of its designers and builders, and further can be organized to be in more perfect union, than one can see how the union of parts is itself a distinct identity—a meta form.  The degree to which this meta form is manifested is correlated to the degree of consciousness humans brought to their work in the design, building and modding of the microphones.

AD: So as I see it, you’re basically describing microphone design, development and manufacturing processes as refinements of a divine spirit which is in all things.  Your role in all of this is to clarify what’s already there.  You put this into practice by “helping” the microphone reach its fullest potential.  Is that right?

MJ: I’m comfortable with that playback.

AD: On your webpage, you explain in some detail about the City of Tula, its heritage, and the Oktava factory there.  Is it just Oktava mics?  Are there other brands of microphones worthy of re-development?  In your mind, what separates the sheep from the goats?

MJ: Well, to follow on the “more than the sum of parts” idea from above I believe that Tula and its people, their particular history and actions, leave a certain psychic imprint on Oktava microphones that is in part responsible for their sound.  There is a psychic confluence of 800 years of weapons-related metallurgy and a simultaneous desire for peaceful pleasures of tea (Tula, home of the Samovar) and spice cookies.  At a practical level, we’re talking about an electronics factory that has been making transducers since 1927, so that more recent history gets poured into their products as well.

I don’t know if there are other brands of mics worthy of re-development.  I’m a bit myopic here in that the Oktava experience has been very deep and rich for me and I haven’t felt a need to look to greener pastures.  There are a few individual mics that are stand out as mod candidates from other manufacturers, but an across-the-board brand that excites me and I feel is worthy of follow-on re-development?  I personally don’t see one, right now, that is right for me.

AD: Are there other “Tulas” in the world?  Do you see hope for other “future classics?”

MJ: Objectively, it would seem that the possibility exists.  I would look in geographic areas that have a long tradition of near-alchemical work—populations who have been involved in the transmutation of materials form one form to another for a long time.  Cultures where brass, bronze and iron bells are plentiful as well as a more recent interest in 20th century electronics.  Somewhere in Japan and China perhaps?  Speaking of China, once these manufacturers go beyond copying Neumann capsule designs and connect with their own psychic pasts then they may develop products that people respond to with the kind of affection that has been directed toward Oktava’s mics.

AD: A number of other companies are operating in Russia making musical gear—Sovtek springs most readily to mind.  It seems as though price point isn’t the only issue—that there’s something special about the gear itself.  At the same time, I’ve met a number of people who lived in what was the USSR, and they all seem to view Soviet-era technology with an equal mix of admiration and disdain.  What is it about Soviet-era tech that draws such varied opinions?  What is it that draws westerners to this stuff?

MJ: Well the Soviet era is pretty universally regarded as a time of great suffering for millions of people.  The resultant polarization of the world into two basic political camps wasted countless lives and transmuted the precious resources of the earth into tools of destruction.  I suppose there may have been, in the early of years of Russian product availability in the West, a sort of transgressive or subversive attitude accompanying their use that resonated with the punk/DIY aesthetic.  But for me, working with Soviet-era tech is a small scale “swords into plowshares” activity.


About the Sound Volume of N.O.W.

N.O.W. teaches nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment and stillness. As the user brings attention to listening, N.O.W. helps to quell unwanted thinking—the source of all stress and discomfort—and replace it with stillness.

As a teacher of stillness N.O.W. likes to be quiet. It would be inappropriate if N.O.W. shouted for attention like an advert or your mobile phone’s notification sounds and vibrations.

Instead, N.O.W. is like a trusted friend who speaks to you in a quiet voice. Read more

Welcome to N.O.W. by solu

First, a warm thank you to all the folks who have graciously offered the advice and encouragement that helped bring our first product to fruition.

And welcome to all of you just discovering our startup solu and our first product, N.O.W. This is Michael Joly writing.

Our first Tone Therapy System™, called N.O.W., is set to go into production in late July and we’ll be shipping in September. We’ve been testing N.O.W. thoroughly and it has lived up to its promise to be the most easy-to-use and effective way to bring about transformative change in your life. But N.O.W. does not do this alone … Read more

A 2nd FAQ About N.O.W.

Are there neurological / physiological references that inform or validate N.O.W.?

I don’t have clinical studies of N.O.W., but many clinical studies point to the proven efficacy of EMDR, meditation and mindfulness practices (to which N.O.W. is related). These studies offer many examples to those with analytical minds that need validation of the benefits that arise from reduced self-talk and greater stillness-of-mind.

Read more

A 1st FAQ about N.O.W.

Folks have been sending insightful comments and probing questions about N.O.W.—bring them on I say!

I’m going to re-purpose some answers I wrote to email correspondents and share them here (special thanks to Tom G).

Re: Speaker Placement – The two N.O.W. speakers (we sometimes call them “pods” or “N.O.W. pods”) are completely autonomous and have no software, electrical, WiFi or Bluetooth communication with each other. Intentionally.  

N.O.W. stands for “New Origin Waveforms”. Read more