Tami Simon’s intention: To make spiritual teachings available to all. Her desire: to serve.
Tami Simon is a woman I admire and look up to for her keen sensibility. She is my favorite person to listen to when she interviews and I listen regularly to Insights at the Edge. I’m amazed at how she pulls the threads of thought through a conversation and gives their light meaning in a way we can all understand. She speaks to all kinds of people with a variety of backgrounds and embraces everyone as they are.
So, the fact that I interviewed her was an ironic gift—to be able to ask Tami questions about Sounds True, her life and personal practice was an opportunity I was eager and thrilled about. If you have never heard of her or her company before, you are in for a surprise rich in resources for deepening any spiritual path, through books, online course, podcasts or courses by a variety of rich teachers, healers, writers, philosophers, psychologists and spiritual leaders Sounds True publishes and makes available.
EL: So very excited to do this…I am interviewing the interviewer. Let’s start with a little about you. You started Sounds True in 1985?
TS: Yes, at the age of 22.
EL: What was your vision then and how has it turned out compared to what you started with in your mind’s eye?
TS: My vision at that time was to “disseminate spiritual wisdom” and that remains the mission of the company today. At that time, I saw the possibility of having an “all-spiritual wisdom channel” much the way CNN came on the scene and introduced the all-news channel to the world of television. I believe Sounds True is still in the formation stage of becoming such a broadcast channel, in an online format.
EL: I see….were you already practicing meditation, like you do now?
TS: I started meditating when I was 19. I left college in my Sophomore year and traveled in Sri Lanka, India and Nepal for a year and began meditating at that time, studying intensively with a Burmese Vipassana mediation instructor, Sri Goenka. For the past 11 years, I have been meditating within a Tibetan Buddhist meditation lineage under the guidance of Reggie Ray.
EL: I see. I was listening a bit last night to you and your teacher….I want to get back to that but just understood that Sounds True is in the process of becoming a broadcast channel? That’s huge and fantastic…
TS: Well, that is the vision that I continue to see in my mind’s eye that I believe we are “brailing” our way towards. We are currently a publisher of audio, video, music, books and online courses and events. We are now hosting in-person events like the Wake Up Festival.
And in addition, I host a weekly podcast series as you know (which is a form of broadcasting) and we are hosting special online video series. For example, last year, we hosted a series on “Compassion and the Brain” and we just completed producing a 22-part series called “The Self-Acceptance Project” about how to be kind and compassionate towards ourselves, especially in difficult situations. And we do live streaming from events and are a partner in the production of Eckhart Tolle TV which is an online subscription service that is a “mystery school” if you will, bringing forth new monthly teachings from Eckhart Tolle.
So many of the pieces are in place for what I think of as becoming an online channel for ongoing spiritual learning. Sounds True has been a “work-in-progress” for 28 years and we are still in that process of development and growth, heading towards a north star of making spiritual wisdom teachings widely available in an accessible way while maintaining the depth and integrity of the communication.
EL: Well I will say again that I am honestly floored by how you interview folk….the depth, the sensitivity. I have to ask, do you actually read all the books of the folks you talk to?
TS: I speed read. I mean, I don’t really “speed read”—unless you define speed reading as my own version of doing so. I read sections of books and skim other sections and skip through manuscripts. If a book is extra dense, I actually take my time and read it slowly and carefully on occasion.
EL: I see….I figured you take in the information in detail because of the questions you ask. That’s a lot of reading. And do you keep your hands in a lot of the pots, of day to day stuff or are you more of a big picture person?
TS: I am continually trying to “get out of the weeds” and stay in a bigger picture way of operating. It is a constant process of starting things and letting them go. I have great people working at Sounds True, really competent and creative and I am continually turning over to them all of the details of the business. I also stay out of most of the “operational” aspects of the company (I am not gifted at that part of the business and I don’t enjoy it), but I have a tendency to stay deeply engaged on the creative side. (What we title new programs, and certainly all new program acquisition decisions).
EL: Do you typically work long days—and do you meditate most days and do yoga or qi gong or something like that….three in one?
TS: I work reasonably long days, but not extra- long. I like to spend time outside, walking and I need to do exercise and do qigong and meditate on a very regular basis or the world starts seeming flat and uninteresting to me. I feel an inner imperative to restore myself and rest and dream and be healthy at a physical level (which takes time).
EL: And you took the Buddhist Vows.
TS: I have taken vows. Two important ones are “The Refuge Vow” –making the commitment that my “true home” is awareness and not the world of thinking and conceptuality and “The Bodhisattva Vow” which is a vow to be of service to all beings. I think of myself more as a “meditator” than as a “Buddhist” per se, and as a meditator what this means to me is that I am always returning to awareness as my home.
EL: The vows are beautiful. Let’s talk about the Wake Up Festival: how long has it been going on?
TS: This August will be our Second Wake Up Festival, so last year was the inaugural event. We had about 800 in attendance last year and are expecting approximately 1000 people this year.
EL: Wow! I see folk come from all over the world.
TS: Yes, 25% of attendees last year were from outside the US.
EL: Is it structured or just events all day—and folk pick and choose?
TS: Each morning and each evening, we meet all together as a Wake Up Festival community in the main hall. We listen to teachers (like Adyashanti and Reggie Ray and Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield) and poets (like David Whyte and Mark Nepo) and musicians (like Snatam Kaur and Nawang Khechog and Norini Ni Riain). Matthew Fox will also lead the entire Wake Up Festival community in a three-hour immersive Cosmic Mass.
Each early morning before breakfast and then for the entirety of the afternoon, participants have their choice of experiential break-out sessions (practicing Centering Prayer and African Healing Dance, for example are morning practice options) and in the afternoon there are sessions like “Practicing the Art of Dying” with Rami Shapiro, the “The Yoga of the Broken Heart” with Seane Corn.
EL: Sweet. I have to ask: do you write, paint, draw….?
TS: I like to write and would like to do more of it. I love cooking and find it wonderful as grounding and creative activity. I am a “lover” and devote quite a bit of my creative energy to my relationship, with a wonderful woman named Julie Kramer. I find it takes a lot of creativity to listen and love deeply.
EL: How long have you and Julie been together? What is her passion?
TS: We have been together for 11 and a half years and just participated in Boulder’s Civil Union legal option (we just received our certificate in the mail yesterday). As of May 1st, it is legal in Colorado for same-sex couples to be in a “civil union”. We went down to the Registration Bureau at midnight on May 1st and signed the papers at 1:33 in the morning!
EL: Wow! Congratulations.
TS: Julie teaches people shamanic journeying and leads one-year programs on “The Sacred Call of the Healer” and three-year programs on “Becoming a Shamanic Healer”. She doesn’t work with plant medicine but instead with natural trance states induced through drumming and rattling.
EL: Oh my…that’s deep. Did she study with a Shaman?
TS: Julie trained with several shamanic teachers, most notably Sandra Ingerman. But her real “teachers” are her spirit guides who have initiated her into her work.
EL: Do you have spirit guides that you connect with? It may be too personal to ask….
TS: I certainly feel guided by forces that are mysterious to me and feel very powerful and benevolent.
EL: My guess is you are highly intuitive. I see you teach workshops a lot as well—what is your favorite?
TS: I enjoy teaching “Meditating with the Body” which is a meditation training program that radically brings people out of their discursive minds and into embodied experiencing.
EL: Where do you teach that workshop?
TS: I teach Meditating with the Body in Crestone through Dharma Ocean (a five-month training program) and this year also at Omega and at Hollyhock and at the NY Open Center.
EL: I think your Meditating with the Body class is what so many of us need—out of the head into the body. So, is there anything in particular you want to tell me about that I did not ask about—or that you want to talk more about?
TS: I had a deep desire to serve as a young person and I could think of nothing that would be more beneficial to people than to be exposed to spiritual wisdom teachings and practices. I have a deep belief in people’s natural intelligence and always believed that if people could simply hear the truths and teachings that have been so important to me in my life that these ideas would “catch fire” in others.
EL: I like that you cast such a broad net….
TS: Wonderful time! God bless you and your work.
Tami Simon is the Publisher, CEO, and Founder of Sounds True. In 1985, at the age of 22, Tami Simon founded Sounds True, a multimedia publishing company dedicated to disseminating spiritual wisdom. Based in Boulder, Colorado, Sounds True has published more than 800 audio, video, music, and book titles along with online courses and events. A two-time winner of the Inc 500 award as one of the fastest growing privately held companies in America, Sounds True is widely recognized as a pioneer in providing life-changing, practical tools that accelerate spiritual awakening and personal transformation. In addition to being the publisher and CEO of Sounds True, Tami hosts a free weekly podcast series called “Insights at the Edge” in which she interviews Sounds True authors about the growing edge of their life and work. Additionally, Tami is a senior meditation instructor under the guidance of Reggie Ray, who teaches in the practicing lineage of the great siddha and Tibetan Buddhist meditation teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise