Wisdom from Sounds True
By Karen Hilsberg in October 2011
In 1985, when she was twenty-two years old, Tami Simon founded Sounds True, a company that disseminates spiritual wisdom. She recorded radio interviews with well-known experts in psychology, religion, and personal development, and began to make the recordings available on cassette tape through a mail order company she started with a $50,000 inheritance.
In an interview, Simon recalled a visit to Plum Village over twenty years ago. She travelled to France to record the chanting of Plum Village monastics, including Thich Nhat Hanh, for the classic recording Drops of Emptiness. During her visit, Simon met with Thay and asked him how Sounds True could continue to support his teachings. Thay sipped his tea and pondered silently. He then responded, “Just be there.”
Twenty-five years later, Sounds True is indeed there as an independent voice in publishing. The company continues to offer recordings of retreats and teachings by Thay. Most recently, it has published a DVD of Thay teaching mindful movements, which Simon noted is “a unique [contribution] within his canon.”
When asked what she has learned from interviewing many of the spiritual luminaries of our times, Simon reflected on three lessons. First, she explained, “Nobody really knows what is going on.” Having observed that conditions are changing all the time, she recommended using our “don’t know mind” or “beginner’s mind” to look upon our lives. Second, she stated, “Each of us has an inner authority.” We each have a true autonomy to know what is going on within us and around us. Third, she proclaimed, “There is no end to the growing, softening, and deepening of our experience of source as source. There is no end to improving our relationships. The spiritual path is endless.”
Simon’s company is unique in that it maintains a corporate structure for its eighty employees that is both “mission-driven and profit-driven.” The 19 Core Aspirations of Sounds True include: “We encourage authenticity in the workplace,” “Animals are welcome,” “We encourage people to listen deeply,” and “We aspire to take time for kindness, have fun and get a lot done.” Sounds True offers training in the practice of mindfulness in the workplace, has a meditation room on-site, and has responded to employees’ requests for spiritual retreats. All-company meetings begin with a minute of silence. The company uses 100 percent wind power in its offices and warehouse, and prints its catalogue on eighty percent post-consumer recycled paper.
Sounds True’s most recent offerings include continuing education courses for professionals, online and interactive learning with spiritual leaders, and over seventy free podcast interviews. Simon noted that the podcasts, interactive guides, and online learning are especially wonderful for individuals in their sixties, seventies, and eighties, recently dubbed the Silver Tsunami generation, who find themselves with more time and less inclination to leave home.
What began as a woman with a tape recorder has developed into a cutting edge corporation that offers spoken word audio programs, videos, and music for the inner life. Over the past twenty-five years, Sounds True has ridden the wave of the information age and offered products that support countless people on their spiritual paths.