THE BLOG
01/27/2014 07:10 pm ET | Updated Mar 29, 2014

In Tune With the Spirit

At a time when it's getting harder and harder to motivate Joe and Jane Public to buy music, a singer/songwriter from New Zealand has released a CD with that unique selling point coveted by record company executives. No, she's not Lorde, but another platinum-selling Kiwi: Monique Rhodes.

Rhodes, a student of Tibetan Buddhism for 10 years, lives what she calls a modern-day vagabond's life in India. She hit upon the idea of adding music to words of wisdom from some of the most popular spiritual teachers in the world.

"I found I could remember teachings more easily and enjoyed them even more when I composed music under them," said Rhodes. "At first it was just for my own pleasure and spiritual practice, then so many people asked for copies that I realized there might be a wider audience."

So she flew to Colorado to meet with Tami Simon, founder of Sounds True, a company that publishes books and recordings of some of the biggest names in the world of spiritual teaching. "Tami immediately understood what I was trying to create," said Rhodes, "and we began working together to make this album."

"Other musicians have approached Sounds True with a similar idea to combine music with spoken word teachings," said Simon. "But when I met Monique, I knew she was someone who could actually pull this off elegantly. And she has."

With Heart Beats, Rhodes weaves wonderfully crafted, ambient soundscapes under the spoken-word gems of such luminaries as Eckhart Tolle, Brené Brown, Pema Chödrön, Adyashanti, Caroline Myss, Sogyal Rinpoche, Tara Brach, Reginald Ray, Joseph Marshall and others.

"I listened to countless hours of teachings to find the pieces I wanted to work with. Then it was a matter of composing the music around the feel of the teachings and the voice of the teacher," said Rhodes. "Music has a way of communicating directly to the heart and soul, opening us to emotions and deep realizations often inaccessible to the mind alone."

Sogyal Rinpoche, who wrote The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, said (via email):

I am always extremely inspired when I see people exploring new ways to share spiritual teachings with those who might not otherwise discover them. There is a real hunger at this time for tools to work with and transform the mind, and if music can help to communicate the message that such a transformation is possible, that would be wonderful.

But surely as a practicing Buddhist who has sung for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Rhodes isn't in it for the money?

"I live on the southern coast of India and if there is one thing I have learned living here, it's that money doesn't buy you happiness," said Rhodes. "But a three-cent chai does."