A few days ago while on a job interview my I looked down & noticed my thumb shaking. In the past this would have spiraled me into more anxiety. But this time I had a relaxation tool- japa meditation (silent repetition of a mantra). Quietly to myself I repeated my mantra and I watched in amazement as my thumb went completely still in under 10 seconds.
This got me reflecting on everything that’s happened since kirtan & chanting entered my life 2 decades ago, and what’s possible when you deepen your practice. Here are four reasons to fall in love with chanting:
1) Chanting turns down anxiety & ruminating, turns up relaxation
Science has found one of the benefits of japa/ chanting is it prolongs the exhale breath. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) which triggers our bodies to relax. Relaxing turns down fear & ruminating.
It’s an amazing experience when you watch your thoughts merge with a mantra and transform into subtle energy, then dissolve entirely. It happens to me often and leaves me feeling soothed, sometimes even euphoric.
Repeating mantra can guide the mind to that relaxing place- like the sun after a storm or an island in the ocean- we come to a safe harbor. We keep redirecting scattered, fear-based thoughts back to the mantra & guide the lost/ ego part of ourselves back to the loving, relaxed part of ourselves.
2) Chanting helps us remember our primal connection.
Group chanting grounds us into to our bodies. It restores our sense of togetherness, blurs boundaries and wakes us up to a deep sense of what we’ve forgotten- that we all share this earth.
Kirtan (group call & response chanting of sacred Sanskrit mantras of India) is a doorway to this primal connection, with its hand drumming & beautiful tones of the mridanga, group chanting, clapping & dancing, & collective vocalizing of sounds which themselves are innately divine (filled with god/ the Self/ source/ love.) The repetition of these sounds truly brings us back to earth and each other.
3) Chanting is a way to recharge our vitality
Chanting connects you to the breath & prana. Prana, first mentioned in the ancient Hindu texts the Upanishads, means life force, energy, or vitality. It is said to permeate everything in existence & originate from the sun.
Health professionals agree that being ‘plugged in’ all the time and using the artificial energy of caffeine and sugar is unhealthy for the nervous system. Chanting recharges our energy naturally by aligning us with prana.
It truly is a practice that plugs us back into the true source of our energy- the radiance of stillness/ peace that is often neglected in modern culture.
4) Chanting helps you align with love
One of the most satisfying things I’ve experienced from bhakti yoga has been integrating with a bigger, vast boundless love. This love can soothe an inflamed ego, soften a mind that takes itself too seriously, and shift irritability into comedy. It has held me even when I was in my neediest, raw, unloveable states.
What a game changer to consciously realize you are worthy of love even while feeling unloveable. John Lennon’s lyric from his beautiful song ‘Love’ comes to mind: ‘Love is is wanting to be loved.’
Codependency can actually be channeled toward a higher purpose in chanting. You can direct all your attachment toward god/ your higher self. We so often place that on another human being. When you instead give it over to source/ boundless love it can transform you!
This is the path bhakti offers.
Thanks for reading 😊