Over the last 6 months I’ve been documenting live kirtans, intimate moments of songwriting, and outdoor mantra meditations. Now it’s all up on YouTube as an offering for anyone who’s curious about this chanting stuff. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7OUHut7H1pvdg38Zieveww
This is called ‘Ma Durga’ and I was inspired to write it after visiting a 99 year old baba in a cave in India & listening to some things he said. Pictured below are lyrics I wrote on a tiny notebook on the plane on the flight from India to London.
The cave experience was provided by a David Newman retreat and the recording made possible by WHAS Great Day Live. Click to listen 🙂.
Chanting is powerful meditation practice that has been used for millennia by humans wishing to achieve peace, sacred connection, & transcendence. Science has found it calms brainwave activity & can cause the left and right hemispheres of the brain to synchronize, leading to ‘flow’ states or a feeling of oneness w/ the cosmos.
Personally, I have found it brings mindfulness, cheers me up, and makes me a more confident and graceful communicator!
This is not religious or connected to any guru. It’s a universal spiritual practice available to anyone!
If you’d like to explore it, join me this spring at Yogaia where I’ll be introducing a 3-part workshop series on chanting!!
You can attend any of the individual sessions for $30 or pre-pay for all three for a discounted rate of $80.
Simply sign up via www.yogaiayogaschool.com Click “workshops”!
Or contact me & I’ll get you signed up!
Here are the descriptions:
Freeing the Voice- Participants will learn an ancient meditative ‘bumblebee breath’ technique for expanding, freeing, & stretching the voice. Other practices such as vocal/ chakra toning & chanting seed syllables (big mantras) will be introduced. The session will end with group chanting of Sanskrit mantras w/ eclectic instruments. Participants are not required to bring anything to this one. March 23, 7pm
Introduction to Mantras- Participants will learn how to do japa practice and be given some common Sanskrit/ universal mantras to work with. Brief explanations of the different kinds of mantras (bij, Bhakti, tantric, kundalini), and the science behind mantras will be shared. Participants will explore many different ways to chant mantra and be given a 10-day mantra challenge to try at home. The session will end with group kirtan style chanting w/ eclectic instruments. Participants are required to bring either mala beads or a stone. April 27, 7pm
Introduction to Bhakti- Participants will learn the essentials of Bhakti practice (offerings/ prasad, setting up an altar, chanting, deities) to enhance their connection with the divine in their home & daily life. The Bhakti Sutras & “12 Ways to Practice Bhakti” will be introduced.
I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid I saw god as an old man in the sky with a white beard & white robe. God didn’t feel safe, fun, or loving. He felt…distant, unknown, scary.
My few attempts at churchgoing were met with ‘Sure you can join us as long as you believe Jesus Christ is THE ONLY way!” That intuitively didn’t feel right. Yeah, Jesus is great but he’s not THE ONLY path.
My inner child needed something that felt playful & magical…something I could relate to, talk to, feel safe with. Because let’s face it, as a kid I got more of a sense of the divine from gazing at the moon & watching The Last Unicorn than I did praying to god.
Luckily I found the Hindu deities.
Imagine if instead of a scary white-bearded old man in the sky you got to hang out with a young, dark haired flute player living in the forest. What if his love was so boundless he encouraged you to feel free, feel joy, dance, always be in the right place at the right time, and constantly follow your bliss? This is Krishna.
Imagine if god was A WOMAN- one with such beauty that you you felt yourself soften and radiate peace while with her…you felt delighted in just being in her presence, and she invited you to sit with her as she lovingly poured coins & flower petals into your lap. This is the Hindu goddess Lakshmi:
What if god was a fiery goddess riding a tiger, who taught you how to stand up for yourself & believe in yourself? A goddess so fearless you could win any battle with her by your side? This is Ma Durga:
Or a pristine, mystical flowing river goddess who played the most beautifully sounding ancient stringed instrument called the veena as she sang to you & revealed to you the purest, most inspired music? Meet Saraswati:
What if god was a yogi with dreadlocks who you met in the forest? While sitting in meditation he welcomed even outcasts and criminals, gave them blessings on their spiritual journey and taught them about transformation & how to not be scared of change? That’s Shiva.
What if god was an elephant who rode a mouse(!) and lovingly helped you overcome obstacles? When I sit at my altar and look at my Ganesh murti I can’t help but feel a solid feeling of joy. Jai Ganesha!
Then there’s Hanuman, the half-monkey half-man who loves you so much he does all kinds of magical things to assist you on your journey.
And then there’s Kali. Ok…she may be seen by some as the villain in this fairytale. She’s the one with the skulls around her neck…but actually those skulls represent the disillusionment & death of our ego. She gives us a compassionate blow to our ego to instantly humble us, which is one of the most motherly & protective acts of love because she simply won’t let you walk the planet deluded.
She is actually in her truest sense, time. So instead of Father Time we have Ma Kali. And time can terrify us because it ages us and will one day take our bodies away. However to come out of denial of that truth is a powerful teaching that can lead us to freedom so we can experience more joy while in these bodies. I have heard her described as “scary to our ego but like air to our true self.”
And the best part about all these deities is they coexist in a unique kind of cosmic harmony. I love watching Hindu movies that show all the deities hanging out together, holding meetings, making decisions about how to save the planet or who will reincarnate as who. It shows that god can be a colorful cast of characters who love us, play with us, are fun to hang out with, and who keep it real.
Just the opinion of a westerner. 🙂
Thanks for reading.
My first time chanting was mystical. I was about 22, had been woken up at 5am and led out in the Arizona desert with 50 women on a white tantra retreat called “Womanheart”. Surrounded by the red rocks & beautiful music playing in the background, we chanted together “wahe guru, wahe guru, wahe guru, wahe jio…”. The sun rose slowly in front of our eyes…every woman around me looked radiant. We all felt so powerful and so loving toward each other. It was incredible. It changed me.
The second time I understood the power of chanting was when, in my 20s, I lived in a community house in Phoenix. We would have Sunday potlucks & a big drum jam out on the land. Some of the women would start chanting Native American prayers like “earth water fire air, we are everywhere!” and “mother I feel you under my feet, mother I feel your heartbeat.” And then the group would chime in. It was like nothing I had ever experienced. It felt like an ancient memory stored deep in my cells was waking up. Like I had done this before.
The third time was when I attended an all night event facilitated by a traveling spiritual teacher from India & her devotees. That was my first introduction to Hindu chanting, Bhakti & kirtan. The sounds of sitar and tablas were completely mesmerizing, the chanting went on all night, and the energy in that room was the most safe, loving & alive energy I’ve ever felt. The kirtan truly nourished my spirit. It was the only time I’ve been able to stay up all night and somehow feel like I was well rested. I’ll never forget it.
Now, after being a kirtan drummer & helping lead kirtan at a local yoga studio for 5 years, doing workshops with kirtan artists Jai Uttal & David Newman, and even taking a trip to India to meet other bhaktas, I’m starting to figure out why I want to teach mantra yoga, chanting & share kirtans.
Chanting opens the heart, brings transformative energy into our lives, makes us feel connected & safe in a sacred space, and that, in my opinion, is what’s missing in our culture. People coming together in a shared space, letting go of their hang ups and ideals that society has imposed on them, & using that sense of shared liberation to experience boundless energy, that they can take into their own lives & apply to themselves and hopefully make the world a better place.
I hope to bring a happy, sattvic vibration to people through kirtan, and to lead them to a place of harmony. Chanting has brought me a happy heart, good health, a joyful life, and at times even liberation. Mostly, it’s made me a better person.
Now it’s time to give back.
Wahe guru, om shanti, Hare Krishna & Jai ma!
Thanks for reading 🙂