My First Santsang (aka Sedona Meltdown)

When I was a teenager I survived an intense 3 day LSD trip which was more like an insomniac blur…it involved a spontaneous 14 hour drive to the east coast, parading nude in the streets, quitting my lifeguard job, and sadly at the end of it thinking I was a video game character. Such are the whims of a bored teen growing up in southern Indiana.

Around this time my mom’s hippie friends Mark and Kim invited us to a satsang. ‘Satsang’ is a Sanskrit word that means “sacred gathering.” (Sat means truth and sang means community.) The gathering would be led by a female elder/ wise woman who had a spontaneous awakening while working in a factory, after which she lived & and studied with the sages of India.

So I set out for Sedona with my mom, curious of what this gathering with a guru would reveal, and keeping the details of my miserable LSD comedown to myself.

Mom’s friends Mark and Kim were the most mystical, cool couple- they were quiet, zen-like, unmarried but devoted to each other, and spent their time traveling to different countries sitting with spiritual teachers. I was completely in awe of them. As we hiked through the red rocks I listened intently while they discussed the concept of enlightenment.

We arrived at the satsang, found our way to a seat and settled in as the group began chanting mantras. Although I was too shy to sing out I listened & soaked up the safe feeling like a sponge.

The guru was seated facing everyone. Her eyes lit up at a young pretty woman in the front row who I guessed was a former student. They exchanged hellos…the 20 year old girl said she had just returned from living in a cave and was settling back into worldly life. Hearing this blew my 18 year old mind.

The guru began talking, though it seemed like she was simply channeling spontaneous messages and insights. She shared stories of hanging out with the Dalai Lama, offered us nuggets of wisdom to contemplate, and began answering people’s questions.

Suddenly something shifted in my vibrational field. I felt so safe with these old souls that the trauma of my LSD trip snuck up and stirred in me a throbbing emotional pain and confusion in my heart/ throat…just as luck would have it that feeling wanted to be released right then and there.

I tried to regulate the emotion with discipline and restraint but the attempt to hide was not working. People around me noticed and instantly showed compassion for the awkwardness of it. As the intensity bubbled inside me to the point I felt I might break a man gently leaned in and whispered lovingly “it’s ok to break.”

And that set me off…I broke…quite dramatically, so much so that the guru stopped and turned to me. The rest was kind of a blur…I asked her something about suffering in the body & did not feel satisfied with the answer so I got up & bolted out the door, sat outside sulking for the rest of the satsang.

When the satsang ended she walked out and sat with me. Her final words to me were: look up at a star and let it all sink in. Which made absolutely no sense.

But what did make sense was that gentle man telling me it’s ok to break, the loving support of those people. Being shown compassion by mature & evolved souls who had come so far on their spiritual trip that they were able to hold the animal/ emotional part of a teen coming down from her acid trip.

Experiences like this have happened repeatedly in my life to show me that life itself is the guru, not some person.

So often we put an expectation on that spiritual leader, that elder, that successful friend who moved to a big city, the worldly traveler, a new lover we admire, or anyone other than ourselves to solve the mystery of our life.

When in reality answers always come from our inner guru, and usually in a way we never expect.

It’s All Happening!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the crowdfunding campaign and pre-ordered Nourishment, an album of mantra songs for unity consciousness. We surpassed the goal and the album has been set to be recorded at LaLa Land Studio Dec 6-10! If you missed out on the crowdfunding, pre-orders are still possible! Simply email me at hello@kirtantara.com.

Help Fund a Woman Produced Kirtan Album

Music dissolves barriers.  It gives power to people who feel powerless.  It increases empathy, and allows for safe expression of emotions. I believe we need that more than ever in the world now.

Leading group chanting has put me in a unique position to witness people suddenly feeling safe, trusting each other again, and perceiving the world from a place of love, not fear. 

Through grace, I was able to experience this feeling myself, during a trip to India & London last year. 

Through Nourishment, my vision is to honor India’s ancient tradition of mantra repetition & sonic mysticism in a creative way that’s aligned with a jazz/ rock/ hill country background. You can also think of it as an offering of interactive chanting experiences for anyone who wants to elevate their mood & access unity consciousness through music.  

Oh and did I mention there’s going to be a powerhouse of women creating this record?

It is important to me this album convey to the listener a sense of shared power/ global community that feels safe and loving and transmits universal belonging.

In order to make this happen I need your support.  

For anyone who contributes to the making of ”Nourishment” I’ll reciprocate with these gifts, from my heart to yours:  original lyric/ chant-along books, handcrafted wire wrap pendants, oracle readings, original poetry, and downloads of the album on plantable seed paper bookmarks(!!) All of these you can view here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tarakimes/nourishment-a-kirtan-album

If you believe nourishing music & unity consciousness is a good thing for the world, please donate generously to this modest budget.  The way kickstarter works is all or nothing- either I make the goal and the album gets made or all money is refunded.  Let’s go all in and see this come to fruition!

The Gift of Surrender

I am fascinated with the art of surrender. From totally yielding in child’s pose to rolling with the punches of ‘failure,’ to bowing & saying ‘namaskar’ to a stranger, to surrendering the human voice to mystical repetition of Sanskrit syllables.

Surrender is the main reason I love chanting. The first thing I do when a kirtan starts is listen to the voices around me instead of my own. I feel my own voice but I don’t focus on it. My goal is to merge with a vibe in the room and surrender to it.

Once I surrender I’m in a position to start having fun- to ride the mantra wave. Because actually there is no ‘me’. And what’s being created musically is oneness- one group voice that carries the mantra in its own unique way through that moment in time. The experience will never be repeated the same way again. Kind of like a meditative jazz solo!

You could think of it like this- have you ever walked down a busy street, in a park or in a grocery store and been annoyed because a person in front of you walked too slow? What if, instead of feeling impatient you viewed them as someone you’re walking with? This is similar to what the ego (a soul feeling very separate, a voice focusing on itself) goes through during a kirtan when it shifts from resistance to surrender. We realize that what we’re surrendering to is love!

We live in a culture that wants to be like fire. We celebrate extroversion, excitement, amped up individuality & burning ourselves out to show how successful & deserving we are.

There’s nothing wrong with being successful, rising up from the ashes, or being in the spotlight/ shining and we all deserve it. The problem is when we become obsessed with it as a way to get love and unconsciously exhaust ourselves in the process.

Fire is exciting and can ignite things & be hot & amazing to watch but it is not nourishing.

The gift of surrender is like water.

Water is reflective & naturally moves around obstacles quietly & patiently to flow back to its source. It will go to the lowest places, let gravity pull it toward its source, and like a cosmic dance it sways back and forth when it merges with the ocean.

A cooling antidote to the burnt-out feeling, water refreshingly accepts us for who we are, beneath all the accolades. It quenches a deeper desire- the thirst for nourishment.

To be like water is to be ok with not shining, with not being exciting, with having your personal edge smoothed by the current of change (aka grace…or nature’s inherent rhythm).

The art of surrender is like that. It teaches us humility, that love doesn’t require anything special from us, it’s natural, and that the roadblocks on our path are actually there to direct us back to an endless ocean of self-love.

New Single on Spotify: “Ma Durga”

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 🙂.

Spring Workshop Series

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.