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 email@example.com.
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!
I used to be very hard on myself with meditation. I put myself through a 10 day silent vipassana retreat, would set my timer for 2 hours a day and suppress my imagination entirely to just sit there hyper-focused on the breath and bodily sensations. I considered meditations that included visuals & sounds to be inferior.
Then one day I was meditating with a Buddhist monk at a Dharma Center in Louisville and I asked him what to do when boredom comes up while you’re sitting. I thought he’d reveal some deep philosophical answer, but to my surprise he simply told me to imagine a gold light radiating from my heart. I said, “so it’s ok to use your imagination in meditation?” And he said indeed it was, and that monks often do it.
One of the recent ways I’ve started bringing my imagination into meditation is through japa practice (repeating a mantra). The artist in me loves variety…here’s a list of 18 ways you can explore and hopefully never get bored with japa meditation 😊
- Repeat your mantra out loud
- Repeat your mantra as a whisper
- Repeat your mantra quietly
- Repeat the mantra fast
- Chant AUM not in a hum/ singing voice but in a talking voice
- Sing your mantra (can be raised a half or whole step after each 108 reps)
- Try chanting a seed syllable such as RAM or GAM
- Chant along with an audio track- there is so much meditation & kirtan music on Spotify & Youtube!
- Try chanting a long mantra such as gayatri mantra
- Only chant (or repeat the sound in your mind) on the exhale breath
- Try it only on the inhale breath and in between spaces (the pause that happens when you hold the breath out or in before next breath)
- Chant with a background sound- I love the apps ‘shrutibox’ and ‘relax melodies’
- Do japa while gazing at a murti or picture/ visual of a deity
- Do japa while focusing your attention on a specific chakra in your body
- Use essential oils on your beads or on your wrists and include aroma therapy with your japa/ deep breaths
- Try holding the 4 parts of AUM out for equal amounts of time (aah, ooh, mmm, silence). Try 2 seconds each, then 4.
- Use the grooves in your fingers to count repetitions of your mantra
- Try counting your mantra in 9s.
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 😊
Mantra is often translated as ‘that which liberates, or frees the mind.’ Another interesting interpretation is ‘that which protects the mind.’ This fits with the new spirituality that says we don’t have to escape thoughts, that it’s ok to have thoughts…it’s human to think.
To protect the mind means we gently and lovingly feed it the mantra and allow our thoughts to be nourished by it…like a spiritual vitamin! Mantras can soothe, warm, relax, and plant seeds in our consciousness that grow us into greater alignment. Doing this for ourselves is an act of self-love. By practicing mantra repetition we gently keep guiding the mind back to the sound, thereby still allowing mind to come up, while protecting it from feeding back on itself (ruminating).
Coming back to the mantra is like finding an island in the middle of the ocean, or seeing the sun come up after a storm. We learn to stay with the ground, the light, the warmth, the faith, the love, the life force, the sense of protection. We merge with that and carry it out into the world knowingly or unknowingly allowing others to feel it.
I don’t believe in using mantras to ‘call things in’ so much as I believe in letting life happen naturally & then using mantra practice as a way to ease suffering if there is suffering or to express love & gratitude if there is joy.
If you’re going through an uncomfortable change & resisting it or feeling bitter, chanting a mantra can at the very least teach you to surrender. It could help you create an intimacy with the mantra that will bring you a lot of wisdom because of your direct experience with it.
This practice is experiential, devotional. Not blind faith. Every time we chant, the sound and movement of breath interacts with our dormant emotions & creates an energetic experience in the body.
Call it integration, a shift, a release, subtle energy, prana, transformation, or the heart’s intelligence. To be able to meet that energy more consciously is what this practice is all about.
Japa is a beautiful art of repeating sacred sounds (mantras). It starts by vocalizing the sounds out loud, then whispering them, then silently ‘hearing’ them in your mind. Running your fingers over beads or a stone give it a tactile sensation that keeps the mind and body connected.
The sounds come from ancient traditions rooted in India – Vedic rituals, tantra, & the bhakti movement. The Vedic way is outward-looking, masculine, transcendent, goes beyond ego, looks to the heavens and the planets. The tantric way is inward-looking, roots down into the body, explores physical sensations/ chakras and honors the Divine feminine. The bhakti way is emotional and all about sustaining a relationship with the divine/ God/ Self through our own heart’s intelligence.
Some of the benefits I’ve been feeling from doing japa are:
Relaxation…anxiety disappears! This is for two reasons- 1) japa acts as a gentle tonic for the vagus nerve and this has been found to relax brain activity. 2) japa prolongs the exhale breath and this has been linked with parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) so it is very relaxing.
Japa is a recharge from being plugged in all the time. Health professionals agree that being plugged in and bombarded with information all day isn’t good for us. Chanting is a way to unplug and charge ourselves up organically with fresh prana, that rich sustainable life force.
Mostly, it’s a meditation that works!
Thanks for reading😊