I can’t remember when I attended my first kirtan, which is strange because I love it so much. It’s hard to explain, but it just feels so good in my heart and I smile instantly when I start singing and chanting. From the first time I realized how good it felt, I started to crave it, and I just kept looking for kirtan events to attend. Then, I became a kirtan junkie. Eventually life got busy, and my attendance at kirtans and even yoga workshops started to decline.
You know how people say, “You don’t know what you had until it’s gone?” Well, this past Friday when I attended the kirtan hosted by David Newman (aka Durga Das) at Harmony Yoga Studio in Maitland (Orlando / Central FL), I immediately realized how much I missed this in my life, and how healing it is.
What brings me immense happiness in life are yoga and blogging, and I have been able to find a great balance of giving enough attention to both of my passions. But, change is inevitable, and my life has gotten super busy to where I haven’t been able find that balance! I almost didn’t go to the kirtan because it was a Friday night after work, and I was exhausted from the build up of the busy work week. It would have been easy to just cook some soup and hibernate at home, but I had been looking forward to this for months. I knew I didn’t want to miss it and I am so glad that I made myself go. Walking into the yoga studio just felt so good, and it was so great to see so many friendly faces!
In the past I’ve tried to explain kirtan to my friends, and it probably sounds a little cult-like. It’s “call and response” chanting in Saskrit to music. The person who leads the kirtan will chant something, and then the audience follows. Each chant continually gets faster and faster, and eventually you lose the call and response and chant together. Then, the music slows down, and instead of clapping, you sit in silent meditation with the energy and vibrations that were just built together in the room. Usually there are pillows on the floor and a few chairs set up. You can sit in meditation position, but it’s also fun to get up and dance.
The video below is a good example of what a kirtan event is like and how it all works.
David Newman and his band came in and sat down in the front, and kind of explained how it all worked. He had a great sense of humor. He said whenever he goes to the gym he sees a sign that says, Judgement Free Zone. He said that we can sit if we want, but if we feel the need to move or get up and dance then we should do that, and that “This is kind of like the gym. It’s a judgement free zone.” It really is that way, and that’s one of the reasons I’ve always loved kirtan. Everyone just feels the bhakti and love and you can take it however you want. No one is judging your singing or dancing. We’re just all in support.
The chants are all really popular and well known mantras in Sanskrit, so you can attend kirtan after kirtan by different musicians and be able to eventually chant along. It’s different than a concert because it’s actually a practice. Similar to how yoga postures are not really exercise, but a meditation practice. The mantras are chanted to open up the chakras, open the heart, and raise the vibrations in the body.
Right when the music started playing, my eyes closed, and I felt my heart open.
I was about to cry, but instead I smiled.
It was lovely.
The very last song was in English. He said that he wrote this mantra and song for people who need healing and love. The practice was for us all to chant this beautiful and healing mantra together, and then think of someone that we need to send healing energy to. It was time to put down my phone and stop taking pictures and really open my heart to healing. It was so beautiful because we were all chanting together, so the whole room was essentially sending healing energy to everyone together.
Here’s how it went (I hope I got this word for word, but if I didn’t, it still works):
Be Bold, Be Free, Be Beautiful. Believe, Be Loved, Be True to You. As Far, And Wide, Remember there is always someone thinking of you. We are all thinking of you.
Do you have someone in your life who needs healing? Why not make this a practice before bed?