Kirtan and i have had a once unrequited love affair for over 20 years.
I used to practice ashtanga at Auckland Yoga Academy and for many years i saw Karen printed on the cardboard timetable – to lead Kirtan on a Friday night. In my 20s Friday night was reserved for restaurant tables and ice-temperatured-gewurtraminer and friends and films and festivals and the occasional touring escape out of Auckland. ‘The’ fresh 30s were reserved for not moving my mouth or making any sound after a long week of noise and noise making as a teacher.
In truth i wasn’t ‘ready’ for Kirtan, were there many of us that were? Strange how something seems ‘radical’ or ‘out there’ (like unreachable) and then suddenly it’s not, as if we’ve ‘caught up to it’.
Yes, Kirtan and i are on the same page now, and we are ‘humming’.
I think my mind imagined i would feel exposed, like the other voices would hear or care about my muddled pronunciation of sanskrit. And i’ll come clean i prefer the simple or short mantra, so i can accumulate more ‘flow’ and ‘relaxation’ rather than having to employ my brain to tell my lips what shapes to make with the more lengthy mantra.
Google stalking reveals “sanskrit is the primary sacred language of Hinduism, a philosophical language in Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism, and a literary language that was in use as a lingua franca in Greater India.”
They say that vowel sounds carry the emotion of a word and consonants carry the meaning. Words are feelings? Even if we are to use nouns we can choose from many titles, which once we decide on, creates a tone, a feeling e.g. rat versus rodent, cat versus feline, flower versus bloom.
They also say (someone’s doing a lot of talking) that sanskrit sounds are pure and elicit feelings of equanimity.
Perhaps the exotic lures, the foreign-ness holds magic, but perhaps not. Perhaps the magic is real – i know not yet the science of sound.
Here’s a link to a colourful collection of mantra from yoga journal.
And one of my personal faves: Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
“Translation: May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all (5 Ancient Mantras that will transform your life from the blog mindbodygreen).”
My virgin experience (note: ‘virgin’ versus ‘first’, and the contrasting feeling and of course imagery each gives) of Kirtan happened at Prana Retreat 2016. It was one of the days of persistent rain. Many of us sat on the grass in the raw surrounds of a tired marquee. What proceeded felt transformational. A collective of teachers graced the ‘head of the semi-circle’. Men. Women. Kiwis. Exotic accents. Each chant and wallah (leader) brought a different ‘ecstasy’ or ‘trip’. I didn’t intend to link Kirtan with drug taking and my flavour is to wander for wonder through unadulterated states, but each to her/his own. But perhaps it is like a drug or at least altered-state experience, in that one visits different thoughts, within the rise the climax and the ebbing of the chant. This is done almost as the Baroque musicians composed, with acceleration, to gather frenzy and in mine (and most others i know) a sense of delicious JOY.
Premratna was the mother of that Prana Collective, the woman who opened and closed the chant and housed the others. For those of you who haven’t experienced her – she holds a serene space which is happy to reach abandoned joy. She has a pure voice and sits with calm, interspersing the harmonium with lyrical guitar. Her stillness feels ‘knowing’, so as a participant i feel trusting and receptive.
It was on that day, i thanked her, for the ‘opening’ and invited her to The Delightful Festival of Body & Sound.
I feel filled with ease (aka light?) and aroha when i sing, and even more so when i sing/chant mantra/kirtan. I believe it’s the simplicity and the repeated-nature which allows me focus solely on the ‘melody’. It’s the breath too. Moving that stale air out of my body, out of my experience, and welcoming the fresh, the possibility.
For some reason the last two sessions (where i have driven from Tauranga to Auckland to chant with Premratna) have got my flatulence singing too. This is my only discomfort in Kirtan, otherwise i feel completely in my flow. I haven’t yet embraced my hot smells of gas. Hmm, perhaps this is a good thing? Not exactly a way to make friends. But then, is this the point? Time to move on from my fixation of making and/or keeping friends? A collector. I collect people…Hmm, i love how cathartic a trusty blog post can be. A friend (there they are again, popping on up) suggested human gas is linked with worry. Curious. I guess i share this tale of gaseous odour, for a free laugh, and for you to garner it is a powerful ‘practice’ a way to YOGA, to union, to integrate, to surrender, to embrace and (to embarrass perhaps).
But you can come without wanting to embarrass yourself. You can come willing to to make some sounds and to listen. I say this to all ‘classes’ or ‘workshops’ or ‘events’ i’m involved in. You have permission (not that you need it, but sometimes people feel more relaxed knowing this, and my new hit activity is RELAXATION) to come and after a bit quietly leave if you feel uncomfortable or uninspired or just not ‘at ease’.
Come along dear friends new and old, young and from time-gone-long. I promise a big fat cushion, a snuggly blankie, some enchanting guitar, drum and harmonium, voices make sound and breath (from various orifices) – i’ll sit by a window i can open.
If you want to keep in the loop with Kirtan in Tauranga then join the facebook group ‘Tauranga Kirtan‘.
I’ve joined ‘Auckland Kirtan‘ too.
You’ll often find kirtan at the yoga and wellness festivals around Aotearoa and quite often at Kawai Purapura in Auckland.
And of course you can ‘like’ the wild & grace facebook page which will post when we hold Kirtan and other events. Sometimes there are kid-friendly events, sometimes adults only, sometimes during the day and sometimes the evening, and in every season.
Sing and make sound with you soon.
Go well and easy.