Saturday, February 4, 2012

Why I Love Chanting

Ok, so it's 4 am, and I'm up writing a column.  Something has to be really calling to me to get me up at that hour, let me tell you.  (Well, that plus the fact that I ate a giant bowl of pasta at 9:30 pm.)  And -- I have been singing a Hare Krishna chant in my sleep for the last 4 hours!

Depending on the scope of your life experiences, when I say "Hare Krishna", you may immediately get a vision of people dancing in orange robes at airports.  I urge you to suspend that vision and read on!

Here's my own take on chanting.  My first real exposure to chanting was through a Deva Premal CD that a friend gave to me.  I liked it.  Sort of.  I put it in my car stereo, and sang to a few of the songs frequently while driving.  It grew on me.  A lot.  After a while, I noticed that I was really looking forward to driving anywhere, so I could chant as loud as I wanted, to the same songs, over and over.  It was fun.  It was uplifting!  Nowadays, I can be found chanting while doing dishes, while doing any housework, while walking the dog (quietly), and especially while driving.  It just makes me feel fabulous -- happy, relaxed, uncluttered in my mind.

The tradition of chanting exists in nearly every culture and/or religion in some form, although the kind that I'm hearing about most these days is Sanskrit chanting.  Deva Premal often features chants from different cultures -- Native American, South American, etc. -- in her recordings.  So, it's everywhere.  And yet, why, you may ask, do you want to start chanting?

Chanting is really a form of meditation -- as is anything that distracts you from your own brain chatter for a period of time.  It will give you a rest from yourself.  It will help you get your evil twin out of the way so that your best self can show up more often.  So, there is that awesome aspect -- and there is the aspect of prayer.  I always find out the basic meaning or translation of chants, so that I have a general idea of the intention behind the words.  It is quite powerful to think that you are singing something that has been chanted by thousands of people for hundreds, or even thousands of years, all having the same intention!  I love that!

The good news is that if you'd like to chant/sing with other people, you can go to a kirtan.  (read more about kirtans and chanting by clicking here)  This is basically a call-and-response concert (from very small groups to very large).  Everybody sings.  An amazing experience that I highly recommend, at least once!  You can keep your eyes closed the whole time if you like, no self-consciousness required!  Many yoga studios hold kirtans.  


And the really exciting news is -- at my next weekly meditation group, Thurs. Feb. 9th at 7:15 pm, 35 Boston Street in Guilford, I am pleased to welcome the young, peaceful and talented Andrew Biagiarelli, for a low-key kirtan!!  A perfect opportunity for you newcomers, as well as the experienced kirtan-goer.  Please email me at mjinsync@yahoo.com or call me at 203-444-5625 if you're planning on coming, so I can get a general head count.   And -- if you still just can't bear the thought of it, please do try some chanting in private.  I won't tell a soul!  

And now, if you find yourself a little more open to the Hare Krishna thing, I invite you to click here to listen to samples from Krishna Das' album, All One.  Translations of Hare Krishna, Hare Rama vary, but it basically means "O Universe, please engage me in your devotional services".  I've just decided that for me it means "holy God, holy Universe".  And that suits me just fine.

Happy Valentine's Day from the hammock!
MJ