Chanting is such a gift of grace. For those of us who struggle with meditation, chanting is a very accessible and joyful way to enter into a meditative state. By repeating simple mantras over and over, chanting quickly stills the mind.
When we chant feelings of fear, anger and separation are gently transformed into feelings of love compassion and Oneness.
I predominantly use Sanskrit mantras as these ancient words and chants contain a transformative power, taking us deeper into our hearts and what Rumi calls the 'deep listening'. Although many of these chants tend to be recognised as part of the Hindu tradition I see them as universal, effective for us all, irrespective of our beliefs.
Chanting is for everyone. No prior experience of chanting is necessary to gain the many benefits it has to offer, simply an openness to what may occur. Through chanting, you meet the practice exactly where you need to. This might be finding a still point of relaxation after a hectic week at work; the joy of singing together; feeling our hearts awaken; offering our prayers to the Divine, or simply being present to the moment. Chanting is so powerful as it affects us physically as well as spiritually. We breathe more deeply and slowly. The sound vibrations resonate throughout our bodies creating an internal massage, our brainwave patterns are altered evoking states of relaxation and our blood pressure and heart rate decreases. Regular practice can elicit a relaxation response, reduce stress, sharpen mental clarity and help support our overall health and wellness.
Panel discussing 'Why we chant' at the Beltane Bhakti Gathering, 2018.
What is Kirtan? Kirtan is a form of devotional chanting whose roots go back many hundreds of years to India. It is a practice from Bhakti Yoga (yoga of devotion) and has the power to open the heart. The singing is accompanied by musical instruments, usually harmonium and tabla, and participants are encouraged to chant, clap and if the mood takes them, dance. Kirtan is incredibly simple and accessible, yet the results can be utterly transformative and profound. The practice is very joyful and a beautiful way to be and come together.
Come and try it for yourself!
Above chanting at the Beltane Bhakti Gathering, 2018.
"Kirtan is for all people. There are no experts, no beginners. The practice itself is the teacher, guiding us to ourselves. Kirtan allows us to enter into a world where all the logic of our minds, and all of the conditioning are left aside. With Kirtan, we create a temple inside the altar of our hearts, a place of refuge, a place of love, and a place of just being." - Jai Uttal
"Chanting is a way of getting in touch with yourself. It's an opening of the heart and letting go of the mind and thoughts. It deepens the channel of grace, and it's way of being present in the moment." - Krishna Das
"If we are so graced, there are moments seemingly out of time when something happens - when the boundaries that separate 'me' from 'you' disappear. There may seem to be one breath that breathes through us all. Voices so attuned that it seems but one voice is singing, and a joining of hearts in deep communion" - Robert Gass