I’ll be giving a live webinar on Thursday night on just this subject (which will include a first ever interactive kirtan with tabla, guitar, and harmonium) and wanted to give a little background of what chanting has meant to me.
When I came to Ananda and experienced chanting for the first time, my heart was wonderstruck at how so few words with such a simple melody could have such a profound effect upon me. Tears flowed as my heart was cracked open with a crowbar.
How different this was from my experience in the Presbyterian church in which we’d typically sing three hymns, all with 3 or 4 different verses that kept our attention wrapped up in the words of each line. Nobody ever explained hymn singing to me, and as I stood next to my mom sharing the hymnal, I got the feeling that this was something that was expected of me, and it was simply something one did as a good Christian. Was God expecting us to sing to Him? I couldn’t quite get the deeper meaning, and occupied myself with learning the harmony parts – at least that was pleasing enough.
If chanting is something new to you, please, please understand this: God is not expecting us to sing to Him, but rather wants us to sing with Him, and to open ourselves to His presence. The chanting that we have to offer is simply an opportunity to experience for ourselves firsthand God’s presence. It’s not something that we expect people to do simply because it ought to be done, but is a meal offered for anyone to partake. What we get out of it is up to us, and what a feast it can be.
This evening I taught a Music and Meditation class for the Meditation Teacher Training class at the Expanding Light. For some, chanting was a new encounter, and my job was to give them as dynamic experience as I could of what chanting is all about. At the end of the class, my consciousness was completely transformed and I found myself blissed out – one of the benefits of leading such a class!
My approach is this: in order to convincingly convey something to someone, I must bring it alive as completely as possible. For instance, if I were to try to share my enthusiasm about the new ice cream store in Nevada City, I’m going to try to bring to mind (and mouth!) the experience as vividly as I can so that I can use the best words to convey the experience (“the lemon custard was divine: creamy, sweet, and refreshing!”). But no matter how many words I use, I don’t think I can leave you with the exact taste in your mouth. And seeing as finished off the cup, all I can do is give you directions (Treats – 110 York Street!).
With chanting, we get to go beyond the realm of words into that of vibration, and with dynamic energy on my part and receptivity on the your own, I can help lead you to a direct experience for yourself. How is that possible? For me, I must again feel the vibration of each chant so powerfully that it can’t help but aid in awakening those same vibrations within your own self. And as we chant together, you must be as open as possible to the experience. If I slightly dampen my cello strings, no matter how hard I try to produce a freely resonating sound, it will remain muted. As I feel and broadcast (both vibrationally and digitally), I’m offering through my own state of receptivity what is possible for you to experience – bliss divine, eternal love, devotion, peace, deep calmness, and power. If my hope is for you to touch a little of what chanting has to offer, I must be an ever deeper channel through which this all can flow. And that challenge is what leaves me residing in bliss.
Here is a recording of I Am the Bubble from the Crystal Clarity album, Bliss Chants.01-i-am-the-bubble-2.mp3 As you listen, try to feel what is happening on a deeper level than just the auditory – go within and feel for God’s presence as Bliss. The more you can open to the experience, the more you can resonate with joy.