Chanting is both an ancient and mysterious aspect of being human. Singing and chanting exist broadly across cultures, and in traditions of yoga, Kirtan is a core practice.
The way your eyes are a gateway to your soul, so too is your voice. There is something revealing, vulnerable in lifting up your voice to sing; how many people shrink from hearing what their voice sounds like to others. Your voice trembles with emotion, overflows with joy, gets short and raspy with fear, sings with love. Your voice conveys your truth, your state of mind. It also expresses your beauty and depth. In singing, you feel yourself, and you allow others to see you as well.
When you sing with others, you collectively enter a state of trust; you share your vulnerability and humanness, and in doing so, you align your hearts; you feel not only the light within yourself, you feel it in those around you. Chanting in particular – the repetitive nature of it – reinforces not only the words and specific meanings but also the eternal nature of singing, the timelessness of breathing, throbbing, reverberating sensations of the heart. Chanting in a group, you magnify your hearts and your heart-connection.
You can sometime feel the power of chanting if you visit a place where it has been practiced over a period of time, whether a temple, a hall or even a hillside. Have you ever sat at a Native American site – whether a work site or a ritual site – and chanted out loud? You may hear the echoes of voices rising up out of the ground in gratitude and celebration. Have you ever sat in an ancient temple, in a deep vast silence, and then be embraced by a deep resonance in the walls that transports you to a deeper awareness or vibrant ecstasy? These illustrate the staying effect of chanting, the knowing power of your heart, and the way that chanting helps to access it.
In your marriage, use the power of chanting deliberately. You might greet the morning by reciting – together as a couple – a shloka or a Gayatri mantra to welcome the day. You might recite a Sanskrit text that is part of your tradition on a weekly basis. Open your home for kirtan with your friends, your sangham. Chant while you are doing chores. Yes, it is fine to play recordings of chanting and fill your home with the sweet sound of it, but far better to use your own voices. It connects you and aligns your hearts; it deepens an intimate knowing that is connected with your core being. It has a power that traces its way across the span of humanity.
Next essay: Seva: Put Your Love Into Action