Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sing With All Your Heart

At the beginning of this year I did something I've never done before. I'd heard about it. I'd read about it. I wondered it I'd like it. But didn't only "those" kind of people do those things? Was I brave enough to fly all the way to Los Angeles and give it a try?

What did I do that was so intimidating? I attended my first kirtan. A kirtan is Sanskrit for  a call and response chant. You can picture it:  a bunch of hippy dippy yogi's, mixed in with LA beautiful people all sitting on the floor swaying to the music and singing in a language not many people understand.

It is wonderful!

Since I was in LA for a yoga teacher training, it didn't take much persuading on my part to find four other new friends to travel from Manhattan Beach to Santa Monica on a Saturday night to Steve Ross's Maha Yoga studio. And it certainly helped that one of the ladies lived in LA and had a car so we didn't have to pay the $90 one-way cab fee.

If you aren't familiar with Steve Ross, he is the real deal. An honest to goodness, down to earth genuine real guy. He has quite a history in rock and roll music, but now he's a yogi to the stars, to the LA scene, and to us regular people with stars in our eyes and a yoga mat.

So after a long day of teacher training, four of us piled into her car and made the drive. Only my new friend the lovely Jerri had been to a kirtan before. As we took off our shoes to enter the studio, Jerri said, "Now if I start crying just ignore me I'm fine." Well why would she start crying? We were just going to sing right? I was more than a little nervous.

We found a spot among the very crowded floor and sat down on our bolsters and pillows. Someone was handing out flyers with the words of the chants printed on them. Uh oh, it really was all Sanskrit and I have no idea what it means.

I asked the guy next to me if he needed a flyer and he said no, he knew all the words he came to the chants every month. We chatted before everything began, and this was actually his last weekend in LA. He was moving the following week to Paris, France to do cancer research. Oh wow. Yeah, I just live in Memphis and I teach at the YMCA. I was still a little star struck and intimidated at this point.

And then Steve began to play his guitar. He welcomed everyone and asked if this was anyones first time. Thankfully I wasn't the only one to raise my hand. He said not to worry about knowing the words. The words don't matter. What matters is our intention.  The purpose of chanting is to get closer to and identify with the Higher Power within us.

He said we could sing "Bolo Bolo Sada Shiva Bolo" and be hoping it'll get us a new car. Or we can sing "Coca Cola Coca Cola Dr Pepper Diet Pepsi" with a pure heart and true intentions and we'll find ourselves closer to God.

Whew, that at least took some of the pressure off!

And then he started playing. And the group started singing. Suddenly it didn't matter I didn't know the words, or that I was still dressed in the yoga clothes I wore all day, or that I lived in Memphis or that I can't carry a tune. I was uplifted and supported and transported along as my voice blended with everyone else. At one point I looked behind me, and the room was full to the max. I don't know how many people fit into one yoga studio, or how that many people who didn't know each other and came from such different places all sang as one.

And then, I started crying. Yep, the tears started flowing. And I kept singing. With all my heart I sang Chamundayai Kali Ma Kali Ma Kali Ma, which Steve explained is a song about the Divine Mother. He said "just sing to yourself with love, because what is a mother but love?"

We are exhausted and rejuvenated
after the kirtan.
 The energy in that room was something I've never experienced before.           How we didn't sing the roof off, shut the city down, or cause the earth to rumble I don't know.

 It was a truly amazing, transformational and unforgettable night.

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<-- This is supposed to be a reverb10 button. I don't know why it won't work. Reverb 10 is a series of daily prompts for bloggers and everyone to reflect on the past year and manifest for the next. Check it out at And if anyone can help me figure out why the button won't show, I'd be much appreciated!


  1. I went to my first kirtan a while back, I didn't cry, but the joy that filled my soul was unreal!
    Wish I could have been there with you!

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