Last Saturday night, I attended my very first Kirtan at Yogamaya. If you are not familiar with a Kirtan, here is a brief explanation from Yogamaya’s website:
“In a Kirtan, a group of people comes together to sing, dance, and make music. A leader sings the names of Divine Beings to a melody, and then the group of people responds. The chanting goes back and forth, an intimate exchange between the leader and the group, where you can listen and then sing, listen and then sing. The repetition of the names creates the most sublime meditation and inner sweetness.”
After a late afternoon practice and a quick bite at Terri (a favorite veggie spot), Beth and I returned to Yogamaya to participate in the Kirtan, led by Acyuta Gopi. We greeted our teachers and fellow students, along with a host of other people who had gathered especially for this event. There was a palpable excitement and energy of joy in the air for what was about to transpire.
Inside the studio, the walls were lined with a row of chairs, while the middle of the floor was set up with folded blankets. Yoga is known as a “grounding” practice, so it was no surprise that we would sit on the floor for the Kirtan, allowing us to feel a connection to our bodies and to the Earth.
By the time we entered the space, the attendees had crowded around the “stage” area (the front of the studio), where the performers had set up their instruments – a variety of hand drums and a harmonium, front and center. After a short introduction in which the diverse group of participants were encouraged to sing from the heart, and after being showered with rose petals, Acyuta began Kirtan began with a slow, sweet mantra. As the Kirtan went on, people swayed, danced, clapped, and closed their eyes to take it all in.
Perhaps it was the sense of being part of a community, the foreignness of the Sanskrit words, the sweet hum of the harmonium, or the vibration of the drums, but something about the experience awakened a sense of connectedness, a feeling of being less alone. As I lay in bed that night, I felt a heightened sense of emotion that had been awakened as the mantras reverberated through my body.
Sometimes it seems like we need armor to face the challenges of our lives; that we have to show a hardened, tough shell to appear as though we have everything under control. But in this sacred space, where people came together to sing, chant, and lend their energy to a peaceful, beautiful practice, there was a sense that you could smile, let your walls down, and simply be.