Preface: I used to think Kirtans were just for the airy fairy hippies…and there may be some airy fairy hippies that go to them but as I grow deeper into my practice of yoga and learn some of the traditional Sanskrit mantras, I can feel the healing energy behind them. And so chanting and singing them with a group of people makes your spirit come alive! They may be friends or they maybe strangers and what’s fascinating, is that it doesn’t matter: it’s all about the spirit of love and living from your heart.
I went to my first kirtan in Bali last night. I found out about it through my drum teacher Gusti whom I ran into last Saturday and shared with me that he plays with an Indian kirtan master every Friday night. Him, his wife, and a friend of his named Bring came to pick me up on their motorcycles. The kirtan is just down the street from my villa. What’s beautiful about kirtans is that it’s open to everyone. You don’t need any experience, you don’t have to know how to sing, and it’s ok if you don’t know what they’re saying. It’s all sang in Sanskrit anyway—the ancient language of India. And kirtans are traditionally led thru a call and response chanting format. Usually the one who leads (with my experience) plays the harmonium and then a drum or tablas player and maybe someone playing the hand cymbals. Each letter of the Sanskrit alphabet has a healing vibration to it, so even if you don’t know what you’re singing, you can just feel the vibrations of the chant and the music…and it will be just as healing.
Because I ran into Gusti 6 days ago and he said he’d pick me up on the way, I wasn’t sure if he’d remember. I thought to myself, “well, if he shows up that’ll be great! And if not, that’s fine too.” But he showed up and he said he made “a promise” to me J We don’t have a way to reach other (I don’t have a phone here and I don’t have his contact info…I just know where to find him), and so it meant a lot to me that he showed up and remembered. In LA, it’s hard enough to get friends to come over with a formal invite and if they say they’ll come, it’s not guaranteed! What happened to keeping to our word?
I had such a great time. When I was there, it all made sense. Finishing my week with a kirtan made it complete for me. I’ve been in a sort of “silent retreat” of my own this week and being present at the kirtan made me think: “This is filling my spirit with joy, love, and gratitude. THIS is the sort of thing I need to be doing more of.” And it made everything in life clear: Do that which fills up your spirit and brings you joy.