This morning I heard a soundcloud of Krishna Das called “the First time I heard Chanting in India”. As I listened, I was brought to the first time I heard chanting (The mantras I heard in 1995, but this was the first time I heard Kirtan live), which ironically was Krishna Das around 1997 at Jivamukti Yoga studio on Broadway/Lafayette in NYC.
At that time I was living on the Upper East side and touring (singing) with the group DLG, “Dark Latin Groove”. While home in between gigs, I began taking Ashtanga Yoga classes (in 1996) at Equinox on E.85th st. I began Yoga because I had a pinched nerve on the left side of my body that had appeared many years after a car crash I was in 1993. Although I walked out of the crash alive, the impact of the crash had knocked my body out of alignment, which didn’t show up until years later. I would wake up in excruciating pain and began dreaming that my arm was falling off. I went to a chiropractor and although it helped temporarily, a yoga instructor at my gym suggested I take some classes to help re-align and support the shift. I had no idea my whole life would also re-align.
Although I decided to take a class, I was a little hesitant since I had tried it many years before in my University and thought it was really weird to contort my body into what seemed like unnatural poses. However, seven years later I was ready to try it again in hopes it could help heal the pain I was feeling. There was so much going on in my life at the time and one day I will share that as well. Needless to say (when I was home from touring), I spent most of my time at a performance studio in midtown singing or in quiet solitude in a church close to where I lived. I was searching for a church and a community that lived in the truth of love. I had grown up in Catholic church and was definitely searching for people who were in the same value system, which was sometimes hard in the Music industry at that time. I was the only woman on tour, amongst 13 men. Although I was constantly surrounded by many people and doing what I loved, I really felt quite alone at times without anyone I could really talk to. Most of my girlfriends were getting married and having children, so it was hard to explain to them life on the on road and I didn’t really know many women in the industry who were also touring. Music, on the other hand for me, was my commitment and my true love. I lived to sing and travel and I have been blessed to be able to live my dreams! It is the one thing I have always consistently wanted since I was a child.
This time around, I fell in love with Yoga! My teacher was awesome and it was easy to show up for class. I loved it! I practiced 6 times a week, even when I was sick. My body loved it and it felt so good. It felt so natural this time around. I was ready for it. In class there was an indian man named Isaac. He knew I was a singer so he invited me to Jivamukti to hear Krishna Das one night. There were not many people there (Maybe 20) but the room was vibrating love. When he began to sing and we began to sing, I felt an instant connection back to my heart. I felt connected to myself and I felt connected to everyone, which is what I had been longing for. I am someone who had always lived in between worlds, between cultures, between east coast/west coast, between whatever it is that makes one feel that they have to chose one thing or the other (Now I know it is not this or that, but this and that). In that moment, however, I felt that I was one with everything and that nothing mattered but this feeling of love that was in the room and that was welling up from my heart. After touring the world, I finally had a place that I could call home and it was not outside of me, it was there all along. Chanting gave me access to the love within my own heart.
Shortly after, I went to visit my family in Northern California. I grew up in Marin county, where I took meditation classes starting at 14yrs and my mom would take us to Berkeley Psychic institute to get family readings, which is funny to me now. My mom and I loved to go to a spiritual store in San Francisco. There I purchased an “Om Namah Shivaya” (I bow to the truth within) cd which I played all the time in my home when I returned back to NYC. Playing it in my home, I could feel the difference. Although since that time there are so many other chants that I love, I still think back to that time and what that vibration in that cd led me to, which will be in another blog.
But as I heard Krishna Das say, “The first time I heard chanting in India,” this morning, I was instantly transported to that moment in my life when I heard him. It’s like the feeling of falling in love or hearing someone’s voice and knowing that you know them. Falling in love doesn’t happen everyday, but you know the feeling of home when you arrive to the door and are greeted in great love. You breathe deeply and let go and allow yourself to surrender because you know somehow, I have been here before and it is good. It is good. It is good and in this vibration of love, All is well.
A man I dated a while back asked me, “How does a girl who grows up in Catholic School end up chanting?” My answer is actually simple, “I grew up singing in church. I love to sing! My friends from yoga kept inviting me to come chant, which to me was singing. I kept coming back because I loved to sing! Chanting for me is song prayers and all the rewards and fulfillment that came with it were the blessings of the path-including the purification and continual transformation of my heart. I was the little girl that when I heard the song, “I like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony”, said, “That’s me! That’s for me! I want to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony and that’s what chanting is for me, something we all get to do together in harmony and there is no other feeling like it. It is Love”. Wherever there is love, there you will find me, including church. But Gods temple is now inside, wherever I am, there is love. Love is a vibration. Being in love is being in the vibration of love. Church is not outside us. The temple is within and anytime we love, we are in sacred communion. To share this love with others is Heaven on Earth for me.
The holiest place is within your own heart. The holiest place is within my own heart. So when we come together and make beautiful music and offer it to love, this is the highest Sadhana. This is one of the reasons I am here. To live the dream God put in my heart is a blessing and for this I am so grateful!
The first time I heard chanting, my life was changed. ❤