As I am writing this entry, I am surrounded by sonic sweetness, offered up by a group of musicians singing in a language that is not native to them or their country of origin, but is clearly one that they have adopted and spread world wide. The CD entitled To Be Home, created by David and Mira Newman, whom I consider rock stars of the sacred chant world, followed me home from a kirtan (call and response honoring of the One in its many forms) I attended last night. The Sanskrit word ‘kirtan’ means ‘to repeat’. This devotional musical form came easily to me 6 years ago when I was introduced to it in as I began my yoga practice, because it reminded me of the chanting and prayers in synagogue. I would pop a CD by other various international kirtan artists, including Deva Premal and Miten, Krishna Das and Benjy and Heather Wertheimer, Wah! and Donna DeLory on in the car and sing myself into nirvana while on even the most tedious of drives. At turns slow and meditative and rollicking and handclapping lively, the music has universal appeal, regardless of religious tradition. David and Mira were indeed home last night, since they hail from the Philadelphia area. The yoga community came out to support their own, big time. I had the bliss of seeing friends with whom I hadn’t crossed paths in years who have been part of my kula (community or family) and Theresa, whom I had just seen that morning at another yoga studio. One was Amy Cronise-Mead who was one of my first yoga teachers in the beginning of this joyous journey. Another was Mirabai Galashan, a sister interfaith minister with whom I got to share the divine dance, actually ‘being danced by the music’, so contagious it was.
The kirtan that David, Mira, and friends Marianne Sutin, Corey Sokoloff and Terry Bortman offered (I hesitate to limit it by calling it a performance, although that it was as well, since they are each talented performers who have honed their craft; David thinks of it as ‘prayerformance’) their best to the gathering and God(dess) at the beautiful Dig Yoga studio in the riverside (The Delaware) town of Lambertville, NJ owned by Sue Elkind and Naime Jezzeny. The high ceilinged, hard wood floored room couldn’t contain all of the energy that swirled around as the music began. A hundred or so people of all ages, from infant (Mira and David’s beautiful baby Tulsi Magdalena, about whom I joked with her grandma Rhoni and aunt Jade that she was the center of attention during the kirtan with her gleeful laughter and chanting, feet kicking and hands clapping in time to her parents’ music) to elders. I was delighted to watch as older boys and girls (in the 8 -10 year old range) created their own back up singing and dancing troupe, hands in the air, swaying, making up their own dance moves that would have impressed hip hop artists. When I was growing up, only parents who were considered counter culture hippies would have brought their flower- child -in -the- making kids to an event like this. Now it seems ‘normal’…in my world at least (:
The temperature in the room (although I can’t be certain) would have supported a Bikram hot yoga class, but no one seemed to care as they amped up the energy along with the band, hands stretching and reaching to the heavens, feet grounding to the earth. At one point, David was explaining, in his easy going humorous manner, that bhakti (an intensive love of God) is ‘divine lunacy’ and I heard myself giving knowing affirmation in my own mind, since when I am in that state, I lose track of time, and all that matters is the essence of devotion in the moment. Drippingly drenched afterward, I was infused with shakti, the energy of creation. Feeling blessed that I have the words to describe the nearly indescribable. Sometimes there are none. Sometimes the sound alone is enough. Om Shanti.