Yup, I know! The first time I heard the word Kirtan, I didn’t know what the heck it was either. So, I googled it:
1. (Hinduism) devotional singing, usually accompanied by music instruments
from Sanskrit kirtanam, praise, eulogy
I had been invited to Kirtan by several different friends, but always had an excuse not to go. This went on for about two years and then one Saturday, when I was feeling heavy with negative emotions, I decided to grab the bull by the horns and go to Kirtan.
My negative and dark mood started to dissipate the minute I stepped into the yoga studio where the event was to be held. Everybody there was in such great spirit and the excitement was palpable. I found some of my friends and we all settled down not he floor, propped up by cushions and blankets. And then it began!
It was simply amazing. The music lulled me, the singing invigorated me. After starting off tentatively, my voice grew louder and clearer song after song. It felt so incredibly freeing. I cried that night, a lot! But the tears shed were tears of joy and relief. I couldn’t even remember why I had felt so downtrodden earlier that day.
And the joy lasted for days after. I kept catching myself humming and whistling the chants to myself and it made me happy. Needless to say that I started attending Kirtans regularly after that. Not just with the group I started with, I checked out some other ones as well. I was hooked and Los Angeles as the perfect place for it.
I would mention Kirtan to my Swiss people and they would all just give me a puzzled look. Apparently it had not taken on in Switzerland quite yet. Only my Mom’s yoga teacher knew what I was talking about. She spends time in an ashram in India every year and it was fun to see her perk up immediately when I mentioned that I attend Kirtans in the States.
Now that I moved to this small island in the Pacific Northwest, finding a Kirtan has proven to be difficult. There are a few in Seattle. But that would mean an hour on the ferry to the mainland, about three hours in traffic to get there and the same on the way back. Bottomline, it would mean a day trip to attend a two hour Kirtan. There actually was one here on the island last year in May! However, I was across the ocean in Switzerland visiting family. Go figure!
So how to I solve the problem of not having one here? Well, what Kirtan essentially did was to bring me back to singing. So this was easy, I simply joined the local Community Choir! While it isn’t call and response singing, it more than satisfies my urge to express myself through my voice.
There is only one thing I regret in all this. The fact that I waited two years to finally get over myself! But then maybe I simply wasn’t ready to let go and deal with the emotions that only singing could release.
Kirtan with Tim Jordan