On my first Sunday night here in Bali, I went to a kirtan. For those of you who have never heard of it before, a kirtan is basically a Sanskrit sing-a-long. Perhaps the reason you’d be familiar with it is because you’ve seen Bhakti yogis sitting in orange robes in a park singing “Hare Krishna, Hare Krisha, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare…”
“Hare Krishna” is certainly one refrain that you can sing during kirtan, but the possibilities for melodies and mantras are basically endless. At the kirtan here at Yoga Barn in Ubud we sang all sorts of songs dedicated to different deities. The evening was led by a teacher and musician named Punnu, who I perceived immediately to be a true master of sound, yoga, and energy. Punnu’s presence is magnetic and powerful, as you can see just by looking at him:
So there I was, singing kirtan with Punnu and about one hundred other yogis. And on probably the second song in, I had a HUGE revelation:
I want to lead a kirtan back in New York City!
I was lucky to have my journal sitting next to me when I got this overwhelming download, and within minutes I had written two full pages of all the reasons this adds up and makes so. much. sense. Some of the “duh” signs include: I have a stash of instruments already, my good friend in New York just bought a harmonium for us to practice chanting with (!), my dad always wanted me to be a cantor (😝 ), and I’ve been studying Sanskrit more deeply lately. But here are the really big reasons this is such a powerful aha moment for me:
First, it gives me an opportunity to connect with all of you in a new way (I immediately envisioned that we’ll live-stream this kirtan so that those of you not in New York City who would like to join can also participate). Right now when I work with you in a private session or an online class, we focus on the ways that you use your voice outside the session or class (whether it’s singing, public speaking, voice-over, teaching yoga, etc). That’s very important, of course. However if we also have a shared practice that we can come together and do each week, it will give us a wonderful opportunity to implement the techniques and exercises we’re working on together. Plus, it’s a beautiful way to bring all of us closer in community.
Second, doing this gives me a chance to sing again. In order to explain why this is so important, I’m gonna share something really personal with you:
A big part of my own vocal expression got shut down when I lost my voice ten years ago, and even though I’ve done a ton of work on myself and my voice, it’s still not fully revived.
Yes I sang a cabaret show for my 30th birthday two years ago (and I’m so proud of that!), but I haven’t truly had a regular vocal practice that I do simply for the fun and joy of it in years, and it is so important that I reclaim that. Because really, who am I to help you fall in love with your voice, if I’m not doing the same to the very fullest?
WHEW. Feels good to be honest about that with you, and with myself.
So – when I get back to NYC in September we’re making this happen. I don’t know tons of Sanskrit songs yet, and I’m envisioning that I’m going to be a little bit like Bambi standing up on my legs for the first time, but I think the best way to learn is to just dive in. And we’ll do this kirtan thing Voice Body Connection/ Elissa-style. If you’ve done kirtans before, this will be unique and slightly different: I’m thinking we’ll do a warm up, tell some stories, sing some songs, practice an exercise or two, and do a cool down each time.
By the way, if you’re reading this right now thinking “I’m secretly super compelled by this, but I’m not a singer and I’m worried I’m going to sound terrible and make my cat cover her ears” or something like that, then I encourage you all the more to join in. Making sound is our birthright, and harmonizing our vibrations with the world around us is one of the most healing things we can do for ourselves and the whole collective. I’m reading lots of books, and tons of smart people say that’s true… in fact the Bhagavad Gita, one of the most sacred texts of yoga, states that chanting is the path to liberation in the era we’re now living in. How phenomenally amazing it that?! By opening up our individual throat chakras we are purifying ourselves and upleveling everyone around us (the Sanskrit word for the 5th throat chakra is vishuddha, which means “purity.”)
You can look forward to hearing more about how I’m going to unroll this in the fall as I develop a plan. In the meantime, I think it’s safe to say this trip is definitely turning out to be tax deductible 😂 !!
Also: if you’re excited by this upcoming new offering, will you tell me? I’d love to have a gauge on the interest in this!
Sending big love from Bali in your direction,
P.S. I didn’t even mention that I actually got up on stage with Punnu that night and played the cajon for a few songs! His drummer hadn’t shown up and he asked for a volunteer. And well, you know I’m not the shyest person…
I wish I could share evidence with you, but I don’t think anyone got a photo. However as a close second, here’s a picture I have of singing until the wee hours of the morning a few days later with a bunch of locals at a bar here (I felt on fire this night, which is perhaps apparent from how blurry this picture is )
And a couple other recent Bali shots:
…As you can tell, I like it here. I have a feeling I’ll be coming back!