Bow to the Inner Heart
The four of us, Kara, Kid, Bronwen, and I had never played together before the night we sang these chants. It felt magical then. I hope it feels magical now to you. This is pretty much how it sounded, a little raw and full of joy, just the way I like it. You see, chanting is about how well you heart. I hope you enjoy these chants. I hope you sing them when you feel happy. I hope you sing them when you feel sad. I hope this because that's what I do. Chanting has taught me to Bow to the Inner Heart. These explanations of the chants are my feelings about them, nothing more. Ram is a sound. I chant it to put fire in my belly. We all need fire in our bellies from time to time. Kali Bolo means praise Kali. I see her as the one who yearns to show us our true selves. Ananda Ma means Blissful Mother. A friend told me that when we shout, "Hey Ma!" we are shouting, "Hi Mom!" Radhe loved Govinda. So strong was her love that she became love. You don't need to believe in Radhe or the young Krishna, Govinda, to love chanting. But I believe in Radhe when I chant to her. How could I not? My heart opens wide. Ganesha means lord of the troops. Sharanam means surrender. Ganapati is another way of saying Ganesha. Gan is his sacred word, or bij mantra. Traditionally he is the remover of obstacles. But to me, this chant is about forgiveness, both of myself and others. Does not forgiveness remove obstacles? Om Namah Shivaya centers me. Om is the sound from which all things are born. Shiva, I have been told, can be translated as Divine Self. Namah is translated as bow. So in a sense we are bowing to our own divine selves as we chant Om Namah Shivaya. Ranger was a dog lost in the mountains. Ginny was distraught. My Om Namah Shivaya chant turned into a Ranger Come Home chant. After I sang this, he was found. I like to think this chant called him. Hanuman is the mischievous monkey god. He helped Ram and Sita defeat their enemies and see their own divinity. He reminds me to be playful, for in that playfulness, I may find my true self. He also reminds me to be brave. I try. Have I Told You I Love You? Hare can be translated as Divine One or Radhe. Hare Joan, JJ, Hannah, and Helen! And, Hare Hare Hare Emma! Thanks for coming to so many of my Kirtans. I love you! And Hare my many dear friends. So Hum Hum Sa Ha bonds me to others in powerful ways, ones I do not fully understand. I say this chant one way. I have heard others say it other ways. It means I am that. My friend said it is I who must decide what "that" is for me. I have been chanting since I was 17, which was a long time ago. I chanted Om Mani Padme Hum. I think I might have learned that chant from "Be Here Now" by Ram Dass. I began to sing Kirtan about five years ago, when I attended a Krishna Das retreat at Breitenbush Hot Springs. As I mentioned, I had been chanting for many years, but this was totally different because I was singing with others. The more I sang, the happier I got. I actually felt confused because I had been meditating for many years; and after a few hours of singing Kirtan, I felt I had gone deeper into my own inner stillness than ever before. Krishna Das was my first inspiration. After the Breitenbush retreat, I was blessed to attend a Kirtan with him and Ram Dass for six days in Maui. I have been singing Kirtan every day since then. I would include Gina Sala as my mentor. She taught me my first songs on the harmonium. And she encouraged me share my Kirtan with others. Heather and Benji Wertheimer of Shantala have been good friends, teaching me songs and answering my endless questions. More recently, I would say Jai Uttal has inspired me. I studied with him for 9 days in the summer of 2008, and it will be years before I assimilate all that I learned. And I have other friends too numerous to mention, Tashi and Joy come to mind, who have supported me and encouraged me. But above all, I would say the beautiful people who attend the Kirtans I host are my best teachers. But my most wonderful teacher of all is a woman named Joan.