From the very first time I encountered kirtan, it held an attraction for me that I could not explain. Before I had attended, I had heard that kirtan was spiritually beneficial and certainly that was something that attracted me. And I very much enjoy singing and dancing to beautiful music and being in the company of other spiritually-inclined people. But the attraction that I felt was on a totally different level. It was not intellectual, not something I thought about. It was just there in the way that something that has always been there suddenly reveals itself to you. And you can not help but recognize this something because it naturally belongs with you. Like breathing. You never think about your attraction to breathing because it so naturally belongs with you. Finding kirtan for me was very much like finding my breath and realizing that I had been holding myself from it for my entire life.
The more I participated in the weekly kirtans that were being held in my community, the more my attraction and appreciation for it grew. I felt my heart healing and opening to new levels and experiences of love, joy, peace, and understanding. For me, finding kirtan was the end of a very long search. I had spent my life searching for something I could not name. In the experience of kirtan, I found what I had been looking for.
So what is kirtan, you may now be asking. There are many ways to try to understand the answer to this question.
You may have heard that kirtan is the group singing or chanting of transcendental sound vibrations, or yogic mantras. That it is a spiritual activity which purifies the mind and heart, bringing with it deep states of joy and peace. That it is an eternal love song between the soul and the Supreme Soul, a form of musical meditation that has the gradual effect of reawakening one’s natural spiritual love.
Kirtan is all of these and more. And it is the most natural inclination of the soul.
(More on kirtan in the next article…What Is Kirtan?)
Although living naturally has always been my true goal, it was not the focus of my life for much of my life. For most of my life, I did not even think about what is the goal of my life. I lived primarily by the directives of my mind and body, and by the ideas about life I formed through my own personal experiences and what I learned from others. It was not that it was all bad, but taken altogether, it made for a life that was fraught with misery and struggle – especially in my adult years. From deep in my heart, I felt I was being guided to something better, but I was so confused and bewildered by my experiences, that I continually felt off balance, anxious, and unclear about what I was to do and why I was doing it. It was like being lost at sea with no land in sight. I intuitively knew land was there somewhere, but had no idea how to find it.
Until around age thirty or so, mostly I was focused on changing my external environment to try to find the harmony and happiness I sought inside. Then I was introduced to introspection and the idea that it was not the external environment that was the problem, rather, it was how I was relating from the inside to my external situations that was causing so much misery and disharmony in my life. I stopped trying to change everyone and everything outside of me, and instead started paying attention to what was going on inside. When I became aware that I was experiencing some kind of mental/emotional suffering, I would apply different techniques to try to change my mind so that I would at least be at peace with whatever was going on. I had some measure of success with this, and was happy in comparison to the misery of before, but still felt generally confused and bewildered by my experiences, off balance, anxious, unclear about what I was to do and why I was doing it. I knew I was heading in a better direction than before, but was still pretty lost.
Then I had the extreme good fortune to come in contact with kirtan and bhakti yoga – and this is where I began to understand where I had gone so far off track and how to begin the trek back to recovering my natural state of being.