If you ever want to do something that will forever change your life, my recommendation: study music, in particular singing, and especially if that singing is in some way devotional.
Let me back up a few weeks… here on Koh Phangan at Pyramid Yoga we have 2 nights a week where we get together and sing devotional music, called kirtan or bhajan. Similar to the way in which monks and shamans and other religious devotees of all faiths have chanted for thousands of years, yogis study Mantra Yoga (or Bhakti) and share in the chanting of sacred sounds. For many years I’ve been singing at kirtan events, which are call and response, and have had truly beautiful experiences listening to this music.
Here on the island it’s made even more special simply by the space in which we get to sing, a special cone-shaped building called a sound dome. Don’t ask me explain how it works, but the acoustics in there are quite remarkable, and somehow if you sit in the middle and whisper, the sound of your voice resonates as loudly as if you had spoken at a normal volume. (In the photo above you can see the inside of the dome during a nighttime bhajan event when about 80 people gather to chant together. Below is a photo of the dome from the outside.)
So, last week I was incredibly blessed to take a 3-day Mantra Yoga workshop with my dear friends Octavio and Chelsey. We talked about the vibration of everything in the universe and power of sound to heal. We talked about myths of some beautiful Hindu deities. And mostly, we sang. In my group there were 9 of us, most of whom had no musical training at all previous to the course. By the end we were singing our hearts out in beautiful harmony, simply by opening up to allow the sounds to move through us.
My favorite anecdote to share from this time was when we sang the Gayatri Mantra 54 times on the last day. Millions of people in India and all over the world wake ever single morning to chant this, one of the most well-known and cherished mantras in the world. As we chanted, I felt as if my heart was growing bigger and bigger with every round until it almost wouldn’t fit inside my chest. I felt so filled up with love and light that I could almost float off my cushion. I walked on clouds for the rest of the day, and still now, a week later, am singing the Gayatri every morning when I wake up (and most of the rest of the day as well); in fact, it feels as if the invocation is actually singing me.
I have so much gratitude to Octavio and Chelsey for providing a safe space for this opening to occur, to all my fellow students in the course for their love and support in the process, and to Pyramid yoga for hosting us in the dome and creating the weekly bhajan night.