During the third week of my teacher training I participated in a wonderful kirtan led by my teachers (Jessica Robertson and sister, Deena Robertson – See Lila for more information). A kirtan is defined as call-and-response chanting which may be accompanied by musical instruments.
Although I was raised by Hindu parents and was introduced to kirtans at a young age, I had never understood or connected with these lengthy singing sessions until my training. Having a better appreciation and new-found love for these events, I decided that when I returned home I would try to organize a kirtan for my local sangha (community).
After connecting with my studio owner, I contacted a well-known musician from our community, John William Bauld, to establish a date. The kirtan ended up being held during Diwali celebrations (Festival of Lights). Within weeks I printed and posted a flyer up in the studio, sent out emails, and began advertising the event on Facebook. I had a lot of education to do, many people thought the kirtan included an asana practice! If I were to organize a kirtan again, I would come up with a frequently asked questions document to help our Energy Exchangers and Teachers articulate facts about the event with ease.
I decided that the proceeds for this event would go to a local mental health service (which ended up being the Canadian Mental Health Association – Peel Branch) since this is an area I am very passionate about. I also thought this was a good opportunity to raise the profile of mental illness and challenge the stigma by encouraging people to speak up. A number of people approached me before and after the event to thank me for choosing this cause. Thank you so much for having the courage to share your personal story, or experience about a loved one, living with a mental illness.
Did you know that “1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime”?
The week of the kirtan, I began to decorate the studio with Indian garlands hoping I would increase awareness about the upcoming event and stimulate discussion. With some help, the studio was transformed the evening of the event (Thanks FM, RZ and JZ).
The event was a great success! We had a good turn out and raised just under $400. The energy in the room that evening from the chanting was powerful….indescribable actually! A special thanks to John and his inspiring crew for leading the session and for introducing me to some new mantras as well.
Before we concluded the session, I asked everyone to light a candle and set an intention for the year for themselves or someone they love. Together, we created this beautifully lit OM (see below). I’m so happy that I was able to give back to my community and introduce some of them to the idea of kirtan. Thank you to my studio owners (SM and MM) for allowing me to host this event and share this amazing experience with everyone. I look forward to helping organize future kirtans in my community! 🙂