My Introduction to Chanting

The Gurbanki word 'Ong' painted - Gurmukhi calligraphy, 5 times

In 2006, when my son weaned, I had a Spiritual Emergence/Spiritual Emergency. Doctors couldn’t explain it, told me it was probably hormonal, and encouraged me to rest. I found Stanislov and Christina Grof’s book, Spiritual Emergency and discovered that others had similar experiences. I think it was author Jack Kornfield who said something like, “If you get this far in your meditation practice alone, you need a spiritual teacher.” I’d been meditating on my own for over 15 years at that point, guided mostly by books. The Grof’s described Spiritual Emergency as a ‘Kundalini rising’ experience, and I remembered there was a local Kundalini yoga teacher, so I sought him out. He referred me to his wife who was offering healing services including Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese medicine as well as Kundalini yoga.

During our first session, she invited me to pause in my storytelling. “Sometimes talking through things won’t bring relief.” She recommended that I start chanting. We chanted together and afterwards she loaned me a Krishna Das cd and gave me the homework of chanting one song for an hour a day. “You can chant it all at once, or you can chant 5 or more minutes at a time throughout the day.”

I chose the second option. We had a little attic room in our home, I went up there with the cd player and headphones and whisper-chanted. I was certain that my husband would think chanting was absurd, and I didn’t want him to know I was doing it. I felt afraid, and still embarrassed about my “Spiritual Emergency” but since Western Medicine and the counseling I’d been too hadn’t helped and didn’t seem to have anything to offer, I was a bit desperate.

This 40-day practice that we’re engaged in now, Ong for Powerful Energy, is based in chant. We tune in with chanting, we chant two other chants, and then we end with a chant. All in 3-5 minutes! If you’d told me before my spiritual emergency that chanting 3-5 minutes/day would bring healing I doubt that I’d have believed you.

Now I look back fondly at my 36-year-old self, tucked up in the attic, whispering sacred words, praying for a healing miracle. Almost 20 years later, I can’t recall when I let my husband know, and received his support, or many other details. I can say, a great love for sacred chant was inspired, and I feel so grateful this form of healing is available to us. That words, poems and songs from so long ago can come through us today, I feel humbled.

So, if you’re feeling awkward chanting, lean into the awkwardness. I encourage you to keep going. The world needs the gifts you’re here to offer. If chanting supports you to deliver your gifts, others will benefit as well.

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