Monkey mind is my curse. My. mind chatters constantly, day and night. Silently, I talk to myself, to loved ones, to the world. I write essays in my head constantly. I hold entire conversations with the universe.That’s why it’s so hard for me to sit for traditional meditation. My mind doesn’t want to still.
And then I found bhakti yoga, the yoga of love and devotion and I especially found the musical chanting of Krishna Das and Nina Rao. Meditation with song and chant is so much easier for me. I never tire of it.
So what is bhakti yoga?
Not every yoga requires contortion–yoga is actually a spiritual practice, and bhakti yoga is the yoga of love and devotion, meant to help us develop unconditional love for God and all. Traditionally, bhaktas (bhakti yoga practitioners) express their devotion to deities through chant, ritual and prayer, but specifically, through what’s called “chanting the names.” Chanting the names of deities, like the Hindu Monkey God, Hanuman, is a way to love and serve God.
Chant helps us build an internal relationship with god and chanting the names is said to bring us closer to the pure love of God. For me, it brings peace of mind. It’s where I turn when the world feels too much for me, which it has during this pandemic and this entire administration. It my most effective weapon against anxiety.
Stilling my mind
As a meditation it can be done with the breath or not. Because chants are in Sanskrit, which I do not read or speak, I must let my thoughts go so I can focus on the words. Because music has always spoken to me, the melody carries me along easily. My body responds to the percussion by moving in rhythm, and while I’m not apt to break out in wild ecstatic dance like some, I feel the music down to my core and my body can’t help but move.
As I get closer to the pure love of God, it’s easier to extend that same unconditional love to the world around me. As Krishna Das says, you can’t fall into love or out of it–we ARE love. It’s always with us.
Human and fallible
Granted, it can be hard to access love in some circumstances, although it’s always with us. I feel like a work in progress…so fallible….so human. But that’s ok, because that’s why we’re here: to learn or to be reminded of what we already know. And one big lesson is LOVE.
As a bhakta-in-training I also practice karma yoga, or right action with right attitude. But that’s a story for another day.
When I was younger I would’ve rolled my eyes at chanting Hare Krishna–but, it turns out, that chant is very calming. But my first love is the 40+ verse Hanuman Chalisa, a Hindu devotional hymn devoted to the monkey god, Hanuman. My memory’s not good enough to allow me to memorize the verses but it’s a satsifying chant, nonetheless. Krishna Das and Nina Rao both have several versions I love to chant. But I recently began chanting Bhajelo ji Hanuman, which has become one of my favorites. Enjoy it below.
If you’d like to explore chant, yourself, free Pandora has a Krishna Das channel that plays a variety of chant artists 24/7. Meanwhile, enjoy Krishna Das’s BhajeloJi Hanuman.
I always burn one of my candles that contain crystals while I chant. If you’d like to do the same, check out what’s on offer at my candle page.