Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How I became a chanting freak

A year ago I’d never chanted in my life.  A month ago I was thinking that chanting Sanskrit and calling it yoga was only for those who had opted out of life.  Two weeks ago I was in a permanent state of panic as I boarded the plane for my first ever yoga retreat that somehow included three chanting sessions a day.  Post retreat and I have officially become a chanting freak.  I don’t know what went wrong (or right….)

I am the girl who crawled under the desk when the school music teacher asked us to sing nursery rhymes out loud.

I am the girl who’s mother told her that she needed a life time of singing lessons just to be able to open her mouth (my rendition of Joan Jett’s ‘I love Rock ‘n’ Roll’ can only have been truly awful).

I am the girl who runs at light speed in the opposite direction of every karaoke bar.

I am the girl who booked a yoga and chanting retreat knowing all of this…… what the f%@*k was I thinking?????

Day 1 and I actually feel like I have a piece of hard cheese wedged in my throat.  My chant is stuck and I am mostly miming the chant.  I ask for tips which are gladly given and realize I am not the only one who feels the hard cheese.

Day 2 and I find the chant moving me into a highly emotional state where if I do let a tear slip out during the chant I am likely to end up howling and sobbing in a pitiful mess on the floor – I have no idea why.  Note that everyone else seems to be crying gracefully and quietly… pressure right?

Day 3 and now I’m wondering why I am the only one not crying during the chant, I think I am insensitive and wonder if I am so scared by life that I am unable to show emotion.  Plus my back really hurts from sitting on the floor chanting three times a day.  I still turn up to every session, it’s starting to be an addiction.

Day 4 and my worst nightmare occurs, we are asked to chant some sounds individually (ok I admit, just sounds, not like real words or anything).  Everyone does it and I actually tell the instructor ‘no thanks I’ll pass’.  Yes just like that I opt out.  I breathe a sigh of relief, I’ve done it, I got away with not having to chant by myself with everyone listening – woooo hooooo!!!! Until I get asked a second time and with the ask I am told that nothing bad can happen because the group loves me unconditionally……… geeeeeeze, how can I say no after that, plus if I don’t chant I’ll probably just cry which would be like way worse in front of my 20 new yoga/chanting pals.  So I do it and I am mortified for the rest of the evening although strangely I seem to have survived.

Day 5 and I actually feel a little better about chanting.  I mean seriously, how can it get any worse than the previous day?  One of the other girls, a seriously hip Parisian fashion designer, tells me I have a ‘smokey’ voice.  I dig it and feel just a little bit soulful about the chanting.  I even open my mouth when I chant at lunch time and I stop miming.

Day 6 and I may just be chanting for dear life.  I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my chest and that the hard cheese has come unstuck from my throat.  We move from sitting and chanting to dancing and chanting and even chanting whilst staring into each other’s eyes.  I have some fleeting reservations about how super uncool this all is but decide to ignore them and just keep chanting – what the hell has gotten into me?

Day 7 which is the last day of the retreat and I am truly sad that this is the last time I will chant with this wonderful group of people but full of happiness to feel the vibration of the beautiful Sanskrit words as they lift out of our mouths and float across the valley.  I realize that on that cheesy thought, I have become a chanting freak. Om Namah Shivaya rock on!

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