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Natural Awakenings - Alachua, Citrus, Marion, Sumter Co & The Villages, FL

Chanting to the Open Heart

Sep 05, 2016 08:19AM ● By Shana Smith

Shana Smith

Many people are too attached to conditioning and habit, or what Eckhart Tolle calls their “pain body”, a human condition in which fear and ego lead us to misinterpretation of reality and misguided actions.

Those seeking to come home to their essential, true self are often aware of this disconnect and are searching for ways to let go of fear and self-doubt. Many traditions on the spiritual path have tools to take us there, such as meditation, yoga and chanting.


While they are three very different practices outwardly, inwardly, they all synergistically achieve a state of connection, compassion and awareness of the present moment. By practicing a more skillful relationship with the mind, an opening of the heart chakra and an emerging awareness of life as it truly is right at this moment, our true self is cultivated.


Chanting is a form of connection that has existed for thousands of years in many cultures worldwide, and kirtan is a form of chanting well known to most yogis, but the practice of repeating sacred mantras as a vehicle for healing and transformation is universal. There are sacred chants in Sanskrit, English, Pali, Native American, Tibetan, Hebrew, African, Japanese, Hawaiian and more languages.


Their relevance and power lie in that they are sacred mantras, or words that are repeated over and over again, like the beads on a mala necklace, for their sacred energy. All that is required to understand them more deeply than words is the intention to open our heart to the experience. By mindfully practicing this kind of heart opening during the experience of sacred mantra, we are cultivating the ability to mindfully experience each moment of life, through all of the highs and lows.


Many potential participants are reluctant to try chanting because they can’t sing, don’t have a good voice or can’t keep a tune. Chanting, however, helps to deepen our connection with our inner life or energy, and feel and express our true self—it is not about singing–it is about opening, receiving, feeling our energy body, expressing and witnessing the experience of this very moment.


In Chanting to the Open Heart and many forms of kirtan, chants often begin softly, and then build gradually. Just as an atom expands and contracts and just as we sleep and awake and return to rest again, chanting models the natural vibration of life. The amount of build depends largely on the collective energy in the room. Each chant is simply a melodic repetition of only a few lines of devotional, high-energy words. After an extended period, there is usually a relatively quick decrescendo as we become silent once again. During the silence between chants, it’s important to keep an inward focus and attentiveness to the moment.


As we hear the chants, we can observe what is happening in ourselves. We may wish to simply listen and deepen our meditation silently. We may wish to hum softly. We may feel our voice and spirit soaring, We may feel like clapping or playing an instrument or getting up and dancing.


Shana Smith and her husband own the Gainesville Retreat Center. For more information, call 352-213-2221 or visit

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