I first heard the story of OM from a homeless man on the streets of Providence. I was 15 or 16 at the time, and being dropped off at Thayer Street to spend the day in Providence with friends was the thing to do. My friends were probably in a record store digging for new sounds while I leaned against a building outside smoking a cigarette. A man approached to bum a smoke, and then began to tell me that the world is made up of sound. He spoke about different frequencies of vibration and told me how solid objects only appear to have weight and substance because of the speed with which they vibrate. The original vibration that predated all, he said, was OM.
I love to chant OM, whether it’s standing in Main Circle at a large Rainbow Gathering, hands linked and voices rising to join above the forest or in a small room with a group of three chanting to begin a yoga class. Each time I feel the sound vibrating in my heart chakra and rising pulling the energy up, throat chakra, up third eye, up crown chakra and up, connecting me to a higher vibration still. One of the mysteries of OM is that I never know how it will sound on any given day. I open my mouth to chant and the sound emerges, sometimes wavering, sometimes off pitch, sometimes resonant and deep.
The practice of chanting in yoga helps us access the Manamaya Kosha. Swaimiji.com writes of the Manamaya Kosha,
“Mana means mind. It is the level of processing thoughts and emotions. It is in direct control…through the prana, of the physical body and senses….it naturally has doubts, and created illusions. When it receives clear instructions from the deeper level, it functions quite well. However, when it is clouded over by its illusions, the deeper wisdom is clouded over.”
As we repetitively chant mantras, we are able to shake free pervasive illusions created by the Manamaya Kosha and access a deeper level of wisdom and intuition that resides in the body. Our power is united when we practice in a group — whether that practice be yoga, meditation, or mantra, each energy joins with the others to create a vibration both of ourselves and more than each of us.
It is for this reason that I love Kirtan. Kirtan, the practice of repetitively chanting mantra in a group, usually with instruments, is an uplifting experience and one I don’t often get to enjoy. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there were Kirtan classes being offered at Pure, the gym where I began la adventura ten months ago. It was a fitting end to my time in Nicaragua!
I arrived for the class with a friend and fellow yoga teacher, and we grabbed some comfy pillows and took seats on the yoga mats that had already been thoughtfully arranged around a makeshift alter. On the floor between the yoga mats lay a scarf, some malas and sacred stones, and three candles. We ladies sat knee to knee in various versions of Sukhasana and raised our voices through beautiful versions of mantras in Sanskrit, African, and English. My heart chakra was thrumming as the class ended and we walked under the bright starry night towards the noise of the poetry festival.
Truly I am thankful to have had the time to really know a small piece of Nicaragua and the people here. I’m grateful for the small and growing yoga community here in Granada – both for the teachers who call Granada home and the nomads passing through. I’m grateful for the many Nicaraguans who took me into their hearts and homes and I’m grateful for the many servings of tostones con queso, batidos, y guacamole that I’ve been fed in my time here.