Chanting / Devotional Singing / Kirtan
Devotional singing is a natural human expression of love and joy in God or the spirit. It is an antidote to fear, depression, anxiety, tension, and alienation. It opens up the heart and fills us with joy, peace, and radiance.
Sing out your heart to God!
- Pick a song that you like, from any tradition that you relate to. This song should be easy to sing, and directly express your joy in the divine.
- Sing the song. You can do this alone and a capella, or you can sing along with a recording. Best is to do this in a group. If you play an instrument, you can accompany yourself. Whatever works is fine.
- While singing, attempt to let go of all your cares, worries, and problems. Allow them to vanish with each word that you sing.
- Allow your heart to fill up with all the joy, wonder, happiness, gratitude, forgiveness, and compassion in the universe.
- The more you sing, the more you empty out of all cares, and fill up with joy and love.
- See if you can forget yourself completely, disappearing into the singing of the song itself, and the powerful, positive emotions that are arising.
- Continue for as long as you like. Usually longer is better. Singing of this sort may go on for hours and hours.
Obviously, singing for spiritual joy is as old as singing itself. It is currently found in almost every spiritual tradition on earth.
In Christianity there are many, many forms of devotional singing. America's own form, which strongly emphasizes the heart-opening nature of devotion, is gospel music.
Hasidic Judaism is famous for its soulful singing.
Devotional singing plays an enormous role in Hinduism, where the practice is called kirtan. Kirtan characteristically uses simple, repetitive lyrics (in Sanskrit or Hindi), in a call-and-response format.
Muslim Kawallis are similar to Hindu kirtans.
In Buddhism, the format is usually one of chanting (i.e. tuneless singing) of scriptures.
Should not be done by anyone who wishes to remain grim, unfeeling, overly mental, cold, sad, or dark. This is an expression of the heart!
One of the hallmarks of devotional singing is that it is not about the quality of your voice or your skill at music. This is absolutely of no importance. A good devotional singer is one who makes an attempt to really put their heart into it. That is the only requirement. The more you feel it, the better.
Here is a video of a master of devotional chanting, Jai Uttal, discussing chant:
A huge page of devotional singing resources, including mp3s, in all traditions.