A-Z of Kirtan: A is for Attention

October 18, 2012 - 2 minutes read

A is for attention. Not easy. Philosopher Alain de Botton wrote, ‘One of the more embarrassing and self-indulgent challenges of our time is how we can relearn to concentrate. The past decade has seen an unparalleled assault on our capacity to fix our minds steadily on anything. To sit still and think, without succumbing to an anxious reach for a machine, has become almost impossible.’ Scarily true.

Rather than trying to ‘diet the mind’ by sitting in front of a blank wall, trying to bat away thoughts like an Olympic ping pong player, kirtan gives a chance to fill the mind with something that has a rather different effect to other types of stimulus. By attentively focusing on mantra, we allow the deep grooves of unhelpful or compulsive thought patterns to be filled in. In their place come the uplifiting and cleansing sounds of the mantra which lovingly nudge us into an altogether more positive state of mind.

A is also for alignment. We often hear this term in the practice of yoga asana, or Pilates – bringing bones and muscles into just the right formations so as to energise and not cause injury. Though mantra meditation arguably deals with unseen sound, it also equally relates to the body. By sitting properly, by breathing deeply and carefully, we can bring our mind, body and heart into alignment so that we can be attentive and responsive to the experience.

The practice of singing or reciting mantra is a reciprocal one. The mantra is invested with a powerful, personal force that is always present, but just as we have to hold our glass in the right place and for long enough if someone is pouring us a drink, we have to align our body and mind in the right way to quench our inner thirst.

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