Here at Kirtan London we love mantra meditation. Today the word ‘mantra’ can mean any word that is repeated over and over, but a real mantra is a sacred sound syllable – an ancient word or sound which helps the mind to reach a higher consciousness. This powerful sound vibration is sometimes compared to a key that opens a specific lock. Just as you can’t use any old key to open your front door, you can’t use any old word to penetrate the depths of the heart. Mantra + music = kirtan. Accompanying the mantra with music is a way to help focus the mind. As Mary Poppins says, ‘a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down!’ Kirtan is one of the most important practices on the path of bhakti yoga.
Mantra meditation gives the mind and senses a repeated sound to focus on
The meditation part doesn’t mean sitting still in silence. Rather, it means to deeply focus on the object of meditation. These days, focus is a little hard, and it’s no wonder. We live in an age of mass distraction. Have you ever noticed how much sensory input we absorb in just one day? Canned music in every shop, advertising on every available surface, endless streams of emails and texts to our smartphones, what to speak of TV, newspapers and magazines. It’s no wonder it’s hard to just sit still for a while without pulling out our phones or switching on the radio.
We are inundated by information, and with the complete integration of the internet into society, there are no signs of this stopping. In the midst of it all this connection, we are increasingly disconnected as human beings. The average family has a laptop for every member, according to a recent UK survey, one in four couples speak to their partner for less than 10 minutes a day. Severe depression is now counted as the second most disabling condition in the world, just behind heart disease, and the average age of onset is between 25-29.
The amazing thing is, ancient sages predicted the things we would be struggling with and wrote about it in the Vedas. They prescribed the antidote for disconnection – yoga. These days many in the Western world understand ‘yoga’ to be a series of physical postures that exercise the body and calm the mind, but all yoga means is ‘to connect’, and just as there are many ways of generating electricity, there are many forms of yoga – some less effective and some more so, depending on the circumstances. For the age we live in the sages acknowledged that the most effective, easiest way to connect would be mantra meditation, also known as kirtan.