Often, when I tell people that I facilitate Singing Circles, I am asked if it is like Kirtan. Until a couple of months ago, I said I didn't really know since I had never experienced Kirtan. I have had the opportunity to attend several Kirtan events in the past several months and have mostly enjoyed my experiences. There were times when my discomfort with not really knowing what was happening was challenging, but as I've learned to do with discomfort, I stayed put, breathed deeply, and found myself dropping more and more into myself and the communal experience as I did.
Upon arriving at Kirtan, I was warmly welcomed and offered a card with printed words, and then we've jumped into chanting with the use of at least a harmonium to assist the voices. In every case Kirtan has been led in a call-and-response style with the caller singing a line and the participants echoing it throughout each chant.
I've also learned that the syllables used in Sanskrit are all connected to the chakra system in our bodies and therefore are uniquely designed to tap into different aspects of our bodies and psyche in ways that are intentional and effective whether or not we know the meaning of what we are chanting.
Kirtan has been a nice space to drop into a very different type of vocal meditation and I am grateful for my experiences with it, and I intend to make it a regular part of my own vocal practice. I can also now give a better answer to the question, "Is Singing Circle like Kirtan?"
I encourage anyone wanting more vocal experience to try both. You'll find what works for you, and the process of using and expanding your voice will bring unexpected and delightful gifts along the way!
This Extrovert's Attempt to Use My Words to Make Sense of My Life