By Premratna, Premratna Music
If I try to imagine what the course of my life would have taken without yoga, I get an image of the movie Life of Pi: a small boat, huge swells, a tiger on board and a lot of fear.
Yoga found me while I was doing my ‘big O.E.’; that phase of life where we are typically searching for adventure.
I was no exception. In between hiking, skiing, singing and songwriting, I went to a yoga class at the gym in the Canadian Rockies where I was living and working.
The feeling of peace after my first class was incredible and I intuitively knew that yoga was something I would do for the rest of my life.
Four years and a couple of continents later, I spent a year living at an ashram in western Canada.
That was ten years ago now and was the tip of the iceberg with karma yoga (selfless service), yogic scriptures and my first introduction to chanting sanskrit in the form of melodic mantra. This is where I first discovered music as a spiritual tool.
Although other meditative practices of developing the inner witness have been extremely beneficial, it has been kirtan (joyful chanting in a group) that has been the most profound for me.
On occasion I have felt my heart break open and melt into the vibration of oneness with all. I have also become so high from chanting that I laughed so hysterically that I fell over. I even managed to have a small car accident because the singing made me so floaty I wasn’t paying attention!
As a musician, leading groups of people singing kirtan has been quite a journey. There have been aspects of seeing it as performing:
“Am I singing/playing this perfectly?”
“Will anyone compliment me? I hope so else I’m not doing a good job.”
Measuring self-worth on others’ feedback was a biggie, a fair reflection of my mind patterns across all of life.
Working with other musicians to provide a solid base for kirtan has taught me much about interpersonal relating, change management and patience. Throughout all there are sprinkles of blissful moments; singing at one with everything in the flow of life.
Facilitating healing for others has come as an unexpected bonus.
For years I led kirtan as something that I needed to keep myself balanced. It transformed gently into something that I now do for others – the balancing for me is a beautiful side effect.
When I get complimentary feedback these days, I don’t take it personally. Instead I am grateful that I have been blessed with the ability to open the channel and let this divine voice come through and touch others.
I had years of swaying between egoist and ‘not good enough’ thoughts, all the while judging myself for the lack of selfless service approach.
I feel like I’ve been through a subtly militant phase of trying to live up to self-imposed yogic ideals, including trying to fit in to various spiritual traditions.
Now it feels like I’m settling into living life authentically rather than trying to achieve something.
The years of self-enforced disciplined daily asana practice – sometimes because I thought I was ‘supposed’ to – have given way to a softer approach to life in general, including my daily practice.
As more and more of life’s layers are revealed, it becomes more about letting go and letting soul truth shine through; to have mind move out of the way, if only for a moment. To know that I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing in life.
Of course, I’m still human. All this talk of polishing and shining through my true self can feel far from reality at times. I benefit from constant reminders, especially when life gets challenging.
I’m still in Pi’s boat and there are still large swells. The tiger makes an appearance. But dealing with life is much easier these days – it is all the better for singing my heart open.
Premratna (Sarah Spence) is a kirtan artist and singer/songwriter of inspirational acoustic originals. Her music is influenced with Sanskrit mantra, kirtan and Sufi poetry with the intent to uplift, deeply enriched and made possible by time spent in ashrams in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and India. Premratna facilitates kirtan, nada yoga and asana classes around Auckland.