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Dave Russell

Kirtan is an energizing and deep group practice of singing melodic chants that calm our minds and open our hearts. We sing mantras which are Sanskrit phrases and syllables that are repeated until integrated into our consciousness. We get to taste the space of 'no-thought'. We get to taste the space of being enough and having enough. It is sung in call-and-response - I play harmonium and sing a line, and the group sings it back led by Holly Hartmann. I am continually grateful to be accompanied by wonderful professional musicians including my wife and singing partner Holly Hartmann (vocals), Kalidasa Joseph Getter (flute, clarinet, sax, melodica), and percussionist Russ Nieman. The kirtan melodies are simple. All voices are perfect for kirtan because the emphasis is upon opening the heart, not about the perceived quality of your voice.

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I lead kirtans (see Calendar) in many settings, mostly in New England. My home base is the Yoga Sanctuary in downtown Northampton, MA where I lead Sunday night kirtans regularly. Please check my calendar page on this website for details about my events.

"Mantras themselves have vibrations, so when you repeat them, even mentally, they produce a kind of vibration within the body. They shake, they vibrate the entire body—all the molecules, all the cells of the body—and they rearrange your entire personality, they tune your personality. After a certain amount of practice, the entire body begins to vibrate in the same wavelength. And because mantras are the divine part of the cosmic vibration, when your system begins to vibrate in that wavelength, you will begin to communicate with similar vibrations in the cosmos. This is what you call communication with God. " -- Swami Satchidananda

Chanting calms our minds, opens our hearts, boosts our inner knowing (intuition), and energizes our beings. As explained by quantum physics, all matter vibrates and sound vibrations penetrate every cell of the body. Even black holes in the Universe have been proven to emit a sound of B flat! From a standpoint of physical healing, chanting recharges the brain cells, lowers blood pressure, balances heart rhythm, and induces relaxation and elevated moods.

My intention is to co-create a space with you where we all feel safe to be in our feelings, whatever they are. People often experience great joy and even ecstasy as the chants increase in tempo and intensity. I would never consider 'bliss' to be any kind of intention or goal; it is often a byproduct of chanting but my sincere intention is that we experience whatever our souls are needing to experience. Sometimes people experience suppressed tears and sadness. The energy in the room builds which is why it's so powerful to chant in a group. By the end of kirtan, the array of emotions often transforms into lightness and a sense of freedom from limitation. I ask you to simply witness your feelings, and not try to change them. The willingness to be vulnerable is key to your experience. That's why I always ask people to bring and notice whatever moods they're in, not push them away. In that sense, it is truly a form of meditation. All moods are welcome! In my approach, spiritual intention is about getting free, not getting high. However, many people do experience ecstatic states from kirtan. Kirtan is for anyone, regardless of religious belief or quality of voice.