The seeds of my spiritual journey go back to the music of George Harrison whose use of Indian instruments and Eastern-influenced lyrics (e.g. ‘Within You and Without You’ ) bowled me over. While in high school, I closely followed Harrison’s involvement with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and I soon chose to be initiated into Transcendental Meditation (TM) and received my first mantra.
From there, I sought out the teachings and presence of Swami Satchidananda in 1971. He was so full of love and wisdom (and humor). I had first seen him when he opened the 1969 Woodstock Music festival leading 400,000 of us chanting ‘Om Shanti Om’. I soon lived in his Integral Yoga Institute ashram where I studied Eastern scriptures, trained to teach Hatha Yoga and, by the scared seat of my pants, led Friday night kirtans. Satchidananda impacted me hugely through his teachings and presence. I experienced so much unconditional love radiating from him.
In early 1972, I read the ground-breaking book ‘Be Here Now’ by Ram Dass. I had never heard of him but I now had to meet him! I felt an instantly strong bond and a feeling of being ‘totally at home’ in myself when with him. This is an understatement. I couldn’t stay away! I made frequent visits to him at his father’s summer house in New Hampshire. On the big lawn, he would hold talks, take questions, share kirtan chants and meditation practices, and lead us in Sufi dancing. With no notes, he would speak for hours and the most profound, eloquent, and heart-stirring teachings would simply flow out of him. It was as if he were channeling the spiritual wisdom of the ages. He was incredibly generous with me and we would exchange letters and get together in person to lighten-up my perceived heavy life dramas.
Ram Dass and Neem Karoli Baba (his teacher) have been my major mentors over the many decades. I had a particularly life-changing experience in 1973 sitting alone with Ram Dass for a few hours as he guided me through a practice to cut through the attachment of an addiction. After some minutes, he whispered that Maharaji (Neem Karoli Baba) was now in the room to join us in this project ( Maharaji had left his body some months before this meeting). The ‘help’ was an overwhelming experience of total unconditional love. I wept and wept as Ram Dass held me as I experienced Maharaji’s presence. And I’ve felt so deeply connected to both Maharaji and Ram Dass ever since. The other huge 1970s experience was spending a summer at the just opened Naropa Institute in Boulder, CO studying daily with Ram Dass, Chogyam Trungpa Rimpoche, Bhagavan Das, Joseph Goldstein, and others.
However, things changed in the late 1970s. After my first marriage dissolved, I simply dropped everything that was a spiritual practice, and pushed it away like it never existed. I went on to receive two college degrees. I found that being in my head as an academic was far easier than doing personal growth work. However, at the urging of a friend, I attended a weeklong Omega retreat in 1987 with Ram Dass (accompanied by the kirtan leader Krishna Das). I had avoided them since 1976.
Once again, I wanted to wake up my consciousness. Krishna Das, whom I had not seen since 1975, now re-emerged into public settings with his kirtans. I was smitten with kirtan all over again. I instantly felt the ‘at home’ feeling in my heart when hearing him. The experience of feeling ‘at home’ in my heart created the impetus to immerse myself in kirtan again.
It is my delight, honor, and great joy to share this practice with you in person. I no longer travel for kirtans as I used to for many years. I am very content to go full circle back to my ‘living room’ kirtans in Northampton, MA. As I am longer on Facebook or any social media, please join my email list for notices of my monthly ‘living room’ kirtans. Please write to: firstname.lastname@example.org