Chant. A weekend of multi-faith learning at the Bethlehem Centre. Forty-two enchanted hours of spiritual elevation. Five leadership teams, each opening us to a dimension of chant.
Chant is Holy Play: Trio SaySo
Trio SaySo — Allannah Dow, Leah Hokenson and Tina Jones — tossed us into the world of chant. We all have voice, they said. Sing out your names in introduction. You all can chant. Who among us hasn’t sung “Hello kitty! Hello puppy!” Or “Coffee? Coffee!” Chant, they taught, can be spontaneous, playful and simple. It can be creative and varied. Why, they themselves had chanted both the love-murmurings of Rumi and the ecstatic shouts of Whitman!
Chant Shifts Our Awareness: Pandit Tejomaya
Pandit Tejomaya placed chant in a Hindu context. Names of God are symbols for the one true divinity. We channel God through universal love. Spiritual practice removes barriers to that love. Tejomaya wove his teachings through trance-like Sanskrit chants. He played the sitar: one melodic string, amplified by the sympathetic drone of a dozen deeper strings. We vibrated with the sitar. Sanskrit words soothed us. Rich in rhythm, alliteration, meaning. The pace of our thoughts slowed. We opened to the teachings.
Chant Amplifies the Music of Speech: Peter Orme
Chant, Peter taught, amplifies the musical cadence of ordinary speech. The Bible was once oral tradition, spoken by poets. Later, great orators embellished its emotion. Choirs emphasized its rhythm and fine-tuned its tone. Gregorian Chant was born. Neither mysterious nor esoteric. But accessible, relevant, beautiful. Expressive of religious and artistic history. Let’s bring it back, Peter said. And in no time flat, he taught us to read the charts and sing them into life.
Chant Helps Us Pray: Charles and Laura Duhan Kaplan
Charles and I shared chant as prayer. Where do you want the chant to take you? Opening to spirit? Letting go of negativity? Praying for healing? Channeling the breath of life? Listening deeply to others? Moving into ecstatic dance? Set an intention before you chant. As you lose yourself in the music, let the intention direct your attention. Trust your own spirit. Sometimes you can chant around a theme: Awe. Gratitude. Love. Or all three woven into a single spiritual cycle of receiving and giving. Connect with God in gratitude; find energy to help repair the world. That’s the Jewish way.
Chant Connects Us in Community: Seemi Ghazi and Friends
Teacher Seemi Ghazi came with musicians Amir and Ibrahim, dancers Raqib and Linda. Together they drew us, mind, body, and spirit into Sufi philosophy. God Is. One. Energy. Love. A spacious field of consciousness where we meet others. With a glance, we can hold them in love. And we did. We whirled around from partner to partner chanting. All I ask of you is forever to remember me as loving you.
My first partner pulled me close. “Those are the last words my daughter said to me before she died.” We held hands tightly and cried together. Then we reached out. To partner after partner, we passed the Divine whisper. Remember. I love you.
And that’s chant: play, awareness, rhythm, intention, and love.