..Victoria Barkley..

Birthday Kirtan

Open mic Kirtan at the Integral Yoga Institute fell on Lese's birthday this year. It was time to spontaneously celebrate.

"Come on, we have to practice the chant before we perform it" said Lese. "We have never done this before," She looked uncertain but excited. "Don't worry," I assured her "everyone will want us to succeed."

The next thing we knew, we were sitting on the grass in Central Park, trying to remember the words to a chant, bringing in more love and healing for the year. We only had a few minutes and then she had to run and so did I. The rest is history.

That same evening, we left an early dinner with friends and rushed to catch a train downtown. We were late; they closed up ahead of schedule in the pouring rain. After some pantomime motioning of our intent, Marilyn and Mitra were kind enough to unlock the door and let us in. Out of breath, we ran up the flight of stairs.

"Oh, I don't know about this," Lese mumbled as we quietly removed our shoes to enter the sacred space on the second floor. "Just leave it to me," I beamed at her, full of false confidence. "Relax and follow my lead." (Oh my God, did I just say that?)

Before she could change her mind, I waved to Maxananda and asked if we could be placed on the list to lead a chant. Achala had recorded the names and now, ours was written among them. There was no turning back.

It was a fairly large crowd of seasoned chanters. The energy was joyful and free. "What's there to fear here?" I asked, just as we were called. Slightly flushed, we took our places in front of the microphones. Terrence and Damaru, warmly smiling, hugging their drums, were ready to go.

"As a special way of singing in the healing, we'd like to chant this song on Lese's birthday..." I heard myself explaining. "We never sang anywhere before, not even in the shower," I confessed "so, we'll need all the help we can get."

I wish I could say that it all went like Susan Boyle's performance on Britain's Got Talent, but I'd be lying. She could actually sing; we were another story. We still had a great time.

Maxananda began to play the harmonium. I forgot the Sanskrit lines, confusing poor Lese. We giggled and started over. I looked out at the audience of friends and well-wishers and saw not a sign of snigger among them. They looked at us in silent encouragement, willing to go the extra note to lift us up.

Everyone was wonderful, loving and accepting of our feeble first attempt. They sang with us and carried us to a place of balance. At one point, we almost had the rhythm going but I tried too much too soon by asking the room to harmonize. It broke the spell and we went back to the first verse.

We sang for only a few minutes and ended rather abruptly. When Maxananda asked if we had another song, we had to admit there was no more. "Thanks for all your help," I bowed to the fellow singers. There was a round of applause followed by a hearty "Happy Birthday to You" sung to the birthday girl, all caught on audio tape.

"It was like fire walking," I remarked to a shell-shocked Lese, who dropped her tape recorder while leaving the "stage." Later, listening to our Kirtan debut I had to admit, "Once you lead a chant, life will never be the same."

We'll have to do this again. With a little practice we might be able to carry a tune. Who knows, maybe by her next birthday...

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Other stories by Victoria Barkley:
Is Anybody There? – movie review
Real Soul Food
The Gift
Silver Sixpence in her Shoe
Breakfast with Scot – movie review
Sex Drive -- movie review
What Just Happened – movie review
American Teen – movie review
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian – movie review
A Message From Mom
A Tale of Two Bunnies
Animal Nature
Into the Wild - movie review
Darshan in the Dark Light of the Moon
Love Never Dies
Green Roofs, Weeds and Wildflowers
Greeting Sunrise
Arctic Tale – movie review
Seasons of Gandhi