You could say this album, Echoes of Devotion, percolated for most of my lifetime (maybe longer)? I was first introduced to mantra when I was a child. My grandfather, who was born and raised in India, would recite mantras, and these melded into the fiber of my being. It was later, when I went to India myself, that I lost myself (found myself?) in chanting.
Even then, I encountered samavesha; the power to be immersed in something and have that something immersed in you contrast with moments of separateness, judgment and criticism. Perhaps it was this tension, this push/pull of diving in and letting go and then wrenching myself out of it, that kept me exploring.
When I met my teacher, Max Strom, I felt the simple power of OM, and how it could set the tone for a practice. And later, when I began to explore bhakti with another teacher, Jai Uttal, it began to take root.
In a no frills way, I’ve chanted in class for the past 15 years, the entire time I’ve taught in the Castro space. Often, it’s just my voice, joined by the voices of the sangha, filling that space. On a warm evening, with the windows open, maybe the echoes ripple beyond, into the neighborhood. Sometimes, I accompany myself on the harmonium, or musicians pop in and share their gifts.
Enter DJ Drez, a long-time friend.
We didn’t set out to make an album. In fact, the first track was an accident, or serendipity.
Drez was with us on retreat in Tiruvannamalai, and recorded the sangha chanting. It was one the simplest of chants, Hari Om, and it developed into a track. From there, we met in his studio, mostly to see what happened.
The result, of course, was Echoes of Devotion. Long-time students will recognize the 12 tracks —I share them often in classes and trainings. And why devotion? Because that is the essence of this practice.
Often we ask ourselves: what are we devoted to? This is the ultimate question, as this will inform how you spend your time, your limited life’s energy resources.
This is the question we ask ourselves frequently in the practice, clarifying and refining again and again as we chip away at the bull*&%t of ego grasping and delve into the heart of the heart where we unveil the true nature of self and all.
Mantra and chanting is one way to remove that bull*&%t. When we chant, we diminish some of the constant noise of the brain and train our attention on an aspect of the One, as we repeat and repeat these sacred syllables—the names of God, they say–again and again. We can add fancy melodies, deep beats, place it in traditional brahminical, vedic, Indian raga form, but where the potency lies for me is in my deep intention and devotion as I invoke the names.
About the Author:
Janet Stone’s studentship began at 17 under the meditation teachings of Prem Rawat. His reverence for simplicity and finding joy in the rise and fall of life live on in her practice and teaching today. In 1996, she traveled to India, the birthplace of her grandfather, and became dedicated to the path of yoga. Janet blends the alchemy of her own practice with decades of studentship.
She aspires not to teach but to allow the practice to emanate from her, letting awareness blend with movement and breath.
Based in Bali and San Francisco, she leads immersions, retreats, workshops and more. For more janetstoneyoga.com