The concept of Molecules and Mantras interested us as we hear so many stories of people’s lives that are transformed through the power of positive affirmation. What if the same power resides in the music we listen to. What if the sounds we feed our ears, not only touch our souls, but can also transform us on a molecular level.
Launching his new album with Donna DeLory this month, based on the Radiance Sutras, Dave has first hand knowledge of music’s transformative power. His partner Dearbhla is an expert in Yoga studies of Ashtanga, Forrest Yoga, Yin Yoga, Vinyasa flow, Yoga Nidra and Bhakti Yoga. Together they have developed a full study into the symbiotic relationship between mantras and molecules.
Kirtan, the call and response practice of chanting Sanskrit mantras, is usually associated with the devotional path of Bhakti Yoga. Experience, however, shows that it’s not necessary to know anything about the mantras or Yoga philosophy to have a deeply transformative experience at a Kirtan. Ecstatic bliss is frequently a byproduct of singing, but most people don’t think about sex and drugs – typical ways that humans pursue an ecstatic state – in the same category as chanting mantras for spiritual purposes.
We are not most people.
Dearbhla often begins yoga workshops sharing her youthful experience of taking Ecstasy (MDMA) in nightclubs in Dublin and London. She draws parallels between the ecstatic transcendence she experienced under the influence of E and the feeling of blissful union she discovered chanting kirtan.
Dave was once invited to leave an ashram after making the statement that Kirtan was really all about sex, drugs and rock & roll. Given the context in which he made his remarks, his word choice may have been ill-advised, but upon deeper reflection his statement is less outlandish than it may at first seem.
Let’s break this down.
Sex is fundamentally about the search for ecstatic union, and so is Kirtan. Interestingly, the neurological pathways that are stimulated in orgasm are also active when we experience a sense ofunion with the Divine. Singing together is a way we often experience this connection on a mass level; it frequently diminishes our feelings of separation from others, and enhances group cohesion and bonding.
We are always on Drugs, because our emotional lives (including our feelings of bliss and transcendence) are the surface layer of a complex dance of biochemicals that the body generates and is constantly modifying. Viewed through this lens, singing is a practice of self-medication. Regulation of the breath and rhythmic entrainment naturally increase the production of certain chemicals, and depress the production of others. The result is a shift in both mood and awareness.
Rock & Roll and the Bhakti movement can be equally iconoclastic and joyful; both urge people to rethink the relationship of the individual to the world. Neither Bhakti nor Rock & Roll have any use for orthodoxy. The individual-dissolving Eastern tradition of Kirtan and the individual-expressing Western traditions of Rock & Roll and Jazz both arise from the same impulse toward expressing what is ecstatic and liberating and transcendent.
Read more of Dave Stringer and Dearbhla Kelly’s in this months Sage Magazine here