What do you get when Shiva Rea, six kirtan chanters, and their bands get together on the eve of an historic presidential inauguration in the nation's capital? Chant4Change. Think praise band meets dance club/mosh pit in a church.
Last night I braved the crowds and the cold to raise my voice in support of change with some of the foremost kirtan chanters in the country. When I arrived at Church of the Holy City within site of the White House and the Washington Monument, Jai Uttal, Dave Stringer, Saul David Raye, and more were wrapped in scarves and beanies preparing for the evening. The sanctuary was full of local yogis, several of whom were actively involved in the Obama campaign.
For many yogis, including myself and Jai Uttal, this is the first time we've been involved in politics. I asked Jai Uttal what convinced him to leave the California coast and come to DC in the heart of winter to participate in this inaugural kirtan festival.
"I'm chanting in support of the change that seems to be coming," he said. "It's the first time that there's a symmetry, a synchronicity, between the heart and the external world."
Shiva Rea kicked off the evening by reminding us that we're sending out sound waves that have a profound impact on the inner and outer world. As the music started, I felt the vibrations in my chest and smiled as the crowd began moving to the rhythm of the night.
Saul David Raye leading crowd in the Gayatri Mantra.
Instruments accompanying Gaura Vani and his band, As Kindred Spirits.
I found myself especially vibing with Daphne Tse's gorgeous voice, Gaura Vani's contagious energy, and Shiva Rea's dance moves. Writer and filmmaker Joshua Greene gave a grounding speech that put the event into perspective. We aren't expecting Obama to be our avatar, he said. The yoga community is here to show our support for the change we wish to see in the world—peace, a healthy environment, and a healthy economy.
So, can we make a difference? We're about to find out. In the words of Jai Uttal, "every stone we throw into the water causes ripples."