The Guitar Lesson


Three years ago, I asked my husband for a guitar for Valentine’s Day. I had always wanted to learn how to play, and it felt like the right time to take lessons. Hubby happily obliged my request, and I was on my way to fulfilling a dream.

I found a wonderful, and accommodating, teacher named Sam. He helped me learn the songs I wanted to play. The one thing I never asked for, though, was a lesson on tuning my guitar. I tried it on my own a few times, broke some strings, and told myself that tuning a guitar was difficult, and intimidating, and I would never get it right. That Sam was somehow different from me. He, and every other guitar player I know, had an ear for tuning, but I didn’t. So I let Sam tune my guitar each time we met, and did my best to keep it in tune between lessons.

I played guitar for about 18 months, and enjoyed a few family sing-a-longs, but my interest dwindled with each passing month. I didn’t think I was very good, and eventually stopped taking lessons all together. I told myself it was because I didn’t have time to be good at both guitar and yoga, and yoga was more important.

But, looking back now, I realize that’s not really the truth. The truth is that I never committed to owning my experience with my guitar. I was afraid of failing, and let that fear prevent me from pursuing one of the things I have always wanted to do.

It’s human nature to create stories about our lives, and repeat them over and over again. In so doing, we become attached to our beliefs about who we are, and what we can and can’t do. Which makes changing our habits feel like pushing a boulder uphill.

Boulder pushing is not necessarily fun, but it can be done, and we get stronger in the process. But no one ever got a boulder up the hill, and enjoyed the view at the top, without first letting go of the idea that they can’t.

On Valentine’s Day this year, I finally let go of the story that I can’t tune a guitar. It wasn’t by choice; it was out of necessity. Two of my three daughters just started taking guitar lessons, and their teacher suggested I learn how to tune the guitars for them.

Taking my yoga off the mat, I silenced the voice in my head that was screaming What, me? I can’t do that! and let him show me how it was done. It took less than 5 minutes.

Afterward, I felt silly for not making it a priority sooner. It wasn’t as hard as I thought! I also felt empowered, and couldn’t wait get back to strumming my six string.

It led me to an “aha” moment. I realized that I never really tried to figure it out, because I didn’t believe in myself. I didn’t trust myself enough to fully commit to learning to play guitar. And not owning the experience made it really easy to walk away.

Clearly, I was wrong. I can tune a guitar. And I’m pretty sure I can become a better musician, if I try. Which is awesome, because it means that there are probably a lot of other really cool things that I think I can’t do, that I really can. I just have to pay better attention, and remember that letting go of the story is the key to self-empowerment.



What In The World Is Kirtan?


One of my favorite yoga instructors will perform kirtan at The Grammys tomorrow night! Steve Ross (pictured above), of Maha Yoga, and Inhale with Steve Ross, will appear with Krishna Das, who has been nominated for “Best New Age Album Of The Year”.

You might be asking yourself, “What is kirtan? And why should I care?”

Kirtan is a call-and-response approach to chanting hymns or mantras, which is a form of meditation. Kirtan is most often performed in groups, and is led by musicians with instruments. It can be religious if you want it to be. Or it can just be a meditation experience. It all depends on how you apply the vibration to your life.

You don’t have to participate in kirtan to be a yogi, but many yogis enjoy it as an approach to meditation. Meditation is one of the eight limbs (practices) of yoga in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and chanting is one of many ways to approach it. So, if you hope to use yoga as a path to a crazy healthy life, you might want to experiment with kirtan.

There are no two more appropriate musicians to learn kirtan from than Steve Ross and Krishna Das. Steve has been a musician for most of his life, having toured and recorded with Fleetwood Mac, and many other highly respected musicians. He’s also a classically trained yoga instructor, who has helped bring yoga to the mainstream in the US, through his TV appearances, books, workshops, and teachings.

Krishna Das is also loved by many, and is often called the “rock star of yoga”. His nomination for Live Ananda is a big deal because it’s only the 2nd time a kirtan album has received this honor.

Still, you might be thinking so what?? New Age Music is a far from mainstream, and has a limited following. Personally, I love rock n’ roll, and resisted new age music for years. Eventually, though, I came around, and developed an appreciation for kirtan. Much like asana (yoga pose) practice, I had to surrender to the experience, before I could embrace kirtan’s place in my practice. And once I did, I never looked back.

So, if you enjoy yoga, and hope to expand your practice, kirtan is worthy of investigation.

If you’re not into yoga, and are still wondering why you should check out the Krishna Das performance online at tomorrow night, here’s why:

1) The fastest way to create a crazy healthy life is to keep an open mind, and seek new experiences. Experiment, try new things, no matter how unconventional they seem. The more you expand your experience, the more discerning you can be in your wellness efforts.

2) Kirtan, when embraced, can make you feel really groovy. The call-and-response approach to chanting creates an internal vibration. Vibration releases blocked energy, facilitates healing of the mind, body and spirit, and creates a powerful, and authentic, sense of well-being. If you want it to be a path to God, it can deepen your relationship, and strengthen your faith. If religion’s not your thing, kirtan will, at the very least, improve your health.

3) Steve Ross and Krishna Das are legendary musicians and healers. You might not experience the kirtan high, just by watching their performance, but you will at least appreciate their talent and contributions. Yogis certainly need to know who they are, and jump at the chance to chant with them, if they happen to perform at a venue nearby.

Be forewarned, kirtan might seem crazy at first, because the lyrics are unfamiliar, and the music is repetitive. This is by design–it is within the repetition that mediation arises. Stay in the moment, and notice how the music makes you feel. Pay attention to the musicians, and what arises for you as you listen, without judging the experience as good or bad. Maybe it will make you want to hear more, or maybe it won’t. Either way, you will have explored the possibility of new way to fully embrace a crazy healthy life.