I was living in a loft on LA’s skid row a few years back when I took a trip to Brazil.
I stopped at all the usual spots: The Temple of Goodwill in Brasilia and the Valley of the Dawn 50 kilometers south. Next I visited a shamaness named Yatra in the jungle near Alto Pariso, a small town that shares its latitude 14 with Machu Picchu in Peru. Finally I stopped over in Abadiânia, to see John of God before heading home.
All the way my friend Katie was in a meditative trance blasting Deva Premal from her iPod in the van we rented. When I got back to LA I started listening to Deva, Miten, and their bansuri player Manose. That led me to other mantra singers like Krishna Das and Jai Uttal, then Karnamrita, which brought me to Snatam Kaur, Niranjana Swami, the Kirtaniyas and all the other Kirtan road dogs perpetually traversing the planet chanting sacred mantras.
I’ve written stories and shot documentary shorts on most of them for LA Yoga Magazine, The Cure List, and others. The through line is that they all practice mantra as their meditation. It’s sort of like getting a short course on mantra from the masters. These people have deep devotional practices that have evolved over years. Chanting along to Sanskrit mantras on my iPod as I walked the streets of skid row brought a new perspective to my work… to my life… to everything. It opened a window into the cosmo vision and my place in it. I began to understand what I think I’m doing here.
Snatam Kaur sings;
The rain is pouring down, like all the souls you send here, coming to this earth to find healing. Mother earth takes in the rain like your heart takes my voice. Let us free each other, with our prayers, with our voice. And I’m coming home.
Ong Namo (words given by Yogi Bhajan)
I bow to the subtle Divine Wisdom.
Guru Dev Namo. I bow to the Divine teacher within.
Oh my Beloved, Kindness of the heart. Breath of life, I bow to you. Divine teacher, beloved friend. I bow to you again and again.
Lotus sitting on the water, Beyond time and space, This is your way, this is your grace.
(From Snatam Kaur Live)
Sam Slovick is a regular contributor to LA Yoga Ayurveda & Health Magazine, LA Weekly and The Cure List. Visit www.samslovick.com for more stories on alternative health and wellness.