There have been many studies pointing out the connection between the physical and the spiritual.
Dr. Andrew Weil, in his book, “Spontaneous Healing” says “During my travels throughout the world, I have met many healers who believe that the primary causes of health and illness are not physical, but spiritual…Mystics and spiritual adepts teach that it is possible to raise spiritual energy, to increase the rate of vibration. One way to do this is to put yourself in the vicinity of persons, places or things that have high spiritual energy.”
That sounds like sangha during kirtan, orsatsang. It doesn’t have to be East Indian style, either. Across cultures, geographies and eras, there was a very special place for chanting. It doesn’t matter what religion, or what language. People chanted, and lo and behold, even miracles occurred.
The benefits of kirtan chanting are many.
“Chanting creates community,” says Sean Johnson, who has a Master’s degree from The Naropa Institute in Creation Spirituality with a focus on teaching chant. “Singing together, we merge with each other, and entrain with the divine vibration. Kirtan is a most sublime form of satsang, gathering with fellow seekers and reaching deep together through song. There’s a vibrant exchange, a transmission of energy circulating back and forth from hearts to hearts.” (Click here to read the full article)
For the last few days, I wake up with music in my head. The melody is carried by a soothing male voice. It’s followed by a powerful feminine wave of harmony. Each morning it’s a hypnotic chant. Day after day. Different words, in English and Sanskrit. Different tunes. Different vibrations. But the same end result that epitomizes what I try to balance in my life: clean, tranquil harmony, with full-throttled energy. The kirtan music on instant replay in my dreamland is by Sean Johnson and The Wild Lotus Band.Sean owns a yoga studio in New Orleans but he and Gwendolyn with Alvin on bass and guitar, tour the U.S. to share their , spirit and love. Basically, all thingsbhakti (devotion) which is one of the main reasons why I head to Bhakti Fest today. Sean usually gets a packed house there, and tomorrow, I’m attending a full day/night workshop with Sean, that I expect will keep my vata ADHD-brain focused. (Click here to read the rest of the article)
The Namaste Counsel interviewed Sean Johnson who will be leading a Bhakti immersion at Bhakti Fest Midwest June 25-28, Madison, Wis. Johnson has a masters in Chanting and Spirituality, owns Wild Lotus Yoga in New Orleans, and tours the country with his Wild Lotus Band.
Q. For those that have never attended one of your workshops, what can they expect?
We will guide you into the possibility that you can be playful and deep at the same time through a variety of creative yoga practices.
We will share the power of ritual by introducing imaginative ways to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.
In a loving, supportive environment, we’ll invite you to slay your fears and awaken the creative power of your singing voice.
We’ll share practices you can integrate to bring more meaning and richness to your day-to-day life.
People have left our longer trainings and BHAKTImmersions and simply felt more gratitude and vividness in their chosen lives. Some have also felt the courage and inspiration to make bold changes. One of our students shared with us that after doing several of our trainings, the practices gave him the courage to face his fears of coming out of the closet to his family. He shared his truth with them, and was met with a love he had never could have imagined years before. Other students have quit jobs, or ended relationships that didn’t feed their heart, and followed their heart to more fulfilling ways of devoting their time and energy. (Click here to read the rest of the article)
Q. Tell me a short story about kirtan(chanting) for newbies, or bhakti yoga (devotion) for beginners.
One of the most gratifying parts of what we do is sharing kirtan with people who’ve never experienced it before. It’s beautiful when we can somehow be a channel for folks to have an inspiring and transformative internal experience.
We have had the amazing opportunity to play a set of our kirtan music at The New Orleans Jazz Festival for three years. After our first time playing Jazz Fest a tall stoic, grey-haired man with blue jeans, t-shirt, and oil company baseball hat walked up to me, and said, “Son, I live out in the country. I work on an oil rig by day, and I have no idea what you were singing about, but I’ve got to tell you the music struck something inside me. It touched my heart, and moved me to tears, and I want to thank you for that.”
Q. A Sivananda swami once said that chanting is the most uncomfortable of yoga’s branches for newcomers, but also the hardest to walk away from. Do you agree?
I think this can be true, but the right teacher/wallah can anticipate that discomfort and defuse the resistance to chanting by introducing the practice in an accessible and educational way that can help remove the barriers one might feel.
Being a yoga teacher and kirtan artist based in the Deep South, I have loved the opportunity to share the joy of chanting and make it accessible for people, rather that a practice that might be interpreted as being esoteric, self-righteous, or dogmatic. (Click here to read the full article.)
Wild Lotus is not only a successful pair of local yoga studios, with locations Uptown and in theMarigny, but also a live local band that plays its own modernized, New Orleans version of Indian “kirtan” music.
“The lyrics are mantras – some are Sanskrit words,” explains Wild Lotus band leader, Sean Johnson, a vocalist who also plays the harmonium. “It’s all energy based sound, sung to change our stage of consciousness.”
Despite the obscure genre, the ten-year-old band fits easily into New Orleans. With Alvin Young on bass and guitar, and vocalist Gwendolyn Coleman on percussion from the cajon to the frame drum, Wild Lotus entrances unsuspecting crowds at events like the Jazz and Heritage Festival, which hosted the band this year.
“As Western artists, we take the mantra from the yoga tradition and compose originally music around it, so the blend is a rock-gospel-funk-folk – it’s not esoteric. We are making music from the yoga tradition more accessible to people who are into yoga, but also for those who are simply into music.” Click here to read full article.
“I will rise again, through rain and flood and wind,” Sean Johnson & the Wild Lotus Band sang just before the heavy weather arrived. “The clouds will pass, the sun will shine and I will see again.” The band has a loyal following that ends the set with a sea of waving hands in an annual moment of Zen…. Full article here.
The leader of The Wild Lotus Band considers their music more than simply yoga rock, and it bears the musical earmarks of being made in New Orleans.
Unity by Sean Johnson and The Wild Lotus Band walks a tough line between the pristine airiness of new age music and the (gently) gritty textures of blues-based rock ’n’ roll, and it does so boldly. Johnson and the band commit, and pieces that start with musical or lyrical ideas I’m not sure are for me—too hippy, too sincere—often gain power in their droning repetition and carefully measured intensity. The album has moments that bring to mind the earnest utopian vibe of much early ’70s rock without losing its core purpose and audience in pursuit of it.
Johnson will play Jazz Fest’s Lagniappe Stage Friday at 12:40 p.m., and Lauren Keenan interviewed him in anticipation of the show. After the interview, she wrote:
Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band shy from away from being classified as just a “yoga band.” Though much of their music is grounded in the mantras and chants of more traditional, spiritual Indian music, the members also pull in their own influences from around the world. Having grown up in New Orleans, for example, Johnson often finds when he begins composing that the bass line takes the form a horn part or a tuba part.
Though it can be hard to imagine New Orleans music mixing with the spiritual chants of Kirtan music, what the Wild Lotus Band is doing is clearly effective. Johnson relates the story of their first time playing Jazz Fest when, after initially wondering if people would get what they were doing, he found that audience members had been moved to tears during the set.
Click here to listen. This conversation with Sean Johnson was recorded way back in December before Christmas. I’d intended to release it sometime in January, but then came the epic back spasm — and so here we are. But with perfect synchronicity, Sean tells me toward the end of the interview that he & David Newman will be going to OM Fest in Bermuda in May. I didn’t know last December that I’d be joining them, but an invitation arrived from the Bermuda kirtan community who attended Bhakti Fest last summer, and I’ve decided to say YES! My flight is booked and I’m really excited — OM Fest is the first weekend in May, and I’ll be telling you more as we get closer.
Sean also mentions in the interview that he studied with Russill Paul at the Naropa Institute — another synchronicity as I’m blessed to tell you that Russill is coming on as a Platinum sponsor of the podcast. I’ve been a long time fan of his work, and New World Kirtan is honored by this association.
Sean, Alvin, and Gwendolyn play on WYES Arts and Entertainment Program Steppin’ Out, and talk about The New Orleans Sacred Music Festival, performing “Unity” and “I Will Rise Again” from their new release Unity. Click here to watch.
It’d be easy to dismiss Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band as music solely for the yoga world.
Though it’s rooted in the Indian kirtan genre with Sanskrit-sung mantras (often with call-and-response) and traditional instrumentation like the aura-inducing harmonium and the fretless dotar, it’s also apparent that the group would rather stretch beyond the paradigm than be confined by it.
Nine of the 10 tracks are originals and all have carefully crafted, densely-layered arrangements. There’s a fair bit of diversity as well, such as the Nashville country picking of “The Man in Blue” and the symphonic horn intro-outro on “I Will Rise Again” being prime examples.
On “Peace Song,” Gwendolyn Colman plays atypical instruments like the kalimba (African thumb piano) and the berimbau (Brazilian single-stringed bowed percussive instrument) to add to the symbolism of various world cultures chanting messages of peace in different languages. Now and then a melodious bass solo emerges that almost takes off into jazz.
Unlike the nonexistent harmonies of traditional kirtan music, uplifting harmonies are also incorporated into the mix.
Similarly, the proceedings are rife with ideas with the anthemic title track tying it all together. A poem from the Sufi mystic Rumi and a mantra are sung before Johnson raps in English about how unity is really universal, regardless of heritage or ethnicity.
It wouldn’t be over the top to dub Unity as a soul-cleansing listen but if nothing else, it’s a beautiful sonic collage to get lost in. Read full article here.