Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dave Stringer Retreats at Esalen

Mantras & Molecules: From the perspective of Eastern philosophy, the bliss we are seeking is already inside of us. From the perspective of modern brain science, this is also a true statement. To the scientist, bliss is a chemical state that the body itself produces, and it is a state that we are apparently hard-wired to seek. Chanting Sanskrit mantras is one of the world’s oldest means of finding it.

Chanting affects the areas of the brain that create our sense of where our body ends and the world begins. It also slows and steadies breathing, producing hormone and neurological changes in the body that feel simultaneously calming and thrilling. Moving from the individual level to the collective level, the effect is magnified. Through chanting, one’s sense of separation diminishes, and one’s feeling of connection increases. 

You feel somehow intimate with all the strangers surrounding you, and intensely, vividly, alive.

My "Kirtan Flight School" workshop will explore the neurochemistry of ecstasy through extensive practice of the call and response form of chanting known as kirtan. Augmenting direct experience, the workshop will also feature presentations and discussions on the emerging brain science of how music influences and alters our perceptions, mind, and spirit.

Kirtan Flight School:

“If you cannot teach me to fly, teach me to sing.” -JM Barrie, author of Peter Pan

Kirtan, an Eastern form of call-and-response mantra chanting, is experiencing a creative and popular renaissance in the West. In this consciousness-transforming practice, singers seek to vanish into the song just as raindrops merge into the ocean. Ecstasy is both the process and the product. Today, musicians and audiences all over the world are reinvigorating this ancient musical form with modern ideas and techniques. Many people are now inspired to participate in kirtan groups or to introduce chanting to yoga classes. If you're one of those people, this workshop is for you.

All participants are organized into small ensembles. Each ensemble then chooses a chant, rehearses it together, and presents a kirtan to the group. The instructors rotate through the groups, working closely with the participants to develop rhythmic and harmonic concepts, solve problems, and answer questions.

The history and philosophy of kirtan are also intensively explored, and participants learn how to present and discuss the mantras. Participants are encouraged to bring musical instruments with them, but it is understood that the most important instruments are human voices and hands. Instruction will be offered in playing the harmonium and finger cymbals, and a limited number of these instruments will be on hand for use by all.

One of the most thrilling things about kirtan is watching people light up in the discovery of their own musical selves. When you participate in a kirtan, you’re not just listening to the music. You are the music.


Friday, January 20 - Sunday, January 22
Mantras and Molecules Retreat with Dave Stringer & Dearbhla Kelly
Esalen Institute, 55000 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920

Sunday, January 22 - Friday, January 27
Kirtan Flight School with Dave Stringer, Craig Kohland and Joni Allen
Esalen Institute, 55000 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920

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