Joan loved to chant. In the last months and weeks, even the last days, of her embodied existence, we chanted every single day. Sometimes I was quick enough with the recorder to capture those precious, spontaneous moments of what she described as “joy expressing itself as sound.” Below you will find a 2-minute recording of Joan introducing and leading the chant, Ananda Mayi Ma. Enjoy!
You can lire Joan’s response to a question about kirtan (the call-and-response chanting of the names of God) in a 2008 interview that appeared in Yoga Mondo, a French Quebec yoga magazine. An excerpt of the original interview, in French, is found here.
Below is a transcript of a more personal explanation of her relationship with chant offered during a 2014 seminar on Pratyabhijñahrdayam: The Recognition of Our Own Heart. It begins with Joan quoting one of her favorite biblical passages.
1st Corinthians, chapter 13 is about love: Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love…
It is an extraordinary exposition of True Nature as it manifests through the heart, through love, through hrdyam. One of the beautiful, beautiful things that we experience as part of our evolutionary path is this blowout Love. It doesn’t happen perhaps all the time – it may happen to us maybe only when we fall in love – in those first few days of falling in love where there is no other and there is no I; there is only Love. And of course some saints like Anandamayi Ma lived in this state all the time, also my childhood next-door neighbor, Mrs. Bollinger.
So in the bhakti tradition of yoga there is a practice of chanting the names of God, or the names of the divine, or the energies of pure consciousness in a slightly more specific form.
Q: How is it that such a hardcore jnana yogi as yourself came to lead kirtan? How do you reconcile the two apparently different paths?
Well I remembered Mrs. Bollinger… you know I’d forgotten her for many, many years … but my next-door neighbor, no matter what we did, she was just fine with it … she just laughed. She was just radiant. Always radiant.
I remembered her after I had been through enough disillusionment that the love aspect in my life kind of went underground. There were emotional reasons for the love aspect going underground, so it didn’t come through in my spiritual life at all. Then, as the emotional healing started to take place, the “love thing” started to come through again. And then I remembered Mrs. Bollinger. And then I remembered when I was 12 years old saying, “I want to be like you when I grow up.” It was such a strong intention of a 12-year-old that, by the time I got into my 40s or 50s, the bhakti part started to come out. But it didn’t come out then as chant, it came out as this profound, heartfelt appreciation I felt for Mrs. Bollinger, who was really my first spiritual teacher.
So I think that the transition came as the emotional healing took place. The intellect was a very strong, protective thing in me when I was in graduate school and after. And that transferred into my spiritual life. Later, as the healing from that intense jnana phase started to take place, then the love was able to come back in and the devotion was able to come back in, and I was able to chant again.
Listen to the chant