om yoga magazine

Finding relief for the ‘hole in the soul’. By Nikki Slade 

What I’ve found, through my work as a Kirtan leader and voice facilitator over 25 years is everyone has a craving for something – something that cannot be filled with outer means, no matter how much we keep searching. It’s like trying to place a jigsaw piece in the wrong jigsaw puzzle – it just doesn’t fit, no matter how many different ways we turn it or how much we force it.
We search for this something in approval, in technology, in the promise of romance, in the internet in all it’s many forms. We are looking to fill what is sometimes regarded as the ‘hole in the soul’.

The loneliness of modern life: What’s wrong with me?
Cities can be lonely places – and I have seen many people ‘flying high’ in the financial districts who look to the world like they ‘have it all’ but inside, are lost in their own personal hell. They have traded health for career success. Their energy is exhausted, especially, I have found, with sedentary office workers who rely on drugs and alcohol to fill up this empty feeling inside them.
Ultimately, we are all the same. And where everyone seems to go is to that place of ‘what’s wrong with me?’
There is nothing wrong with you. And the authentic spiritual journey is recognising that the point is not to try to make yourself better or to improve your life, or to manifest ‘stuff’. These are all attempts to try to fill the hole in the soul – and they don’t work. The journey of life we must all take is to recognise that we are already enough, just as we are, right here and right now. And from this stance, we can begin living the lives we were meant to live.
When I first discovered chanting back in 1987 I was in a dark place emotionally. It felt like my life was falling apart. I felt like I was cocooned in a world of pain numbing myself with drugs and alcohol. The world I saw seemed like a nightmare and I was trapped behind a glass screen where nothing could reach me.

Discovering Kirtan
Then, seemingly by chance, a well-known singer suggested I went to her meditation group and I met with the idea of chanting for the first time, as in this group one of the main practices was something called Kirtan or ‘chanting’.
Chanting or Kirtan is the practice of repeating a mantra in the language of Sanskrit which is a refined celestial language passed down through lineages in India through many centuries. The transmission in the chants from these lineages carry great shakti or spiritual energy such that when we chant we become alive and connected to our blissful and free inner nature.
When a mantra is repeated often, it creates its own power. And so the chants I share and facilitate have an ancient vibration flowing through them, which is wholly relevant today and is becoming widespread and popular in the mainstream.
Many people regard chanting as something exotic and complicated, or religious and dogmatic or even ‘woo woo’.. but it’s not. Chanting is meditation with voice – and often succeeds where other meditation practices fail. Certain aspects of Sufism, for example, see straightforward meditation, like mindfulness, as difficult if not impossible. The mind needs something to focus on, like a ‘toy to play with’, and this is where chanting comes in. Most people have undisciplined minds – and the undisciplined mind finds silence too much – the mantra keeps them focused and lifts them into the inner stillness. There is an intensity with these Kirtan groups and gatherings where people have said that they have found a depth of connection and inner peace that they have seldom experienced before.

Vibration is everything
Everything is vibration – we think that the world is made up of physical sound but it’s all vibrating energy, and sound is the ‘hidden’ key to working with this. Chanting puts you in the flow, in connection with your true self.
However, this is not ‘abracadabra’ – I can still go to those dark places. Having an addictive personality myself, I have been in many dark places and these experiences have often given me the ‘map’ to guide others out of them, through the power of grace.
Fears never go away as I’ve found. The difference is, I now have the tools to deal with the fear, whereas before it totally overwhelmed me. This tool, of chanting, helps me to hear myself clearly when lost in the confusion. One of my favourite groups to work with are fellow recovering addicts as it is so wonderful to be able to pass on this glorious and uplifting practice and to witness the difference it makes to them too.

My vision for the world
My work has reached a lot of people. But many more Kirtan facilitators are needed – and that is why I have developed the first certified Learn to Lead Kirtan foundation training in London. We are going to create more and more leaders and I am behind that happening. First there was yoga, and now is the time to launch Kirtan. It’s the beginning of a chanting revolution here in the UK and Europe. It promises to be enriching, informative and fun! It’s an intensive, comprehensive course that begins in September and finishes in November.
We are all looking for the same thing – the more that people connect, the better the world will be. At the end of the day everything we do in life is to find love, and once we tap it, we are fulfilled. And then we can begin living. When you add a little chanting to your life, everything gets better.

Discover more about Nikki Slade and upcoming events including information about the Learn to Lead Kirtan foundation training, beginning in London on September 12 at: nikkislade.com

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