No matter how difficult or challenging my day of mammahood may have been, no matter how disharmonious or exhausting, when we have a family bedtime satsang it helps to gracefully dissolve the after effect of the day’s challenges. So some months ago I decided to have regular family satsangs. Just the three of us. I’d light a candle, lay a blanket on the floor, put some cushions out, gather together all the musical instruments (sometimes with Joshi’s help) and place them in the middle of the floor. And we’d chant together in sanskrit.
I fell in love with satsang the very first time I experienced it. It was 1999. I was travelling through India on my own for 9 months. I can remember sitting there with my eyes closed, in a temple, surrounded by some very enthusiastic singers . Even though it wasn’t that harmonious (ok, it was far from musically perfect) I was completely entranced . I’ve never attempted to describe that experience of satsang and I still find it hard to adequately put in words the profound effect satsang has on me now, but it’s been life-changing. And now, 15 years later, it’s one of the most valuable aspects of my life. I can tangibly feel the new energy it brings me and, for the most part, there’s a an mistakable peacefulness and ease that I can feel in the whole of my being . The vibrations of the chants are so soothing on the nervous system. But what I love most is how it affects my mind. For me there’s nothing more valuable than peace and stillness of mind. And satsang brings that to me.
Satsang is part of the ancient practice of yoga, but it’s a part which often gets left out of yoga in the west. While many people attend yoga classes, much fewer get to experience satsang. I personally can’t imagine my yoga practice without it. It’s just one of the juiciest parts of my practice. For the past 14 years I’ve been attending group satsangs about once a week through the Art of Living Foundation. I’ve grown to love them so much that I literally start getting withdrawal symptoms whenever our regular weekly satsang doesn’t happen. And now I’m so glad that Joshi is getting to be part of them as he grows up. I wish that all kids could experience this in their lives.
For the first few weeks after Joshi was born we didn’t do much at all. We wanted to ease him into the busyness of the world, but when we felt ready we started taking him with us to weekly satsangs. When he was 3 weeks old we wrapped him in the hug-a-bub and took him to a Krishna Das concert. I wouldn’t have considered taking him to a regular concert, but Krishna Das’s music is pretty amazing and uplifting. It reaches your soul. Unsurprisingly, Joshi slept peacefully in the wrap the whole way through. And since then he’s been present at every satsang we’ve attended.
So What Exactly Is Satsang?
Satsang is where you sit together and chant mostly in sanskrit, but any language is acceptable. Usually in a call-and-response manner. I really love how Krishna Das describes it:
“The words of these chants come from a place that’s deeper than our hearts and our thoughts,
deeper than the mind.
And so as we sing them they turn us towards ourselves, into ourselves.
They bring us in … and the experience changes us.”
My experiences of satsang have definitely changed me. And I know that for now the regular experience of them makes me a better mum because of the peace of and joy they bring me. The more peaceful and joyful I am – the better I am at being mum.
Note: There’s probably a satsang happening near you, no matter where you live in the world. If you want to experience one just jump onto google.