Shakti Bliss Kirtan at the Garden

Shakti Bliss Kirtan is just back from the 15th Annual Peace Festival at the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas in Arlee, Montana. The theme was “Wisdom for Modern Times” and the program included speakers and musicians from multiple cultures as well as the consecration of the new Peace Pavilion by Rev. Paul Armstrong and Stephen Small Salmon. Shakti Bliss Kirtan was very happy to be included in the celebration. Although the prediction was 100% chance of rain, fortunately the skies held back until the entire day was done. Great to meet people from all over Montana and Idaho and places … Continue reading

Shakti Bliss Ready to Record!

The Shakti Bliss kirtan band is ready to record our first album! Shakti Bliss is composed of Kathleen Karlsen (vocals, harmonium), Marius Michael-George (tabla, percussion), Andrew Karlsen (vocals, udu drum), Paul Bohak (vocal, bass, guitar) and Mahima Giri (vocals, kartals). What is kirtan? Kirtan is a style of music focused on participatory chanting. Chanting produces a calorie-free, drug-free, full body buzz! Group singing changes the chemistry of the brain and dissipates feelings of isolation and depression.  Chanting is a form of meditation, a type of mantra yoga. No postures required. We emphasize singable chants from multiple traditions that are easy to learn, … Continue reading

Chanting is Half the Battle

The old mansion in Chestnut Hills was three stories high, including an attic apartment. There were thirteen rooms for rent. I was in my early twenties and new in town with very little experience living on my own. I responded to an ad, rented a room and started a job in a restaurant downtown. Shortly after settling in, I found a spiritual organization that appealed deeply to me. I began attending regular study groups and services. This particular path was going to be a central influence on my soul’s journey for decades to come. My association with the group was … Continue reading

Creating on the Edge

The process of creation makes me feel ALIVE! That is one of my top values. There is nothing as amazing as the process of creation–a child, a home, a relationship or a piece of art. I love to work in a flowing style with highly liquid paint because this increases the number of variables and therefore the level of excitement and creative chaos in my experiments. This keeps me on the edge. When I am working with highly liquid paint, the artistic decisions that I am forced to make quickly over the space of days or weeks as a painting … Continue reading

This Painting Healed My Back

My back had been hurting for over a year. I had started doing yoga, but I didn’t remember injuring myself during yoga. I didn’t remember injuring myself at all. One day I just discovered that I had pain in my lower back every time I bent over. Little did I know that an abstract painting would be my cure. I ignored the pain as best I could. My back didn’t hurt all the time, but enough to limit my movement and exercise regime. I tried gentle stretching and gave myself some time to heal. Weeks went by. Then months. There … Continue reading

The Magic of Sanskrit

The benefits for the brain of chanting mantras or reciting sacred texts in Sanskrit has moved from the realm of ardent devotees into the arena of hard science. James Hartzell, Ph.D., a neuroscientist researching the topic, has looked at physical changes that happen in the brain during the memorization and recitation of Sanskrit texts. He is calling this The Sanskrit Effect. Hartzell has discovered that Sanskrit pandits have over ten percent more grey matter across both cerebral hemispheres, a measurement consistent with higher cognitive functioning. The right  hippocampus, connected to long and short-term memory and sensitive to auditory and visual … Continue reading

From a Death Gate to Shakti Bliss

The rain was coming down lightly as the sun set on a beautiful spring evening. I was driving from Livingston to Bozeman, crossing into the shadow of the mountains as I reached the pass separating the Gallatin and Bridger mountain ranges. The temperature was 45F. The danger of snow and blizzards was only a distant concern. The date was March 25, 2016. As I drove along, I passed a car. Then another. And another. Something about this struck me as odd. I am a fairly conservative driver. Usually the other cars are passing me! I glanced down at my speedometer. … Continue reading

What is Kirtan Music?

KIRTAN MUSIC is form of chanting. Group chanting is a platform for a profound sharing of energy, heart, and soul. Chanting is in call and response format in many spiritual traditions. In the west, kirtan is call and response or sing-along style. Do I have to be musical? How well you sing is not a pertinent issue. You do not need prior musical experience. Kirtan is ideal if you are self-conscious about singing. Your voice blends with everyone around you. Science shows that group singing changes the chemistry of the brain. These changes happen regardless of skill level. Everyone reaps … Continue reading

Sports and the Superhuman

There are athletes all over the world demonstrating superhuman feats of endurance and agility in many different sports. There is a growing recognition that there are multiple components necessary for success: psychological, emotional, physical, and spiritual. Some athletes have had transcendent spiritual experiences while pushing themselves to their physical limits. Sports can be a path of self-mastery on all of these levels. In particular there are traditions in the martial arts and in endurance sports that give the practitioner the means to reach both the highest levels of physical culture and spiritual attainment. The ancient Taoists viewed the human body … Continue reading

Practicing for the Cave

I was talking to a friend of mine and suggested that he try giving up sugar for a year. Or maybe give up alcohol for a year. Or coffee. Or maybe he should try some mental deprivation for a year. Like giving up movies for a year. Or giving up reading books for a year. He was less enthusiastic than I had hoped. I call that kind of self-imposed deprivation “practicing for the cave”. What comforts and pleasures do you have in your life that you would not have if meditating in a cave for an extended period of time? … Continue reading