Anyone who has taken a yoga class with music playing in the background has probably heard Krishna Das.
Krishna Das’ music is soul affirming and immediately recognizable. His deep rumbling voice has brought kirtan to the masses (or at least the people who don’t speak Hindi). At the 2013 Grammys he was referred to as “the rockstar of yoga.”
Even with a lifelong interest in Bhakti yoga, or the yoga of devotion, Krishna admits that he’s still figuring it all out. When asked when he felt most like himself, he joked, “What time is it?” Lighthearted yet deep, childlike yet wise, it is immediately apparent why people are so drawn to Krishna. He brings the spirit to spiritual music.
You have an impressively busy travel schedule. How do you remain grounded and present on the road?
I don’t know anything else. I’ve been travelling my whole life. I don’t know if I am doing it well or not doing it well. The more you surrender to your life as it unfolds, the more you are able to deal with whatever comes up in your life.
How do you surrender?
I’m always working on it. These practices take time to develop. It’s planting seeds and they have to grow. It’s learning how to live and allowing the practices that soften and change you on the inside. It’s not something you have to understand intellectually. You have to do your practices as sincerely as you can. You have to turn to whatever you want to call you. You have to turn to the love that lives within us: the truth, the presence. Our true nature. You have to allow that to manifest. It helps us to let go of our obsessive tendencies.
What are your practices?
Certainly chanting is the practice that I do the most, either with people or alone. I also do quiet chanting. I do asanas. I do pranayama. My life is all about everything becoming a part of this spiritual movement. It all has to be seen in the light of spiritual practice. Everything has the potential to open you up or face you with your own limitations.
How do you get shy people to participate in call and response?
I just sing. If they don’t respond, they don’t. People dissolve into the bubbles of the practice. If I was trying to get them over their shyness, it might increase it. I am offering a moment to do practice together. It happens because of the grace of my Guru. I am the front man. The wind-up doll. It is his voice that people hear. My responsibility is to try to enter into that love again and again.
What does chanting do for you?
It puts everything immediately into perspective. Everything that happens is simply something to let go of. The headache I have. The problems with my relationships. The stress about paying my mortgage. All those things immediately disappear. They simply become something to release and come back to the chanting. That letting go muscle has gotten stronger and stronger over the years. There is still a long way to go!
Do you feel that the current mindfulness movement is working? Are we becoming more mindful?
People are recognizing that the quality of their lives is not what they want it to be. They’re looking for ways to create the extraordinary. Mindfulness goes much deeper than people realize. When you step on a nail, everything you think about is how to get that nail out of your foot. You might not recognize that you have fallen off a cliff at the same time. We have to deal with the immediate pain first and find a way to integrate that into our lives without giving up hope of what we are dealing with. Then there is a whole level of life that you can begin to unravel and untie.
We are assuming that this work is life long?
It’s ongoing. It’s a lifestyle choice, in a way. You widen your concept of what life is and what might be possible for us to accomplish or become in our lives.
This seems like the exact opposite of the expression, “Ignorance is bliss.”
That’s what the ignorant say. What most people call “bliss” is a little less pain. Real bliss is your true nature. We begin to experience that as a sense of well being in our daily life. A basic sense of okay-ness. We don’t give ourselves a break. We look outside of ourselves for love and affection. We have lost the connection to our inner being.
How do we see our true selves?
You can’t really see your shadow directly. You can see its effect in your life if you learn where to look and how to look. If you don’t deal with your shadows, they push you around. You don’t know why things aren’t working or your relationships suck.
Why can we see other people’s blind spots better than our own?
What we don’t recognize is that we are really only seeing ourselves. We are only seeing our version of who you think that person is. All we know is our subjective experience. Until we recognize that, we will never see our own blind spots, our own shadows. Starting to be able to see that is the fruit of many years of practice. Less of you is on the line. Pride, greed, shame, fear, and selfishness: all of those things begin to lose their grip on you.
So we can find our true selves at any stage of life?
Of course. We’re always here.
Krishna Das has an upcoming tour coming through Canada starting on July 3rd in Toronto and moving East to St. John’s. See his website or this link for more details (or just to hear his gorgeous voice).