“Ah man…you gotta be kidding me!” I huffed, as my finger kept hitting the ‘seek’ button on the rental car’s radio. Apparently around Joshua Tree California, there were only three radio stations picking up a signal clearly, and they all happened to be Christian rock. I scowled as I heard refrains of “He will come again”, and then “Lord, lift me up” accompanied by long ripping guitar riffs. With the crazy high winds, cell reception and radio transmission was limited. I kept flicking from one channel to the next, then back to the first, thinking something might change; what was that saying again? Doing the same thing and expecting different results? Insanity!

I had just spent the previous six days at Joshua Retreat Centre working on the sound crew for Sat Nam Fest: magical. And not without it’s challenges too. The winds made it difficult to sleep in my tent, and I somehow got a rash on my back from dust and whatever other particles fly around in the desert. Of course the yoga and chanting kept me happy and holy, not to mention the ridiculous number of joyful beings in one place at the same time. I love working on the sound crew, and being able to serve in a way that really resonates with me: bringing music to the people. After the festival, I rented a small cabin near Twenty-nine Palms so I could explore the park for a few days, and ground down and integrate the shifts before I returned to Canada. 

As I continued cursing the music emanating from the radio, “Oh God!…” (yeah, I now see the irony in that complaint), I had an epiphany. I had to either: a) accept the music that was going on; or b) turn the radio off. I opted for door number one and listened to the lyrics of a rock ballad affirming that God was here to take care of us and protect us. That’s when the comedy stuck me and I told my inner Judge Judy to put a cork in it. Hadn’t we (all the peeps at the festival) just been chanting all day and all night about how God is our protector? The only difference being that we chant in Gurmukhi, and not English, and the stylings were more soulful (Jai Jagadeesh), etherel (Ajeet Kaur), jam-band (GuruGanesha Band) and funky (Aykanna) than the Bon Jovi-esque tunes I was now hearing. Hadn’t I just finished recording an Aquarian Sadhana album with Rakhe Rakhen Har, which speaks about God looking out for us, giving us the light, and guiding us? The mantra also affirms that when I remember God, I feel peaceful and happy, and when I chant that mantra, I find myself feeling peaceful and happy (which of course, I do…that’s why I chant it!). I wondered if my friends in India would be put off by my versions of the mantras which are a little bit Latin, a little bit electronica. I doubt it. 

 

So who was I to be so self-righteous about anyone else singing about God?! I think part of my confusion began as a kid being sent to Bible Camp in the summer. My mother was Jewish by culture, atheist by belief, and thus, I was deemed to be Jewish due to matriarchal lineage. My father is Catholic, so my sister and I were kind of like half-breeds, and not really belonging to either religion. Bible camp was free, and the bus picked me up, so off I went for the day. I came back home hopped up on sugar cookies singing, “Jesus loves me, yes I know!” and was reprimanded by my mum who told me not to sing that song anymore, because I was a Jew. I was confused. I wondered why this irritated her so much because she was known to say defensively, when anti-Semitism was at hand, “Jesus was a Jew!” I made sure I sang that tune in solitude so Mum couldn’t hear me; I liked the melody…it was catchy. 

Later in life, once I found Kundalini yoga, the mantras were what totally drew me in. My first class left me weeping cathartically after singing the Guru Ram Das Chant, and I knew then that this was my path. It was the mantra that broke me wide open; I knew then that everyone, including Jesus, the Gurus, God, Spirit, and Mother Nature loved me. When I was in the Punjab teaching Kundalini yoga, I felt totally felt at home. The music emerging from the Golden Temple in Amritsar felt like it was part of my soul and being, just like the rock and roll I grew up on in Canada. It felt more “me” than Hava Nagila, or Jesus Loves Me. I don’t know why…it just did. 

 

While walking the Camino de Santiago from France to Spain a few years ago, I wanted to keep my morning Aquarian Sadhana practice up; I had spent a few weeks at Chateau Anand in France doing seva, and was totally comitted. When walking however, I had to begin my day early and be out of the pensions and dorms by seven in the morning, so sitting down to chant and meditate didn’t fit in, especially if I needed to make it to the next village before sundown. And so, I’d start my day by finding a quiet spot to sit and chant the Long Chant, before beginning my walk, and continuing to chant the rest of the mantras. Sometimes (a lot of the times…I was pretty slow.) pilgrims would pass me  Did they scowl or give me any Judge Judy attitude? No. They too felt soothed by the Naad, or sacred sound current. Some people began to slow their pace and linger, just so they could listen. 

 

I digress (I usually do). Back to my recent foray in Joshua Tree: Instead of fighting the only AM/FM music available to me, I cranked up the tunes, opened the car windows, channeled my inner Bonnie Tyler and belted right along, “Lift me up with your Grace, God!” When annoying commercials came on, I shut the radio off and sang my own fave God tune, the Mul Mantra, and laughed at the absurdity of my behaviour only moments ago. I sang out, “Ek ong kaar, sat nam”, which means basically that we all come from one Creator, and truth is His name. True ‘dat. I may not be recording any versions of “Jesus loves me” in the near future, but I will continue to sing what comes from my soul, in ways that are catchy to me. Right now for me, it’s singing the mantras my way (enter refrain of Frank Sinatra here). I hope you’ll roll down the windows in your car, feel the wind in your hair, smell the air, and belt them out with me. Sat Nam.

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