Thousands Gather in Washington, DC to Chant4Change and Let the Call for Peace be Heard
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.” With thousands of people gathered at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on October 8th, Chant4Change attendees were ready to echo Lincoln’s advice and stand firm for “conscious action” to “heal the soul of America.”
There is something to be said for the benefits gained from convening with individuals in a consciously connected community. While community can be defined as a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals, we are in fact in community each time we find a place where we belong.
Despite the cold rainy weather which eclipsed the event, the sincere intention to hold a high vibrational space for unity, peace and harmony was not deterred. Many from across the social, political and religious spectrum demonstrated a willingness to “weather the storm” and the uncomfortable external conditions to stand firm as instruments for real societal change.
Chant4Change opened with an Episcopal blessing from Rev. Alan Gates and a beautifully encouraging letter from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, which was read by Rukmini Walker. The letter from His Holiness the Dalai Lama can be read in its entirety on guaravani.com.
With an inspirational line-up of various speakers, artists and musicians which included exemplary musical performances and noteworthy talks, here is a list of the presenters:
- Guara Vani
- Mc Yogi
- Jai Uttal
- Radhanath Swami
- David Newman
- Tina Malia
- Mikey Pauker
- Juggernauts: Gaura Vani & Visvambhar
- Ajeet Kaur
- Yona FrenchHawk
- Kabir Helminski
- Kirtan Rabbi
- Andrew Tanner of Yoga Alliance
- Sweet Honey in The Rock
- Amjad Ali Khan, Amaan and Ayaan
- Rev. Alan Gates
- Howard Ross
- Conscious Living TV
- The Art of Living
- Linda Larkin
- Vineet Chander
- Darnelle Quinn
- Kerri Kelly
Although each presenter who took the stage did so with a compelling interest for peaceful change in the socio-political environment and world beyond, and gave voice to topics around the importance of a personal spiritual practice and building communities, how a voice can make a difference, and voting as collective care, here are five highlights from the event:
1. Vivian DeMille of Mannabliss spoke on the importance of operating as a conscious business. It is known that “…many businesses generate financial wealth at the expense of social, cultural, environmental, intellectual, physical, and spiritual well-being. They are extracting value rather than creating value.” The philosophy of a conscious business is that every business should have a higher purpose that transcends making money, and actively cultivates conscious leadership and culture. “They empower people and engage their best contribution in service of a higher sense of purpose.”
2. Kerri Kelly of CTZNWell and The Catalyst Collective presented a compelling perspective on the “emerging movement to mobilize people into a powerful force for well-being for all.” With many people who live in financial “survival mode” of trying to make ends meet, well-being is not often in the forefront of concern. “Wellness is much more than merely physical health, exercise or nutrition. It is the full integration of physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.” The positive societal transformations we aspire to, as noted in Kelly’s presentation, remind us that we are not only spiritually responsible for ourselves, but also for each other.
3. Gaura Vani, who “believes in promoting kirtan through thoughtful and conscious media,” founded the first ever Chant4Change kirtan-festival in Washington, DC during President Obama’s inauguration. Gaura Vani and the dedicated team of volunteers erected tents in the rain, prepared and maintained audio equipment, engaged with attendees and presenters with kindness and worked tirelessly with a joyful attitude throughout the entire day to ensure that Chant4Change unfolded in the highest manner. Talk about lead by example; the ongoing efforts of the volunteers demonstrated what it truly means to be of service to a vision that is larger than the individual self.
4. MC Yogi, a US-American hip hop musician and yogi who I was unfamiliar with, was like a “musical whirlwind of cohesion.” With lyrics and a “music style which contains themes promoting Hindu philosophy,” his concert performance enthusiastically engaged every single person in the audience. Calling for us to place one arm around another as we jumped from side-to-side to the rhythmic combination of good music and good energy, it was simply outstanding.
5. Despite the fact that Chant4Change took place outside, amidst tourists of the National Mall, when the keynote speaker stepped onto the stage, you could have heard a pin drop. All were ready and eager to listen to the continued reverence, wisdom and humility that flows through one of today’s most beloved and respected spiritual teachers, Radhanath Swami:
“We are all children of the same all beautiful, all loving God. The true path of life, the essence of every religion, of all dharma is that which awakens that love for God, who has many names, from within our hearts. When we recognize our true spiritual potential then we can also appreciate, respect that potential within all beings. The true spiritual path is that which brings us to that inner connection when we see all living beings with equal vision. Whether one is white, or black, or red, or yellow, brown, male, or female, from one nation or another nation, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Agnostic or Atheist, wherever there is life, there is love.”
“When we water the root of the tree, naturally that water extends to every part of the tree. Chant4Change is a beautiful gathering wherein we have the opportunity to water the “root of the tree” of life through chanting these beautiful names of God, together.”
“Each and every one of us, in whatever position we’re in, has an incredible opportunity to be an instrument of real change, if we can connect to that higher power of grace that is within us.”
“We change as we chant. Arrogance transforms to humility, greed into generosity, hate into love, and envy into compassion.”
“The true test of our spirituality is not simply how we broadcast our allegiance, it’s how we are transformed. In Sanskrit the word karuna means active, dynamic, thoughtful compassion where we seriously want to make a difference in the world; and each and every one of us can make an enormous historic difference in the world as we connect to this higher power within us. The intention of our love and our compassion is the value of our life. As we change each other, chanting these beautiful mantras, together we become instruments to change the world.”
With divisive election noise occurring in Washington, DC and beyond, there is a spiritual connection to be made between what we see in the outer world and how it is a reflection of our inner consciousness.
There is a lot of real work to be done in the outer world, just as there is also a lot of work to be done within our hearts.
Although we now find ourselves in the midst of societal change and on a path we are unclear of how to walk, the relevant question becomes “will you succumb to the pressures of the moment and join with those who are confused and lost, or will you take a breath and seek for the light and approach these dilemmas with clarity and integrity to take the higher path that leads to a life well lived?”
Yes, it is difficult to walk a spiritual path, but whether you find yourself sitting on steps such as those at the Lincoln Memorial for Chant4Change, or reading about it later, you know that you are on this path because your purpose is stronger than your fear.
“It starts with a dream. Add faith, and it becomes a belief. Add action, and it becomes a part of life. Add perseverance, and it becomes a goal in sight. Add patience and time, and it ends with a dream come true.”
The Chant4Change community has gathered to stand in creation from a clear and strengthened heart space.
May you also find your cause, see your vision, love your dream and hold onto your core belief that what you contribute can fundamentally make a difference in our lives, our communities and our (one) world.
May you find your spiritual home, stand firm and flourish there.
Chant4Change was organized and supported by a fully dedicated, grass roots volunteer base.