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Dave Russell, Elliot Hartmann-Russell, and Holly Hartmann

Dave Russell, Elliot Hartmann-Russell, and Holly Hartmann

Kirtan is an energizing and deep group practice of singing melodic chants that calm our minds and open our hearts. We sing mantras which are Sanskrit phrases and syllables that are repeated until integrated into our consciousness. We get to taste the space of 'no-thought'. We get to taste the space of being enough and having enough. It is sung in call-and-response - I play harmonium and sing a line, and the group sings it back led by Holly Hartmann. I am continually grateful to be accompanied by wonderful musicians including my wife and singing partner Holly Hartmann (vocals), Kalidasa Getter (flute, clarinet, sax), Joe Johnson (cello), and percussionists Amanda Turk, Charlie Shew, and Greg Bertsch. The kirtan melodies are simple. All voices are perfect for kirtan because the emphasis is upon opening the heart, not about how you perceive your voice.

For an NBC interview with Dave, click here. For YouTube videos and media interviews with Dave Russell, please visit the Media page.

I lead kirtans (see Calendar) in many settings, mostly in New England. My home base is the Yoga Sanctuary in downtown Northampton, MA where I lead Sunday night kirtans, usually twice/month. I also lead kirtans all over New England, and I lead and teach regularly at the Kripalu Center in Stockbridge, MA. Please check my calendar page on this website for details about my events.

This is one of my favorite explanations: "The words of these chants are called the divine names and they 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 as we offer ourselves into the experience, the experience changes us. These chants have no meaning other than the experience that we have by doing them. They come from the Hindu tradition, but it's not about being a Hindu, or believing anything in advance. It's just about doing it, and experiencing. Nothing to join, you just sit down and sing." - Krishna Das

Chanting calms our minds, opens our hearts, boosts our inner knowing (intuition), and energizes our beings. As explained by quantum physics, all matter vibrates and sound vibrations penetrate every cell of the body. Even black holes in the Universe have been proven to emit a sound of B flat! From a standpoint of physical healing, chanting recharges the brain cells, lowers blood pressure, balances heart rhythm, and induces relaxation and elevated moods.

My intention is to co-create a space with you where we all feel safe to be in our feelings, whatever they are. People often experience great joy and even ecstasy as the chants increase in tempo and intensity. I don't consider 'bliss' to be my intention or goal; bliss or ease of being is often a byproduct of chanting but my sincere intention is that we experience whatever our souls are needing to experience. Sometimes people experience suppressed tears and sadness. The energy in the room builds which is why it's so powerful to chant in a group. By the end of kirtan, the array of emotions often transforms into lightness and a sense of freedom from limitation. I ask you to simply witness your feelings, and not try to change them. The willingness to be vulnerable is key to your experience. That's why I always ask people to bring and notice whatever moods they're in, not push them away. In that sense, it is truly a form of meditation. All moods are welcome! In my approach, spiritual intention is about getting free, not necessarily gatting a 'buzz'. However, many people do experience ecstatic states from kirtan. Kirtan is for anyone, regardless of religious belief or quality of voice.