As I sit enjoying my “brekkie” in a Melbourne cyber-cafe, having just experienced a wonderful connection with the local Australian kirtan community, I’m overwhelmed by the sense of healing that took place in the previous leg of our world tour in Germany.
It’s a healing that continues to unfold on myriad levels: in my own present life, in my wife Heather’s and my genetic memory of each of our fathers’ traumas in narrowly escaping the Nazis as children, and in the often-tearful eyes and open hearts of the people we shared the practice with in the birthplace of our fathers.
This post is the first in a series in which I put virtual pen to virtual paper in an effort to convey the palpable shift that continues to unfold in the very core of my being…
As if in answer to a genetic memory, a longstanding dream of mine to return to the land of my father’s birth to share kirtan took shape this autumn, bringing with its realization an emotional landscape that brought together love, laughter, tears, healing, indescribable bliss, and a sense of connection across time and space that transcends either domain.
Both my father and my wife Heather’s father are Holocaust refugees. My grandfather, Max Wertheimer, was a very famous psychologist who founded Gestalt theory in 1912. Ironically, in 1933, that same Jewish academic heritage forced the Wertheimer family to decide—within days—what essentials they could and could not bring with them as they were forced to flee for their very lives.
And now, exactly 100 years after the establishment of Gestalt theory (an almost sacred milestone in my family’s history), I was invited to travel back and share the most potent, heart-centered, healing and spiritually uplifting practice I’ve ever known—the unquenchable magic of kirtan—in my father’s homeland.
And serendipitously, I was able to embark on this journey only a month after my father Michael Wertheimer (also a well-known psychologist) had come to Bielefeld, Germany to give a keynote address at Germany’s centennial celebration of the founding of Gestalt theory. Things were lining up exquisitely …
We toured for three weeks in Germany with our German “kirtan family” Ben Vogt and Aleah Lani, known as The Love Keys, and their huge-hearted friend and manager Oliver Freff, whose nurturing energy and total focus on service sustained us all.
I believe that a major part of the magic of sharing the sadhana of kirtan with The Love Keys came about because we were chanting in Sanskrit—which is a language foreign to all of us, yet also a language that from its inception has been recognized as a powerful means of focusing prana.
And the potency of matrika Shakti—that principle that clarifies the power of these sounds to bring about the essence of that which the sound represents—moves us out of the realm of representational/conceptual/abstract thinking and into a full, heart-centered realization of the infinite love we are calling by name.
Not to say that every moment was bliss. As I have traveled the world during the last twelve years, one theme that comes to mind over and over again is the amazing range of life circumstances that come to feel normal.
Somehow, however, being passed as if I’m standing still when I’m doing 150 km/hour (90 miles per hour) on the Autobahn is not likely to ever fall into the “normal” category.
And schlepping what came to be affectionately know as the “coffin”—a gear case that weighed more than I do at 250 pounds—up and down stairs on a daily basis never made it into my top ten list, either.
Yet the rewards of this extraordinary journey will live in my heart from this point forward in my life. The healing that I experienced myself on this tour—and that I saw taking place in the hearts of many who attended—reminded me of Ram Dass’s words:
“Healing does not mean going back to the way things were before, but rather allowing what is now to move us closer to God.”
There were so many levels on which this healing would show itself: in my own heart and genetic memory, in the spirits of those who joined us in kirtan—many of whom still had powerful living memories of the aftermath of World War II and living in the former DDR (East Germany) before the wall fell—and in the sense of a nascent community of Bhaktas throughout Germany.
One of the ways in which this healing and moving closer to God showed itself manifested on the night of our very first event in Munich.
A man in the audience had really captivated my attention throughout the night, singing with complete surrender and shining his light out to all around him.
At the end of the evening, he came up to me, took off his beautiful necklace, and placed it over my head, saying, “Brother, you touched my heart tonight. I really want you to have this.” And the way he looked into my heart as he did so made clear that this was a soul-to-soul communication.
There was indeed magic in the air at our first kirtan in Munich. It began at our rehearsal the day before, which shone brightly with promise, and I was already filled to overflowing with gratitude for the immense care, love and hard work The Love Keys had done to make this possible.
This magic expanded still further in the way our energies, voices and intentions blended that first night. The synergy had us in tears, particularly at the end of “Herzlicht,” Ben and Aleah’s exquisite Sanskrit/English/German invitation (based on Yoga Sutra 1.36) to return to the light of our hearts.
Video of “Herzlicht” from the Hamburg concert:
And this was just the beginning …
Ed: Lynn Hasselberger