When I was a child, my favorite part of church was always the singing. As we sang, I felt part of something beautiful and bigger than myself. It was through song and devotion I found meaning. As an adult, I experience a deep connection through the practice of devotional chanting and found how it wired my mind for love.
Chanting is the devotional practice of a call and response song, where the heart resonance spiritually merges the heart-mind. Modern neuroscience offers insight into how chanting positively rewires the mind. Through the repetition of mantra we literally create new neural connections to come into present awareness. When we are in presence we can more easily connect to love and compassion states for ourselves, others, our environment and the entire world.
By following the waves of silence and sound and the space in between sound and silence, we can begin to listen to our heart’s calling. An amazing phenomena occurs where the subconscious mind flows with the rhythmic repetition of mantra, notes and beats. In my experience, this can enhance creativity, cognition, emotional awareness, communication and listening skills, reduce anxiety and fear and bring you into presence. When we chant we free the heart and it can grow in its compassionate nature. When we come home to our heart, we free the mind.
Wondering just how exactly chanting can positively wire the brain? Let’s get into it!
Attention and Focus As one chants, they are actively listening and repeating mantras which build neural networks for sound processing, focus, attention, communication, memory and timing. This activates multiple brain centers like the prefrontal cortex (the hub for attention and mindfulness), the hippocampus (which houses our memories) and the temporal lobe (which processes language). When we chant, our brain’s neural activity strengthens these neural connections improving our memory, attention, creativity and communication.
Emotional Balance Chanting elicits feelings of tranquility, peace and connectedness. The limbic region (emotional centers) in the brain are more balanced. People who chant have less fear and anxiety. Chanting engages brain regions involved in emotional processing, where people develop heightened ability to express and interpret emotions through music. Chanting nurtures emotional expression and empathy, fosters greater compassion. Through developing more compassion, we improve our social and emotional interactions with others. Our greater compassion for ourselves and others allows us to be present with a lighter and more open heart.
Positive Neurochemicals for Trust and Reward When we chant we activate the Vagus Nerve which regulates the parasympathetic nervous system. The Vagus Nerve activates the release of Oxytocin which is the neurotransmitter for trust and found in infant and pair bonding. This allows us to have more open and trusting relationships. When we enjoy an activity, our brain releases the reward neurochemical, dopamine, which has long lasting effects on positive neural plasticity to boost your mood. Reveling in the joy and connection of music inspires the soul and creates meaning, trust and connection along with feeling good!
Relaxed Open Heart The Vagus Nerve releases Vasopressin, a neurotransmitter that allows for easeful blood flow through the body and regulates the heart's rhythm. This leads to a more coherent heart rhythm and enhanced mind-body connection. By promoting a shift toward the parasympathetic nervous system, heart coherence can lead to relaxation, reduced stress, improved overall well-being and an open heart.
Brain Waves Through repetitive chanting, brain waves and oscillations become more synchronized. Activating the delta brain waves, individuals activate areas for meditative states and language processing. Delta waves are associated with the deepest levels of relaxation and restorative, healing sleep. These oscillations foster greater cognition, a more relaxed state, and heal the mind.
Brain Synchrony Chanting activates the brain areas where people experience oneness and experience emergent consciousness. Not only do chanters experience greater connection and oneness with others, but through mirror neuron networks in the brains of the musicians and participants co-activate. Both the chanter and responders have neural networks light up in their brains where neural networks and waves mirror one another. As people chant there is a collective neural network firing that creates oneness and a collective consciousness.
Chanting is a heart and mind opening practice. Practicing chanting one develops more compassion, connection and harmony in their life through wiring the heart and mind into more trusting states. People that chant experience many mental health benefits such as reduced anxiety and fear as well as more emotional balance and relaxation. Through chanting we experience oneness by activating synchronized brain waves and oscillations with others. As we chant we find a home in our heart’s frequencies and a sense of harmony with all beings.
“Silence hung in the mountains—
A waft carried chants from a monastery,
a flock of birds joined.”
― Meeta Ahluwalia