Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part interview with Ajeet Kaur. You can also read Part 2, where she offers a sneak peak into her creative process, as well as her hopes for listeners of her new album Shuniya.
With her new album Shuniya, Ajeet Kaur has created a deep healing space with three powerful songs, rich in ancient transformative mantra. Each track blends seamlessly with the next, allowing for a robust experience of chanting and meditation. Ajeet had a profound personal experience with each of these chants, along with corresponding meditations that brought her to a true state of shuniya, stillness.
The album also comes with a beautiful 60-page meditation manual with eight powerful meditations to be practiced with the Maha Mrityunjai Mantra. Ajeet spent years researching these meditations and many have never been shared in print before.
In this interview, Ajeet shares her inspiration for this music and meditation set, the epic journey that led her to each step of the creative process, and her hopes for all who listen and chant along.
What was your inspiration for this album?
Ajeet Kaur: Healing work and music are both very central in my life, and I try to create music that naturally brings a healing space. With this project that intention really blossomed into something I’m very inspired to share. I find the Maha Mrityunjai Mantra deep, mysterious, and profoundly healing. When I discovered that numerous meditations to practice with this precious chant, I knew this project needed to happen.
I’ve always had a hard time uncovering these meditations and the music to go with it, so I felt very inspired to put the music and mediations in one beautiful package for everyone to enjoy. Lastly, I love that this mantra is not just used in one tradition or practice. It is so ancient that it belongs to all yogis, all healers, all people. It’s there to support your practice and your healing, whatever river you flow in.
What makes this album different from the rest of the albums in your catalog?
Ajeet: With this album I really went for music to meditate to or to heal to. It has fewer songs, but they are long and deep, so they can be played continuously, whether that’s while you’re meditating, in your massage room, or in your hospital bed. It’s really created to offer a stillness and space of silence that invokes healing – or shuniya.
Can you share a story from the making of this album?
Ajeet: I had just finished my retreat in Bali, and our hosts invited us to go with them to their favorite water temple in all of Bali. It’s the temple to the goddess of the lake, and it’s tucked right into the side of the mountain, where the water flows down in little streams and waterfalls to meet the great big lake. We took a few hours to soak in her magical hot springs, and just as we got out of the water the sky filled with a double rainbow stretching across the whole lake. We stood in awe, feeling so welcomed to this special place. It felt like the perfect moment to make our way to the temple.
We took our offerings to the temple, and the Balinese priest offered to give us a water ceremony in honor of the goddess. We sat in front of an intricate green statue of this being who is one with the waters of this place. As the priest chanted, he doused us with the waters of the lake. I can’t even bring myself to write about all the magic we experienced during and after that ceremony, because somehow words fall short.
The next morning, we met for breakfast. As we finished our avocado toast, I mentioned that even on my third visit to Bali, I had never met the water priestess. Our hosts immediately sent a text and, before I knew it, we were on our way to her house. Ida is the first and only priestess in a sea of priests. She’s in her twenties and has already been a priestess for years. She fell sick and almost died a few years ago, but her grandfather, a holy man, had a dream that if the family promised to make her a priestess when she regained health, that she would come back. The family did just that. At first the local leaders laughed at the possibility of a twenty year old girl being a priestess.
Traditionally, someone must have the equivalent to a PhD, read sanskrit, memorize much of the Vedas, and be male. But, when her family finally convinced them to give her the priest’s examination, they discovered that she could answer any question in Sanskrit, directly quoting the Vedas. She had never learned to read or write Sanskrit, but came back from her illness with this knowledge, a part of her being and her calling. So, there I was, finally meeting this young woman I had heard so much about. I sat as she chanted and was surprised by the power of her deep strong voice. Looking at her you would imagine her voice to be gentle and sweet, like she is, but when she closed her eyes and went into meditation, she embodied all of the feminine, both strength and devotion.
My husband and I walked up to stand in front of her together. I expected something like the day before, a little sprinkle of water to clear and bless us. But Ida does water ceremonies of her own. She chanted and poured buckets and buckets of water over us as she told us to stamp our feet on the earth and wash ourselves with the water. At the end, she smiled sweetly, inviting us to go into the temple to say a prayer. Our visit to Ida was unexpected, so I showed up to my producer Maneesh’s house still soaking wet.
I sat down and we recorded “Adi Shakti,” an honoring of the feminine creative healing force. Even as I write this story, I have a hard time believing it. It was as if the recording needed me to go through these deep experiences of the healing force of the goddess, the feminine, the earth and the water, just to let the power of those moments vibrate in my voice as a gift and reminder to us all of how deeply we can heal.
Is there something that your fans would love to know from the making of this album?
Ajeet: It’s so true that you have to watch what you wish for, and beware that intentions are powerful. When we were making this album, my producer and I got inspired to add another song, “Adi Shakti,” so we could add a meditation which used both Maha Mrityunjai and Adi Shakti. We were in Bali, and I was about to begin a Panchakarma, a two week very deep Ayurvedic healing program. It was the only time we had to add this song, but I wasn’t really supposed to leave the Ayurvedic center while going through this healing program.
I decided that I was in such a space of my own healing that it felt like the perfect time to record, so I snuck away just in time to record before beginning the next morning at 6am. I drove about an hour away to a seaside town where my producer Maneesh was living. We got right to work, and as things do with our creative chemistry, things flowed so naturally. We took a break for dinner, but other than that we recorded all night, until I left at about 2am.
Throughout the night, Maneesh said his stomach was sore, wondering if the food we had eaten wasn’t good, but we were so in the flow that neither one of us wanted to stop. The next morning I got a text from Maneesh that he was in the hospital having his appendix removed. We set an intention for this album to be healing, and our experience of making it was that in a powerful way. It’s not the first time one of us has wound up in the hospital while recording, and it does feel like a part of our own process of giving you something that really heals. We have to be willing to go through it ourselves.
Learn more about Ajeet Kaur’s new album in Part 2 of our interview.