In Harmonium

Rebekah Finn sings from the back of the car at her house in Carmel. She like to take the car and the harmonium near the beach to perform. People often approach her, asking about the weird instrument they’ve never seen.

Mantra is a tool for the mind. But in Rebekah Finn's hands, it’s an art.

She grew up in the Monterey-Seaside area and went to Monterey High School. After college (San Diego State University, psychology major), Finn returned to the Peninsula. She got into yoga around 2000, and she doesn’t hesitate to call it her religion and the best form of therapy. Finn has continued to study yoga over the years, traveling to 14 countries, mostly to yoga centers.

She first encountered a harmonium in Las Vegas, of all places, in 2007, and she was stupefied. Sean Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band from New Orleans were singing a mantra in Sanskrit and Finn didn’t care that she couldn’t understand. What was that instrument anyway? It came from Europe, but lost its original four legs, appropriated by Indian culture. She loved the sound and the vibration; it clicked with her on the energy level.

Finn kept envisioning the harmonium in the yoga setting and finally purchased one online in 2012 for $250.

It was a 22-pounder, definitely not an instrument you can carry to a yoga class. Now she owns several, including an 8-pound travel harmonium.

Singing came naturally, and with more practice on the instrument she complemented it through a sensual voice. Finn says it’s not about having a beautiful voice. The most powerful singing she heard was in India, by people who couldn’t reach certain notes.

“Their voices were calling to god,” she says. “Their souls were speaking. Find your voice, free you soul, they say.”

Finn plays at local yoga classes, in her garden in Carmel and in less tranquil settings, like the family truck.

Weekly: This is clearly not just music to you. What is it?

Finn: It’s my connection to the source, so to speak. I grew up Christian and I’ve always loved music, but I discovered that Christianity was very narrow, very cultish. And yoga, if you understand it as a religion, is a religion of love. In the West, yoga is considered gymnastics and that’s what attracts people – and that’s fine. But for me more and more, it’s mantra and meditation. In Christianity, the god is out there. In yoga, the god is here, and here, here and here.

Some of these words are over 5,000 years old. That’s before Christ. They have kept being repeated over and over again throughout history. It is this ancestral energy behind it that connects me.

So the performative aspect is secondary?

It’s mostly free therapy. Or if you do it alone, it’s free self-healing. Mantra is a tool for the mind. It connects you with your real self, not the little self, but the one in all caps. A tool that helps some people. Unless you try it, you don’t know if it will work for you or not. It can be a very simple mantra, like Ommm. It encompasees everything; it keeps you in the present moment. That’s all that matters in the end. It takes 21 days to change a habit. You can start by doing 21 days of a specific mantra. It brings shifts in your life.

It sounds like a lot of work.

Not really. Mantra can be in English. You can be loud or quiet. Some people say it has a higher frequency if you whisper than if you are chanting it out loud. Try: “I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you” – those words are so powerful and they are spoken the least to other people. Those words carry a high frequency of energy. You don’t even have to say it. You can keep writing it down. See if it brings you clarity.

Why is traveling important to you?

You just learn to see things from more than your tiny perspective. It blows my mind that some people live their whole life without ever leaving their zip code. While traveling, I met incredibly poor people; we have so much abundance. They don’t have anything, but their culture is so rich and everything is based on a ritual.

And music?

Music moves people no matter what the language is, from religious singing in Jerusalem to Peruvian tribal dances. Just put yourself in a vulnerable situation and see what happens.

How much material for singing with the harmonium do you have?

I have enough to play through an hour-15-minute-long yoga class, and I also compose my own songs. I sing in Sanskrit and in English. I’m shy, so I close my eyes.

This article was modified on Dec. 16. The last name was updated since the story was reported, reflected here.

(1) comment

Rebekah Finn

I would like to add some clarification to my statement. I was not making reference to the entire religion but specifically to the church I was raised in.

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