FARMINGTON — Rhythmic voices echoed off the wood-paneled walls inside a small lobby on the University of Maine at Farmington campus, rising from a group of people practicing the ancient art of Sanskrit chanting.

They gathered Wednesday afternoon for the first in a series of events celebrating the legacy of Theodora J. Kalikow, the college’s longtime president who is retiring this summer.

Some sat in plush green chairs swaying gently with their eyes shut as they sang out. Others clapped their hands to the steady beat driven by an organ’s hum and thump of hands striking a drum.

The diminutive Kalikow, who is affectionately known in the community as Theo, stood at the back of the room. She danced amongst the crowd waving her hands in the air while smiling and chanting along.

At the end of the hour-long workshop, Kalikow went around hugging her friends, students and members of the community where she has spent the last 18 years leading the small liberal arts state college.

In between hugs, Kalikow, 70, looked forward to the other workshops on meditation planned for the coming days, calling them a chance to share her love of dancing, energy and singing with others.

“This has all been so great,” she said, glancing at the crowd of about 30 people.

An anonymous donation paid for the series of workshops on meditation techniques that will run until Saturday. They are being presented at various sites in town by Bhavani Lorraine Nelson, who is a Yoga teacher from the Kripalu Center in Stockbridge, Mass.

At the session Wednesday, she explained the Hindu religious traditions associated with the chanting, which consist of phrases called mantras in the Sanskrit language that have been practiced for thousands of years.

Bhavani told the group that the chanting and meditation techniques are universal regardless of someone’s religious denomination. She described the techniques as mental and spiritual exercises, at one point evoking imagery of scrub brushes cleaning a cluttered mind.

Each mantra has its own rhythm, tone and melody. Bhavani leads the chanting while playing a harmonium, which is a small portable organ, and she is accompanied by another person playing a hand drum.

Among those trying chanting for the first time Wednesday was Kaitlyn Bukauskas, a 23-year-old from Long Island, N.Y. who is a junior at the college in Farmington, studying community health education.

Bukauskas, who is eight months pregnant, called the workshops a very peaceful way to celebrate the college’s beloved president, adding the experience is something she definitely will try again because it helped her relax.

Bhavani believes stress relief is among the many benefits of chanting and meditation, and the final workshop on Saturday addresses the issue. The session begins at 9 a.m. in the Olsen Student Center on campus, off South Street in Farmington.

Chanting and meditation are simply acts that let people find their reverence for life and deal with what is important to them, she said.

David Robinson – 861-9287

[email protected]


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