We live in a culture of consumption; always looking for that next fix, person, place, entertainment, or thing that we believe will bring us peace, happiness, or even love. We’ve learned to rely on culture, clocks, fads, religion, tradition, and the media to determine the choices we make. In so doing, we deny our natural alignment with our intuition, our vision for our lives, even our own physical well being.
Because of this external focus, we have lost touch with our innate rhythm, so much so, that many people have told me “I have no rhythm.”. Yet, in truth, there is no way that someone does not have rhythm. All life is rhythm; from our hearts beating, us breathing in and out, our cells vibrating, to the change of the seasons and the spinning of the galaxies.
From the atomic to the cosmic, at every level of existence is vibration, is rhythm.
Measuring Our Disconnection
As a rhythmicist, I’m fascinated to see that the degree to which we are out of sync with our own natural rhythms can be measured. This shows up as an inability to keep a steady tempo: as unconsciously playing faster and faster. When we rely on external phenomena to determine our internal choices, we experience anxiety, revealed as accelerated tempo. One can measure their stress level with a metronome. How much faster you are playing than the metronome, is how much stress you are carrying!
Conversely, when a person is peaceful, they easily align with the tempo of the metronome. When playing music with one of my spiritual teachers, a man of very still consciousness, I noticed that although he had no history as a musician or drummer, his tempo was rock solid. His steady rhythm was an expression of his inner stillness.
Realigning With Ourselves
The metronome is a great tool for deepening one’s peace and well being. It can assist us in relaxing into the steadiness/stillness within. To experience this stillness, play a simple rhythm (whether you clap it, drum it, sing it, or walk it). Once you can remain aligned with the tempo of the metronome, you’ll discover that you are peaceful and grounded.
This is where it gets really interesting…..
Aligning With Others
Ever been to a sporting event with thousands of people rooting for one of two teams? Quite provocative, right? Lots of energy, lots of excitement.
Whenever we are in a group with an aligned focus, our experience is amplified. This is the amazing gift of the drum circle. As the group aligns with a steady tempo, we experience an amplification of the peace we experience alone. This is a form of group meditation.
To sit in a group of people at peace can be a physically palpable sensation! In drum circles, I witness participants drop into peace and experience an expansion of the sweetness we identify as intimacy. As each person drops into stillness it becomes easier for others to follow. The “default” state of everyone present is no longer of thought and separation, but of peace and Oneness, creating a kind of hundredth monkey dynamic; the more people who enter peace, the easier it is for those who haven’t to do so.
The Technology Of The Drum Circle: How It Works
The Circle First, we start with the perfect geometry of the circle. Sitting in a drum circle, the first thing one notices is that everyone is equal in the circle. There is noone in front of you, noone behind you. With peripheral vision, you see all the people, their drums, and their hands.
Now take a few moments to relax. Breath deeply, filling your lungs and abdomen with air. Allow your breathing to slow waaay down.
Now focus your intention to align with everyone present: as one ensemble, one “organism”, as one mind. Your intention is your most powerful ally.
Once you set your “course”, in aligning with everyone present, then play a simple rhythm on the drum. Alternating hands, play bass strokes (the deep sound in the middle of the drum head), starting with the left hand. Play this in a count of “4”, accenting the “1′, This “1′ beat is the most important. This is called the “down” beat because it is where we all land and start. It’s where we “touch down.” See that your hands land on your drum at the same moment as everyone else. Especially on the “1′. Again, as you watch the hands in the circle, intend to align with all present, and breath deeply.
Out Of Time
Often, as a drum circle starts, we find ourselves waiting for “something to happen.” We’re waiting for the drama, the excitement. This expectation gets in our way of being present in the moment, becoming impatience and boredom, often resulting in frustration. So, for this, I invite you to “pace” yourself, to give yourself a shift in your “time focus”. Whether you intend to drum for 5 minutes or 2 hours, relax into the moment, as though you will be drumming at this tempo for the next hour.
Dissolve Into Stillness
As we are programmed to look for the drama/”excitement” and avoid the simple and steady, this boredom/ frustration may arise again and again.
Don’t push the boredom away. As you accept it, you will experience yourself relaxing deeply. You’ll experience your separate identity dissolve, your seeming physical limitation disappear. You’ll sink into a ever increasing sweet stillness. In this stillness, we are free of differences (created by thought). Our rhythmic pulse is so aligned that we hit our drums at precisely the same moment. To the bystander this sounds like one drum, like one person playing! Some have called this “no mind”. I think of it as “one mind”.
Ocean Of Oneness
Sitting in this beautiful ocean of sweet stillness, I’m aware when someone has a thought.. it’s like a “ripple” across the “still lake” of our consciousness. I’m aware when they return to stillness. Very cool!!!
I once facilitated a drum circle where we were aligned in stillness, while at the same time playing a really fast rhythm. The stillness and the Oneness were amplified by the impassioned rhythm. This seemed to open a “door”…to what, I don’t know. But, there in the center of the circle was a greenish, pulsing light. I knew it was a form of consciousness. Awesome!
Concluding the circle, I spoke to the woman who had been drumming next to me. We both reflected in awe about what we had seen and felt.
To listen to an extended interview I had on this subject, with Susan Baron, a Doctoral Candidate in Clinical Psychology at the PsyD Program at California Institute of Integral Studies, click on:
(cut and paste into your url)
I invite you to take a look at this amazing drum circle, I had the cool privilege of facilitating, in honor of Baba Ola Tunge, at The Health and Harmony Festival.
Drumming Into Love….find Your Rhythm & Feel The Wellspring of Love
w/ Sahar Pinkham & Janet Caliri
The Sweetness, we spend our days yearning for and searching out through relationships of every kind, is available now. Join us, as we dive into this Infinite Pool of Bliss
Through drumming, guided meditation and song, Sahar invites us to access The Sweetness Within.
With guest teacher, Janet Caliri
Saturday, 2/13, 7:00pm – 9:30pm
* Bring a drum if you have one.
May your breathing be deep and your Creative Soul fly.
Contact: Sahar Pinkham at 707.824.1796 or firstname.lastname@example.org. www.saharpinkham.com
Sahar Pinkham CHT, percussionist and therapist, has played music and lead kirtans for 34 years. He is creator of Sacred Movement and producer of the journey cd “Jammin’ With The Infinite”.
He studied tablas with Zakir Hussein, called “the worlds’ greatest drummer” by Mickey Hart. He now teaches tablas, djembe, and conga out of his studio in Sebastopol. He teaches The Sacred Art of Drumming; an 8-week series designed to give an experiential knowledge through drumming of ones’ True Nature along with tools to express this in daily life.
Sahar facilitates the mens’ series Exploring The Male Heart and has a private counseling and hypnotherapy practice. www.saharpinkham.com