Rhythms of Radiance – Drumming for Awakening

By Christine Stevens

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

“The drum shows up when people are transforming.” 

From the inhale and exhale of our breath to the heartbeat within, there is rhythm inside of you.   We are wired for rhythm, making drumming everyone’s birthright.  Drumming offers a portal into ceremony, creativity, stress-reduction, and community, without worrying about wrong notes.

Science is now documenting what ancient cultures have known, that drumming is healing.  In a study of 111 subjects, one hour of group drumming showed a significant increase in circulating white blood cells and cytokine activity, which are markers of immune function (Bittman et al., Alternative Therapy, January 2001).  Compared to listening to music, drumming reduced stress and boosted the immune system, even in subject who had never drummed before.

3 Keys to Awakening

Terms such as “higher vibration,” creating a “common pulse” and being “in the groove” point to the role of sound and rhythm in transformation and consciousness.  As we shift from drumming for performance to drumming for transformation; from performers to transformers; we contribute to a global rhythmic symphony.

Here are three keys to pay attention to as you drum.

  1. Being Present

When you drum, you can’t think.  Science has shown that improvisational music making turns off parts of the brain dedicated to self-criticism and judgement. (Charles Limb, The Jazz Brain) We can drum our way into the present moment and experience a sense of being in the creative flow – awake and alive.

  1. Participation

Drumming is a tool of embodiment.  From unconsciously tapping our feet to get up and dance, rhythm primes the motor system.  People can’t resist the call to the beat, making drumming along a necessity.  It’s this experience of individuality; of creative improvisation that co-exists within a circle of others in drum circles, that continues to develop our capacity for co-creating and making a contribution.

  1. Unity Consciousness

Our evolutionary awakening comes through “we” consciousness more than “me” consciousness.  In my work with Iraqi refugees in El Cajon, CA, I have had powerful moments of unity consciousness, drumming in rhythm with a woman across the circle from me, feeling a sense of connection – a rhythm bridge.  Such moments are punctuated by the sheer fact that we cannot speak to each other without google translate.  Yet, we felt a deeper sense of connection; beyond words.

The drum circle is a metaphor of connection and community.  We find a powerful sense of belonging, coming together in the rhythm.  By the law of entrainment, a principle of physics, once a strong pulse exists, you cannot help by fall in sync with the beat.  The shared pulse drives us to be in unity.

How to Get Your Groove On

In just three steps, you can start incorporating drumming into your life;

  1. Get a drum:  Most hand drums fall into two main categories: frame drums – including shamanic and buffalo drums, or body drums – including goblet shaped African djembes and Egyptian doumbeks, and barrel shaped congas. Percussion instruments like shakers, rattles, wood sounds, and bells bring spice to the rhythms you create.
  2. Play!  Learn the Four Elements on the hand drum with this video. Go to drum circles, play at home, jam with your favorite CD or play outside in nature.
  3. Drum for Transformation

Here is a sample healing rhythm of Transformation from The Healing Drum Learning Program.

FREE video training – Four Essential Rhythms of Life

Shift Network ONLINE Course – Awaken your Rhythm

Happy drumming!


About the author:

Christine Stevens, MSW, MT-BC, MA holds masters degrees in both social work and music therapy. She is author of Music Medicine, The Healing Drum Kit and  The Art and Heart of Drum Circles. The founder of UpBeat Drum Circles, she has appeared on NBC, PBS, KTLA, and is a featured speaker in the DVD Discover the Gift. She has trained facilitators world-wide in REMO HealthRHYTHMS, worked with Fortune 500 companies, survivors of Katrina, students at Ground Zero and most recently, led the first drum circle training in a war-zone in northern Iraq.

Christine is the creator of Awaken Your Rhythm – an online course with The Shift Network 

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