The Drum and Natural Rhythm

By Patrick Pinson

There is a difference between beliefs, opinions and natural law. The Seneca Indians say beliefs and opinions are what cause separation between people. When we go into a sweat lodge, we burn away the “rust” or the beliefs that we pick up between sweat ceremonies. In the lodge, we burn away the beliefs until we remember what we know — that we are one with the Great Spirit and with each other. A natural law is consistent and something we can count on. When our beliefs are consistent with natural law, there is congruency and no need to “defend,” for there is a deep knowing that the truth doesn’t need defending. There are many viewpoints that form the basis of different realities. Many Religions teach that we are born into sin. In indigenous cultures the belief is the natural way is from spirit to form. We are spiritual beings in a human experience. These two beliefs create different realities.

When we as children are not nourished and held sacred, we lose touch with our natural grace and rhythm. Reinhard Flatischler, author of The Forgotten Power of Rhythm asserts that the seeds of rhythm lie within each one of us. If, when we are children, we are held sacred, nurtured, nourished, and allowed permission to learn from our experience; if we are rocked and cradled, those seeds of rhythm flourish and we evolve into our natural rhythm, which is natural law. When we are in our natural rhythm, we then know what we want and have a voice to ask for what we want. When we are in this healthy space, we are naturally loving; we love to play, dance, drum and sing. By having our natural rhythm honored and nourished, we remember who we are — rhythmical and spiritual beings in human form.

At Cedar Mountain’s weekly drumming circles, we create a safe space for recovery from abuse. Drumming is such a wonderful way to discover our natural rhythm, and the more permission we are given and give ourselves to allow the little one inside to come out and play, the more we recover our individual natural rhythm and voice.

Most great spiritual teachers teach that the way to the kingdom of “heaven” is through the childlike qualities of innocence, trust, a love that does not know itself, hope, wonder, reverence, forgiveness, and those natural qualities of the children — before the abuse and wounding occur. I have accessed this child-like state through the drum. By making drums, playing drums and developing a relationship with the drum, I have developed a sense of my own rhythm and grace. These discoveries came through relearning the child’s way of play, with no agenda. I played with the drum. The greatest experiences I have had of drumming, have been those times where no one “led” except by inviting spirit into the circle, and giving myself permission to find and stay with my own ever-changing rhythm, as chaotic as that sometimes feels, and magic always happens.

Our weekly drumming circles are very special. I advise those in the circle that there is no “wrong” way to drum and that everyone is both a leader and a follower. Permission is given to everyone present to participate in any way they choose — to drum or just “be” with the healing vibrations — honoring their own energy and beat. We always have lots of rhythm instruments in the circle — flutes, rattles, shakers, didgeridoos, and drums from all cultures. The circle is always magical, the rhythms move into chaos, away and come together — entrainment never fails. Entrainment, is that natural law that says, “the universe is in perfect harmony, and that fear is the universal destroyer of that harmony.” The circles often start out with chaos, and most always end in harmony. The circles I have led and participated in elsewhere — in prisons, schools, corporations, rehabilitation centers and nursing homes always have this same magic when spirit is invited in and permission to play is given, thus, setting up a safe space for the child spirit to emerge. This has been especially true in the men’s drumming circles, for drumming seems to bring men out of their heads and competitive mode into another state — another way of communicating through co-operation.

I made drums for eight years before I ever began really sensing how out of rhythm I was. I hadn’t a clue what rhythms lie within me, and was unable to hear my own heartbeat or access my rhythm. My old patterns of “fitting in” to someone else’s rhythm, would emerge and my frustration grew. The more I “tried” to figure out the rhythm, the more tight and rigid and controlled I became. From this space of being “out of rhythm”, all learning happens. Author and teacher of African culture, Maladoma Somé, states that one cannot be initiated until they are alienated. The challenge, as Flatischler so brilliantly affirms in his Ta Ka Te Na workshops, is that when I am out of rhythm and the feelings start to emerge, is not to “touch” them. By touching them, he means to put judgments to the feelings like “I am a klutz”, “I am no good”, or whatever the negative self talk”, and just to notice the feelings — invite them in for tea, follow and discover from them, and know that you are not your feelings. When I follow these feelings rather than flee through addictions, I usually discover an error thought, from my childhood, that is blocking my energy. It takes great courage to just “be” with feelings, without judgment. The rewards of this courage are great. Another suggestion we make in the drumming circles, is that when you feel out of rhythm, out of sync, rather than separate from the group, lie down within the circle and allow the rhythms within the circle to carry you. Before long, you go through this feeling of disharmony and get back in touch. The trick is to start with something simple — like a heartbeat — entraining with your own heartbeat on the drum, and the rhythm will return.

Drumming is a way of communicating, that goes beyond verbal and touches a deep place within us. I invite and encourage all of you to get involved in a drumming circle, and return to the magic of your natural rhythm, spontaneity and joy.