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Drumming and Spirituality

Drumbeat of the Rainbow Fire


Woman playing drum in alternative therapy
Yellow Dog Productions

The drum has been the guiding force in my life for many years. My journey into rhythm began under the tutelage of Mongolian shaman Jade Wah'oo. Jade's ancient knowledge of drumming and healing rhythms was most influential in putting together my first book, The Shamanic Drum: A Guide to Sacred Drumming. I had a deep respect for the power of the ceremonial rhythms and drum ways of Jade's tradition, but I had to follow my own path of rhythm.

Though Jade was my mentor, the drum became my teacher and creative addiction. I developed an insatiable thirst for its rhythms. I became a rhythm seeker, learning new rhythms from other drummers, from nature, and from dreams and visions. I explored the rhythms of many of the world's shamanic and spiritual traditions. It was only natural, at least from my perspective, that rhythm, as a path, would lead me to the rhythmic roots of all cultures.

As I learned the drum ways of various world cultures, I found the same rhythmic qualities underlying all of them. Like the colors of the rainbow, each culture has its own hue or identity, yet each is a part of the whole. Although the focus or intent differs from culture to culture, rhythmic drumming invariably has the same power and effects in all traditions. The resonant qualities and attributes of these rhythmic phenomena are universal and come into play whenever we drum.

The sound waves produced by the drum impart their energy to the resonating systems of the body, mind, and spirit, making them vibrate in sympathy. When we drum, our living flesh, brainwaves, and spiritual energy centers begin to vibrate in response. This sympathetic resonance leaves reverberating effects up to 72 hours after a drum session. These powerful effects can best be described in terms of their influence on the subtle energy centers known as chakras.

The Seven Chakras

The spiritual traditions of the Hopi, Cherokee, Tibetan, Hindu, and other cultures teach us that there are vibratory centers within the human body. All describe spinning wheels of energy called chakras, lying along the spine. There are seven major chakras situated along the vertical spinal axis from the genital region to the crown of the head. They vary in size, depending on their level of activity. When highly active and energized, they can expand to the size of a small plate. They can shrink to the size of a penny when closed or shut down. When in balance, they are about the size of a silver dollar. Each vortex of energy is associated with a specific color of the rainbow, distinct parts of the body, and with particular functions of consciousness. Chakras function much like electrical junction boxes, mediating spiritual energy throughout the entire mind-body system. They are the interface among the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of one's being. Imbalances in chakras lead to imbalances in body, mind, and spirit. Drumming creates a vibratory resonance that activates, balances, and aligns the chakra system.

The Base Chakra

The first or base chakra is red in color. It is located at the base of the spine and is associated with issues of basic health and survival. It is related to the anus and the adrenal glands. Resonating the base chakra grounds the spiritual forces in the body to the Earth and the physical realm of reality. When poorly grounded, your spatial understanding is impaired. You may stumble around physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. Grounding enhances your ability to function effectively on a day-to-day basis. Drumming also maintains a grounding Earth connection for those seeking altered states of consciousness or alternate realities. One of the paradoxes of rhythmic stimulation is that it has not only the power to move your awareness out of the confines of the conceptual mind into realms beyond time and space but also the capacity to ground you firmly in the present moment. It allows you to maintain a portion of ordinary awareness while experiencing non-ordinary awareness. This permits full recall later of the visionary experience. The base chakra is also known as a storehouse for a fiery energy that, if awakened, rises up the spine, illuminating all the chakras. In the Hindu tradition, this dormant energy is known as the "kundalini" or "serpent fire." This spiritual flame within can be rekindled by drumming, thereby igniting the Rainbow Fire of a fully activated chakra system. With the rising of the kundalini and the activation of succeeding chakras, an individual becomes more highly conscious and spiritually transformed.

The Sacral Chakra

The second or sacral chakra is orange and is located just below the navel in the abdominal area. This chakra affects the sexual organs. The functions associated with this center are emotion, vitality, fertility, reproduction, and sexual energy in general. Likewise, any problems in these functions can be identified and resolved through this chakra. The physical transmission of rhythmic energy to the sacral chakra removes any blockages that may hamper these functions. Drumming is an excellent way of keeping your sexual and creative energy vitalized, a great help in channeling energy into your work and everyday life.

The Navel Chakra

The third chakra is located just above the navel in the solar plexus and is related to the digestive organs. Yellow in color, it is the seat of the will-your power center. Its energy expresses personal power, which is called hiimori (windhorse) in the Mongolian tradition. It is associated with action, assertion, empowerment, and ego mastery. It is the area where chi or life force is stored. Malfunctions in the navel chakra may leave you feeling tired, powerless, and withdrawn. Shamans tend to believe that this is a very important chakra since the accumulation and maintenance of power are fundamental to shamanic practice... continue

The Shamanic Drum: A Guide to Sacred Drumming
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