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To Journey With the Drum

I love to drum. I love to drum with people, I love to drum alone, in ceremony or not in ceremony. I build drums for myself and I also help others build their own. It is enormously rewarding, especially when these same people keep showing up in the drum circles I'm privileged to conduct, which are ceremonial healing circles. There, I play a small floor drum, a 16 inch by 16 inch cottonwood section, double head, which is suspended between two deer antlers. And it talks. I use two mallets to play that one. I use a seven sided hand drum with spider web lacing for healing and in sweatlodge. Or sometimes I'll use a round hand drum, just depends on what the Spirits want. There is another interesting use of the drum and that is to journey.

When I say we journey with a drum, I don't mean we take a literal, physical trip somewhere in the body. But we can, and often do "go" somewhere, and it is to a place beyond the imagination. A place where, when we finally and really let go and allow ourselves the possibility, we enter a world just as real as the material world. We call it the Spirit World. But I must apologize for my inarticulate use of the English language to accurately and adequately describe this phenomenon of entering the Spirit World, as place is the only word I know that gets the idea across in mainstream-speak. The problem, of course, is that using a word like place implies separation; we are here, place is there. We are actually working in dimensions, but not the cliches of parallel universe, string theory or that old favorite "that which is outside the space-time continuum," all of which reinforce the image of separation. This is more inter-dimensional. After all, withdraw the energy of Spirit from the material world and we end up with either a big pile of nondescript and rapidly decaying goo, or it would evaporate altogether as quickly as the alleged Big Bang brought it into existence. The Spirit World not only informs the material world energetically, or physically (as in "physics"), but also intelligently. The material world reflects back to the Spirit World our development as individuals and as a collective so the Spirits can help us all develop qualities of deeper consciousness and expanded compassion. Hence, one cannot exist outside the other.

Indigenous people have for a very long time understood this idea of interdimensionality, of the Spirits informing, even inhabiting (after a fashion) the material, and they do have terms for it. Perhaps the best known is the Lakota Taku Scan Scan (Da-koo Schkah Schkah), which transliterates to "that which is behind all that moves." Yes, we're talking very sophisticated physics here, but I promise not to go any deeper. After all, I'm supposed to be writing about drum journey. But I do feel it is important to address the point to counter this idea of separation between the worlds promulgated by corporate religions. My reason is that I observe many people actually fear drum journey. "What if I don't come back?" This may sound funny, but it's not to someone who wants to touch into themselves on a deeper emotional and spiritual level, but has this religiously inspired wall known as Separation blocking them. Journeying with the drum has helped many of these people destroy the illusion of separation of the worlds.

Many people who lead a drum journey will instruct participants to get as comfortable as they want such as laying down on a blanket, and most do. They are then taken on a guided journey, which is a technique to help them relax the body. The drum begins a soft, muffled beat with thickly padded mallets that takes them "out there." The sound of the drum goes with them, it is always there, softly breathing in the background. They know if they start feeling uncomfortable, or if something startles them, to head for the drumbeat. This allows them to relax into their journey, they know where home is. The drum may go on for a half hour, or more. Some 2,700 to 3,000 deeply relaxing beats. It's not unusual for someone to fall asleep, which is nothing to worry about. It just means the Spirits need them to get out of the way so they can do their work.

The beat picks up, the drum talks louder, and the people start moving, stretching, maybe yawning a bit. The drum stops as soon as the last person comes to. Silence.

Eventually someone will speak, at which time the drummer will ask if anyone has anything they want to talk about. There is always someone who does. And it encourages others to speak of their experience, and after a while, even those who were skeptical or afraid will speak and they will talk of going places and talking with people who spoke to them not just sensibly, but esoterically, yet it all made sense somehow and it was just what they needed to hear. Or see, or even feel.

Sharing their experiences in the room, but not outside the room, they start to accept the reality of what they just experienced. It's no different than working out at the local gym. The more one does, the more one can do. The better one gets at it, the quicker one can get into it. Confidence in the process grows, allowing one to go further each successive time.

This is a whole great big fantastic world we live in, spinning its way through an equally fantastic and mysterious universe. Taking a journey with a drum may be but one small step toward a deeper appreciation not only of the Earth and the universe we live in, but of that which moves behind all of it, the Taku Scan Scan. But it is a solid start toward that expanded consciousness and compassion the Great Mystery is looking for in us. There is someone in your area who understands drum journey. Find that person. Then show up.


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