Category Archives: Introductions

Drum Therapy

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LATE BREAKING NEWS: Drum Circles Cure Common Cold!

These are some of the drums I bring to my monthly drum circle.

But like any miraculous headline, there’s a catch.  In my case, the effect lasted only so long as I was actually drumming.  Once the drum circle ended and I was packing up the drums to go home, all of the symptoms of my heavy head cold returned.  But while we were playing last night, it was a surprising miracle.  It was such a noticeable difference that the other members of the group remarked on the change in me. But I shouldn’t have been so surprised.  Research supports the idea that drumming truly is a healing art.

Mostly I drum for the sheer joy it brings me.  Rhythm touches something deep inside of me, and affects me in ways not usually so dramatically noticeable.  Drumming relieves tension, stress, anxiety, fear, anger – the entire range of emotional states that leaves people tied in knots.  For me, at least, it’s impossible to hold onto these states while drumming.  I may start drumming from that place, but the rhythm lifts me out of that emotional state and transports me to a stronger, calmer, more genuine state of relaxation.  Relaxation doesn’t always mean calm – I’m usually energized by the practice, but it relaxes and unwinds all of the emotions that have me wound up.  And when you clear that away, what is left is a natural feeling of well-being and joy.

Necessary Context: I’m something of a science geek.  I enjoy reading the latest research findings from a diverse range of fields of study.  I like looking for connections between these domains, in search of my own unified theory of the universe. A lofty ambition perhaps, but really, aren’t we all in search of greater understanding and unity of meaning?  So I subscribe to science newsletters, and try to give attention to the front lines of research.  I’m no expert, but I try to stay informed.

Scientists have been studying the healing effects of drumming from a number of different angles.  One of the most interesting to me are the effects that drumming has on the brain.  As you may be aware, the activity of our brains can be measured in brain waves with devices such as an EEG (Electroencephalography).  Electrodes are attached to the scalp which measure the electrical activity of the neurons firing in the brain.

(Aside:  isn’t that COOL?)

Through EEG studies, we learn that there are different brain wave patterns associated with different states of consciousness, both awake and sleeping, and the stages in between.  When we are awake and focusing our attention, our brains produce beta waves.  By immersing ourselves in highly structured rhythmic environments such as drum circles, our brain waves begin to align with the rhythms in a process known as entrainment, which alters brain waves in measurable ways.

(Again, COOL!)

Alpha waves bring us to a state of deep relaxation, where creativity is unleashed.  This state can be achieved in the brains of drummers fairly easily and quickly.  It produces feelings of euphoria and well-being.  As the drumming persists, the brain can shift gears again, and produce theta waves.  Theta waves are associated with a deep meditative trance state where a doorway to the dreaming mind is opened. Insight and inspiration are often found in this state of mind.  Drumming is a key that opens the door to these states of consciousness.

But wait!  There’s more! (I apologize for the excessive use of exclamation marks, but I really find it quite difficult to curb my enthusiasm when it comes to this subject.)

The effects of drumming extend beyond their influence on brain waves.  In addition to producing a measurable relaxation effect, drumming also releases endorphins, neurotransmitters that act as natural opiates which relieve pain and produce natural feelings of euphoria.  Recent promising research also shows that drumming boosts the immune system, helping the body produce more killer cells that work to combat everything from viruses to serious illnesses such as cancer.  Cortisol, the stress hormone suspected as the root cause of many diseases, also decreases measurably while drumming.  Our entire biological response seems to get a tune-up when we immerse ourselves in highly rhythmic environments.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that I should feel so fantastic while I was drumming last night.  I went to the drum circle feeling generally miserable, chained to my box of tissues, and desiring little more than to crawl into bed.  But drumming lifted me out of that entirely, creating a state of energy, joy, and euphoria that lasted even after the drumming stopped and my nose resumed it’s dripping.  It’s no wonder why I’m such an enthusiastic ambassador for the drum.  Next time, come join me.

For a well-cited overview of Drum Therapy, see http://healing.about.com/od/drums/a/drumtherapy.htm
Another nice summary can be found at http://www.shamanswell.org/shaman/powerful-healing-benefits-drumming-circle
To find a drum circle near you, visit http://www.drumcircles.net/circlelist.html 

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What I Love

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What an interesting challenge, introducing myself to the world. It’s a bit like trying to bring a stranger up to speed on a movie that is halfway over without interrupting the show. I don’t want to tell you every single thing about myself – you probably don’t care, and I have no interest in full disclosure, valuing the privacy of my life as the sacred space where my most genuine living happens. But I’m not just writing for myself here. A blog is a public space. This is for you.

I’m writing here because I have something to share with the world, and, as a writing teacher, I know that context matters. We understand things more deeply when we have an appropriate context. Since this is a public blog from a personal perspective, you’ll get more out of it if you have some sense of who I am.

But how do I appropriately contextualize my life for you without this becoming an autobiography?

Perhaps that is one of the questions I will gradually explore in this space. But in the meanwhile, you, my gentle blog readers, will each be starting from different places and spaces. Perhaps you know me in real life. Perhaps these are the first of my thoughts to ever touch yours. Regardless of whether or not someone feels they know me, and for how long, each person sees me in his or her own individual context. Each of you necessarily sees me through your own filters, and constructs an understanding of who I am based more on your own experiences of life than on what I might really be like on the inside.

I accept all these premises. I am not who you think I am, and never will be. Your picture of me will always be a sketch, an interpretation. My goal is not to share my whole life with you, although some details of living my life will undoubtedly spill through. But here you will get snapshots of my journey as I move through the world with an attitude of exploration, in perpetual search for meaning.

So here’s a piece of necessary context: I write poetry. Now, as an English teacher, I’m very well aware that most people who just read that sentence had some degree of negative response. I understand, really I do, how few people appreciate poetry. It’s okay. I’m not offended, and I won’t try to convince you to love poetry – at least not today.

But here’s the thing: although my poetry is written in English, it’s useful to think of poetry as almost a different language entirely. At least, if you’re not a fan of poetry, it might help to think of it like a foreign language. I’m a native speaker. You all will have differing degrees of fluency. But I think in poetry, and always have, and when I speak, I have spent a lifetime learning to translate my thoughts from my native poetry into prose. But here, I won’t always do that. Sometimes the original thought – expressed in poetic form – is going to be what lands on this page. If you’re not a fan of poetry, I beg your indulgence. Most of them aren’t long. Bear with me.

This one tracks the direction of my thoughts as I was reading some poetry over my morning cup of coffee this morning. It’s what inspired today’s blog post. I offer it as is without further comment, but absolutely welcome your comments and discussion here and everywhere on this blog.

What I Love

I know enough of poetry to know
What I love, what moves
The sluggish blood of my heart
Coagulating in the cold of life

A silver cable of words connected
To a sudden jolt that revives
That vivid appreciation …
I’m alive, I’m capable

Of love and more love and I have another day
To love again.

Another new beginning

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Recharging in the spring sunshine

“Wherever you are is the entry point.” -Kabir

This is the entry point where you and I begin.  I have been walking my path for a lifetime, and you have been walking yours.  Here, for a moment in time, our paths converge.

There is no time but the present.  This ever-changing now is all there is.  Thank you for being here with me.

I’ve been a writer since I first learned to clutch a crayon and scrawl my first thoughts upon the page.  I’ve also had an insatiable curiosity about the world, and my place in it.  I’ve always been guided by the core belief that there is some deeper meaning to life that is discoverable to the earnest seeker.  In one form or another, my life has been spent in search of this meaning.

I’ve learned a lot along the way, and a lot of what I’ve learned I’ve been forced to reckon with and discard.  If I’ve learned anything, it’s this:  Don’t believe everything you think.  Dogma closes us off from new ways of viewing the world.  I offer my observations from my perspective – engage with them or dismiss them as you see fit.

I consider myself to be a very practical-minded person, and yet I’ve been known to believe some pretty outlandish things.  That’s because my search along the road less-traveled has led me to conclude that the world is inherently more mysterious than we can ever fully grasp.  I think science is still hard at work explaining the currently unfathomable, and I follow their findings with as much avid respect as I do the teachings of other respected researchers like Buddha and Gandhi.  There are many ways to explain the world, and I’d like to explore them all.

Welcome to my journey.