Dharma Topic: Drumming Up Mindfulness

Dharma Topic: Drumming Up Mindfulness

Discussion date: Thu, Feb 17, 2005 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Dear Still Water Friends,

This Thursday evening drummers Katy Gaughan and DavidLopez will help us explore drumming and mindfulness. Katy writes:

The drum may seem like a tool for taking us to an ecstatic place, but it is just as much a tool for supporting deep, calm, meditative states. After we sit in meditation with the individual rhythm of our breath, we will explore the collective rhythm of the group through the playing of the drum. A simple heartbeat will bring us out of our individual meditation as we join together and play the universal heartbeat–of our group, of the sangha, of the world. As we play, our individual rhythms will entrain to one another and open us to a collective consciousness. Our awareness becomes one with the whole group, bringing us outside of ourselves. Transformation and healing are possible as we enter into a deeper meditative state. We will let ourselves experience this for a while before bringing the drumming to a close and opening up the time for dharma discussion.

If you have a drum or rattle, please bring it. Drums andother percussion will also be provided. Below, Katy offers us an excerpt onmindful drumming by Layne Redmond.

You are invited to join us for our meditation and ourprogram on Mindful Drumming.

Warm wishes,

Mitchell Ratner 
Senior Teacher


From “The Healing Power of the Drum” by RobertLawrence Friedman… he quotes Layne Redmond, author of “When the DrummersWere Women.”

“One of the most powerful aspects of drumming and thereason that people have done it since the beginning of being human is that ischanges people’s consciousness. Through rhythmic repetition of ritual sounds,the body, brain and the nervous system are energized and transformed. When agroup of people play a rhythm for an extended period of time, their brain wavesbecome entrained to the rhythm and they have a shared brain wave state. Thelonger the drumming goes on, the more powerful the entrainment becomes. It’sreally the oldest holy communion. All of the oldest known religious rites useddrumming as part of the shared religious experience.

It is interesting to look at these ancient drummingpractices from the perspective of the latest scientific research into thefunctioning of the brain. Using electroencephalographs, scientists can measurethe number of energy waves per second pulsing through the brain. A system ofclassifying states of consciousness according to the frequencies of these waveswas created.

Normal outwardly focused attention generates beta waveswhich vibrate from 14 to 40 cycles per second. When awareness shifts to aninternal focus, our brain slows down into the more rhythmical waves of alpha,vibrating at 7-14 waves per second. Alpha is defined by relaxation andcentering. Dropping down to 4-7 cycles per second the brain enters the thetastate in which there is an interfacing of conscious and unconscious processes,producing hypnologic dream-like imagery at the threshold of sleep. Theta is thecourse of sudden mystical insights and creative solutions to complex situationsand is marked by physical and emotional healing. People with a preponderance oftheta brainwaves are also able to learn and process much more information thannormal. Without some form of intensive training it is hard to stay awake intheta–one slips quickly down into delta. This is the slowest brainwavefrequency, 1-5 cycles per second, the state of unconsciousness or deep sleep.

The brain is divided into two hemispheres that are basicallysplit in their control of the thinking process. The right brain functions as thecreative, visual, aural and emotional center. The left brain is the rational,logical, analytical and verbal administrator. Generally, either the right orleft brain dominates in cycles lasting from 30 minutes to 3 hours. While onehemisphere is dominant, the memories, skills, and information of the otherhemisphere are far less available, residing in a subconscious or unconsciousrealm. Not only do the right and left brain operate in different modes, theyalso usually operate in different brain wave rhythms. The right brain may begenerating alpha waves while the left brain is in the beta state. Or both can begenerating the same type of brain waves, but remain out of sync with each other.But in states of intense creativity, deep meditation or under the influence ofrhythmic sound, both hemispheres may becomes entrained to the same rhythm. Thisstate of unified whole brain functioning is called hemispheric synchronizationor the awakened mind.

As the two hemispheres begin to resonate to a single rhythm,a sense of clarity and heightened awareness arises. The individual is able todraw on both the left and the right hemispheres simultaneously. The mind becomessharper, more lucid, synthesizing much more rapidly than normal, and emotionsare easier to understand and transform. The conscious and unconscious levels ofthe mind interface and integrate more easily. Insight quickens and creativeintuition flourishes, giving one the ability to visualize and bring intomanifestation ideas more easily. An expanded, more complete and integrated stateof consciousness comes into existence. Scientists believe that hemisphericsynchronization may be the neurological basis of transcendent states ofconsciousness.

Research has shown that rhythmic music is one of the mosteffective ways to induce brainwave synchronization. Musical comprehension is ajoint function of left and right brains and rhythmic sound can drive the brainwaves into alpha or theta states. Many ancient religious practices seem to haveoriginated in attempts to induce the transcendental experiences of hemisphericsynchronization. Traditional drumming rituals appear to be efficient techniquesfor entraining the right and left brains, leading to emotionally and physicallyhealing experiences.”

in: Dharma Topics
Discussion Date: Thu, Feb 17, 2005


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