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Feeling Your Life Force Through Drumming

Author: Peter Alternative

What if I told you that I knew of a way to enjoy an emotional catharsis, a natural increase of endorphins, dopamine, and disease combating T-cells through a method of low-risk exercise called drumming? And even more importantly, it helps foster a strong daily mindfulness practice, which is most important to us at Sherpa of Souls, and the reason I founded this retreat outfitter.

In addition to all of these mind, body and soul benefits, I experienced through drumming a form of energy that I had only read about in magazines or talked through with friends, and that is Life Force Energy, also referred to as Prana, Qi, or Chi. Life Force Energy is what makes up who and what we are. It is the awareness and consciousness that helps us experience our lives to the fullest, the thing beyond our flesh and blood that gives us balance. It creates oneness with all living beings, and we share an inner rhythm that flows through each cell, like an internal dance.

So, almost 20 years ago, I realized that drumming, more specifically a drumming circle, was what was responsible for creating all of this positive energy and wellness. I want to share with you the story of how I learned of the powers of drumming all of those years ago, and then in recent years, dusted off the old hobby to get back in touch with the rhythmic exercise.

I had the enormous privilege of getting married with my toes buried in the sand on Martha’s Vineyard. Long story short, the minister had the bright idea of having my wife arrive in a boat. This visual wonder was further enhanced with the sound of Brazilian “call and response” drumming with one drummer in the boat, and another on shore. After the ceremony my wife and I danced from the beach to the reception led by the rhythmic sounds of the drummers. I remember feeling the drumming in my heart and soul.

Fast forward to my honeymoon, and we are at an outdoor bazaar. In one of the stalls sits a gentleman named Samuel who is selling West African drums called Djembes. While I was never very musical, I was always a lover of music, particularly music with strong percussion, like reggae or Santana. At the stall I banged on a few drums, before Samuel interjected to teach me a simple rhythm. He was a master salesman because once I played the simple rhythm, I was sold.

I’m embarrassed to admit it but that dream remained in my closet along with my drum up until when Covid hit. I finally had more time on my hands, and connected with my cousin who studied Guinean dance and drumming. She was gracious enough to share her experience and talents with me. You can view a video of her sharing her knowledge here. She expressed she was ok with us sharing her video because the mindfulness of drumming resonated deeply with her, communicated by her quote - “What I love about drumming is how it grounds me. We always have our heart drumming inside us, but when we make music with one, the vibrations become part of our body. When we do it with others, it's a way of hearing and feeling how we are all interconnected”.

So, after a few videos arrived, I was off to the races. I remember how the drumming helped get me through quarantine and how just the act of banging on the drum, sometimes in rhythm but other times not, was richly fulfilling and made me feel better. However, because I was playing alone, I was unsuccessful at parlaying the drumming into a more regular routine.

Ok, now let’s get back to Life Force Energy, Chi, & Prana. I was more recently invited to join a drumming circle with a dear friend at his synagogue. While it was not an instructional class, it did provide some instruction on things like the 3 basic types of hand strikes to the drum, the base, the tone, and the slap. Our instructor, who has asked to remain anonymous, teaches the class from a place of love and kindness and encouragement, despite your experience level. What I want to share is how when the circle plays rhythms together in a call and response fashion, not unlike my wedding, that it can be magical. Why? In my limited experience, a drumming circle is a collaboration amongst a community whereby some members maintain the base rhythm(s) while others play solos. In this setting, I’ve felt strong communal bonds where each participant plays the instrument as per his/her comfort and skill level. I’ve been able to parlay this type of communal drumming into a more regular routine and discipline which reminds me of the power of a peer supported community. This discipline is gained through having to be present and mindful, which you have to be as a part of the circle.

But what is even more magical and to the point is the energy you feel individually and collectively amongst all members of the circle when you stop drumming and feel the ball of energy in your hands. That electromagnetic energy radiates between your hands and is further intensified when shared. When it happened for me the first time, I almost fell off of my chair, because I did not expect it. It felt like the Life Force Energy was tangible, like I could hold it in my hands as if it was a physical object. It felt amazing. If you have never experienced a drumming circle, check out an example here. Maybe this blog will be a friendly reminder that it’s never too late to dust off an old hobby or dream that has been put aside, and if re-visited, it could provide you with a greater connection to what makes us human; our Life Force Energy.

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