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Steven Ash
from: Steven Ash
Category: Sound Healing

Sacred Drumming Ancient Sound Healing

“First born, the grandfathers told, had emerged from quivering mud to the rhythm of his own heart and so man had known the true rhythm from the beginning. Soon afterwards man had learned to use this rhythm for making songs. And then certain ones had discovered the true power in song, the power for making spiritual contact” Hanta Yo p 28 by Ruth Beebe Hill Published by Doubleday 1979

The drum is the first instrument, an elemental; a wet skin dried over a hollow log, beaten in the glow and warmth of the fire it has the power to unite the circle, so the grandfathers said; bringing the people together, allowing for the movement of voice and body. Imagine way, way back in the lodges and stone huts of our ancestors the drums beating in the long winter nights, lifting the spirit and inviting the songs to be remembered and created. The stories and lives of our people, people of the earth; their survival, challenges, rituals and ceremonies recorded as living experience, handed down from generation to generation, holding and held in memory. Etched into the eternal and circulating wind, sounded into the trees and the land upon which we now walk.
Sacred drumming is a bewildering way to play this most ancient of instruments. It is not entertainment, it is intertainment. With the drum you are going inside to seek, this may be going into yourself, others, plants, environments or diverse situations. It is opposite and completely different to entertainment drumming where the drum is being used to add tempos, rhythms and complicated beats as a foundation to music. Using a drum for medicine takes you inside of your self and others. Let me clarify the word medicine in this context. Medicine is not a pill as in taking a medicine for your headache; medicine here is your journey through life, your medicine journey. What are you learning?; where is your peace, inside of you, outside or both; are you learning not to hurt your self, are you finding who you are, are you healing or are you still in the outdated mode of self destruct, with that resonance filtering into your earth walk. There are so many questions relative to our medicine journey, this is just the beginning.
I learnt a great lesson from Grandfather Wallace Black Elk when he spoke to me over the phone from Denver USA, giving me the introduction to my book Sacred Drumming “Look son, what you hear on the movies with the cow boys and Indians, “BOOM…Boom, Boom, Boom…BOOM…Boom, Boom, Boom” that’s Mickey Mouse drumming….Medicine drumming, sacred drumming has no accents, no breaks, it is even beats, one after another, just like the heart, just like the breath; it just keeps on going without a break. It is the sound of the Earth Mother, go and find her with your drum, she will speak, she will listen when you beat your drum” I understood what grandfather was saying; because that was the only way I found I can drum! Boom…boom…boom, just like walking down a long straight road.
I had always felt incapable of beating intricate rhythms using both hands, embarrassed by my lack of skill I opted for the hoop drum used by the Native Americans and Siberian shaman, here you hold the drum close to your heart in your left hand and beat the tight stretched skin of the drum with a soft ended piece of wood with your right hand.
The single even beat places you in a dream, invites you into a trance; yes of course, your mind will object and suggest many reasons for you to stop this boring and uneventful noise! You just keep going and enter the sound and the feeling that the gentle thump, thump, thump makes within you.
You begin to watch the way the beat of your heart and the thump of the drum become one as if you are bringing an invisible part of yourself out to be viewed, your beating heart is held now in your hands, finding a place to be heard. The mind will come in again and say “Hey, this is making me sick! When are you going to stop?” You can justify your steady drum beat continuing with an explanation like this.
Now look here Mr. Mind did you know that sound moves six times more efficiently in water than it does in air and my body is over 70% water, my brain is 80% water and when I was born I was over 90% water! Now if you Mr. Mind will please give me a break; I wish for you (which of course is me) and the I AM part of me to re-connect with my elemental self and become free of you controlling me with your day to day fears and needs to stay within artificial comfort zones, chit-chat and trivia.
Here is when the drumming becomes a living meditation; your mind is now on your side. The drum has become a useful tool enabling you to travel and yet be anchored into the here and now as you explore realms “beyond the veil” This territory beyond the veil does have hidden dangers.
Here is where we stop for now, because stopping is appropriate. To go onto the next step takes preparation. In the beginning you are OK, like a baby in the pram you are being guided and protected, but you will not always stay a baby! For as you continue you will begin to realize that in order to go further your inner teacher and your mind will need some strong anchor points, places of pure and strong safety, your source, “the place you are coming from”. The ancient people knew this and handed down “structure” within which to work from master to apprentice, mother to daughter, grandfather to grandchild for the safety of the healer and for the integrity of the knowledge a firm foundation was and is essential.
Sadly we in the first world do not have this cohesive cultural and family teaching structure to learn from; yet like a flower bursting into bloom, and by gleaning from existing spiritual teachers, shaman and exploring simple techniques the drum is teaching us how to awaken the ancient medicine of sound that seems to be held within our group memory. The circle found and held sacred by our forefathers and ancient grandmothers is awakening and quickening as we lift the drum, as we find our voices and sing the songs that make spiritual contact, making spirit real.
In his next article Steven Ash will describe the essential foundations of Sacred Drumming so that you can establish a safe structure to explore this most ancient of sound healing methods.
Steven runs the Sacred Drumming Practitioner Course with the College of Sound Healing and the Complimentary Medical Association; you can contact him through his website

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