The Art of Drumming and Consciousness Restructuring
"Journey to the Heart of Your Dreams"
THE ART OF DRUMMING
and Consciousness Restructuring
Graywolf Swinney, ©2001
1986, photo by Tim Bullock
Drumming is a very powerful tool that can alter the consciousness of individuals
or large groups. For example, consider the profound impact on our
culture of the rock beats of the fifties, sixties and seventies.
Drumming has roused and marched soldiers into battle, and yet can soothe
the angry mob.
Shamans have long used the beat of the drum to alter consciousness, and
to induce healing or evolutionary visions. In fact, to the shaman
the drum is a horse or a canoe that carries us on the trails or in the
rivers of consciousness into other realms or dimensions of reality.
It is the oldest form of music that our ancient ancestors discovered, presumably
when one of them noticed the hypnotic and pleasing effect of rhythmically
beating a hollow log with a stick.
Our species has been vastly enriched by the rhythms and vibrations initiated
on that long ago day. Not limited to our species, new born animals
of all species are soothed by the repetitive rhythms of the beating of
their mothers' hearts. It is suggested that new puppies be put into
their beds with a ticking clock to help them adjust to their new home.
In fact, it may arguably be our first awareness of the sense of hearing,
one that we experience in the womb as we entrain ourselves to the beating
of our mother's heart. The rhythms of the beating drum can take us
back to those early beginnings of our sentience, back to the womb like
consciousness patterns that underlie our being and sense of self and world.
In fact, reality itself, at the most basic level, is nothing more than
the cosmic rhythm of energy waves arising from the plenum. It is
a complexity of rhythmic waves interacting to create the interference patterns
that underlie our illusion of reality.
In our explorations of shamanic practices and techniques, drumming became
one of our preferred activities. The issue of the success of drumming
to effect conscious change is not in question, but the answers to questions
about how to drum, and what beats and patterns of rhythm can induce what
states of consciousness and with what effects are of considerable interest.
Intuitively we realize that, for example, slow beating calms and slows
us down and rapid, lively beating can enliven us and call us to action,
but god is in the details.
This essay will explore these questions and offer directions suggested
to us in our explorations of healing process and the beating of the
skin. We will begin by exploring some of the techniques, will include
explanations or theories of how and why we think they work, and conclude
with examples of how we have used drumming in altering or restructuring
The Beat Goes On
I want to start with what I consider to be the most important notion for
the mentor of the CRP. The most beneficial drumming is, as with the
journeys in the Consciousness Restructuring Process, a shared or co-conscious
process. This means that rather than imposing some rhythm on the
listener, the rhythms are largely determined from a shared consciOusness
state; one shared by the drummer and the listener(s). This is even
possible with large groups as will be illustrated later.
This is critical to the process and is what makes the CRP mentor's drumming
different from, for example the ore traditional shamanic drumming, such
as the Harner method. The CRP is largely driven by the mentored one,
so too is the drumming. The following argument is presented:
With the CRP process, the mentored is, in reality, considered to the only
one who can create the consciousness dynamics that will most benefit him.
It is arrogant to think otherwise, that one outside and aware of only what
is evident can determine with the same precision what the organism needs.
They are the only ones who know precisely what is needed for his
healing or transformation, and this knowing or wisdom comes not from mental
or intellectual process but comes rather from a deeper transpersonal self,
or what might be considered the spirit, soul, or our inner divinity.
In the shared state of co-consciousness, the mentor also senses this inner
pulse and it is what controls her hand as it caresses the skin of the drum
to create the rhythms of transformation. This is truly an art form,
and can be viewed in much the same way as sculptors or other artists describe
their muse. "The image is in the medium and I merely release it."
So with the CRP drumming, "the rhythm is in the listener(s) and I merely
help them express it."
It is this "spirit" view which firmly aligns the mentor with shamanic realms
of healing. Common to all shamans throughout the world is the fundamental
healing philosophy, the notion that illness or sickness is the result of
the soul being stolen or lost, and that healing is accomplished through
the recovery and return of the soul or spirit. (I prefer the term
spirit in this context as it is more free of religious connotations).
It is our notion that spirit cannot really ever be lost or destroyed, but
that it can be unavailable or tied up and buried in our disease dynamics.
These take the form of diseased, fixed and repetitive neural firing dynamics
that displace or bury the more complex dynamics of creativity. These
theta repetitive cyclical neural dynamics trap the mentored in this vortex
of their disease. We do consider that the unbound or free consciousness
flow is the essence of our spirit, the source of our creativity and is
the seat of the divine within us. It also manifests as a process
of health and free evolution, which are indeed the same thing.
The resolution to this situation of frozen, trapped, or bound consciousness
is to free or transform the bound energy into a complex, creative and free
flowing consciousness dynamics that fund evolution and help create the
processes of health. As noted earlier, this comes primarily
from within the mentored. It is also the embodiment of the admonition
to "march to the beat of your own drum!" and is the crux of our individuality
and creativity. It is also core to CRP Drumming and the drum is indeed
one of the vehicles through which this may be attained..
First a few words about co-consciousness:
The process of co-consciousness is felt by the mentor as a deep inner sensation,
or it just may be that he notices what his hands are doing as he beats
the drum for the most part giving up intellectual control. It is
not a state that can be attained through effort or by means of will
or planning, but rather is entered through a personal process of emptying
the mind and relaxing into it. It is a state of flow rather than
effort. Its sense when it is operating is one of profound rightness.
It is the state that one notices when synchronistic events are occurring,
or when one is "in the groove." If the intellectual ego or desire
is present, these senses may be mimicked, but once it has been experienced,
the mimicry cannot be mistaken for the real dynamics and experiences of
There are some characteristics that seem to be present in the beating and
rhythms of co-consciousness drumming. For one thing the rhythm is
not regular, but has dysrhythms or chaotic and unexpected disruptions in
the rhythms. The beating may be rapid or fast at one point, but slow
or complex in the subsequent beats. They may vary in loudness and
contain extra loud, or missing beats where one is expected. In other
words there is built in complexity or chaos in the rhythms. It is
known in the field of hypnotherapy that such disruption to the rhythm of
the trance induction deepen the trance.
There is an explanation for this as follows. We have speculated from
our research into brainwaves and CRP theory that this occurs when the brain
is in its most complex firing patterns and when the waves have built within
them the most complexity. The frequency is most varied and unpredictable
within the limits of the defined brain wave pattern when old patterns of
neural activity are dissolved and new neural circuitry is formed.
This state of complexity is also associated with creativity and in particular
is a characteristic of REM activity. Awake REM activity is associated
with spiritual visionary and other mindbody sensory phenomena.
The visions come from the imaginal process rather than a fantasy process.
Fantasy is characterized by an expected or predictable cause/effect type
imagery flow. Imaginal process is unpredictable with bifurcations
or unexpected twists of the flow of the imagery and other senses.
It is indicative of chaotic consciousness (unbound or free-flowing consciousness)
and the imagery is more like a reiterating fractal than a story line in
We usually introduce a drum journey with the suggestion or notion that
those who will be journeying should begin by contemplating the symptoms
that reveal their disease to them. Then, as the drumming starts,
to let go of that and any expectations and to just notice what comes to
them. It may be discomfort, or an image, or body sensations that
are experienced during the drumming. They are invited to not question
this or try to guess what it may indicate to them, but instead to allow
it to flow and explore where this doorway takes them.
The journey is then shared with the mentor following the drumming, who
uses the symbols to initiate a CRP journey in the same fashion as he would
dream images. It is important that the mentor realize that the images
are formed, as are dream images and stories, by the deep consciousness
patterns and dynamics that shape the mentored, both physically and mentally.
In this way the completion of the drumming is just the first step in a
CRP journey, just as the dream provides the opening or doorway for a dream
This too sets the CRP drummer apart from more traditional views which require
the shaman or to give meaning or interpret the symbols or story encountered.
Rather the mentor uses the imagery to explore the deep consciousness structures
that gave rise to the symbols. This is done as outlined in the body
of literature explaining the CRP process.
And the Beat Goes On...
However we have also found that sometimes the drum journey, and what is
experienced during it, seems to induce the healing experience. People
come back from the journey reporting that they feel better, more free,
less stressed than when they started it. There are several factors
involved with this.
This is not unlike dreams, some of which seem complete in that the healing
is experienced in the dream and doesn't require any further exploration.
We have found, however, that exploring further may broaden or deepen the
We can also consider another effect that drumming may have to help explain
other forms of drum healing. As noted, drumming creates sound waves,
vibration of the environment in which the drumming occurs. Everything
in the immediate area will also vibrate with the rhythms of the drumming.
This includes the flesh, mind and bodies of the listeners. It has
been postulated that every illness has its own vibrational frequency.
I am not sure that I agree that it is a single frequency, rather I expect
it has its own complex interference pattern from the interaction of several
frequencies and waves. Some set frequency is involved with the structure
of the disease.
One of the theories of drum healing journeys is that one can produce with
the drum frequencies and harmonics which set up resonance with the structure
of the disease. The notion is that this resonance over energizes
the illness structure and cause it to dissemble or literally shake it self
apart. We don't need to look far to see examples of this in other
areas. Lately it has been demonstrated that the purring of cats makes
their bones so strong and resilient. The effects of purring or rhythmic
resonance have been proposed as treatment for osteoporosis.
It is said that the great opera star Mario Lanza could shatter a glass
by singing a note that was of the same frequency as the glass. Another
example is that when marching soldiers across a bridge, soldiers are generally
told to break cadence and not march in step. It is well documented
that a bridge which happens to have resonance with the frequency of the
cadence of the march will begin sympathetic vibrations and may eventually
collapse. This is a well known phenomena to engineers who must take
this into account when designing bridges, tall buildings, towers and other
So it seems reasonable to assume that by creating a drum beat's frequencies
and overtones to resonate with the particular frequencies of the disease
structure, they will over-energize the structure and cause it to shake
itself and vibrate in resonance. As with the glass or the bridges,
so too will the holographic structure of the disease disintegrate or collapse.
Whether the disease is the mass of a cancer, or a particular neural or
nervous system firing frequency, by matching or resonating with it, this
effect could change the hologram of the disease, thereby transforming the
disease itself. If the drumming is happening in the co-consciousness
state it creates a feedback effect much like a microphone in front of a
speaker magnifies the frequency coming from the speaker to produce a feedback
squeal, which left to continue could increase and blow the speakers.
This is another argument that reinforces the notion of co-consciousness
POUNDING HEALING RHYTHMS IN MY BRAIN
Following are some accounts of CRP drumming and the reported effects.
One woman who had a rectal cancer and was participating in one of my groups
reported her experience of a drum journey. She was in considerable
pain from the tumor, but had so far refused to take any pain medication
of any type for relief. The drumming was offered to the group as
Following the drumming she reported that the pain in her tumor had considerably
lessened. She reported that the pain in her tumor had considerably
lessened. She reported that going into and during the journey she
had felt the beat of the drum seeming to resonate in her uterus (which
was in close proximity) and her her tumor. There were times when
the sensations in the area bordered on pain, but for the most part she
said that she actually felt sexually stimulated. When the drumming
had stopped, she reported feeling more free of pain than she had for months.
And this effect lasted for several hours.
Since she was then residing at the retreat, drum journeys became a regular
part of her pain control, and she reported that they most often seemed
to help her with the pain.
Several years ago, another woman came for a weekend retreat following a
visit to her doctor during which he had informed her that she had uterine
cancer and would require immediate surgery. While on retreat she
wanted to work on the cancer using alternative healing. She was relatively
young and wanted to have children and surgery would have taken that option
During a sweat we did one evening, I had felt a strong intuition to drum
and did so, holding the drum about six inches over the tumor. She
reported feeling "something moving or shifting down there."
Along with other work and a dream journey that had been stimulated by the
drumming, she worked on the tumor throughout her two day stay.
When she left I did not hear from her again, but a couple of years later
I met her mother at a presentation I was giving. She came up and
identified herself. When asked about her daughter, she reported that
she was now living in Alaska. When she had returned to the doctor
during the week following her retreat, the tumor had apparently disappeared
and the doctor apologizing to her claiming to her claimed it must have
been misdiagnosed, or that perhaps he had been looking at another patient's
test results. Was it the drumming or had she indeed been misdiagnosed?
I certainly don't know.
LA DE DA DE DI
Another drum journeyer reports the following:
"I really like the Drum Journeys. It's the way I feel or sense
the experience which I find significant. I don't recall stories or
visions from my several drum journeys, except in the sense of feeling you
are the drum. Sensing, my body being the drum; hollowed out; stretched;
vibrating and resonating. In some ways it reminds me of the feelings
I get when intoning the Chakras.
The drum's song has many tones and rhythms. Where some of the
tones and rhythms resonate in my throat, others rumble through my belly.
Or deep tones vibrate in the base of my spine. Graywolf creates overtones
when he drums, so at times the sensations split and become dissonant.
Then, the intensity may begin to harmonize, say in my forehead and heart.
Then there is the breath - rhythm for rhythm, coming in and out of focus
and syncopation, with the internal and the external drum. And I am
ready; there is an anticipation for the drum to stop. Final beats
signalling the end and bringing me back.
LA DE DA DE DA
Created 4/9/01 Last Updated 4/9/01
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