In the Land of Groove Archives - Organic Groove
The struggle. It’s real!
Some of the greatest insights I’ve learned as a hand-drumming instructor come from helping students who struggle with rhythm. Everyone has rhythm. (It’s true.) But not everyone is immediately and easily in touch with rhythm, and that’s the difference between a student who ‘gets it’ and one who struggles.
In my classes, I meet people who want desperately to drum, to experience the euphoria of a good group drumming session, but are unable to play with the group for more than a few bars of any given rhythm. And it’s not always that they can’t play a particular rhythm–although sometimes this is true–it’s that they can’t play it consistently on the beat.
Imagine the jerky and erratic movements of someone trying to learn to drive standard. Or the frantic movements of someone drowning. They aren’t having fun and they aren’t feeling good.
There are amazing health benefits of drumming in community. Playing with a group. But the magic happens when a group plays together. When we entrain onto a common beat. It’s in this unity, this sameness, that we experience the healing effects of drumming. Entrainment is finding that sometimes elusive state of flow, where it becomes easier to play on the beat than off of it. It feels good, effortless, light, like flying. And intuitively, we sense it’s a healing space, for our bodies, minds and souls. It’s a blissful state of belonging, and don’t we all deserve that?
I started asking some big questions:
- If everyone has rhythm, why do some people struggle to connect with it?
- How can I help my struggling students get in touch with rhythm?
People who aren’t in touch with rhythm:
- Struggle. They are trying really hard. Working hard instead of playing.
- Aren’t present. They may sit right there with the group, in the circle, but there is a distance. I realized: they are often all up in their heads. Thinking. Hard!
- Are physically rigid. Stiffer, more tense, less relaxed, their movements tight and strained.
- Fight our inherent ability to feel the beat. They don’t tap their feet, sway from side to side, or nod their heads to the beat.
- Aren’t breathing deeply. They appear to intermittently hold their breath or take only shallow breaths from their chests, instead of long, slow relaxing breaths in their diaphragms.
So what do we know so far?
Things that seem to take us further from the pulse, away from the groove:
- Trying too hard
- Thinking too much
- Overriding the body’s natural desire to move with the beat
- Making rigid arm movements, while holding the body still
- Shallow breathing
My meditative teaching style
I wondered if the best way to help students and workshop participants would be to help them relax. And learned that relaxation is key. When our breathing is deep and slow, our minds are calm, our bodies are relaxed. Our nervous systems think everything is okay. A sabre-toothed tiger isn’t chasing us. There is no fight or flight needed. No need to struggle or work. It’s time to play! We aren’t lost in thought, but paying attention and present.
I started to invite students and workshop participants to focus on their breathing. To take long, slow deep breaths. To exhale slowly. To close their eyes. To roll and shrug the stress out of their shoulders. To remember that it’s only drumming. To be kind to themselves if they make mistakes. And when they started to drum, amazing things started to happen!
The same people who couldn’t seem to connect with the pulse started to settle into the groove for longer and longer periods of time. Students who were already in touch with rhythm experienced benefits, too, saying they felt like they were ‘waking up’ after even 5 minutes of meditative drumming. I realized I was on to something.
I now use these techniques successfully in all of my classes and workshops, from children to seniors and everyone in between.
Introducing Deeply Rooted Rhythms!
Deeply Rooted Rhythms is my new meditative drumming series.
Here’s what it’s about: After a quick intro to hand-drumming on authentic West African djembes, we are on our way. With an emphasis on the breath, the rhythms of the drum help us enter a healing meditative state. Our brains are happiest when we are both relaxed and paying attention, and drumming—even as beginners—takes us there.
So this will be a new series, likely weekly with one-hour sessions. Deeply Rooted Rhythms is different from my drumming classes, where the focus is on learning to play the djembe, from individual rhythms to complex drum songs, from tones and bass notes to slaps and flams and more. This new meditative series focuses on the meditative experience. We’ll learn enough to play some simple rhythms together, and then we’ll go deep, together.
Please stay tuned for details!
For drummers, summers mean fewer drumming classes and more drum jams.
We move outdoors, where the vibrations we create float off into the sky.
For drummers, summer is a time for music festivals and community drum circles. For campfires and drumming under the stars.
I found drumming for the first time in the summer, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, at a circle just like this one. I was warmly welcomed, sat behind a big drum, started playing and my life changed. I didn’t know what it was all about, but I knew I needed more!
Kitchener-Waterloo drum circles
There are so many drum circles happening in KW this summer, we had to form a team to take care of them all! To help people keep current, we started a Facebook page–check out KW Drum Circles!–and I even printed cards with dates, times, and locations.
Here’s a quick overview:
Organic Groove Summer Drum Jam
Monthly: Every Third Thursday in the summer from 7:00 – 9:00 pm
June 16 | July 21 | August 18 | September 15
Victoria Park Island, Victoria Park, Downtown Kitchener
Waterloo Public Square Drum Circle
Weekly: Sunday evenings from 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Waterloo Public Square, Uptown Waterloo
From June 5 – September 25
Waterloo Park Drum Circle
Monthly: Every First Friday in the summer from 7:00 – 9:00 pm
June 3 | July 8 | August 5 | September 2
Enter the park from Seagram Drive and you’ll find drummers just past the parking lot, near the animals, the railway track and trail and the water.
All KW Drum Circles are free, inclusive and safe spaces.
Everyone is welcome.
All ages, abilities, cultures and orientations. LGBTQ2S welcome.