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The Healing Power of the Drum

I remember when I first heard a rhythm danced upon the head of a djembe drum. My older sister had brought one back from her trip to Ghana and was demonstrating what she'd learned. Something in me awakened watching her and as she allowed me to try, I felt the history and healing power behind this drum played directly by the hands. This was more than just an instrument.


Drums always fascinated me. From the drum solos of the big band jazz tunes my grandparents used to dance to, to playing in our high school drumline, the sound of the drum lured me in. A solid drum beat kicks in and you cannot force my body to be still.


Yet other than our children's musical play set, I rarely had the opportunity to enjoy this experience of drumming... until Drum Iowa came into the picture. I attended a "Drumming and Dancing on the Cedar" event in Waterloo, excited to reunite with my Aya dancing friends in a form of movement I knew I loved. "A drum circle sounds fun too," I thought.


Little did I know where it may lead. As planned, we danced, but this time not only to the music pumping through the speakers. This time we had a handful of drummers joining in, adding a depth to the dancing and sense of community that was so enjoyable. When the dancing ended, many of us stayed and grabbed an instrument, circling up in the riverside amphitheatre to join in the rhythm. I grabbed a small djembe and despite making music all my life, I was surprised to feel how at home I felt.


A hands-on healer, gardener, writer, artist, mother... my most loving of work is done through my hands. Letting them loose to create rhythm freely with no expectation of the outcome was liberating. I could feel the vibe around me and simply join in with what felt good. I enjoyed balancing out the sound and adding a little love where I heard space held for it rather than competing to be heard or feeling uncertain as to my place.


I raised my eyes after getting lost in the music and glanced around me. People were in similar states of bliss, some with eyes closed and a big smile spread across their face. Children who naturally gravitated to the music grabbing instruments to try or just dancing along. Friends grinning knowingly as they met one another's gaze. This was about far more than drumming.


We like to consider ourselves connected. In our pockets we have access to the many contacts we've come across in our lives, and even some we may never meet in person. Yet through this sense of excess, we often lose connection with what matters most... our connection with the self and therefore, those around us.


When we drum, we reconnect first with ourselves. We settle further into our bodies with the recognition that we quite literally hold a beat within our hearts. We then have the choice to tap into something more, a sense of community and companionship with those around us. Drumming solo is enjoyable. But drumming with others is downright sacred.


Across cultures and timelines the drum has been a messenger, a storyteller, a secret code holder, and a force of connection. It has been used to reawaken the spirit, connect with our ancestors, praise the powers of creation that be, and reunite communities. Unfortunately, people seeking to control rather than honor this spirit have tried to eradicate this power. Yet here it stands.


We feel this strongly today. We see the continuous assaults of one another... whether it be the wars raging around the world, our own so-called "leaders" spitting hate and divisiveness, or even the harsh comments toward a stranger on the internet. We can be driven to forget our connectedness, the power of unity. And that is what drumming is about.


In a drum circle there is no star, there is no hierarchy. In a drum circle every sound is of value, the energy of every human present matters, and everyone shines. From the deepest large drum to the brightest little bell, each sound is important. Even those choosing not to play, choosing simply to sit and enjoy are holding space for this healing power. Just like the drums, we are all different and embody a unique beat all our own.


When we unite our unique beats in rhythm with one another we create healing and unifying goodness. And isn't that exactly what our world needs more of?


Join the Myquawn, Jaelon, and myself as we launch the Drum Iowa podcast... a podcast dedicated to spreading awareness of therapeutic and mindful drumming. The first episode is coming your way Memorial Day Weekend. And if you're located in Iowa, we look forward to seeing you join in any of the drum circles happening around the state this summer!

Jaelon, Myquawn, and Ashley



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I'm a writer, energy healer, and plant-obsessed meditating mama on a mission of guiding women to Heal & Rise! For more about my story...

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