Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sharing Sound Worldwide on the Web | Blog Your Blessings!

Sound is impossible to capture with words. If I can come up with a similar sound that you have heard before, you can perhaps recall that and have an idea what I'm talking about. But basically nothing substitutes for hearing the actual sound.

Luckily we have sound on the Web, so I can post a video, like the group of videos on djembe drumming and the group on Tibetan bowls in the right-hand column of this blog, and you can hear the sounds on your computer. Or I can refer you to clips from recordings on Amazon, for example.

I could even make a recording of drumming or throat-singing and post it on this blog (or elsewhere) for you to hear. That's a tremendous blessing! And I will be doing that in the future (gotta find that microphone...).

For now, here's a link to a page on that has clips from the recordings of the wonderful Tuvan group, Huun Huur Tu. They incorporate Tuvan traditional instruments, rhythms, and throat-singing in their music for a sound like no other.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Is Didgeridu a Harmonic Sound Amplifier?

Listening to the wonderful Harmonic Overtones CDs that I reviewed last month, I heard something different. And now I have a theory.

If you listen to live or recorded throat-singing of the very deep kind that the Tibetan monks and some Mongolians do, you may notice that didgeridu playing sounds much like it.

Years ago I attended a workshop on making didgeridus and playing them. We each brought a length of PVC pipe about 3 inches in diameter and 4 or 5 feet long. At the workshop we sanded the ends till they were very smooth. Then we decorated the outside of the pipe with acrylic paint.

The result was an inexpensive, lightweight and virtually indestructible didgeridu that made a pretty good sound---if you knew how! The workshop leader could play but was not very articulate about how to do it. (He was a volunteer, teaching for fun.)

I'm not sure anyone had taught him. I think maybe he had taught himself intuitively by listening to recordings or other didgeridu players. I have since listened to both recordings and live didgeridu players and still could not figure out what they were doing.

I now suspect that real didgeridu players are actually doing a form of throat-singing (or multinote toning) into the didge, which then amplifies the growling sound and the overtones and undertones.

Most people do not talk about the undertones. Those are not as impressive as overtones and do not carry as far, I think. But they are important in the style of throat-singing that Tibetan monks do, and they may be the most important part of the didgeridu sound for healing.

If you experiment with this sound-healing method, please leave a comment, telling what you did. I would love to know how it worked out for you.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sound Draws Us Together | Blog Your Blessings

I'm blessed to live in a large, multicultural city. So many cultures, religions and traditions are represented here. You could be out every night at this time of year, celebrating at some winter festival or other, listening to wonderful music and healing sounds from every inhabited continent.

One of the great things about a modern multicultural city is that people get to meet each other. We don't just stay home in our own parts of town. Through the great blessings of and it's very easy to promote events that draw people from all kinds of backgrounds. It is also easy to find people who share your interests---or to learn about theirs.

Last year a Mormon church needed African drummers for their very professional and lovely Christmas program, "Christmas Around the World." They found my drum teacher, Abubakr Kouyate, through a Google search. (His name dominated the first page of results for our city, partly because of our group notices on and

The students who went with our African-born teacher to perform included an artist from Singapore, an exchange student from Indonesia, a naturalized Texan of Indian descent from Mauritius, as well as African Americans and EuroAmericans. We were Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus as well as Christians. We had a fine time!

This year our teacher performed in the Houston Christmas Revels (a professional production) where he was able to share the healing power of drumming while representing the African people who settled in Appalachia.

There are many ways to share the power of healing sounds. I'm grateful for all the opportunities offered by a big, multicultural city such as Houston. How about you?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Comments on Healing with Sound | Blog Your Blessings

When I started this blog on using sound for healing, I felt like a voice in the wilderness. For months it seemed like no one on line was interested.

Then through my favorite blogging community,, I met Cyber Celt and other kindred spirits, and that led me to the Blog Your Blessings movement.

I want you all to know that I treasure every comment (and every reader, whether you comment or not). It is such a blessing to know that there are others out there in cyber space who share an interest in using sound for healing, a topic that combines modern medical research and ancient knowledge. Thank you all!

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Healing With Sound in a Group | Blog Your Blessings

Last night I worked with a group of people on healing with sound. We drummed together, journeyed to the recorded sound of the didgeridu and click sticks, and then played Tibetan bowls and bells together.

For several people, almost all of that was a completely new experience. Others were old hands. All had a wonderful time.

We were a diverse group of AfroAmerican, EuroAmerican, Native American, Asian, and Middle Eastern heritage. We ranged in age from twenties to sixties. We came from a variety of professions and religious backgrounds.

All were people of good will, seeking to learn and grow as human beings and to learn ways to help others. At the end, we gave thanks for what we had learned and experienced, and for each other.

Experimenting with sound for healing is a wonderful blessing for all who participate. It is especially enlightening for experienced healers who are looking for new ways to serve others and the Earth. Try it!

And then, please come back and leave a comment, telling us about your experience.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Teachers of Healing | Blog Your Blessings

Like music, healing generally must be learned by experience and practice. With music, the student must hear a piece played well to understand how it was meant to sound. With healing one must generally be in the presence of the teacher to, well, feel the vibes in order to know how healing feels.

I'm grateful for my primary healing teacher, the Rev. Eleanor Button, and for her tolerance of the exuberant experimentation of her students. She insisted that we study with as many teachers of healing and related subjects (like sacred sound) as we could. In her classes, she encouraged us to share and practice what we learned.

Tibetans have a special reverence for teachers. They say you cannot reach enlightenment without one. I feel especially blessed to have met and taken teachings from some truly wonderful Tibetan lamas.

And so today, as I count my blessings, I realize how lucky I am to have been in the right place at the right time to study with such teachers. May each of you have similar or even greater blessings!

Tibetan Sound Healing

Tibetan Sound Healing is a book-and-CD set by Tenzin Wangyal, Rimpoche, a prolific author on Tibetan practices. He is the founder of the Ligmincha Intitute of Tibetan Bon studies.

Tibetan Sound Healing, a book and CD (set) by Tenzin Wangyal, Rimpoche on how to use the five sacred syllables for healing.

Many cultures teach that certain sounds, words, or syllables have power, and that intoning them properly can heal. Tibetans learned much from teachers from India and from Mongolia and then experimented over centuries to develop their own healing practices with sound.

To Tibetans the practices that we consider esoteric, magical, or religious are simply technologies of the mind. Tibetan Buddhism and Bon beliefs are very pragmatic. They are teach us to control our own thoughts, feelings, bodies and minds.

To Tibetans, being healthy is important to allow us the freedom to develop the mind to higher levels of understanding, or enlightenment. Also, they believe that everyone should help others to be free from suffering. So healing is important to them.

Many (if not most) Tibetan practices, such as meditation, can be done by anyone who receives the proper teaching, whether or not you accept the ethnic elements of their beliefs. In other words, you don't have to be a Tibetan or believe in Buddhism or Bon for Tibetan sound healing to work for you.

The kind of Tibetan sound healing taught in this book is done by intoning certain sacred syllables. (It is not about music or musical instruments.) The author explains everything very clearly. Then he teaches how to pronounce each of the five syllables and provides a CD that shows you exactly how they should sound.

The book does not mention the harmonic toning or chanting done by Tibetan Buddhist monks. But if you listen carefully to the CD, you can hear a slight edge of harmonics when each one of the sacred syllables is properly intoned.

I was lucky enough to take teachings from Tenzin Wangyal in 1990, even before he moved to Houston to teach at Rice University, and then several more times while he lived here. He has since moved back to Virginia but comes to Houston at least once a year to teach.

I go to hear him speak whenever I can. Besides being an expert teacher, he is an amazing person, very pleasant, low key, and unassuming. He introduces himself simply as "Tenzin." He is not a monk and does not wear robes.

Rimpoche is a title, meaning Precious Jewel, that Tibetans use for a lama who is recognized by other lamas as being the reincarnation of one or more earlier lamas. Those who carry the title of Rimpoche are the real deal. It is not about what they have studied. They actually have the metaphysical abilities for which Tibetan lamas are justly famed. And they speak with authority on Tibetan beliefs and practices.

Tenzin Wangcyal was personally taught by the greatest living masters of Bon. He is famous as a teacher, a scholar, an author, and a reincarnated Tibetan lama of the Bon religion. He is a true practitioner of what he teaches.

With a list price of only $19.95, the "Tibetan Sound Healing" book-and-CD-set is an amazing value. You can buy it from Ligmincha Institute, from Snow Lion Publications or on (for about $13.50). I recommend it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

How Does This Music Make You Feel?

Snippets from the following video are going around the 'net as a hoax, (No, the machine is not real. It is a clever animation.) But that's not the point.

This is the full video, and when it takes you to YouTube, you will see a link to a site where you can buy a DVD that includes it. I think you may want to do that.

This video simply makes me happy! It improved my mood tremendously and made me physically feel better. So let's do an experiment. Would you mind watching it (with full attention, please) and commenting to let me know how it affected you?

Ideally watch it when you are alone and can give it your full attention. Please be open to the possibilities. Then please share your impressions, and tell us whether you found viewing it to be a healing experience.

Hint: It is so amazing that you probably need to watch it once all the way through to satisfy your left-brain curiosity, then watch it again just for pleasure.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Singing Bowls, a Practical Handbook--Review

Singing Bowls, a Practical Handbook, by Evan Rudy Jansen, begins with a discussion of the mystery of Tibetan singing bowls. Apparently only a few Tibetan lamas have ever admitted to any outsiders that the bowls are used in private meditation.

The author then explains that in Tibet and many other parts of the world, the mythologies state that the world was created by sound. Often the ancient descriptions of the nature of matter are very close to those of modern physics.

The book briefly discusses the way shamans use sound for healing,
and moves on to describe how people today are more and more using sound to heal themselves and others.

The book also talks about the amazing qualities of some of the bowls. When filled with water to a certain level and then gently rubbed or struck, some bowls cause the water to rise up like a fountain.

There is a brief discussion of harmony and harmonics. Then Jansen talks about how the different sounds of the bowls affect the body. She discusses the use of sound by shamans and mystics to change the wave patterns of the brain to achieve trance states. (Medical research shows that simply experiencing trance states is healing.)

Jansen recommends that people choose their own bowls after playing many bowls. The sound of each bowl is individual. You should keep searching until you find the bowl that is right for you. The best bowl for you may not be pretty and may even make a discordant sound.

She recommends choosing a bowl whose sound touches you emotionally (in a good way), whether or not anyone else would describe the sound as pleasing. She describes the recommended selection process in detail.

The important thing is how the vibrations affect you. For that reason, even a deaf person can benefit from playing a Tibetan bowl.

The book includes a short chapter on the many types of strikers/beaters and how to rub the rim of the bowl to get it to sing.

There is quite a bit of information in the book on additional ways to explore healing sounds with a Tibetan bowl, including filling them with water and striking them, harmonic toning across/into the edge of the bowl, and working with several bowls at once. I'm looking forward to experimenting with water and toning.

Jansen herself does not seem to use the bowls for healing. Her advice to experiment and experience what actually happens rather than working from theory is a good one.

There is a chapter on tingshas (tiny cymbals used at the beginning and end of meditation), bells, and similar Tibetan items. Jansen states that tingshas and bells are used for summoning spirits. While she does not explain the purpose of healing with bowls, she does say that tingshas are used to heal holes in the aura.

This is a short book, only 96 pages, that I bought on Amazon for less than $10. Whether you work with Tibetan bowls for healing, or you are simply interested in knowing more about the origin and uses of Tibetan bowls, bells, and tingshas, it is well worth reading.

The book does not, however, give specific techniques for healing. Those, you will have to either discover for yourself or find elsewhere.

Sharing Traditional Wisdom | Blog Your Blessings

In the last few decades, many of the Earth's most profound wisdom and healing traditions have come to be openly shared. Often they were closely guarded secrets until recent years. The Internet now makes such information, and the teachers to learn it from, easy to find.

Techniques for healing with sound are among the oldest in the world. Yet even a generation ago, such knowledge was either disregarded by the mainstream, hidden by traditional healers, or both.

I consider the wide availability of such knowledge---and the traditional tools and methods for applying it---to be a very great blessing indeed.

How about you?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Humming Your Way to Happiness--Review

The book, Humming Your Way to Happiness, is actually supposed to be about harmonic toning/chanting. I guess the publisher thought this title would have more appeal, which sort of shows you how much confidence they had in the book. The subtitle is "An introduction to Tuva and Overtone singing from around the world."

There is some interesting information in the book, and I'm not sorry I bought it (I guess), but to me it reads like a school term paper. It appears that someone who does not actually know how to do harmonic singing did some research and mashed it all into a very short book.

A clue to me was that the author referred to Tuvans, the residents of the country Tuva, as "Tuvinians." Uh-oh. I've been a Tuvaphile ever since the book, Tuva or Bust, was published (late 1980s, I think). I've got several CDs of Tuvan music and have read various books on various cultural topics that mention Tuvans. I've never heard them called "Tuvinians."

There are a few pages that describe how to do throat-singing, but...throat-singing is not an activity you can do without hearing it. And there's no CD with this book.

So, if you have bought and worked with the Harmonic Overtones book and CDs, have watched the Ghengis Blues DVD, have worn out your Hun Huur Tu and David Hykes CDs, and you are still craving more info on the history of throat-singing, you may well want to buy Humming Your Way to Happiness. Otherwise, I don't recommend it.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Friends Who Experiment with Sound. What a Blessing!

Talk about blessings! (as I am, for Blog Your Blessings Sunday) I'm pretty excited right now about my friends, new and old, who are willing to experiment (and let me experiment on them) with sound for healing. What great people to know!

We've been working with all kinds of sounds for shamanic journeying (which is usually done for the purpose of healing people, animals, or the environment). Recently we experimented with harmonic toning for self-healing and for healing others. In the past we have worked with Tibetan bowls.

In December we'll work with the sound of the didgeridu. At least with recordings, maybe with some real didgidus. What a blessing it is to know people who are willing to try new things and new experiences!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Blog Your Blessings---Harmonic Toning

Today I feel blessed by a wonderful experience last night. I used the Harmonic Overtones book and CD (reviewed in my last post) in my Shamanism Meetup group with wonderful and unexpected results.

Although harmonic toning has been used by shamans for thousands of years, I was not sure how receptive my group would be to learning it. I've tried a couple of times to teach them, but they didn't seem very interested---probably because they were not sure what to listen for, and I'm not very good at it.

So last night I played the Harmonic Overtones CD for them, and they were excited about it. After hearing the heavenly sounds the best harmonic toners can make, and feeling the effects, they were interested in learning.

What is even more impressive is that after journeying to the first four tracks on the main CD, and practicing along with the practice CD, they all felt healed, energized and lifted to a new spiritual level. That was truly a blessing for each person and for the group as a whole.

That brings me to the point of this post. A group of bloggers from many different religions and belief systems has formed an alliance, called Blog Your Blessings, to promote a good future for Earth and all her peoples.

Members of the group are pledged to blog about their blessings each Sunday as a way of expressing more positive energy in the world. If you are interested in the group and the Blog Your Blessings posts, you will see a list of links to the members’ blogs on the lower right corner of this page.

Blogging your blessings seems particularly appropriate at this time of year, but it is really a form of feedback to strengthen your practice of actively choosing a better future. That’s why I joined the group.

To join Blog Your Blessings, sign up at Blue Panther’s blog.

I am very grateful to have found the Blog Your Blessings group and for the work that they are doing. That’s the blessing I’m blogging about this week.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Harmonic Overtones CDs & Book (Review)

Harmonic Overtones, Magical Vibrations in Voice and Musicby Dick de Ruiter, is a great introduction to harmonic sounds and how to make overtones.

The package consists of a hardback book, packaged with two CD-ROM disks. The book is small, about the size of a CD jewel case, with 56 pages. It is beautifully designed and includes a good discography and resources such as Web addresses.

The photos are lovely (and relevant), and the concise, well-written text covers all the basics you need to know to begin overtoning. It starts with metaphysical and scientific effects of sound and moves on quickly to what overtones are, why we would want to make them, and how to get started.

As explained in my last post, you have almost certainly heard overtones, but you may not have recognized them. No amount of words can prepare you for the actual sounds, so the book includes a CD of music with overtones, including both voice and instrumental overtones.

This is probably the best recording of overtones I have, and I have at least a couple dozen recordings of Tibetan lamas, Tuvan musicians, Mongolian herdsmen, Americans who have learned overtone chanting, Bulgarian singers, and others. Some are museum-quality recordings. This is even better.

The only criticism I have of the example CD is that it mixes instruments with voice sometimes, making it just a bit less obvious that those magical sounds can be made by just one human voice. However the superb sound quality and clarity of overtones on the recordings make up for that.

The practice CD is unique as far as I know. The book tells you how to make the sounds, and then you can sing along for practice.

As Dick de Ruiter tells us in the book, making overtones is simple---but not easy. That is, the instructions are not complicated, but you do have to practice a lot, especially if you ever hope to sound as good as Dick and his fellow musicians on the CDs. They are really terrific!

The recommended price of this priceless book-and-CDs package is $23.50, but I ordered it from Amazon for much less. It is well worth the full retail price!

Dick de Ruiter has published other books and CDs on sacred sound, such as on Tibetan bowls, and he and his colleagues do a wonderful job on this and the other recording I have from them on Tibetan bowls. They also have a package on didgeridu. Theirs is truly soulful music.

The Harmonic Overtones book-and-CDs set is published by Binkey Kok Publications, Hofstede De Weide Hoek, Havelte, Holland. Watch for their other publications as well. They publish wonderful books and recordings on sounds for healing.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Harmonic Toning & Chanting

Harmonic chanting is that amazing deep, vibrating chanting that Tibetan monks do. Tibetans developed their own complex multinote chanting after learning a similar style from Mongolians who invaded Tibet in the time of Ghengis Khan. Mongolians call that kind of sound throat-singing.

The Mongolians became staunch Tibetan Buddhists in addition to their own native shamanic religion, which was a lot like the native shamanic religion of Tibet. Mongolia and Tibet have remained culturally linked ever since.

Harmonics are the extra sounds an octave above and/or below a musical note that is sung or played. The many styles of Mongolian throat-singing can produce two to three notes with one person's voice. The Tibetan monks developed a way to produce four notes at once.

You have probably heard harmonic chanting whether or not you realize it. If not, I recommend listening to one of the CDs of the Drepung Lamas chanting. To me they are the very best at the Tibetan style.

Also recommended are any recordings of David Hykes (especially Wind Horse Riders), the Harmonic Choir, or the Tuvan musical group Hun Huur Tu.

Tuva is a tiny country between Mongolia and Siberia that hosts a world champion throat-singing competition. It was made famous by a book called Tuva or Bust and by a documentary film about the competition, called Ghenghis Blues. The film (available on DVD) and its soundtrack CD are also highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Tengsha on Technorati

I'm claiming Tengsha: Sound for Healing on Technorati. Technorati Profile

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Drumming on the Edge of Weirdness

Last Thursday night I had an odd experience while drumming. I'm still not sure what happened.

I had left early for djembe class. I parked and walked around the car only to realize that I had not brought my djembe.

No problem. My teacher, Abubakr Kouyate, always brings extra drums.

Then I remembered that I had brought the drum when I left my apartment. I had left it beside the car while took some trash to the dumpster. And then I left it in the driveway and drove away!

Naturally I drove home in a hurry, praying it would be there. It was.

So class was going fine, and I was playing the kenkeni, the smallest of the three big stick-played lead drums of the djembe orchestra. Suddenly the sound of the drum beside me, the sangba (the real lead drum in djembe rhythms) seemed so loud that I could not hear the drum I was playing.

I could not think. I could not even remember the part that I was trying to play.

Since I sometimes have trouble with noise hurting my ears when there are a lot of really loud players, or people who really wale on the iron bells attached to the large drums, I still carry ear plugs.

I put in ear plugs, and I was fine again. I could remember my part, and I could easily play it.

But what happened? Drumming is usually so healing and energizing.

After class, I was still a bit dizzy, but I was fine by the time I stopped at the grocery store on the way home.

If you're a drummer, have you ever had an experience like that? If so, I'd like to hear about it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

How Do YOU Use Sound for Healing?

I've just added a poll, asking what *you* use for healing with sound. You can select as many modalities as you use.

If the list is incomplete--or even if it isn't, please leave a comment and let us know how you use sound, or how a healer has used sound to help you.

The poll is the last item in the right-hand column, so you will need to scroll down to reach it. Please take a moment to answer. If you have time, we would love to read your comments on your experiences in healing with sound.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Soldiers Healing by Playing Guitar

However you feel about war, everyone agrees that soldiers suffer tremendous emotional trauma just by witnessing and experiencing the horror of war.

A soldier's mother found that playing guitar helped heal her son. It helped him so much that she has started a group that collects donated guitars and ships them to soldiers in Iraq. She hopes to prevent some of the cases of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) that cripple the future of so many soldiers.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Drumming is Infectious

People sometimes wander into my drum class from the front of the new age shop whose classroom we use. They are fascinated by the rhythms and by the fact that they see us ordinary-looking folks playing them.

The following video on YouTube is a great example of what it sounds like when people play djembe. (This is not the group I belong to, but in case you aren't familiar with real West African djembe playing, this is a good example.)

One typical characteristic of djembe drumming is that it is very, very fast. Research has shown that very fast drumming affects the human brain in a good way. It is conducive to deep trance, and it's very healing.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Buying a Drum

Before buying a drum, ask your drum teacher’s advice. There are many good-looking, badly made drums on the market, and price is not always a guarantee of quality.

Drum teachers often have extra drums for their students to play during class. Some teachers sell excellent drums at reasonable prices. Others will go with you to shop for a well-made drum with a good sound.

Want to learn more about drumming and the research on how drumming heals? More coming soon.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Drumming and Healing Resources

Here is a list of recommended resources on drumming and healing:

Diallo, Yaya and Hall, Mitch. The Healing Drum: African Wisdom Teachings. Destiny Books, 1989.

Diallo, Yaha. The Healing Drum: African Ceremonial and Ritual Music (Audio CD). Destiny Recordings, 1994.

Diamond, John, MD. The Way of the Pulse – Drumming with Spirit. Enhancement Books. Bloomingdale IL. US. 1999.

Friedman, Dorian, Drumming to the rhythms of life. U.S. News & World Report; 06/09/97, Vol. 122 Issue 22, p17, 1/2p, 1c

Friedman, Robert Lawrence. The Healing Power of the Drum, White Cliffs Media, Reno, NV, 2000

Longhofer, Jeffrey and Floersch, Jerry. African drumming and psychiatric rehabilitation. Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal; Apr93, Vol. 16 Issue 4, p3, 8p

Doyle, Mabry. Drumming and Wellness. The Birthing of Rhythmaculture.

Mikenas, Edward E. Drumming on the Edge of Leadership: Hand Drumming and Leadership Skills for the New Millennium.
Percussive Notes. February 2003.

Redmond, Layne. When the Drummers Were Women. Three Rivers Press, New York, NY 1997

Robertson, Ian H. Mind Sculpture:Unlocking Your Brain’s Untapped Potential. Fromm International. New York, NY, 2000.

Slotoroff, C. Drumming technique for assertiveness and anger management in the short-term psychiatric setting for adult and adolescent survivors of trauma. 1994. Music Therapy Perspectives, Special Issue: Psychiatric music therapy. Vol 12, Issue 2. p. 111-116.

Stevens, Christine. Should Drums Be Sold in Pharmacies? 2001. Percussive Notes.

Thompson, April. Beating Chronic Illness: Drumming offers a sound addition to modern efforts to ease pain. Science and Spirit Magazine, September-October, 2001,

Winkelman, Michael. Complementary Therapy for Addiction: Drumming Out Drugs. American Journal of Public Health; Apr2003, Vol. 93 Issue 4, p647, 5p

Reaping the Benefits of Drumming

How do you take full advantage of the amazing benefits of African drumming? Trying to learn from books and CDs without a teacher is frustrating. At the beginning, most of us don’t have the discipline to drum alone, day after day. You really need a good teacher.

A workshop can be a great way to get a taste of drumming. And most teachers offer a single-class trial rate and special rates for multiple classes.

Djembe classes are advertised in many places, but they vary widely in quality. It takes a minimum of six different parts to comprise one djembe rhythm, including the main three parts, played on large stick-played drums: sangba, kenkeni, and dunnun. You don’t get the full effects by playing just one or two parts. You need to learn the whole rhythm.

Studying with an authentic African drum master like Houston’s Baba Abubakr Kouyate is the best way to get the absolute most from drumming.

Healing Power of African Drumming--Part 2

A Healer Looks at Drumming

After just one African drumming class, I was hooked. I felt relaxed yet somehow energized and inspired.

But why? Sure, it’s exhilarating to play jazzy multipart rhythms in a class where everyone from first-time beginners to professional musicians can play together and sound wonderful. (It’s addictive, in fact!) But there had to be more to it.

The comments of class members are summed up by this quote from visionary artist Yvonne Fitch, “Abubakr is like a loving father with a gentle discipline in teaching drumming and healing. After drumming with Father Abubakr. my heart is lifted and my root chakra is cleared out of any negativity. He is the best.”

I agree. Still, I wanted to know more about the effects of African drumming on drummers. A fascinating book, Mind Sculpture, by Ian H. Robertson, offered a clue.

Moment by moment our brains are changed by what we experience, think and remember. Our moods can even be affected by which side of the body we move….

In one study, people were more likely to come up with positive statements…describing an ambiguous picture [while] clenching their right hands than…their left.

That also brought up more questions. What about left-handers? If using the left hand stimulates the right hemisphere, does using the left hand also stimulate creativity? What happens when we use both hands equally in rapid djembe drumming? Could drumming balance the two sides of the brain?

Could African drumming have healing powers far beyond the relaxation and pleasure most people enjoy in it?

Research on the Power of Drumming and Healing

Research on Drumming, Rhythm and Healing

Another classmate, Lynn Colwell, told me about drumming research by Dr. Barry Bittman and showed me a paper she had written on African healing rhythms. When I searched for more information, I found quite a lot.

Drummers in the Bittman study were given two psychological tests: the Beck Anxiety Inventory and the Beck Depression Inventory, which showed they felt less stress and less depression after drumming.

In The Healing Power of the Drum, Robert Friedman quotes drummer Layne Redmond, author of When the Drummers Were Women: "As the two hemispheres begin to resonate to a single rhythm, …the individual is able to draw on both the left and the right hemispheres simultaneously. The mind becomes sharper, more lucid…."

In recent years, major articles describing the healing effects of drumming have appeared in newspapers and magazines such as the New York Times, The Yoga Journal and Newsweek. A Newsweek cover article, "Your Child's Brain" (February 19, 1996), detailed the scientific evidence that the brain has a fundamental need for rhythm and described the stress produced when the brain is deprived of that basic need.

Even just listening to drumming has a relaxing affect and can cure headaches and relieve other stress-related conditions. Furthermore, researcher Melinda Maxfield has shown that a steady rapid 4.5 beats per second (300 beats a minute) can slow listeners’ brainwaves down into theta, the level of deep trance and rapid learning.

Actually doing drumming has even more powerful effects on the body. Drumming has measurably improved the functioning of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s, stroke, Alzheimers, and other serious conditions.

Evidence now proves that stress contributes to all disease and is a primary cause of many life-threatening illnesses, including heart attacks, strokes, and immune system breakdown. Drumming for an hour improves the body’s physical reactions to stress and strengthens the immune system at the cellular level.

So how do you take advantage of these great benefits?

--more tomorrow--

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Healing Power of African Drumming--Part 1

Drum circles are everywhere. People clearly enjoy them even without formal training in drumming. After awhile, though, they all started to sound the same to me.

I never wanted to study African drumming. I knew certain rhythms were used to call the orishas or other spirits, and as a student of metaphysics, I didn’t want to study with a teacher who didn’t understand the effects of the rhythms.

In drum jams with friends, while some played djembes or ashikos, I would accent the rhythm with iron bells or claves (hardwood sticks). Sometimes I would accent the rhythm by playing a large hoop drum, using a padded stick. It seemed safe enough since we weren’t playing “real” rhythms.

Then a friend told me about her fabulous African drum teacher, Abubakr Kouyate, a master drummer and a very spiritual person, who taught the purposes of the rhythms as well as how to play them. The class was fun and uplifting, she said—and right in my neighborhood.

--more tomorrow--

Monday, May 28, 2007

How to Care for Tibetan Bowls

Tibetan bowls are made with the "seven sacred metals" of Tibet. They are made with prayers and chanting. The first time she heard one played, my mother, who knew nothing about Tibetan bowls or how they were made, said she could hear voices singing.

Originally I believe Tibetan bowls were orphaned offering bowls. That is, offering bowls come in sets of seven. Probably when one bowl was lost or broken, the whole set was replaced, and the orphaned bowls were used for meditation.

According to a Tibetan lama who used to teach a group that I belonged to, Tibetans only tap the bowls. They don't play them by rubbing a stick around the rim as we do.

The most important aspect of caring for Tibetan bowls is to treat them with respect. That means never set a bowl directly on the floor. It also means to treat them as sacred objects, not as toys.

Remember that the bowls will dent or break if dropped. Store them safely. Use a padded bag to carry them. Don't drop the bag or let it crash into things.

To me it's easier to play several bowls, along with some tengshas and bells, while sitting on the floor. So I keep my bowls wrapped in beautiful pieces of cloth that I spread out around me on the floor to set the bowls on.

Some of the decorative wooden strikers that come with Tibetan bowls these days are useless for playing. They are not shaped right for rubbing around the rim, and some are too rough.

Instead, you can use a plain wooden dowel at least an inch in diameter and about 8 to 10 inches long. I recommend buying a one-inch dowel and about a 1 1/4 or 1 1/2- inch dowel to use with different size bowls. You need the larger size for larger bowls, especially the thinner ones.

Dowels come in about 3-foot lengths. If you buy dowels at Home Depot or Lowe's, they will cut the dowels for you. Just be sure to sand the ends smooth. For striking the bowls (to get that lovely gong sound), you should lightly glue a strip of felt (about 1 1/2 inches wide) all the way around one end of each striker.

The leftover dowels can be cut into several sets of strikers. They make great claves, too. They are very inexpensive, and you can share them with friends.

Some of the best-sounding bowls appear to be new but made of the sacred metals. I suspect that they are made from old dented or broken bowls that have been melted down and reformed.

Some of the old bowls appear to have been made by hammering the metal into shape. The new bowls look to be turned on a lathe or otherwise shaped by some kind of rotary tool.

The lower the quality of the bowl, the more likely it is to tarnish. I suspect that a few of the bowls out there are not really made from all seven of the sacred metals--or maybe not quite in the right proportions. The sound does not resonate for as long as the sound of the good bowls.

You can polish them with brass and copper cleaner. To keep bowls from tarnishing (if you care about that), try covering them with a very thin layer of paste wax as people do to keep silver pieces from tarnishing.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Drumming Cures Headaches?

It seems pretty counterintuitive that drumming would cure headaches, but it can. I first experienced it for myself about 15 years ago.

I had a horrible headache all day one Saturday while working. I had taken all kinds of over-the-counter sinus medicine and ibuprofen. Nothing helped.

In those days I attended Native American dances (powwows) twice a month. Sometimes with friends, sometimes alone. So when I left the office that day, my car turned automatically toward the gathering.

I never gave it a thought till I arrived, parked at the back of the almost-full parking lot, and stepped out of the car. The dance was held in a church gym, a big metal building. The drumming had started, and the whole building was thumping like a giant boom box.

I thought, "So, let's see now. I've had a horrible headache all day, and I'm getting ready to go inside a metal building where 10 people are beating on a huge drum? Yup, that's right!" I went inside, and in about twenty minutes the headache was gone. Completely gone!

Two years ago I wrote an article on the healing power of drumming for a local magazine. In researching it, I discovered that medical research now confirms what I experienced. Drumming can cure headaches. One woman had had terrible, unmanageable migraines for years. Then her teenaged son took up drumming, and she was cured.

Drumming can do a lot more than cure headaches. That's one of the things I'll be writing more about. Later.

Monday, May 14, 2007

It All Started with Tibetan Bowls...

Not long after I started studying spiritual healing, there was a workshop at our church. A professional musician spent a few hours trying to teach us to drum from written notation. Then he turned us loose to play with all the instruments he had brought, including several large Tibetan bowls.

As healers we all gravitated to the bowls. We took turns lying on the floor surrounded by people playing bowls at our head and feet and on our chest and abdomen. We were hooked.

That evening some of us went to a program where a touring group of Tibetan lamas and monks chanted, including some of the wonderful low, rumbling Tibetan harmonic chants. And they played cymbals and huge horns over six feet long.

It was heaven. I took teachings from the lamas all that week.

Before conducting the White Tara Initiation, the senior lama prepared himself by praying alone before the beautiful, elaborate altar. First, he chimed a tiny set of cymbals. I later learned that they were called tingsha or tengsha and were used to clear the aura and the space nearby before meditation.

Later I spent many hours in a shop, trying out every Tibetan bowl over and over, until I found one that seemed right for me (and that I could afford). I ended up going back to also buy the cheapest bowl, which no one at the shop had been able to play, but which had played for me. I guess it chose me.

The effect on people when you play Tibetan bowls for them is amazing. I began studying as much about the bowls as I could.

I learned that chiming the bowls (gently tapping with a padded wooden striker) breaks up blockages in the human energy system, and rimming the bowls (running a smooth, unpadded wooden dowel around the rim) creates a sound that aligns the subtle bodies (or auric layers) of all who hear them.

I also learned to treat them with respect.