Shamanism and the Drum Dance

My practice of shamanism is a path of connection both with the physical aspects of nature and with the unseen and unmeasurable spirits and energies of nature.

My first steps on this path were about engaging with the physical world at the level of warm blood and green leaves, hard rocks and soft breezes. In the beginning this aspect felt juicy, sensual, and earth-oriented. I learned about tracking, edible and medicinal plants, making shelter from leaves and branches, and creating fire with sticks. I expanded my body awareness, learning how to use my eyes, ears, touch, smell, and taste as a fully aware animal would. I came to know all members of the natural world as friends. I learned to express my gratitude to the trees and all the green ones for giving me oxygen and receiving my gift of carbon dioxide every time I breathe. This physical relationship became the starting point of a spiritual relationship which opened my awareness to immeasurable and wonderful new dimensions of that same world.

The second phase of my journey on the shamanic path was about connecting with energies and nonphysical entities through ceremony and purposeful meditation. I learned to seamlessly integrate the physical world and the realms of non-physical energies and spirits. I learned a cosmology and techniques that enabled me to reach higher levels of consciousness and connect with the power and wisdom available there.

I also learned that on the path of shamanism I must use the gifts I receive in service of my people. The body of a shaman becomes an instrument of healing, like a conduit for energy (a “hollow bone”) or a tool of the spirits. The shaman is guided by spirit rather than mind, using the mind’s knowledge in service of that guidance.

The Drum Dance is an example of opening to this guidance. In this ceremony the participant sits on a stool or chair and I take a position a few feet away. I turn my attention to the drum I hold, opening to a spiritual connection with it and surrendering my volition to its guidance. When it commands me, I begin a steady beat and slowly move closer to the person on the stool. Following the guidance of the drum, I move it around and over the person on the chair, up and down, creating a powerful container of sound and energy.

The drum guides me to specific places where healing is needed. I may feel or see the energy of the drum moving into their body. At other times I am conscious more of the container that is created and held by the drum. Often, the receiver will have a powerful experience of altered consciousness and connection with something beautiful, powerful, and loving. They may be given messages of learning or guidance for life. Sometimes, too, there is simply a sense of expansion and relaxation. Every experience is unique.

The Drum Dance and other experiences such as the sweatlodge ceremony and the Vision Quest are examples of the seamless integration of the natural world with the realms beyond on the path of shamanism.

Posted July 7, 2021


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