“Shamanism is not a religion. It’s a method. And when this method is practiced with humility, reverence and self-discipline, the shaman’s path can become a way of life.” – Hank Wesselman
The wise make one lifetime into many; the many make one lifetime into less. Shamans are intent upon making their one life into many by cultivating a relationship and a dialogue with the multiple sub-selves within their own psyche as well as with the multiple sub-selves within the psyche of others.
They intuit the animal-god dilemma inherent within the human condition, and seek to absolve the existential crisis that inevitably occurs because of it. Shamans are not wise because they know everything without questioning, but because they question everything they think they know.
One of the many tools shamans use to question what they think they know is the sacred drum. Drumming is perhaps the oldest form of active meditation known to humanity. It can help with a myriad of issues, such as: retrieving lost aspects of soul, releasing unhealthy entities, solving conflicts within the unconscious, transforming the negative energy of past traumas into positive energy, helping people finally feel suppressed emotions, and healing unhealthy patterns and habits.
Drum meditation can also be used as a method for rewilding. In her book Sacred Land, Sacred Sex: Rapture of the Deep Dolores Chapelle reveals how the drum can have a direct, potent effect on human neurophysiology. She concludes that trance drumming “links us directly with our real human nature in all its deep aspects and therefore can link us once again to the land.”
By surrendering ourselves to the shape-shifting rhythm of the drum, we allow ourselves to move into the ethereal realm of deep imagination, where healing transformation is free to take place; where we are free to communicate with various archetypes and travel through limitless worlds.
As Bill Plotkin writes, “Trance drumming pushes us over the edge and we fall into other worlds.” The rhythm of the drum opens the door to our depths, seducing the angels and demons of our unconscious and resurrecting the forgotten gods and goddesses of our inner world. It’s a mythic journey that bridges inner and outer, the seen and unseen, the conscious and unconscious.
The sacred rhythm of the drum recalibrates our soul, knocking it back into balance with the cosmic frequency, while retuning what may have previously been falsely tuned. By riding the wave of the drum, we perceive actualities and imagine possibilities that we might otherwise have missed.
Drum meditation facilitates healthy ego-deconstruction through its powerful resonance with the depths, thereby allowing the soul to speak. A healthy drum meditation is like a crowbar leveraging the dark depths of our soul. What we see during our drum meditation journey has the potential to reveal clues to the riddle of our lives as well as give us greater clarity regarding the purpose and meaning of our lives.
But it can also upset us and cause us grief and immense pain. It can break our hearts open, which opens us up that much more to the power and poignancy of the sacred. Either way we are soul-shifted by the vastness and enchantment of our journey through the inner-outer nature of the soul-world dynamic. Our souls become more robust, more adaptable to the impermanence of the world.
Through the art of rhythmic drumming, shamans take the concept of “having a vision” to the next level by revealing exactly the sort of dialectical boundary-crossing logic that is needed to overcome the one-dimensionality of modern day deconstructionism. They employ the drum as a vehicle that facilitates journeys into the mysteries of cosmos and psyche, where deep imagery and soulful connection with our deeper self can take place.
When boundary-crossing with the vibratory rhythm of the drum, the visionary experience tends to blend the senses synesthetically, and we take on the power of existential freedom. Imagine Neo caught in between The Matrix and The Desert of the Real. What’s revealed is the truth of reality: there is no separation; everything is connected; all is a synergy of both cosmos and psyche. As James Hillman maintains, “We live in a world that is neither ‘inner’ nor ‘outer.’”
With enough practice, the power of drum meditation can help us to develop what Ivan Illich called “tools of conviviality” by giving us the courage to interpret and live our own destiny as opposed to merely going through the motions of living the destiny handed down to us. We can become human catalysts and proactive agents of change. We can become New-oracles with the courage to tell the old-oracles that they have failed.