Flow And Groove

One of the participants in a recent corporate team building rhythm session that I conducted in San Diego remarked that he was moved to re-read the book, Flow, because i included that concept in the session.  That inspired me to re-read parts of it again, myself!

I enthusiastically recommend psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly’s ground-breaking book, Flow, to you, and to anyone who wants to learn more about this heightened and deepened state of awareness.

This is the same state that athletes call The Zone, that Martial Arts and Zen practitioners sometimes refer to a Effortless Mastery, and that others call the Mind/Body connection.  This is the state of being that we also call being “in-the-moment”.

Musicians call it the Groove.  This is when we’re playing deeply entrained with each other, and with anyone who can hear and feel our music.

We enter this state, no matter what the activity is, through repeating physical actions with positive intentions and a mindful and disciplined focus on the underlying fundamental skills of our actions. This is the place where our conscious minds take a well-deserved break from judging and editing our actions and thoughts, and our subconscious minds and our bodies connect on an intuitive level.  

Of course, “repetitive actions” is just another term for “rhythms”!

It does take time to enter into this state; we have to continue repeating our actions even, and especially, when our conscious minds get “bored” and want to try something new.   As the amazing American Opera singer Beverly Sills stated, “There is no shortcut to any place worth going.”!

As we build and reinforce these fundamental actions into our muscle-and nerve-memory, we are able to let go of conscious effort and enter into this Flow state.  This is a state of graceful power!

Drumming For Health & Well Being

Drumming affects us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually in profoundly uplifting ways. This is why people all over the earth have drummed in some manner throughout history.

In the past few years, studies conducted in hospitals and universities (some commissioned by the U.S. Senate and the Veterans Administration!) have documented the health and healing aspects of drumming. Playing drums, whether solo or with a group of people, relieves stress, increases vitality and puts us in the transcendent state of clarity and heightened awareness that psychologist Mikaly Csikszentmihalyi calls Flow, and that athletes refer to as The Zone,  Drummers call this state the Groove.

In fact, drumming is very much like athletics in that in both of these activities we practice movements over and over until they become effortless, powerful and intuitive. In drumming, these movements results in patterns of sounds, that is, rhythms. This repetitive movement and sound relaxes our conscious minds and allows the subconscious mind to guide our movements spontaneously, unencumbered by the conscious mind’s tendency to analyze and control our movements.

One result of this state is the release of stress. Our modern culture is full of many minor, and some not so minor, fears, frustrations and angers. From the inconsiderate drivers who annoy us, or put our lives at risk, on on the highway, to the possibility of being “downsized” out of a job.  We are bombarded by a constant barrage of “fight or flight” stimuli. Our evolution has provided us with the ability to deal with the major, life-threatening conflicts found in nature by putting ourselves through mental and physiological changes that give us short bursts of super-charged energy.

Unfortunately, the constant stream of stresses in today’s modern world leaves us in an almost continuous low-level state of stress. This state saps our energy and self-healing reserves and leaves us vulnerable to physical and mental unwell-being. Drumming, by putting us in an alert, relaxed and powerful state, counteracts this state of fear and anger.

Drumming also gives us physical vitality because it is also a very physical activity. It gets our hearts pounding and our blood flowing. It is a great way to use our bodies, to simply work up a sweat!  Our bodies need, and love, to be used. When we use our bodies properly (relaxing, breathing with the diaphragm, using efficient, natural movements) we are rewarded with increased stamina, strength and flexibility.

Finally, drumming is fun! It’s a great way to feel the pure joy of being alive! Drumming by ourselves allows us to go deeply into our true natures by eliminating distractions and societal constraints. Drumming with other is a universally time-honored way to create a feeling of community and trust. Drumming is simply one of life’s many great gifts!