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The heartbeat of the Wind Crest community

Drum circle echoes spiritual, emotional, physical benefits

Created date

November 22nd, 2011

Drumming, a sacred tradition at the heart of many different cultures for millennia, has found a home at Wind Crest, the Erickson Living community in Highlands Ranch, Colo. The drumming circle has been meeting for more than a year, and the beat gets stronger each time they play together. David Maes, director of pastoral ministries, and Pete Ritchie, director of community resources, attended a workshop at the Eden Alternative International Conference, an organization that works to create person-centered care. At the conference, a physical therapist led a drumming workshop and demonstrated the physical benefits the activity has to offer, from lowering blood pressure to increasing focus, muscle strength, and coordination. To Maes and Ritchie, it seemed the perfect way to blend spiritual, physical, and mental benefits. They decided to offer it to the Wind Crest community.

The spiritual side of the drum

First, the circle tunes in and listens to their heartbeats. This centers and grounds them. Then they start drumming the drum echoing the beat of the heart. This flows into the breath, with the drum again echoing the inhale and exhale, and it continues transforming from a place of feeling versus one of technical musical skills. People don t need any kind of musical background to participate in the circle; one doesn t even need a drum plastic and metal buckets work as substitutes. Drummers learn to use different mediums to tap out the beats. Fingers, palms, sticks have all been used to create different effects on the drum skin, as have different beats, taps, and brushes. For instance, light fingertips brushing against the drum sound like rain. Drumming is an expression of what s in you instead of having to know notes or read music, says Mary Tomulet, a Wind Crest community member who has participated in the drumming circle for more than a year. Mary came to the drumming group in search of an activity that wouldn t strain her eyes because she has low vision. Oftentimes, she even closes her eyes while she s drumming, which allows her to center herself even more. It s both emotional and joyful for her, and it calms her mind and body. She can even feel her blood pressure lower when she drums.

Moving to the beat

In addition to the spiritual benefits, drumming has social and physical benefits as well. Dick Queirolo has made a personal commitment to keep his body active as he gets older. He not only appreciates learning the history of the drum and the different cultures that have embraced it, but he also likes how it supports his mission to get his body moving. The drumming really relieves my stress and gets me breathing deeper, Dick says, and it s just so much fun to be with everyone and see how they get into it. Currently, the group is learning two new songs: one an Apache honoring song and the other entitled Shalaliah, a tribal song a circle member used to sing as a child.

Beat of the heart

Maes says we all come from indigenous roots, and the drumbeat helps connect people to those roots. Drumming is a sacred thing, he says, but it s not confined to any one religious faith. The drum symbolizes the heart, and the beat of the drum is the beat of the heart. When we drum together, we re expressing the heart of the community.