When you gather people in a circle around a fire and add the rhythmic beat of the drum, the result is the perfect environment to develop social bonds. Learn how to use these community-building tools for the healing drum circle, even by yourself.
We cannot underestimate the impact of the circle, fire, and drum on community development. These tools are the fundamental building blocks that create the ideal environment for learning. Let’s look at how the synergy of a circle, the hypnotic effect of a campfire, and the drum’s rhythm create a sacred space for the foundation of culture and society.
“Fire brought man together, drums built communities.” — Dan Shinder
Campfire and Drum Circle
It’s essential in these modern times not to forget the power of some of the ancient tools. Perhaps their use is something we should emphasize more than watching TV? There are some excellent reasons to bring this practice back.
Fire and Drum
Building and maintaining a fire was a necessity. The ring around the circle is a natural place to gather. The more people use it, the more uses they find beyond warmth and cooking. No doubt, the need for healing was also a primary driver of early culture. So, it is only natural that they use the healing drum circle as a focal point.
We don’t know how our ancestors discovered the Shamanic State of Consciousness, but they learned how to use drums and rattles around a fire to induce a trance-like state. Our investigation of consciousness had several purposes. They sought answers for the unknown, and the cause of illness gave impetus to using plants for medicinal purposes. The use of plants by ingenious people is the source of modern pharmaceuticals.
The reasons for the drumming vary. It ranges from merely being a time to gather and unite. Or it can be to provide the focus for a particular goal like healing. The social etiquette for the circle depends upon the purpose. The rhythm can alter and coordinate the heartbeat of those present. If the group is to create a community, the rhythm can be very free form.
As an essential tool for building a community, the circle is ideal. Everyone can see everyone else. And people can join in, and the flow of the rhythm changes.
Fire and the drum circle (1) are the perfect combinations. The fire becomes a focal point. It’s a place to prepare food, but it also provides warmth and safety in the darkness. The drum is the heartbeat. The drummer is like the conductor of an orchestra.
There are several excellent books and drum track recordings for those interested in the Shamanic journey. You don’t need a fire to practice this spiritual technology. However, practicing with others can enhance your own experience.
The campfire and drum circle brought people together. At night, fires provide protection. They are an inviting and practical focal point. Not only does it provide light and warmth from the cold, but it also provides heat to cook. The initial purposes may have been warmth from the cold and food cooking. However, as we’ve talked about, the campfire and circle are the perfect social format for several social tasks. Fire provides light, and the circle gives equal access.
The additional social contact provides the to develop language to communicate. It was necessary to describe, name, and formulate ways to share thoughts.
Flames provided one form of protection from predators. Drumming is also a way to deter curious animals. Watching and listening to a campfire has a soothing effect on the mind. Add these ingredients together, and you have the catalyst for positive social interaction.
Original Community-Building Tools
The drum is a natural community builder; it synchronizes our heart rate and breathing with the rhythm. This synchronization helps people to connect. So, fire and the drum become a powerful force in developing culture.
It is no surprise the heartbeat and breath are the two primary tools for exploring awareness.
Campfire and Drum Circle — Mnemonic Memory Tools
If a fire can bring people together, drumming can provide a purpose. Here the goal is to develop the full use of memory since writing on paper was not common.
For instance, in the Shamanic Journey, a Shaman (2) or teacher controls the fire, drumming. They become the conductors of a symphony of spiritual exploration. In this way, sound and movement are powerful mnemonic learning devices.
Sacred drumming and dance are at the core of many indigenous cultures. They use it to pass along knowledge from healing practices and medicinal plants’ preparation to their history. So, a lot of information in these cultures is passed along orally from generation to generation. If you are to do this, you need tools to unlock the power of memory.
Many ancient cultures took considerable time and effort to understand rhythm and melody as mnemonic learning devices. Music and dance create links for memory. In this way, it can communicate intricate kinesthetic and cultural knowledge. It becomes a foundation for both learning and community-building tools.
These tools are also great for raising the level of your vibrational frequency. The drumbeat synchronizes with your heart and the heartbeat of those around you. So, using the drum raises the vibration of everyone involved.
The Rhythm and Dance of Silat
The Indonesian archipelago is an excellent example of how the Gamelan orchestra’s rhythms are part of the martial arts of Silat (3) and Kuntao (4). These martial arts use a framework that involves several elements. It combines music, dance, and martial arts techniques. It makes an efficient mnemonic learning device.
The dance movements incorporate the use of peripheral vision. Thus, giving the dancer the characteristic far-away stare. The sacred dances encoded various martial arts principles. So, when the dancer performs their dance, they practice their fighting art. No matter the situation, they can move with proper alignment to counter any attack.
This combat training is a tradition that combines peripheral vision with and music. It enables the practitioner to enter a trance-like state of mind to engage the parasympathetic nervous system. It overrides the automatic engagement of the sympathetic nervous system. It’s our fight, flight, or freeze reaction. It makes us react without thinking to avoid danger. Disengaging this may seem counterintuitive. But to engage the higher thinking function, you need the parasympathetic nervous system to analyze the ever-changing combat situation.
With the Parasympathetic in charge, you can “move in perfect alignment on time” and in the “right way.” Training with music ensures proper body. It facilitates fluid movement and seamless application of the techniques. The practitioner can control fear and anger in a combative confrontation when combining all the elements. It’s a distinct advantage in a combat situation. As a result, the physical conflict becomes a dance, albeit a deadly one.
Many Western cultures that occupied Indonesia forbid the practice of their martial arts. Concealing their martial arts in the dance, they could practice in plain sight. The untrained Western eye observes interesting dance-like movements.
It does not compare with Western ballet. Nor does it appear to have the punctuated movements many in the West associate with other martial arts. The Indonesian martial artist has an unblinking stare. They move with unusual jerky, awkward, even ugly by Western standards.
Community-building tools take many forms. A test of fighting skills is an example. It is a way of creating a cohesive hierarchy based on fighting skills. It’s no different from how Western culture uses boxing and MMA to build community.
The Essence of The Healing Drum Circle
Another essential component of the circle is the synergistic effect of people focusing on positive elements. It is helpful for the Shamanic Journey and many kinds of physical, mental, and spiritual healing.
The rhythm of the drum provides a communal focal point for chanting healing mantras and sutras. This technique has found a home in the modern drumming circle movement. Indigenous tribes around the globe use the campfire and drum circle as a focus for healing.
You don’t need a group of people to enter the healing circle of rhythm. Every rock-n-roll drummer will tell you once you are in the rhythm of the music, it is nirvana. But, even if you don’t have professional-level drumming skills, you can still enter this sacred space with your own drum by yourself.
We use drumming and sacred dance as a part of the blended learning process at our weekend retreats. And, when possible, we prefer an open campfire. Fire and the drum are still excellent tools for community building, and the healing drum circle is still a powerful tool for the modern age.
Are you interested in spiritual exploration? Check out the blended learning process at the core of our teaching process. We offer this curriculum through our individually tailored virtual learning academy and our traditional face-to-face sessions. It reflects what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey (1). Our learning options include both face-to-face and virtual learning sessions. Please consider donating and supporting our mission.
(1) Drum Circle, Wikipedia
(2) Shaman, Wikipedia
(3) Silat, Wikipedia
(4) Kuntao, Wikipedia
(5) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia