Combine the light and warmth of a fire with the rhythm, and the result is the perfect environment to develop social bonds, the first community building tools.
Fire and the Drum Circle
We cannot underestimate the impact of these two elements on community development. Let’s look at how light and sound become the foundation of society.
“Fire brought man together, drums built communities.” — Dan Shinder
We should not forget these tools. Perhaps their use is something we should emphasize more than watching TV? There are some excellent reasons to bring this practice back.
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 found beyond warmth and cooking. We don’t know how our ancestors discovered the Shamanic State of Consciousness, but they learned how to use drums or rattles around a fire to induce a trance-like state.
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. Those with a specific purpose have a particular rhythm. 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 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, the campfire and circle are a perfect social format. Fire provides light, and the circle gives equal access.
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 communities people. Our heartbeat synchronizes with the rhythm. This synchronization helps people to connect. So, fire and the drum become a powerful force in developing culture.
People used these two elements as tools to explore awareness.
Mnemonic Memory Tool
If a fire can bring people together, drumming can provide a purpose. 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 of many things, from healing practices and medicinal plants’ preparation to their history.
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 tradition combines peripheral vision with and music. The practitioner enters a trance-like state of mind. It enables one 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.
Silat Concealed in Plain Sight
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 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.
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.
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(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