Cultivating Indigenous World Awareness
By Mabry Doyle
Holism is finally spreading into the mainstream, as it becomes clearer to us all that our heretofore fragmented world view is not merely outmoded, but patently destructive. Test nuclear weapons under ground. Nuke the body to kill cancer. Level the rain forests. These are but tiny samples of common practices unthinkable from a holistic viewpoint.
The world’s indigenous peoples have practiced holism for millennia. Thank the spirit of the animal or plant that provided the food. Honor the Earth as sacred. Enact ceremony and ritual to enliven the spirit. These are tiny samples of holism in daily indigenous world practices.
Many indigenous cultures have no separate word in their native tongues for “art” because for them “life” and “art” are one — the same word. Everything is part of Great Spirit’s miracle; everything is alive, conscious, inter-related. Some call this world view “indigenous world awareness.”
Drumming has always been central to indigenous cultures. It is used for connection to the Earth and each other, for celebration, for ceremony, and for rites of passage. As a universal, vibrational language, the drumbeat communes with the Earth and all Her creatures.
A Navajo elder named Mano used to say, “The drum is the Great Spirit’s favorite instrument. That’s why we were all given a heartbeat.” Regardless of species, we all share the experience of having heard our mothers’ heart-drum, our first persistent, comforting sound before birth.
As holism begins to come full circle, 21st-century scientists are discovering that “indigenous world awareness” may offer our fragmented culture more than simply a model for study. It appears that the gift of the drum may, in fact, provide an antidote to some of modern society’s worst ills.
A brand new medical research study indicates that group drumming boosts the immune system. Published in the January, 2001, issue of Larry Dossey’s Alternative Therapies, the ground-breaking study was performed at Meadville Medical Center by a team of MDs using control groups and blood tests.
Led by well-known researcher, author and cancer expert Barry Bittman, MD, CEO of Meadville Medical Center’s Mind-Body Wellness Center in Meadville, PA, the study shows that group drumming actually increases cancer-killing (NK) cells which help the body combat not only cancer but other viruses, including AIDS.
According to Dr. Bittman, “Group drumming tunes our biology, orchestrates our immunity, and enables healing to begin. When our hands connect with a drum that vibrates with our energy, vitality . . . and unity, we become whole again.” Dr. Bittman’s radio program, Mind-Body Matters, is syndicated nationwide on NPR.
This new medical research follows recent biofeedback research showing that even brief heartbeat drumming can double alpha (a light meditative brain wave) and reduce stress. We now know that stress depresses the immune system and has been linked to nearly all diseases.
Drumming has also been used successfully with Alzheimer’s patients and autistic children to focus attention, with war veterans to end trauma, and with addicts to support recovery from drug and alcohol abuse. Progressive corporations like Motorola, Apple and Levi-Strauss have drummed to promote team spirit-building.
Widely published research also indicates that playing musical instruments increases kids’ learning abilities. This appears especially true of those instruments which can be played intuitively, like the drum. Qualitative studies have shown that drumming enhances right-brain functions such as intuition and creativity.
Why is this ancient ritual practice emerging as a major healing tool in the age of technology? Feeny Lipscomb, founder of the non-profit All One Tribe Foundation in Taos, New Mexico, offers the following insight:
“Dreams are the way the unconscious speaks to the conscious mind. Ritual is how the conscious mind speaks back. One-sided conversations are unhealthy for the psyche, which craves response. Recent writings on addiction suggest that we are hungry, that our souls are starved because our lives are devoid of ritual.
“We keep trying desperately — and unsuccessfully — to feed this hunger with food, drugs, sex, alcohol, work, shopping, gambling, etc. Drumming is one of the most accessible forms of ritual because to drum along with our own heartbeats is so natural. It calms us, centers us, and reconnects us with our deeper selves.”
The All One Tribe Foundation, which organized the global drumming event “Drumming In the Year 2000” and broadcast “As We Drum, We Are One” in many tongues worldwide, has as part of its mission “To support and disseminate research on the healing effects of drumming.” For current research, articles on drumming and wellness, testimonials from Managed Care Centers, and to find drum groups, events and classes around the world, see www.allonetribe.org.
Fortunately for us all, there is a new and growing segment of the population in this country whose awareness approaches indigenous world awareness. More than 50 million “Cultural Creatives” were identified in a recent ten-year demographic study done by the well-respected Institute of Noetic Sciences. Who are these people, and what defines them?
Including one in every four Americans (with two women for every man), Cultural Creatives are passionate about the environment and committed to personal and spiritual growth. They have a basic feminist perspective. They’re adamant about authenticity and willing to pay for it when they shop. They tend to explore alternative rather than allopathic medicine. They want to know how and under what conditions things are made. They support human rights and worthy causes.
Open-hearted, conscious people like these often ask how they can help in a culture where a fragmented world view, though shifting, still rules. The answer is simple: Get involved. Volunteer for something you care about, where your energy can make a difference. If your life is full, give only a few hours per week or month.
If you’re a business or an artist, align yourself with something you want to support. Form strategic alliances where everyone wins. The energy of such alliances can be exhilarating. The results often bring profits in unforeseen ways, on many levels. There’s magic in coming together in support of an idea whose time has come. Such ideas take on a life of their own.
Native rock artist Robby Romero of “Red Thunder” has long been outspoken and passionate about the environment. Robby is an example of how such alliances can work. Ten years ago, he recognized that the founder of Aveda, Horst Rehelbacher, openly shared his concern for the environment.
Robby joined with Aveda in putting a message out to accompany both Aveda’s products, which use pure flower and plant essences, and his own music and film. Together, they have managed to raise consciousness on environmental issues worldwide. Robby, a special “United Nations Ambassador of Youth for the Environment,” has recently expanded his alliances.
Having put out an awareness-stirring film and soundtrack called “Hidden Medicine,” which has played in rotation on the Sundance Channel, Robby has recently aligned with All One Tribe®, a Co-Op America Green Business which makes award-winning native drums, and with Michael McCormick Gallery in Taos, NM, another business which supports an indigenous world view via its art.
Their alliances will likely expand further in support of what is, they hope, a new perspective on how mutual support can work. These collaborations seem more poignant as we enter the final quarter of what the United Nations has declared the “International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples” (1994-2001).
What do rock music, drums, paintings, and beauty products have to do with one another? At the very least, their founders share a strong support of indigenous world awareness. But perhaps the more incisive question is, “In a holistic world view, what is not related?” Finding common ground, after all, is the challenge for our survival as a species. When we begin to think with our shared heartbeat, then we can truly make a difference. Then we are walking the Unity talk.
Mabry Doyle is a writer, drummer and entrepreneur who lives in the mountains of Northern New Mexico. For correspondence email: firstname.lastname@example.org For exquisite handmade drums, indigenous world products and accessories, check out www.allonetribedrum.com . To post a message, find a drumming group in your community and learn about the Foundation, check out www.allonetribe.org .
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