By Christine Stevens
Christine Stevens leads Healing Sound Retreat, along with Silvia Nakkach, August 29–September 1
The following is an excerpt from Music Medicine, the Science and Spirit of Healing Yourself with Sound (Sounds True, 2012)
We use the language of rhythm all the time. I feel “off-beat.” Happiness is called “up-beat.” We talk about feeling like “we got our groove back.” But dive deeper into this rhythm metaphor to the deep pulsing heartbeat that defines life itself, and you’ll discover that rhythm exists within and all around you. Playing drums and percussion can become a sacred invocation of this healing life force.
Four Rhythms of Life
We all have rhythm within us. This rhythm is so natural that we hardly notice the drum of who we are. The following are just a few examples of four rhythms we know from being alive that define the movement of life.
1. Heartbeat. The heartbeat rhythm is primal—the mother of all rhythms and the rhythm we first heard inside our mother’s womb. The groove of life ranges from a resting heart rate of seventy-two beats a minute, or adagio, which liter- ally means “at ease,” to andante, or moderate, like a walking pace. When you question your own innate rhythmical sense, just remember this inner beat pulsing within you always. If you are alive, you’ve got rhythm.
Video to practice the heartbeat:
Watch hundreds of people playing the heartbeat together at the Sounds True Wake Up Festival: CLICK HERE
2. Breathing. The beat of breathing is a natural balanced pattern of inhale and exhale. Breathing is the rhythm of life that gives the body the chance to receive and release. How we breathe creates great impact on our health, and our breath is a barometer of our state of being. Relax, and we breathe more deeply. Under stress, our breath becomes shallow. Become aware of this breathing rhythm, and you will be more present and connected to your body.
3. Walking. Walking is a two-beat pattern, a double beat, which in music is called “duple meter.” The walking beat has a masculine energy, like marching forward, feeling a sense of linear movement, straight ahead. Military chants are formed to this rhythm, but so are samba grooves in Brazilian street parades. In the walking beat, we learn the subtle contrast between downbeat and upbeat. In the downbeat, we feel a sense of grounding, like steps walking on the earth. In the upbeat, we feel lifted in the magical space between each pulse.
Learn the walking rhythm in a labyrinth practice:
4. Rocking. Rocking back and forth or swaying creates a soothing, more feminine groove.
We all know it from the motion of being rocked as babies. Rocking inspires the hips to move in the sensuality and circularity of undulating motions. Rocking is a triple meter or three-beat pattern. We hear this rhythm in many world beats, from Africa to Brazil, and in cultures that live in more connection to the feminine energy of Mother Earth.
The Groove—The Pocket of Life
The groove in music is the feeling that calls our bodies to dance easily and effortlessly. It’s the underlying essence of the rhythmical force that holds music together. Good drummers learn to establish the groove and then fall into it, maintaining a consistent energy. The groove is a pathway, a portal, a secret spot that drummers call “the pocket,” a place of rhythmic alignment where playing becomes effortless.
Being in the groove also happens in life when we create the groove that is our essence; it’s our way of moving through life, sharing our gifts, growing, and dancing. We can tell when we’re in the groove. Life lines up, and we feel a sense of being carried by the rhythm of our daily movements and interactions. Gradually we learn to trust the groove and take risks; and we do so more and more effortlessly. Life becomes a dance to the beat of our own drum, building the “mojo” upon every beat of our life as we step forward, sometimes in uncharted compositions orchestrated by our own heartbeat.
Tune in to your own life’s groove and notice the tempo changes. Be courageous and share the beat of your own heart. Notice how you create the pocket of life—the place where your gifts line up with the opportunity to serve, grow, and create.
When rhythms line up in life’s magical moments of perfect timing in an unplanned way, it is synchronicity. Synchronicity is an awareness of the rhythm of seemingly coincidental events occurring in perfect timing. Synchronicity in life’s magical moments reflects a perfect timing beyond our own planning. Chronos, the root of synchronicity, literally means “timing.” When we recognize these synchronicities, we experience an even greater groove of life. It seems that things come together beyond our own personal efforts. Perhaps you have had an intuition to call a friend just at the moment she needs your support. Or maybe you are in the right place at the right time for a new career opportunity. When this happens, you are playing your life like a drummer in the pocket, the groove—and this is your rhythm.
When we live according to our life’s purpose, synchronicity grows. The key to this is to practice recognizing synchronicity, like a drummer listening for moments when the beats align perfectly, effortlessly. Then we can receive the magic and trust the effortless unfolding of our rhythm.
Think of a time when you experienced synchronicity in your life that was an amazing moment. Be aware of this rhythm in your life and celebrate the deep pocket of this sacred groove.