THE FEATHER UNDER MY PILLOW
A Tribal Spirit Drumming Dream
by Ciara Josephine
I woke up this morning dreaming of a feather under my pillow and it reminded me to write and share my experience of the tribal drumming weekend I have just experienced. This is a three-day retreat that includes drumming, gospel singing, healing sound baths, heart songs, dancing and dressing up if you so wish! During this specific weekend 39 of us gathered together and entered a dreamlike space as John Bowker the organizer and all round magic man, describes it.
I entered the welcoming ceremony on the Friday night with a mixture of excitement and judgment. Was this the right decision? What the hell am I doing at a drumming retreat? I should have gone out with the girls! These were all the thoughts racing through my mind.
I glanced around nervously, cautiously, wondering who were these people that I would be spending my next three days in an intimate setting with.
I usually spot the cliques and established cronies straight away (these are the people who tend certain types of events regularly and then take the invisible higher seat, the inner circle) I have very little patience for these groups and this is a pretty raw issue with me as it brings up memories from a mindfulness retreat I attended. During this retreat a group of apparently ‘conscious’ people actually covered a chair explaining how there was no room for me at the table. This specific table was full of the cronies, the regulars, the people who really should be the ones making sure you were included, especially seeing as it was my first retreat with them!
However this drumming weekend seemed different, the leaders and facilitators were just that, leaders and facilitators, and pretty excellent ones in my opinion. I didn’t know any one there and even though I was a newbie, only having attended this once before with some people attending for over 12 years I felt included, safe, minded, welcome! I know this seems like playground antics, but it is these types of wounds that generally surface during retreats and healing weekends, so feeling welcome, safe and included really establishes the foundations of the weekend and the foundations of how deep you are willing to go. If you don’t feel safe you will keep the barriers, blocks and general safety mechanisms up.
The Friday night went by quickly with a mixture of trance drumming, tribal singing and dancing. I noticed during the night how I shifted into an altered state. During the drumming breaks I would speak to people and could sense a lightness, a giddiness, we were on our way into the ‘dreamlike state’.
How John describes it is that during these weekends you enter into a different frequency, carried and held there by the music (music being a symphony of frequencies.) You journey into an altered state of consciousness. How I would describe it is the harsher energies of the world, the general state of panic and anxiety that we all live in vanishes as you are held in a bubble of musical harmony.
John described it further as ‘you access a different part of your brain’. Perhaps it might be that we come out of the fight flight response and into a space of safety so we are able to open up greater parts of our awareness.
Whatever it is, you truly journey into a much more magical space. It really is like you take a happy pill, and you see the world and other people through a rose tented lens of well, love and acceptance.
However apparently you tend to forget the weekend when you leave as you return to the resonance of your normal life and routine, taking the gifts of a more open heart, greater awareness, healing and magical friendships and connections with you.
As I entered into this space I could hear the voice of the worrier within fade, my ‘To Do’, ‘Who To Be’ list vanished and the problems that had been plaguing me seemed now insignificant. This was becoming a dream that I really didn’t want to wake up from!
THE HEART SONG
Mixed in with the drumming and singing the next day was the most sacred space I have ever felt held in. This space John calls ‘Heart Song’. During this time the 39 of us gathered and sang the most beautiful words in Latin (I think) which translated as, ‘I love you, I send you love, (or something like that).
It was in this moment that I recognized John as a true alchemist, through his unique mixture of musical gifts he managed to guide a group of ‘regular’ men and women into the scariest space we as human species fear to go, dum, dum, dum, our heart! Knowing that by guiding us here we would then have to ‘feel’ the dreaded pain that we hold. As I sat, with tears flowing from my eyes hearing the cries of pain from around me, the deepest sense of compassion for my fellow bothers and sisters, my tribe, washed over me. I could hear that the pain, confusion and anxiety I carried in my heart was not mine alone, I was surrounded by a group of masters who equally had the courage to go there, to go to the depths of pain within and release what we ‘collectively’ are holding!
A quote I came across about how what will change the world are the tools we have to process our collective pain and grief came to mind, and I looked around and realized that this ‘Heart Song’ was one of these tools and definitely the most effective one I had ever witnessed and experienced so far.
John Bowker truly was turning lead into gold!
The heavy pain held deep in each person’s heart was surfacing and transforming into a beautiful symphony. I can only describe it as magic. And as John explained in our closing ceremony it could take someone 6 months, even a year in talking therapy to go where this music took us in a weekend. (John is a trained counselor and he was saying this not to take away from the effectiveness of talking therapy, but more as a comparison and how this system is another amazing tool for the healing process).
THE LEGEND - THE PLAN
We entered Halloween night with another trance drum set, the lights were off, candles lit, the trance drumming beats were gently holding the space as John began another one of his endearing stories… a story about a legend, a legend passed down through time that speaks of ‘a plan’… an ancient plan for humanity that restores the natural order of things… and in this plan, wise men and women would gather and collectively create a new way, a world in which kindness, connection, love and acceptance were the general ways of being, not some naïve qualities that weak people exhibit, a plan where we become conscious of our connection to each other, our connection to Mother earth.
This secret plan was emerging now, as legend has it, and slowly waking up in seed groups around the world, until the 144 thousandth person woke up and remembered ‘the plan’ and then it would no longer be a plan, but would become the general WAY of things! As John spoke of this legend, this story passed down through time, something within me screamed YES, as I recognized the truth of this legend, I recognized and remembered the plan! Humanity's plan – the secret order underneath the chaos.
How this legend could work was discussed at another point during the weekend when John spoke of the Hundredth monkey effect, when a critical number of monkeys learnt a certain behavior, the behavior spread across the water to monkeys on surrounding islands that were a great distance away. Rupert Sheldrake explains this scientifically in his pioneering life science, Morphic Field Resonance.
So if a critical number of us cultivate these behaviors based on kindness, compassion, unity, collaboration, sharing, non-violence and community, it will become the norm. These new patterns and behaviors will be established in our collective field. Hooray!
“BEYOND RIGHT & WRONG DOING THERE IS A FIELD,
A SINGING FIELD
I’LL MEET YOU THERE!”
What I loved even more about Johns style of holding space is that everything he was saying was a possibility, a story, a legend, another view point, you could take it or leave it. He was claiming none of it as fact, their wasn’t a hint of dogma, neither was he claiming ownership over any of it.
It was such a beautiful and refreshing space to be in, where everyone’s place of reference and belief system was respected. For me each word held within it the deepest wisdom, delivered in the most lighthearted way, planting seeds of remembrance, stirring knowing that I myself held deep within. For others maybe it resonated, maybe it didn’t and that too was fine – everyone was accepted, judgments of right and wrong were left at the door!
REMEMBERING THE DREAM
The sense of community that had been cultivated became most apparent in the closing circle, when we each spoke of our highlights over the weekend. John explained the importance of the closing circle as it was during this reflection time that we would bring awareness to certain parts that would then stick out in our mind. These ‘highlighted’ memories would remind us in the future of the space we had been in. Just like when you dream you are flying with birds and you wake up to find the feather under your pillow.
I woke up this morning and there was no feather under my pillow but there was a space in my heart that hadn’t been there three days ago. A space that I have now filled with hope, hope that the plan I signed up for, the plan for something greater for my tribe, my fellow brothers and sisters will come to fruition. I know that it is weekends like this, held by magicians like John Bowker, who create the space for THE PLAN to be realized. So if anyone out there is feeling drawn to something like this I would urge you to go, journey into the dream and know that amongst the drumming and singing something very special is happening, something talked about in legends!