Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Between Heaven and Earth: Spirit Drumming Guidance with Bhagwan Stan Sternberg
My name is Bhagwan Stan Sternberg. Suzen Sharda Segall has asked me to write a guest column on her blog about my last two months teaching and experiencing Spirit Drumming. I've been a drummer for almost forty years and have been through numerous metamorphoses of what drumming is all about. Spirit Drumming is the latest, a concept that is just now coming together for me as I head into a totally new phase of my life.
Drumming has always been a very important part of me. First I drummed for Ta'amulat, a troupe of belly dancers. Then I put together my own troupe of Moroccan wanabee drummers and dancers. Then drumming merged into improvisational music with a variety of acoustical and electric instruments. Through each iteration I grew and flourished as a drummer and as a teacher. And each iteration revealed to me a mystical universe that I was totally unaware of. Spirit Drumming has grown from out of a mystical seed that was planted many years ago. Let me tell you the story of that seed.
It's the mid 70's in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The vibes of this time and place are loose and free-flowing. There is a large drum circle in myhome, the music is powerful and intense and I have been carried out of my body by the trance inducing rhythms. Our guest, Maria Morca, a famous Middle Eastern dancer and teacher from New York is chattingwith our own Ann Arbor teacher and troupe Ta'amulat leader Suheyla.
Actually, they're talking loudly to be able to hear each other over the din. Their voices float above, around and though the rhythms, and lend an earthly quality to my otherwise minimal connection to thisphysical time and place. Suddenly, through the cacophony of drums andvoices another voice penetrates, speaking clearly and distinctly and Iam immediately aware that it is a voice from the other side.
But the speaker is Maria Morca.
I can see her and hear her and she is chatting away in my home but simultaneously speaking to me over the ethers. She is repeating my name to get my attention. Surprised, I fall out of my trance but she is still calling me, "Stan, Stan." So I respond through my thoughts while I am drumming and I express my concerns that what I am experiencing is a hallucination induced by my drumming trance. So she replies that there is a very unambiguous way of proving the reality of our ethereal conversation, and that I should tell her a short phrase, one that would be very unlikely to be expressed out loud this evening. So I respond with "mathematical morphology", an obscure computer image processing technology that I am currently studying. Then the voice in my head grows quiet and only the sound of the drum sand the sound of Maria's chatting are registering. I listen to Maria and Suheyla having an academic discussion about their art, and I distinctly catch Maria telling Suheyla "...music is based on the art of the mathematical, morphology creates dancing ...". And they go right on chatting while Maria's voice in my head asks "Well?"
I ask her what is the purpose of this magical display and she replies that it is an initiation. "An initiation into what?" I ask, but there is no response. I wait and wait, but there is only the sounds of the drums and the chatting. The call was lost, we were disconnected. She doesn't call back. At the end of the evening we uneventfully exchange goodbyes. I've often wondered what she would have replied, or if she intended to end our conversation at that moment. But just now I'm beginning to understand that only I could have provided an answer to my own question. For now I feel like an initiate, an initiate into a life that bridges the physical with the metaphysical across a broadrange of disciplines. Spirit Drumming is a big part of the answer that is just now emerging from the earth after laying dormant for so many years.
Spirit Drumming is about allowing ourselves to become a channel for both earth energy and sky energy. As humans we now live at the interface of earth and sky. Long ago, before we were human, we lived at the interface of earth, sky and water. Our primary function as living organisms is to be a channel for concentrating and conducting sky energy into the earth and for concentrating and conducting earth energy into the sky. Think of a tree. Through the beneficence of the soil which the tree concentrates with its roots it propels itself out of the ground and into the sky where, through its leaves it releases oxygen which nourishes the sky. Simultaneously the leaves collect sky energy in the form of sunlight and concentrate that energy in its tissues so that they can be returned into the soil and nourish the earth. As humans we derive obvious benefit from the processes occurring in both directions.
As Spirit Drummers we concentrate the earth energy of food and warmth and express it through the channel of our bodies into the acoustical vibrations of our drums carried through the sky to heal and bring joy to anyone listening. And in exchange we mingle with and collect the sky energies of loving oneness, the metaphysical sun, the source of all being. And we channel that oneness into the earth where it is so sorely needed right now, at this moment. A oneness that has the power to unite the disparate parts of our planet and its populations. A oneness that brings us individually so much peace and joy. Spirit Drumming is fun, and its good for you and your whole planet. Try it soon.
Bhagwan Stan Sternberg
Ann Arbor Michigan
Join Stan and our Pittsburgh community for October 1st and 2nd Drumming in the Country. Refer to the previous entry for more information.
Thank you Bhagwan, Thank you one and all,
Suzen Sharda Segall