Friday, 10 November 2017

Ritual as the performed expression of our 'deep': the King's farewell

This year my time in Thailand coincided with the cremation of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.(1)  What an experience.  Although I was not among those who were privileged to gain places along the route, I was still glued to the televised coverage from 9 am until 10.30 pm, by which time the focus had turned to traditional and other performances and I gave up and went to bed.  The next morning while visiting a friend, I was fortunate to catch the morning parade of the King’s relics and ashes from the royal crematorium back to the grand palace.

It was an once-in-a-lifetime event; one which encapsulated the deep love, trust and respect the people of Thailand had for their king.  It was especially touching to see how carefully his body, and then ashes, were guarded and protected every step of the way. This huge ritual pageant, with both Hindu and Buddhist elements, was magnificent and very moving. I could not help but compare our attitudes to our democratically elected leaders and other dignitaries in Australia.  There is no-one, I think, that could engender that depth of feeling on a national level.  Certainly no-one we love, respect, or trust enough.

During his lifetime King Bhumibol Adulyadej was a great humanitarian.  He did not seem to directly influence the political processes.  Rather he focussed on the people and their needs with the aim of uniting Thailand and moving it towards self-sufficiency.

He implemented and financially supported many projects all over Thailand, based on his philosophy of:
  •      sufficiency economy and sustainable development for agricultural areas as well as cities; a middle path with ethical business practices and without greed or harm to others;
  •    the importance of continuing education and education without discrimination, including for the poor and needy.

Ideals like these seem to have been lost in our ‘profit-is-all’ and ‘the-greater-profit-the-better whatever-the-cost’ world.  It is not surprising that respect for our political and business leaders is also missing.

Watching the outpouring of love and grief, and the magic of the ritual performance over the five days, illustrated that there is more to life, more that we need and can experience, than just profit and balancing the books.  The event would have been enormously expensive.  But it spoke to, and was for, all Thais, not just a few elite.  

During the day of the cremation Thai people also had the opportunity to place a white funeral flower at a local memorial to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, which was burned at the same time as the King’s cremation in Bangkok.  I was told that the king’s remains were to be divided into two urns, and placed in two temples so the public could visit although I’m not sure about this, and I missed this last part of the journey, having to journey on myself.

We in Australia lack much as a nation by not having someone to represent us who we can respect and perhaps grow to love; someone who will work for the good of the people, not just for profit.  It would probably need to be someone outside the political system.  I have been interested in the swell of interest in moves for Australia to become a republic and elect an Australian Head of State.  I do think it is well over time for us to become a republic but perhaps this is not enough.  An elected Head of State is still a civic functionary and somewhat removed.

I’ve also toyed with the alternative idea of an indigenous ‘royal couple’, elected by the indigenous community.  There would certainly be more flexibility in their role.  Is this an answer? Apart from being ‘the right thing to do’ I don’t know.  I do know it should be someone who loves this country, can respond empathetically to those in need, and guide the nation towards a better future for individuals as well as a country.  Idealistic?  Yes, but so what.  To have a leader who we can love, respect and trust...that would be a great gift.  Thailand had the People’s King, Britain had the People’s Princess, Australia....?


(1) The details and photos of this event can easily be found on the internet so I have not included them here, eg. Bangkok Post, Friday October 27 2017

c. Annette Maie, 2017

Monday, 31 July 2017

When the s**t hits the fan and all hope is lost: world myths, idealism, reality and suicide.


I am in the process of attempting to downsize my library and, as I find it difficult to let knowledge go, re-reading material that has not been taken off the shelf for years in the hope that it is no longer relevant and I can toss it out…hmmm!  At the moment I’m revisiting, among other things, writing on Northern/Germanic mythology.

During the same period there have been a number of television programs addressing depression, suicide and a sense of hopelessness experienced by young people and those involved in war and peacekeeping, including the police.  Two of these programs are Milpirriand Lateline.[1]

Milpirri is a documentary about young aboriginal men who are being educated and guided through culture and the ritual of initiation to give them a sense of grounding, direction and purpose.  Lateline is an interview with Julia Gillard who has been appointed Chairperson of Beyond Blue, one of the organisations which addresses the growing incidence of suicide.

And the question is, why?  What are we, as a society, as a culture, not supplying?  What is lacking in our socio-cultural myths - the stories we tell ourselves about what life is - and our rituals - the communally sanctioned rites of passage?  Are we promoting unrealistic and idealized stories that can never be realized by ordinary people?  Are we not giving a clear enough picture of the world? How do we guide people through the messy reality of our world and come out with a sense of hope, if not for the world at least for ourselves?  Perhaps all belief systems and ritual have been attempts to process these issues in order to maintain inner and social harmony.

I wonder if part of the mindframe around self-destruction and suicide comes from this inability to reconcile an imagined ideal world and an ideal life for ourselves and those we love with the reality of world news and our daily experiences.  Human fragility is such that the smallest incident can tip the balance and send our mind-brain into a spiral of self-other-anger, loss of focus and hope, depression, and self-destruction. 

Understandably some of this is a result of being confronted with and having to endure horrendous events, and of realising that all efforts to ‘do the right thing’, ‘hoping to make a difference’ or ‘hoping that things will change’ seem to have come to nothing.  I wonder if this ‘spin-out’ comes from not being given the right support structures, including belief systems and myth, to be ready for and process this sense of betrayal.

Yet we seem to need the open window offered by idealized versions of life that organizations and individuals work to attain; that there is ‘someone out there’ who stands for ‘good’.  This need is exemplified by the popularity of the variation-on-a-theme super-hero movies, cartoons and computer games in which ‘good’ versus ‘evil’...and ‘good’ wins.

Re-reading Northern-Germanic mythology has been a reminder that many of our ancient stories contain this ideal.  Stories are filled with the messiness of the world and the need for it to be destroyed in the hope of its rebirth and renewal…or of heroes who fight ‘the bad’...or that there is an alternative world, a paradise, which is perfect and waiting for us when we die. The reality is that since those stories were written the world has not much changed in this regard and yet we continue.

The Northern-Germanic myths also contain the story of a sacrificial victim.  This symbol is questionable as it heroizes the one who is either killed through no fault of their own, or who offers themselves up for the sake of others or the world.  As with suicide, it is a waste – a waste of potential and a waste of a life which has the same right as every other living creature to live, survive, and thrive.

The Milpirri initiation project seems to have parallels in Jane Ellen Harrison’s[2] analysis of early Cretan/Greek rites which are considered to be initiatory.  She focuses on myths where the child is taken from their mother, symbolically killed or hidden away and given instruction including learning the culture’s stories, songs and dances, and then resurrected or returned as mature adults able to function in their society.

Harrison theorizes that the early rites of passage emerged out of the needs of the community.  The underlying assumption is that most people in the community shared similar goals, similar beliefs about their society and each person’s place and function, and that the rites of passage reinforced this common ethos.   The difference now is, we don’t all believe the same, act the same, or dream for the same things.  We are able to live, on the whole, individualised lives.

Information about our icons or god/desses and ways of living is accessed via TV, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram and the like.  Multitudes of ways of being and believing are available for us to compare, judge and fashion our own lives.  However it is obvious that for some this is not enough.  So the question returns, ‘what are we missing in contemporary society’?   Is it that we need to develop our individualised, alternative myths, rituals and rites of passage, and if so, who has the knowledge, understanding and sensitivity to guide us through?

By the time I entered university for the last time that is exactly where I had arrived – the need to create a myth of the world and my place in the world[3], and to develop my own rites of passage to see me through each stage.[4] [5]  The most difficult stage for me was that of confronting the world and life as it is, no illusions.  Some Christian religious call it ‘the dark night of the soul’ or ‘being in the wilderness’.  Other cultures talk of ‘a vision quest’; one where you face your own fears and mortality.  The common thread is facing the fear that ‘it may not turn out all right in the end’. (also see Addendum)

The other common thread seems to be that there are usually 'elders', 'spiritual directors', counsellors or group therapy facilitators who function to guide and guard, even from a distance, in case the whole process becomes too difficult.  It is not an easy journey.  This goes some way towards answering one of the questions I have previously asked.

In every religion there seems to be a dark side and the symbol of the ying/yang in Taoist philosophy is the closest, I think, to visually representing and balancing both sides.  Yet... ‘what if the balance is not maintained in the cosmos, what then’?  That is the primal fear.  I think part of the answer is in our attitude to, and myth/story of, our personal act of living.  We are alive...that is something...something very special.  So, whatever occurs ‘out there’ or ‘before’ should not be allowed to destroy our moment on the planet.

Some people may have no need for such musings - quite happy to close their minds, and I guess eyes, not think too deeply, and ‘carry on’ acting as if all is well, as it might be in their lives, and survive wound-free.  But for others who are musers, or have seen or experienced too much and have been burned, it is not as easy to ignore that dark side.  My rituals, my rites of passage, work for me.

Others may ask, ‘what about hope?’ ‘How do we give our young, our people, hope for the future?’  In 2007 I wrote a poem in response to a comment about something I had written or performed.  I don’t remember exactly.  The poem still encapsulates my current thoughts on this.

GROWING UP

They are so deep...so heavy
too depressing really
I just don’t want to think about it
be confronted with it
Where is the hope?

Why don’t you write...perform....create
something positive
something to make us laugh?

Yes, well...

But the need to search for meaning...an answer
the need to know and confront

to take it all on board as
‘this is what it is’
‘these are the challenges...the contradictions’
‘this is the reality’

to discover that the answer and hope are, after all,
illusive

and then to still find joy in each moment
to be able to accommodate
the complexity
the contradictions
the ugliness
as well as the beauty...
and, with the lightest of hearts,
to fully celebrate the experience of living

isn’t that the time we really grow up
when we really attain our adulthood
our maturity?[6]

I have always differentiated between daily habits and rituals.  However recently, the fact that I have woken on another day and am enjoying my morning coffee while watching the world come alive, is precious and has become a meaningful daily rite...so simple...no theology...just me and my coffee and the world...living the life I have been given moment by moment...finding the cracks...and engaging in practical ways to survive.

It is not the actions themselves, but the honouring of these actions, that moves these habits into the realm of ritual;  similar to saying a blessing over, or grace before, a meal. In Alpha and Omega Harrison writes, ‘if we are to keep our hold on religion, theology must go’.  For her, religion is the realm of the emotions and action, whereas theology is the realm of theory and the gods.  I tend to agree with her and, like her, I suspect ‘I was always a ritualist at heart’.[7] [8]

Nature just is.  The animals just act...and enjoy the sun, or water, or not.  We humans have made it so complicated and probably expect too much. I suspect it is really easy.  We have developed brains able to think deeply and to create and solve the most complex problems.  The downside is we can overthink and dwell too long.  I have had said to me, 'don't think, just do'.  My take is, 'don't overthink or dwell...get moving'.   

I’m not sure whether this has answered ‘what are suitable myths and rituals for our time, including transitional rites of passage?’. Perhaps there are as many as there are people, and individuals need to create their own processes to see them through those times when the s**t hits the fan and it seems that all hope is lost.

For Lao-Tzu in the 12th century it was, the world is ruled by letting things take their course. I prefer to engage more directly with the world I was born into and my myths and rituals need to allow for this while conflating my idealized dreams with the lived reality.  Perhaps the answer is somewhere between separating totally from the world, and getting lost in the fight for ideals.

At this moment...living my life is calling and I just need to do it.

c. Annette Maie, 2017


Addendum, 2019
Recently I read two articles by women experiencing this type of darkness; facing loss of hope.  The first is the founder of TreeSisters Clare Dubois, who names it Inhabiting the Gap, and the second is Emily Johnson in Lovinga Vanishing World,

and also excited to read of the work of Dr. Claire Weekes, whose treatment process for anxiety was to face, accept, float and let time pass.



[1] In the process of compiling this update in 2019 it has been devastating to hear of the recent suicide of five young indigenous girls over a period of nine days, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6595851/The-real-reason-five-Aboriginal-girls-killed-just-nine-days.html
[2] Harrison, Jane Ellen Epilegomena to the Study of Greek Religion and Themis, A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion.  She also points out the link between 'initiation' and 'grown up' in Greek language (p. xxxii).
[3] Centre of the Storm
[4]  Fransesca Gina (Why Rituals Work) exemplifies performers in high stress situations who use rituals to reduce anxiety, boost their confidence and perform well, and presents studies which have been conducted on the use and impact of rituals.  Andrew May (Seven morning rituals that set you up for success) presents a personal list which ‘energise me keeping me healthy and productive…kick starts my body and brain into gear and before long I’m back feeling fresh again’.  For Andrew these actions become rituals by being ‘done with deliberate intention and focus’.
[5] Interesting to read Richard Fidler’s Ghost Empire: a record of his and his son’s travels through Constantinople and its ghastly history, which they embarked on as his son’s ‘coming-of-age’ ceremony ‘to mark a child’s entry into incipient adulthood’(2016:23)
[6] If I have understood her correctly, Susan Murphy in Upside-Down Zen calls this process ‘the tiger’s kindness’.
[7] Harrison, 1915:179,184
[8] Elizabeth Kolbert, That’s What You Think, presents studies which demonstrate that a person’s beliefs, as well as the beliefs of their group, have more power than reasoned argument or the reality.   Kolbert’s writing can be extended to support, in my case in relation to suicide prevention, the argument of finding alternative ways to change one’s belief about the world and one’s own place in the world, and that reasoned arguments will not be enough.


Saturday, 15 April 2017

An incomplete Easter: Good Friday, the Passover and revisiting Susan Griffin

It’s Easter long weekend, and today is Good Friday; a solemn day of remembrance for Jesus’ death on the cross.  Mid-morning and the local aged-care facility erupts with noise: not of wailing, but of the amplified exuberant sounds of piano and song...’hokey pokey’, and similar.  It is a ‘Cabaret moment’:[i]  one in which on one level something horrendous is occurring, or is remembered as having occurred, while simultaneously there is a loud party in progress which drowns out and blocks any thoughts of the not-so-pleasant.

For me this juxtaposition is also a metaphor for our world and how we, as humans, act.  We seem to turn from facing the tough and ghastly events in our world, prefer to direct our attention and/or the blame elsewhere, and carry on as if nothing has happened.  What I don’t understand is how we don’t seem to be able to, as a global village with a global consortium of leaders, face and sort out the horrendous events occurring across the globe and agree and act on real solutions.  Our leaders are intelligent beings, as we are, so they must be aware.  How can they in all conscience ignore it, pretend it doesn’t exist, act as if it isn’t occurring?

But no, better/easier to open yet another coal mine than support alternatives that may slow our oceans’ and atmosphere’s increasing temperatures which are gradually killing all that lives there/here.  Better/easier to over-harvest/over-produce and throw the excess away than to live on what we need. Better/easier to make sure our sexual organs perform at optimum level by tormenting and killing animals than to confront and give in to human limitation.  Better/easier to continue an arms race than to explore ways of working together - well it takes too long after all.  Better/easier to kill or maim ‘the other’ than to compromise, even a little.  Better/easier to leave distressed people to struggle for survival somewhere else than to find ways of absorbing them into our own ‘family’ and giving assistance, even if it can only be in a limited way.  Better/easier to create robots as workers, pets, children, friends and partners than to deal with the messiness, unreliability and expense of real people.  Better/easier to believe in the economic paradigm of eternal growth than to face the reality that this is a finite world.  Better/easier to see the solution to all this as finding another planet to begin the same thing all over again[ii], than to confront this world and respond to what it is telling us here and now.[iii]

Over the last couple of months I’ve been reading a number of books and articles that have come my way and they all repeat the same message – we are losing control of our planet and our future, and we have lost respect for the natural world:  the non-human world that is alive and that we are part of, as it is of us.  In particular, Richardson’s conversations with environmental scientists addresses the issues and questions I am raising here.[iv]  

In Australia we are in autumn and heading towards winter, a time of death and withdrawal, perfect for Good Friday contemplations.  Yet the Resurrection on Easter Sunday three days later does not sit comfortably in this context.  The resurrection is a promise of hope; that all is not lost and regeneration is possible.  Resurrection is a theme better suited to spring and New Year when traditionally the concept and celebration of the death-resurrection cycle make more sense. 

Certainly there is no hope for resurrection of our planet or human awareness at present, even given three days grace.  Yet is it possible to absorb this promise into our consciousness and not let go what we believe is an alternative path for our world and its healing?  It is a hope that our ancestors’ death-resurrection rituals and myths encompassed so it must be carried in our psyche somewhere.  Is it tied to awareness and feelings such as frailty, humility, wonder, love, compassion...not at all robot-like?

As I have reflected on this I have ended up in a place I did not expect to be this Good Friday; one of me, as an unbeliever, hoping and, yes praying, for the awakening of the human psyche and for the future resurrection of our world and its beings.

This week is also the time of celebrating Passover, another spring festival:  a time to remember and give thanks for the Exodus when God liberated the Jewish people, ‘His people’, from slavery.  But do we expect God, or goddess, or Life Force, or the Cosmic (un)conscious, or whatever we believe in, to save us from the destruction we have caused ourselves?  I don’t think so.  That is shifting the blame.  We do need to take responsibility and act. 

So who are my prayers directed to…my higher self…like-minded others...the Internet network…the great vacuum of space…the space between?  And what purpose do they serve?  Is it enough that my prayers and writing articulate my concerns to myself and that they may offer some support to others chancing on this blog who may be as concerned as I am[v]...I/you/we are not alone in this?   Wherever my prayers go and whatever purpose they and my writing serve, they remind me of Susan Griffin’s wonderful poem, Prayer for Continuation[vi].  Here are a few verses.

1
There is a record
I wish to make here.
A life.
And not this life alone
but the thread
which keeps shining
like gold floss woven into cloth
which catches your eyes
and you are won over…….

4
It is my love I hold back
hide
not wanting to be seen
scrawl of hand
writing
don’t guess
don’t guess at my
passion
a wholly wild and raging
love for this world…

21
Do you think it is right
to despair?
No, no, it is not about
right and wrong.
It is the thread
shining…

The 22nd April is UN Mother Earth Day.  Let's take a few minutes to dance/sing/make music...for the healing of the Earth and all that lives here. International Mother Earth Day


c. Annette Maie, 2017


[i] Alluding to the stage musical and film of the same name.
[ii] A solution which has been suggested by respected scientists Paul Cox and Stephen Hawkins.
[iii] The paradox is that we humans have invented and created amazing things.  We are incredibly clever in many ways, but not in this…not in finding and acting on a solution to clean up the mess we are leaving behind.  I also acknowledge that the idealism underlying this paragraph is challenged by the reality of multi-layers and complexity, including conflicting interests, embedded in these issues and that there are those who may never care.
[iv] Kolbert, E. (2014)  The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History; Habib, B (2015) Sustainability is not enough: a call for regenerationLow, T. (2001)  Feral Future;  Shaw, S. & Francis, A. ed. (2008)  Deep Blue: Critical Reflections on Nature, Religion and Water;  Richardson, J. H. (2015)  When the End of Human Civilization is Your Day Job.
[v] Although I am concerned that our world and our leaders are heading down this path, I am more concerned that our leaders choose to refuse to face it, and by doing so are consciously betraying us.  I love life and all that it has to offer and that is enough for me. The earth will sort it out and create something new with or without us, and the cosmos will continue.  It is the perception of our leaders’ betrayal of the people they have been entrusted to care for which I find unforgiveable.
[vi] Griffin, S. in Caldecott, L & Leland, S (eds) 1983.  Reclaim the Earth: women speak out for life on earth. pp. 215-224.  There is also research that explores how our feelings and intentions can physically change our DNA, and speculation about how our DNA might possibly influence outside factors via, as yet unpinpointed and unproven, energy-like fields - Cal et al. http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822%2815%2900322-X;  https://www.heartmath.org/articles-of-the-heart/personal-development/you-can-change-your-dna/.


Monday, 30 January 2017

'Are you gunna be banging them drums again?': healing, spirituality and the space between



Recently I read The Eye of the Reindeer by Eva Winter.  One of the many themes woven through the work is a search for a sacred Sami drum.  The drum was believed to have been hidden by an old Shaman to protect it from being taken away and destroyed by missionaries.  The fictional story touches on a number of issues in relation to sacred beliefs and practices of indigenous people and the drum’s role in healing.  It also brought to mind another book I had read years ago, The Healing Drum: African Wisdom Teaching by Yaya Diallo and Mitchell Hall which is the story of Diallo’s early life in Mali.

Although The Eye of the Reindeer is set in the early twentieth century there are echoes of attitudes still held today. Some are behind comments I have received during the time I have been involved in West African-style drumming and dance, rare though they may be.  One I have used as the title of this blog, ‘Are you gunna be banging them drums again?’.[i]   Others are evident in the times the police have been called to shut us down when we have performed at functions because of noise complaints from the locals. 
  
Comments like these reduce percussion rhythm and drum music to ‘noise’.[ii]    I’m not sure if other bands or orchestras would suffer from the same fate.  Would kit drumming be more acceptable?  Judging by one of the current advertisements on TV, I guess not.  So is there some sort of cultural elitism at work, or is there something about percussion and drumming which challenges us on another level?

By cultural elitism I mean a mindframe which determines what is considered to be ‘ proper music’ and what is not, what is ‘real religion’ and what is not, what is ‘proper behaviour’ and what is not and to take it further, what is ‘proper’ art, performance, writing and what is not when compared to cultures not our own.  Whether cultural elitism is at work or not I wonder if our rejection is also driven by something more;  something to do with fear of ‘other’, the unfamiliar, an unwillingness to be open to what we don’t understand, haven’t learned, and perhaps unable to control, so we are unable to respond to it.

When performance, ritual, writing, art, and meditation ‘work’ they draw us in. When we engage fully with the work or event we are lifted out of ourselves and have a sense of becoming one with it.  We are happy to be drawn along the evolving journey.  Even performers and artists can feel themselves being drawn along for the ride when a work ‘works’ and takes on a life of its own.  It is no longer ‘us’, ‘them’, and the work.  The work and us exist together somewhere in the middle, in ‘the space between’.

Neuro-scientists suggest we go somewhere else in our brains.   It is our brains which allow or inhibit and our brains are constrained by our experiences and knowledge. So if we are familiar with the style or content of the ritual/performance/artwork our brains are quite happy to engage and do not fear the outcome.  However, if we are unfamiliar it is often much harder to let go and follow the flow.  In some circumstances this reluctance keeps us safe but at other times it can stop us being part of situations that could be a lot of fun and give us something special in return.

Scientists are also researching the potential benefit that rhythm, music, meditation, ritual and artistic practice have on our wellbeing[iii]:  something that practitioners have believed and experienced forever.  In The Healing Drum, Diallo and Hall write, ‘In the Minianka villages of Fienso and Zangasso, the musicians were healers, the healers musicians.  The word musician itself implies the role of healer.  From the Minianka perspective, it is inconceivable that the responsibilities for making music and restoring health should be separate, as they are in the west.

In the Miniankan view and practice of music, harmony is the central concept...interaction of parts in a whole.  The encompassing whole...is the Minianka cosmos...visible and invisible.  The entire  Mianianka village social structure and culture seek to sustain the lives of the people in harmony with one another, the Creator, the ancestors, the spirits of the bush, and nature....This is the cosmos in which Minianka musicians play their instruments and heal.’

I would extend this potential to all artistic and spiritual practice.  So do we fear that by being part of particular forms of art and music our own ‘selves’ and beliefs may be challenged and we will be ‘corrupted’?

What also interests me is that we so-called ‘educated elite’ do not believe what we are told by traditional practitioners, or think we experience, until it has been pinpointed, tested and enough evidence found to validate it, and even then only by a percentage probability.  Yet research is also showing in relation to the placebo effect, that if we believe something will work it is possible to be halfway there, if not all the way.  So if we let go our disbelief and engage, our brains may well readjust and allow healing to take place, even if, as Chanda & Levitin suggest, there may be multiple, including social, factors at work.

The other enticing concept is reflected in Dan Seigel’s and Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington’s[iv] writing on the mind and consciousness.  Seigel views the mind as the seat of consciousness, which he positions beyond our physical selves.[v]  It is a self-organising system which links, integrates and ‘regulates energy and information flow within and among us’.  Eddington’s seat of consciousness seems to be an undetermined place and system through which the world interacts and transmits messages, and is continuous with our conscious and/or subconscious mind.  Both position this system somewhere in a type of ‘space between’.   It sounds to me a bit like concepts of a ‘cosmic god’ and similar theological explorations of the nature of 'god'.  Lipton, on the other hand, extends the 'mind' and consciousness to cell membranes which react to the environment (energy, 'spirit') and are responsible for controlling cell function, including changes to DNA. [vi]
 
Be that as it may, there are parallels to the potential for art, including drumming and ritual, to take us, our brains or our minds, to a similar place.  What I am hedging around here is a concept of ‘spirituality’, and the potential link between art and spirituality.  It does not mean that if we engage in art practice we will lose our particular religious or spiritual bent, if that is what we are afraid of.  It is more likely that our beliefs and experiences will influence our response to the work and our use of the medium.  It is also possible that our unconscious and subconscious selves go to all sorts of places we cannot control anyway, especially if it is through these ‘selves’ that we communicate with the rest of the material and immaterial world and cosmos.

When we open ourselves to, and are challenged by, the variety of art forms available to us, including from cultures not our own, and unfamiliar modes of expression, we can partake at any level we wish as well as enjoy the spiritual and healing benefits which historically have been part of them. 

 c. Annette Maie, 2017



[i] In my and our audiences’ defence, positive responses like, ‘that was fantastic’, do outweigh the negative.
[ii] Anyone who has learned African-style drumming is aware that there are many layers of rhythm in each piece, all with high and low sounds, traditionally with voice and other instruments, so creating melodies which speak to each other in an integrated whole. 
[iii] Among the exponentially expanding writing on these topics are: Anastasi & Newberg, ‘A Preliminary Study of the Acute Effects of Religious Ritual on Anxiety’; Bensimon et al. ‘Drumming Through Trauma...’, Chanda & Levitin, ‘The Neurochemistry of Music’;  Cossins, ‘A Brain for Rhythm’;  Davidson & Lutz, ‘Buddha’s Brain: Neuroplasticity and Meditation’;  Doidge, The Brain’s Way of Healing;  Chapter 8; Halpern, ‘Brain Entrainment’;  Harvey, ‘Healing Rhythm’ in Mindfood;  Maxfield, ‘Brainwave Entrainment to External Rhythmic Stimuli...’;  Moss et. al., ‘Effects of an 8-Week Meditation Program on Mood and Anxiety in Patients with Memory Loss’ and the work of Andrew Newberg.
[iv] Seigel is a professor of psychiatry and Eddington was an astronomer, physicist, mathematician and philosopher.