The Dark Night of the Soul - Drum Track
2020 Workshop Meditation
2020 - what a year so far; fires, race riots, evictions, economic collapse, pandemics, hurricanes, murder hornets (remember those?) impeachment, corruption, TRUMP! YUCK.
If you’re anything like me, you’re ready for the great spiritual colon cleanse of the soul. My mom, who has attended workshops with Sandra Ingerman before, in person as well as online, suggested that I sign up for one of her 9-week shamanic guidance workshops, entitled “The Dark Night of the Soul as a Portal to the Shaman’s Light.”
The workshop is hosted by Shift Network, and right now we’re in week three. Part of the personal growth and shaman work we’ve been doing I wanted to share with you, in the event that it could help you to relieve some spiritual anxiety of your own, and also because it’s become a part of my own growth in an attempt to focus my energy on what I want to see, instead of what I don’t.
If you’re visiting from the link I posted on the FB class page, Welcome! Please bear with me for a quick explanation of our ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ practice to the Dope Fiends Comics regulars that have not had the privilege of attending our zoom sessions.
Our 9-week journey began with the instruction to dedicate a sacred space to ourselves. An altar at which we could meditate and relax while engaging in our spiritual growth practices and where any sign of the “fake” news media, the overdue bills, or the worries about anti-maskers and alt-righters were banished from sight, sound and mind. We were told that our altar would evolve over the course of the workshop, and to be fluid with it as it changed to reflect the changes we made in ourselves.
I had been meaning to dedicate some space for my wife and I to meditate, unwind and practice yoga without having to move furniture. It took some major shoving. hauling and jugging within the household, but I was really pleased with the result. As an added benefit I bought her a portable fold-up massage table that we added to the space.
The next thing we were taught to create was a ceremony, in which we could remove the parts of ourselves, and our past that no longer serve us. Things like loss, sadness, guilt and their bigger, meaner siblings; loneliness and hatred. We were supposed to use an element and incorporate it into our ceremony. I chose the element of fire because of its ability to transform. My wife and I sat in our sacred space and wrote down our intentions on a piece of colored paper. We each picked the color we liked best from a stack, and then burned the paper with the intention written upon it, and wafted the smoke across our auras and altar.
To me, the true beauty of this ceremony is that it can work for you in two ways. You can hold the intention to let go of some previous pain if you need that specific healing. You can imagine your physical, mental or emotional baggage burning up with the paper until nothing is left, and you are free.
You could hold an intention of invitation, and open yourself to something wonderful and miraculous coming into your life. As you burn the colored paper, visualize your intention and your energy changing like a caterpillar into a butterfly. See it fly off into the universe to become reality as the smoke drifts away and dissipates.
Either way, whichever healing you choose, it is a powerful ceremony and meditation. My wife and I finished our meditation with some drumming and a seated visualization of what our lives will be like now that our intentions have become reality.
This led me to the third part of my creation journey in the ‘Dark Night of the Soul.’ We were warned of meeting tricksters on our journey, but I have no fear of them because truth be told, I count myself happily among their number. In fact, I will shortly be introducing you to several trickster spirits I met along the path.
As part of our weekly workshop, we participate in drumming, chanting, rattling and singing. This happens to coincide with another set of interests I pursue, my recording talents and A.S.M.R. or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, which if you haven’t heard is a whole thing. (T.L.D.R.: The internet discovered that listening to certain types of noises or seeing certain images can trigger a physiological calming response in the body. It’s like a reflex reaction, but super relaxing and often described as a “brain orgasm” accompanied by the physical sensation of tingles.)
As I listened to the drumming tracks provided, I longed to record my own binaural audio and incorporate aspects of A.S.M.R. to create a musical composition similar to the meditations provided by my Synctuition app which is really hit or miss. Some tracks are awesome and some tracks are WTF? A baby crying… bees? This is supposed to be relaxing? But even the good tracks that feature opera, waterfalls, the ocean, campfire pops and crackles, birdsong etc., I feel fall short of the full potential of A.S.M.R. meditation to capture the imagination and paint images of vistas previously unseen, take you to realms you’ve never been to and help you to manifest states of reality you never dreamed possible.
SO… I made my own of course. I’m pleased to present to you, free of charge and with my blessings to share and use:
It starts with the use of some familiar and more traditional instruments. Djembe, rattle and shaker keep rhythm. They are joined at the appropriate moments by pipe and the ringing of a Tibetan singing bowl.
Things start to get wild however when we encounter those trickster spirits we were warned about earlier. Some of them are instruments we recognize, like the Baoding balls and Tibetan singing bowl but interpreted in a new and strange way. Some, like the Thundergourd, although recognizable are performed in unexpected ways. Others are completely alien to us, not resembling anything so much as an instrument, yet still evoking a haunting set of tones, noises and abstract elements that add to the trickster nature of the music.
Meet the Tricksters
In order of appearance
Bottle of Water with Nails in it
Throughout the length of the track, the elements of Water and Earth combine. This is a Gatorade bottle three quarters filled with water with a few rusty nails thrown in to create jingle. As they slosh back and forth inside they pan from right to left beneath the drumming. Eventually the iron in the water returns to the soil, enriching it with nutrients for new plants to grow.
Yup, an old-school metal Slinky. If you’ve never held one end of a metal Slinky to your ear and the dropped the other end to the floor, you might be unfamiliar with the ringing echoes that shoot back to you like a 1960’s sci-fi laser beam. While I held the “ear-end” of the Slinky to the microphone, I jostled it with a percussion wand. The end effect incorporated L/R pans and filter modulation (flange.)
This hand-carved wooden percussion instrument is shaped and designed to sound like, a frog. It has a series of ridges on its spine, and when you stroke them with the wand, he makes a croak that echoes out from his hollow belly. With the proper reverberation, you can just hear that he’s out there somewhere… hiding in the grass.
These little guys are pretty standard also – at first glance. Small metallic balls with bells inside that are designed to be held in the hand and rotated, making a lovely chiming sound.With filter modulation (chorus) and reverberation added however, they suddenly erupt with spritely spirits and little giggling bubbles.
2’ x 3’ sheet of Sheet Metal
HEAVY METAL!! Well, not too heavy to be honest. I suspended it from a C-Stand firmly weighted down with sandbags and banged that gong with a mallet. I also hand warped it to create some bending noises, then just for fun pitch-shifted the whole shebang twelve semi-tones lower for that rumbly in the thundery sound.
Thunder, thunder – thundergourd HOOOOOO!!! This is a hand-made instrument fashioned from a dried gourd that has had the bottom sliced off. A drum head is glued on where the sliced bottom has been removed, and from the center of the drum head dangles a long spring with a bead on the end. Pull the bead and let go – rolling thunder… BUT WAIT! What happens if you pull the spring and let it zip through your fingers like a guitar? What if you tap the spring with a wand?
Glass Bottle and Beads
Thinking to have some fun with a string of mardi-gras beads, I started clinking them playfully against the bottle of soda I happened to be drinking. Not only did the tone change depending on how close to the soda level I clinked, but with a touch of echo and a sawing motion, I summoned a sweetly scurrying trickster to close out the drumming.
I know for certain that I will be dedicating a portion of my time forthwith to a Blog section dedicated to meditation and spiritual growth, with topics of several different aspects of interest open to discussion. I hope that this is only the first of several themed A.S.M.R. meditation tracks I am imagining. And, I’ll let you all know how the rest of the ‘Dark Night of the Soul as a Portal to the Shaman’s Light’ Workshop works out for me, and I’ll share any other ‘homework’ assignments I accomplish. Until then enjoy the drumming!