with Melinda Rodriguez

Archive for the ‘Drum Circles’ Category

Unveiling the light within

I heard a song recently titled “I Am light.”  Lovely title isn’t it?  The lyrics are just as charming, speaking about not being our pain, not being our past, not being the things people have done to us, but being light at the core of who we are.  I believe this to be true.  But how do we experience this truth?  After all, day in and day out we live in a physical body and in a physical world that projects suffering from so many angles.  With the complexity of our human mind, believing and actually experiencing the truth that we are light can be a challenging quest that often seems to lead only to fleeting moments of any real awareness of our light – our Spirit – our God-self.  Anyone on a spiritual path pursuing spiritual growth knows of the many practices and journeys involved in seeking such awareness.

There is one practice that I discovered 15 years ago that truly opened my awareness of my light.  Whenever I engage in this practice, I sink deep into my body, feeling every cell of my being while simultaneously feeling connected to my spirit and my oneness with the Great Spirit.  This sensation lasts for hours, sometimes days.  The more I do it, the happier I am.  The amazing aspect of this practice is that it engages body, mind and spirit.  It is not a passive practice like meditation or listening to music; it is an active practice that requires gentle physical involvement.  It is an activity that has been practiced since the first humans walked this planet, in every corner of the world.  Every culture has roots to this practice, and in many parts of the planet it is still utilized today.  It truly is etched deep in our DNA, for no matter our cultural background, this practice was present at one point or another.  It is also something that anyone can do, at any age.

020 (2)Drumming!  And to a similar extent, dancing and singing or chanting.  These are all activities that our ancestors engaged in.  These activities were a part of everyday life.  They were healthcare for the community.  No one needed training.  No one was told they had no rhythm or a voice not good enough to sing.  Where community is strong in cultures around the world today, you will still find people engaging in making music, dancing or singing.  No one is a spectator; everyone participates, young and old.  And although they may not articulate as much, when they drum or dance or sing – they experience their light.  They experience joy and happiness.  They feel connected to their community as a valued member with something precious to contribute.  These innate elements of creating rhythm with others is sweet medicine to the body, mind and soul; medicine so many are missing out on today.  This missing medicine I believe to be a big part of why so many people feel disconnected, disenfranchised, depressed, ill, and overall unhealthy in today’s world.

Because we have evolved so far away from such activities in western culture, drumming is often a safe beginning activity to get our feet wet and reconnect to our light as we drink in the delicious awareness of our spirit.  Anyone can pick up a drum like a djembe or frame drum and play it.  And when a group of people come together and play drums – magic happens; literally!  I’ve witnessed it hundreds of times with people from all walks of life, all ages, and all backgrounds.  I’ve seen reticence morph into ecstasy in less than 30 minutes.  It just never gets old.  I get a double whammy of light every time I lead a drumming event because not only am I experiencing my spirit, but I’m watching everyone around me experience theirs.

Honestly, you don’t need a drum though to unleash this divine connection to your light.  Something a simple as a tiny egg shaker can connect you to your rhythm, which is the real essence that exposes the light.  Even objects around your home can be used to make some sacred noise.  A basic rhythm such as a heartbeat rhythm played repeatedly for at last 10 minutes or longer will actually shift your energy.  This isn’t something I’ve hypothesized, this is scientific fact.  Dr. Barry Bittman has done extensive research into the effects of group drumming.  To summarize one of his most notable findings, cancer fighting antibodies were found in the blood of a group of people drumming together that were not there prior.  I would hypothesize however that it was not so much the drumming that manifested these antibodies, but the group of people connecting with their rhythm and making music together that made the magic.  It is rhythm that is the direct link to our light, regardless of the medium.

Our ancestors may not have had the knowledge we do today about rhythm, but they certainly had the wisdom.  They knew the power of rhythm and how it affects the community as a whole, which in a healthy society is the health of the people; body, mind and spirit.

So the next time you are feeling down, disconnected, unsure of your light – drum, dance or sing.  Better yet, find a group of people to do it with.  Let go of any inhibitions about rhythm; those would be just part of an untrue story.  No one is truly without rhythm; it is a biological impossibility.  We might find ourselves disconnected from our awareness of it, but just like our light, our inner spirit, it is there…always.  The more you explore rhythm, the more connected to it you will feel.

Be forewarned though – connecting with your rhythm has been proven to ignite states of joy, harmony, ecstasy, peace and a lasting awareness of the light within.  So don’t blame me if you find yourself in a space of exhilarated happiness from drumming or dancing or singing – thank me.

In Rhythm & Harmony







The Return of the Shaman

shaman1I awoke this morning to the cry of Hawk as she soared above the pine trees outside my bedroom.  What a perfect alarm clock.  I got up from my bed and peered out my open window at the beautiful sight and scent of a light spring mist that carried the sweet perfume of my blooming roses and jasmine.  Ahhh, Pachamama – Good Morning!  The Hawk continued her sacred song as messenger.  She has appeared to me often in the last few weeks on my morning runs with my dogs.  Her message is a confirmation to what I have been observing for quite some time.  We have entered the time of the return of the Shaman.

As the world around us continues to evolve with a huge increase in technological advances, the world within us is pulling us towards our true essence – Spirit and the realm of Nature.  This paradox in seemingly opposite directions is actually an act of stability and harmony.  But only if we listen and follow that inner pull.  The Shaman within each of us desires to awaken and ignite our connection to nature, arousing our awareness of Spirit and illuminating our pathway of purpose.

The illusion of economical stress, violence and upheaval that penetrates the psyche of humankind right now is actually the perfect platform for the Shaman to emerge.  When the cloak of media and excess materialism begins to fall away, what is left is what matters – community, family, relationships, the beauty of nature, and a deep connection with Spirit.  Our inner Shaman develops and thrives within the natural world of rhythm, harmony, wellness and wholeness; this is the essence of who we truly are.  This essence is thirsting to take front and center stage in our lives so that we may experience the beauty, wisdom and peace that we came here to be.

The fundamental nature of the role of a Shaman in both ancient and contemporary societies is to create and sustain equilibrium and wholeness for Mother Earth and her inhabitants.  This role is becoming increasingly necessary causing people to awaken and remember their purpose.  Our awareness of our inner Shaman is intensifying and we are being called to embrace our path.  The Shaman or Shamanic Practitioner takes on many different roles to achieve wholeness.  For some it may be the role of healer, activist, teacher, intuitive advisor or even bringing sweet shamanic medicine into seemingly mundane roles.  The common denominator is a developing and deepening a connection to nature and increased intuitive awareness.

Sacred ToolsNature is the teacher of harmony and wholeness.  When we are aligned with inner rhythm and the natural world our Shamanic instincts awaken and we embark upon the journey of traveling the inner worlds of consciousness.  If we follow our instincts, we are lead to the right circumstances to further develop our gifts and talents so that our unwavering, constant connection to Spirit becomes a natural, harmonious way of life.  When challenge arises, our response comes from wisdom rather than fear.  We hold onto our power and utilize that force as a beacon of light and love that inspires others as it permeates and fuels every aspect of our life.  We are aligned with our own rhythm and listen to the heartbeat of nature to guide us as the rhythm shifts.

On this sacred Holy Day of Beltane, may we welcome and celebrate the return of the Shaman.  Let us step sacredly upon our Earth Mother and listen to her song.  Dance to the rhythm of the wind, let your passion ignite by the light of fire, drink from the waters of joy and be nourished by the abundance that is all around you.

In Rhythm & Harmony,






The Dream

I have been on an incredible journey of learning and teaching in the fields of Spirituality, Healing and Personal Growth for well over a decade.  A few years into this journey I began drumming and fell passionately in love with rhythm and the transformational healing power that drumming played in my life personally.  Just at the point where I was beginning to connect the dots and formulating the awareness that somehow rhythm was an important component to what I was teaching others – I had an incredible, visceral, unforgettable dream one evening.  I was in the habit of recording my dreams first thing in the morning before they left my memory, and this is what I recorded: 

As I approached what appeared to be an ancient, adobe type structure, I could hear the deep, primal beat of drums coming from within.  As I entered, I felt a sensation of coming home, as if I was so familiar, and so comfortable with this space, yet I couldn’t recall being there before.  I embraced the adventure and wandered through this sacred place, listening to the sacred rhythms and feeling so connected to Spirit.  There were several rooms within this building, but the rooms were surrounded by only three walls instead of four.  Where the fourth wall would be was an open space into the outdoors.  The rooms contained a wealth of beautiful Indigenous artifacts.  There were colorful baskets, frame drums, pipes, shields, masks, blankets and feathered fans carefully placed on walls, shelves and the floor all throughout each room.  It was a visual feast that took time to take in and savor.  I slowly made my way from room to room in ceremony to the beat of the drum, honoring the beauty of each item I witnessed.  As I approached one room, I could hear chanting of some sort.  It was not a language I understood, yet it had that same familiar feeling.  I entered the room, and there was a group of Indigenous Elders of various ethnicities sitting in a circle.  They deliberately did not acknowledge my presence even though I knew that they knew I was there.  One of the Elders, an African man, looked up at me, and with his eyes only, invited me to sit in the empty space next to him.  I took a seat within this sacred circle and the next thing I knew, I was chanting with the Elders.  Although I did not cognitively understand what I was chanting, I seemed to know how to sing and pronounce the sounds.  I could still hear the drums in the distance, and the chanting integrated and synchronized with the rhythm.

After sitting and chanting with this council of sacred beings, the gentleman that invited me to be seated got up and left the circle.  I looked up at him as he was exiting the room and he looked back at me with those same inviting eyes, indicating that I should accompany him, so I did.  We walked down a hallway where there were more artifacts hanging on the wall.  We seemed to be getting closer to the drums.  As we neared the sounds of sacred rhythm, I could also hear a didgeridoo being played with the drums.  The African Elder and I walked in silence as we approached the music.  My entire being was filled with healing rhythm.  In an open, outdoor garden space, in the center of this ancient adobe building, there were dozens of people, from all different cultural backgrounds, all making music together.  Some where playing various types of drums, some were playing different instruments; others where dancing, some where chanting, one person was playing the didgeridoo, but everyone was participating.  The Elder looked over at me and finally spoke.  He said “You must make music.  Everyone must make music to heal.  You must bring the music to the people; be the bridge from the ancient cultures to contemporary societies and teach the people to make music.  Then, the people will heal their body and mind, and the body and mind of the Great Mother.”  He continued to speak to me about the power of rhythm and sacred ritual and the need for people to return to community.  I awakened from this dream, retaining every memory of every moment.  My journey towards my purpose was unveiled.   

I have never forgotten that dream.  It has fueled my continued connection to rhythm and the importance of rhythm and drumming in my work.  At the time of this dream, I was just learning about drumming in various forms and with several different types of drums such as the Native American frame drum, the West African Djembe, and the Middle Eastern Dumbek.  I was taking classes, going to drum circles and eventually went on to lead my own drum circles.  Soon thereafter I was invited to work with Drum Café which uses African drumming as a medium for corporate team building.  In addition to my spiritual teaching, healing and consulting, I’ve been working with Drum Cafe now for over eight years, with over 300 gigs under my belt, watching audience after audience, person after person have their own profound experience and awakening through the miracles of the drum.

My work in both the spiritual realm and the team building realm has evolved continuously and continues to grow and morph as the world shifts and changes.  Even though they are separate areas of work for me, they are extraordinarily connected and sewn together through the common thread of primal needs that every human has encoded within their DNA.  I incorporate rhythm and ritual into my spiritual teachings and I weave subtle, spiritual, universal truths into the corporate team building.  At the root of it all is the synchronization of body and soul, which is so vitally important to enlightened evolution on this planet.  I have heeded the task that was given to me by that Elder, and will continue to do so for as long as I breathe.  The beauty of it all is that I deeply enjoy all of the work I do.

Do you know what your purpose is?  Have there been defining moments in your life that have made your pathway of wisdom abundantly clear?  If you’re not sure, take some time to look deep within.  I know Spirit has positioned clues upon your journey; the question is, are you paying attention?

In Rhythm & Harmony,


WHAT do you choose to be?

ImageEvery year here in Southern California we experience a wind event phenomenon called “Santa Ana’s.”  They are warm winds that blow in from the East and can get quite fierce in some of the wind-prone areas.  In fact, unfortunately they often spur fires which some years seems to turn into firestorms that erupt all around the area.  But they also clear all the smog from the mountains, pushing it out over the ocean where the salty air cleanses and purifies the “gunk.”

I have always enjoyed the winds as I know they stir up “dirt” (metaphorically and literally speaking) and blow it into our sight for cleaning.  We often don’t see the dirt that has settled into some of the nooks and crannies until the wind swirls it around and blows it right in front of our face.  Likewise, many of us have feelings and emotions buried deep within our psyche that we are not even conscious of.  Yet, these subconscious emotions tend to drive our daily decisions and actions.  When the wind blows, we have the opportunity to go out into it and let the air “cleanse” our being and summon to the surface what is ready to be discharged.  Mother Nature always provides the perfect platform for the needs of her children.

Air, Fire, Water and Earth are the four basic elements that mark the four directions and the four quadrants of the medicine wheel.  When we are working with Air and wind we are working with an essence of cleansing and clearing to pave the way for awakening, new beginnings and re-birth.  The bounty we reap when we are willing to purify is the blank canvas in which we can create upon.  When we awaken from the slumber of old energy that does not serve us, we step into a new space of awareness and inspiration for what we are choosing to create.

Now more than ever we MUST remember our power and our ability to create our own reality.  We have choice every day.  We can choose to buy into media hype and cultivated chaos, or we can choose to put on our rose colored glasses and write our own script.  Does that mean we ignore what is going on like an ostrich with its head in the sand?  No!  It means that we acknowledge what others choose as a reality and know that we have the option to discern what our personal reality is and create from a place of hope, not fear.  Instead of being motivated by fear, we can choose to be motivated by Joy.  Instead of moving away from our past, we can choose to move forward towards happiness.

Some powerful tools that can help us stay in a place of power, no matter what kind of chaos is going on around us, are ceremony and of course….drumming!  I have been using ceremony for more than a decade to create positive change and release old limiting energy that no longer serves.  Ceremony is such an amazing tool because it focuses our thoughts, words and actions into one cohesive stream of energy.

There are two basic types of ceremony – those that have been around for centuries and handed down by ancestors, which we never change, and those which we create on our own.  Anyone can create simple ceremonies that they can perform, either as an individual or in a group of two or more.  The three components to any ceremony are to set the intent, bring in safe and respectful ritual, and honor Spirit.  I like to begin with an invocation to the 4 directions.  Then perhaps I will drum, rattle, or chant to raise power.  That is followed by an action of some sort that solidifies my intent.  For example, if I am releasing I will have a fire going either in the fireplace, a fire pit, or by candle.  Through breath or writing down what I choose to release I give it to the fire.  If I am putting paper to fire, obviously I use extreme care.  I say words that coincide with my intent such as “I release to the fire what I no longer desire.”  I may then drum, rattle, or chant more to further empower my intent.  I close by giving thanks.

Drumming is also a powerful tool we can utilize to set intent, manifest, or release and discharge negative energy.  The drum has been used as such a tool since the beginning of recorded time.  This too can be done solo, or with a group of people.  Even in a drum circle we can enter the circle with a specific intent in mind, regardless of the focus of the circle.  It is our personal action through the drumming that creates the manifestation of the intent.

So right now ask yourself – “What do I choose to be?”  Who you are is Spirit.  What you are is how you choose to express the Spirit that you are.  Write down your choice as intent and put it somewhere where you will see it daily.  If the chaos begins to affect you, remind yourself of your choice and your intent.  Perhaps bang a little on a drum, your desk, or simply let the pulse of your heartbeat sing a song that carries you to that place of intent.  Make it your personal mission statement and let it guide your daily words, thoughts and actions.

Tell me – WHAT do you choose to be?

In Joyful Rhythm & Blessed Harmony,


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