This post is from an empirical, Buddhist practitioner-oriented perspective (I am just being honest).
Recently I had a healing drum session with Toby Christensen. Frankly, I had mixed reviews going into it, but now I want to explore these sessions further. And coming from someone who has dabbled in… hhmmm… at least a couple dozen healing modalities (causing healthy skepticism to arise about novel New-Age-sounding modalities), this means two big thumbs up! And now to describe the session in detail.
As many of you dear readers know by now, I am a Sun-sign Pisces, indicating certain personality traits, such as an openness to most things new and if it claims to have mystical benefits, then you can typically sign me up. However, these open-faith-in-life and naive enthusiasm are now balanced with a healthy dose of empiricism. As a sincere Tibetan Buddhist practitioner, I am now cautious about what I subscribe to or put another way, what I pay attention to, because my mind-stream has become more sensitive. Plus there are hundreds of Tibetan Buddhist practices which supposedly benefit any walk of life, so why would I want to add anything else? Well isn’t that attitude troubling?!
This was the attitude I went into Toby’s session with. I was gifted the session by a generous friend for a graduation present. So I wanted to participate with an open heart, but honestly I was not expecting anything spectacular. However, I was quickly surprised:
First we did a cowrie shell divination. Let me explain (as best I can). There was a mat which had the four directions represented, in a typical Indigenous American (and even Tibetan) fashion, along with various pictures of elemental archetypes. On top of the mat were various Indigenous American tools, crystals, leather items, a talon, etc. Then in the middle was a pile of cowrie shells, coins, stones and various metal jewelry and other similar items. It turned out Toby had studied with an African teacher, but it seems like Indigenous practices are similar around the globe.
He had me state my intention and then sift the pile around the mat three times. As previous posts indicate, I have been working with the I Ching for several years now, and it was very fascinating how his interpretation of the divination mat confirmed much of what the I Ching has been telling me for the past year or so. That was very good – it was almost as if another set of guidance was coming through with his interpretation. I felt like some of my hidden qualities and potentials were seen and expressed and I benefited greatly from this cowrie shell reading.
Next, we went up to the healing space. He instructed me to lay down and then he explained how he would use a rattle to move my energy around and then he would stand over me and play healing, elemental rhythms on his djembe drum. Again, to be honest, I was a bit skeptical. He wanted me to do what? But luckily I have been through several Indigenous rituals in the past, not to mention some very fascinating and far out rituals with Tibetan practices, so it was not so much what he was going to do physically. I was more skeptical about the way in which he said that the sounds of the drum could work with my energy body and flush out anything that should not be there. Plus he mentioned that it was possible to heal traumas without actually bringing back the memories of it. I was not so certain.
I had recently had a car accident and I was suffering from another back injury, so I could sure use what he was talking about. I just did not believe it, that was all. However, I lay down and did as he asked, allowing him to play the rattle as I got comfortable. I had requested a blanket so I was nice and cozy by the time he started playing the drum.
He stood over me, facing my feet. The drum was slung over his shoulders and he was wearing it in front of his waist. That made it so the opening of the drum came down through his legs and was pointed at my chest and throat. Then he started to play. Whoa! It was loud! We had negotiated a way for me to ask him to stop, without using any sounds (by hitting him on the leg), and I came close to doing so. I thought the volume would be too much for my ears! Seriously, it sounded like he was getting rid of centuries of resentment himself on his drum, meaning I was the recipient of its loud pleas for help!
But then an interesting thing started happening. Maybe it was a few minutes into the drumming session, maybe it was more, but I started to nod off. I was very confused. How in the world could I be falling asleep when in fact there were incredibly loud vibrations pouring forth from the drum, not 10 inches away from my chest??!! But there it was. So I recognized that I was not actually falling asleep, but rather I was nodding off into a healing trance. When I saw this, I allowed my mind to drift off. And sure enough. I did not remember most of my dreams, but I knew I was having them.
Then, the last time I drifted off (it happened several times), I definitely had a vision which I remembered. It was not anything magical or extraordinary, but it was mine, and I realized that something had happened between me and the drum. Then his rhythms slowed, indicating that he was wrapping up. Long ago, before I practiced Buddhism, I had dabbled in shamanism through Michael Harner’s teachings, so I noticed a couple similarities between this drumming session and those previous adventures.
Toby took off his drum and then used the rattle again to close the session and then he sat down to discuss what he noticed. I noticed that he just had an incredible work out as he was drumming over me for at least 20 minutes, but I suspected that it was more like 30 to 40 minutes! Wow! Anyway, he told me what he sensed as he drummed through my chakras, and somehow, I had noticed what he was describing. I did not want to mention anything, as I wanted to see what he could determine on his own, without any information offered. As I just recently graduated with my BA in psychology, I wanted to be as empirical as possible, despite being open to new therapies and modalities. So, in spite of my silence, he described which of my chakras were open, where the energy was flowing, which ones were processing or sluggish, etc. And it seemed he was right on. I was not certain how much was strictly personal for me and how much he might tell most of his clients, but it seemed very accurate.
Then I slowly got up. And I felt much different. My neck felt better, my back felt like it’s discomfort was more diffuse and somehow warmer, and my pelvis felt better. I remarked that I felt much different, even though I meant to say that I felt different in a very good way. But long story short, I am now very glad I went through with the divination and the drumming. And I am no longer so skeptical about what he claimed was possible through that particular healing process.
When he comes back through Charlottesville in October, I plan to purchase another drumming session from him. I am very pleased with what he offered.