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Intergenerational Rhythms

By: Bonnie D. Harr, MSN, MS, RN
Category: Wellness
Population Served: Others

HealthRhythms® drum circles breathe life into any gathered group. As a clinical nurse specialist and counseling psychotherapist, I have had the privilege to facilitate well over one hundred such circles in the last few years. From business and industry groups interested in conflict resolution and empowerment training to cancer support groups; from lovely worship experiences to women's programs and community diversity initiatives -- each drum circle has had its own character! The poignant point is simply this " the rhythms of our lives have the power to heal us and to bring us together. Join me in remembering one of the special gatherings.

Mothers' Day was just around the corner. Our lovely local Inn approached me about hosting a Mothers' Day HealthRhythms® Drumming Circle to celebrate themes of motherhood. I thought this to be a very fine idea. They promised to embellish this programmatic offering with tea and crumpets served up on Old English china and in a collection of extraordinary Victorian teapots. Lavender and baby's breath would be woven amidst the finery upon white linen tablecloths. The drum circle would be set up in the center of the large room with the tables on the periphery. The setting was sure to be magnificent! Of course, I said yes! Who wouldn't?

That day, when the 60 or so individuals gathered, I was struck with the eager uncertainty of the group. When I asked, not one of them had EVER participated in a drum circle prior to the engaging moment they were actually in! There were four women who were well beyond their seventies, the oldest being 87! And there were seven young lasses, the youngest being 8 years old. I realized as I progressively met each group member that something incredible was in place " there were three and four generations represented within singular families! The spiritual richness and depth of such a gathering was not lost on me.

And so we drummed. I navigated the gathered group through the basic building blocks of the HealthRhythms® protocol. While everyone seemed to love the apples, they were antsy to get to the drums " tapping out little rhythms and noises here and there! The air was pregnant with anticipation and readiness. I taught. They learned. We drummed. Entrainment happened! Faces and hearts fully opened each to the other and all to some greater something that urged us on in the nameless common bonds that drum circles create.

One Grandmother, who accepted mallets because I have arthritis in my hands, put her mallets down midway through the event and picked up a tambourine to dance a bit in the middle of the circle. It was so natural and so fine. Another, four-generation family began a rhythm of eye contact with each other that was mystical and captivated us all. Still another mother-daughter dyad stopped drumming for a while, just to embrace each other. It occurred to me that a great many things were happening in this intergenerational drum circle that Mothers' Day.

It's quite easy to allow the rhythms of healing to thrum through a group. One simply has to move out of the way and let it happen! This is not an uninformed or haphazard moving out of the way, but rather, a well-planned, well thought out protocol of promise. This unspoken promise can be realized when the hearts, souls and minds of gathered individuals are invitationally opened to it, and the facilitator can be the stimulus of all good things, without being or stealing the show!

At the end of this day, one young mother walked up to me with two older women in tow and the eight year old nipping at the skirts of and embracing the one she called Nana. With tears in her eyes, the young mother reached for me and said, You will never know what you have allowed to happen here today. My Mother has Alzheimer's disease, and I brought her here thinking it would mean nothing to her at all. But she looked at my daughter during one of those power-drumming moments and called her by her name for the first time ever! My daughter spontaneously jumped up and hugged her " did you see it? " and Nana just rocked her there in her arms!

By now, my tears were in the mix. I could sense the depths of inter-generational rhythms " ancient rhythms " pulsating through us all. She continued. My Mother will never remember this day, but my daughter will never forget it! Look at them. I did and felt anew the gratitude I have felt every moment in a drum circle since I first became a HealthRhythms® facilitator.

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