Health Rhythms for Life - the impact is one that lasts!

By: Frank Thompson 

What a wonderful rhythm world we live in! 

A few years ago, I conducted a series of Health Rhythms sessions at the Wellness Center of Phoenix. The Wellness Center is dedicated to supporting cancer survivors and their caregivers with a variety of programs and activities. It was very rewarding when participants pulled me aside and remarked, These drumming/rhythm sessions are absolutely wonderful. They are one of the few things that I have to look forward to each week.No matter how often I heard these comments, each time was a unique reinforcement of the power and importance of the rhythm work that we do. 

I recently returned to the Wellness Center to give a short speech followed by a drum circle for a group of cancer survivors, their loved ones and caregivers. The following stories bring focus to the subtle yet strong ways that rhythm and group empowerment support, sustain and give strength to the healing process. 

It had been about two years since I last facilitated a circle at the center and unfortunately some of the participants had passed away. Because I was giving a presentation and Drum Circle, my expectations were different than those for a Health Rhythms session. What a wonderful surprise it was to see many familiar faces from the previous Health Rhythms days. Each of them was still integrating music and rhythm into their health and wellness protocol. As for the drum session, well, to put it mildly, it was amazing and energizing! 

Prior to my presentation, we had placed a percussion instrument under each chair. In total there were about 125 assorted REMO instruments: tambourines, bells, Senor Shakers, 10frame drums, festival drums and small 10tubanos. This combination of instruments has a well balanced sound and is easy to transport. Anyway, the session started with a very special person that I had brought with me playing a large Health Rhythms Gathering Drum with a couple of mallets. As the participants entered the large room and were seated, each began to join the beat and groove. The room filled to standing room only. Smiles were everywhere as the cancer survivors, caregivers, family and staff all joined in the joyous rhythms. As I scanned across the room I noticed medicine containers, syringes, prescriptions and other critical medical supplies being sat to the side as their owners engaged with the music and groove and left the burdens of their illness behind--if for only just a little while. 

The moment was made even more poignant when the woman who was playing the Gathering Drum revealed that she was a two-time breast cancer survivor. Prior to drumming, for over 14 years her daily regimen was work and then directly home. She had been removed from most of the world for a long time. Her social life was essentially non existent. She shared that since she started drumming (on a whim) almost two years ago her life has been transformed. It is now a cornerstone of her wellness and well being. She routinely participates in community drum circles and drum classes. She has built and is empowered by a new community of rhythm friends. And to cap it all off, this former withdrawn recluse has even performed on stage in public while drumming! She says that her family is absolutely amazed and happy for her new found rhythm world. 

After this wonderful story, the session drummed on and ended with a great groove. 

The last part of this story unfolded a month after the event. I was attending a small performance at a coffee shop when a woman I did not recognize approached me. She said that she was at the Wellness Community drum circle, is a cancer survivor and was now beginning to make music a regular part of her life. She said that the story she heard at the circle was a reaffirmation of her decision to add rhythm to her life. 

Health Rhythms for Life- the impact is one that lasts! 

Frank Thompson is the founder of AZ Rhythm Connection in Phoenix, AZ and an Endorsed HealthRHYTHMS Facilitator.