Paralounge is a drumming festival in northern Florida.
excerpt: “History of the Groove ” ©2014 Russell Buddy Helm all rights reserved
2001. Paralounge is a drumming festival in northern Florida and they contacted me to come and give a drumming meditation seminar at a place called Spirit of Suwannee in the middle of nowhere. Two interstates crossed at this juncture; I10 which is the same freeway that goes all the way to Santa Monica, California and ends at our store, Seasons on Montana Avenue. The other interstate is I95 that goes from Miami to New York. The land is flat, fertile and fecund. Universities hover close by and the locals are true crackers; cowboys and farmers, but with the threat of encroaching gentrification. The site was very nice; a park dedicated to music, canoeing and camping. The crowd was your basic hippie/New Agers with a friendly mix of good ol’ boys. The promoters were husband, wife and little daughter, with good intentions and a pretty good sense of how to run a festival, considering it wasn’t that big, yet. I returned to this festival for many years and did my version of a drumming group which was not the usual banging. I was intent on showing the drummers how to maintain a trance groove and how to support the sacred dancers with a safe space. The grooves I used were generic and simple but the long improvisations created a great mystical communion. I felt like this was a good direction for the new drumming consciousness to pursue otherwise it would just be egotistical banging and top dog mentality. The night time fire circle drumming got wild and I would try for a bit to get into it but I decided to let the young bloods have their fun. I was not going to compete with the eager high energy guys, but with Jana and all the other teachers helping we influenced the circle and helped to create a coherency in their drumming. There were a few attitudes that had to get readjusted, and we all commiserated on how to engender cooperation amongst the drummers. It was a growing experience for all the people and I enjoyed contributing to the evolution of sacred drumming in our culture. The eagerness of the large drumming groups attending my meditation workshops gave me a unique energetic boost into the trance, singing, talking, and drumming. Once, I was so deeply in trance I heard my own voice saying, “We would like to thank Buddy for letting us use his body and his voice for this sacred drumming…” I opened my eyes and looked at the throng of drummers under the Florida cypress trees, while I was still in a strange suspended animation. People came up to me, stood around talking quietly, asking questions, buying my CDs and books, but I felt that something unusual had happened. They were treating me like I was a visiting entity, or an extraterrestrial.
I was absorbing orgone energy at an incredible rate; the word coined by Dr. Wilhelm Reich to describe the life force. It was being generated in the drumming groups and was stimulating me in ways that we have no words for in our modern culture. I had read Dr. Reich’s lab reports back in nineteen seventy when I lived in Coconut Grove and recognized his description of the sensations of orgone saturation. The feeling seemed similar to Dr. Wilhelm Reich’s descriptions he had in some of his lab entries. He was in an elevated state. Not really euphoric; but a higher sense of immediacy and well being, mixed with his urgency about this discovery. He wrote that his staff, isolated on an Army base in Virgina, all survived the flu epidemics killing thousands across the country. He realized that he had found a way to increase the life force in human beings resulting in good health, mental clarity and higher functioning. A sense of higher purpose became stronger and stronger as I continued to tour around the country and drum at various venues. After the tours were finished I would get back to Santa Monica and sort of crash. The elevation of these tours kept me in that exalted state. I didn’t want to come down from that high consciousness that was propelled by the group drumming and the good intentions. This was an unexpected facet of the drumming tours I had to take a look at it. It was seductive much like the old days when I would get off tour with Tim Buckley and crash from the level of excitement back down into a normal existence. It was one of the reasons I distrusted touring with rock n roll; it would become addictive in itself, even without drugs and booze. Now with the drumming workshops, II got so energized by everyone’s love and drumming I could see and do things that were outside of the norm. I was feeling very psychic and atuned to cosmic forces, like a yogi. The healing energies were coming through me. People were getting better. I focused on bringing reiki energy into people’s bodies and minds to heal their conditions. I was getting testimonials that this was working for them. I was not the healer here, it was this energy that we were generating; the healing power of God, of love, of rhythm. I created “Circle of Souls” where the clients would lay inside the circle of drummers, and we would sing, focusing healing rhythm and song into them. People couldn’t get enough of this vibrational healing. This exalted state is a challenging state of mind. I have seen rock stars get taken over by delusional behavior after they experience thousands of adoring people night after night. At the same time, my one on one private healing sessions with people were generating palpable positive results. I could feel something, a presence, an energy form that we did not have a vocabulary for…yet. People were telling me that their conditions had improved. I was not interested in being a shaman. I wanted to keep it simple and neat; I was a drum teacher; showing the people how to generate healing sacred energy in their own groups. I wanted others to be the shamans, not me. I slowly came to see that my reasons for touring extensively were more complex than I had initially thought. I was still touring with Tim Buckley in my heart; looking for him, his soul, his voice, in all these strange venues where I was performing. I also missed Christian and the Bethlehem Asylum’s music. I hoped that the drumming would lead me back to the music. The profound meaning I was looking for was actually right in front of me; I was inundated with it. I wasn’t really hearing the miraculous stories of healing and spiritual awakening that was a result of this drumming. I was stuck in the past of my own making; I felt mired in regret because of the near hits and misses of the music business. I missed the forest for the trees. I was comparing my own accomplishments to friends and partners that had gone on to become greater in my eyes than what I was doing. But there was a voice, an honest voice in my heart, “You are doing something important. It is OK to feel good about yourself and what you are doing. It is helping people.” When I felt the depression after coming down from the tours I reminded myself that I was worthwhile. The constant reinforcement from friends and colleagues helped me overcome the sense of futility that I was fighting. I finally came to realize that my belief system was working in reverse. The more successful I became, the worse I felt. It was complicated but I understood; it had been an evolution from my childhood. My mother had admonished me in a well intentioned strategy to keep me safe; “Just stay invisible. Don’t stand out and get the attention of “them”; the men in black suits. She was afraid of the people that my father had been involved with. When they did come after me, I couldn’t tell her for fear of really getting her worried. I tried to deal with this mystery myself. The real mystery was the effects of this stress from childhood on my adult life. I was not allowing myself to be who I could be. This was also a condition for a lot of people; we restrict ourselves. So I had to create a drumming protocol that would save my own life. I started to drum with affirmations. This initially came out of drumming groups where people were saying things like: “I can’t drum.” or “I have no sense of rhythm.” while they were actually drumming! There was a disconnect between the critical mind and the body. I suggested to them to say, “I AM drumming!” while they were hitting the drum to overcome the overstimulated Inner Critic. That is when I realized that the critical mind does not understand rhythm, but you can use rhythm to control the critical mind and change the belief system.
excerpt: “History of the Groove ” ©2014 Russell Buddy Helm all rights reserved