Smiling autistic children drumming at TobinWorld

The autistic children at TobinWorld were drumming and smiling. Smiling is a special accomplishment. A victory. The staff smiled too and encouraged them with great love and infinite patience. Some of the kids remembered the last drumming event and sang along. They could feel the stage vibrating up through their feet. We played the steady laid-back downbeat at about forty beats a minute. They started to match the steady relaxed downbeat pulse and they smiled. It is miraculous to see any person connect to the universal rhythms, something outside of our own interior distractions. Watching the kids connect to the language of rhythm is enlightening and humbling. Our brain is an immensely complicated creation but our sense of rhythm is even older that the intellect. It is a body wisdom. They play along with the easy grooves. They hit the drum, sometimes in the groove, sometimes off on their own, but something calls them back to the steady, nurturing forgiving downbeat pulse. I hear Al Green in my head, or maybe Otis, or Aretha, or Marvin. The meditation is to stay steady and relaxed, like the Rock of Gibralter, like a buddha, like Al Jackson, Al green’s magical drummer, for the children’s wandering minds to come back home to. When they find the downbeat, either intentionally or by accident, they sense the rightness of it and there is light in their eyes. We all light up a little brighter. We are sharing. They discover that the repetition feels good. They find the downbeat grooves and they are sharing with the group. There is a common experience here of heartbeat rhythms that are forgiving, steady and predictable. Something to trust. It is a structure they perceive and interrelate with. They move; sometimes in time to the rhythms, sometimes to their own inner drummer. But they are actively responding to the feelings of the grooves. These simple downbeat patterns are part of every culture in the world. Nobody owns rhythm; it is to be shared, and then it becomes a healing experience as well as joyous.

excerpt:”History of the Groove” Russell Buddy Helm ©2015 all rights reserved

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