The Drum Calls!
I start noticing drummers at festivals and performances. Ah those powerful vibrations penetrating every aspect of my being, doing something to me but I didn't know what, there was just something about it...you know that feeling? It's like it was drawing me in, like a moth to the flame. It's allure was so strong. I was in my mid 20's and really soul searching at this time. I wanted to know what my purpose was, why was I here!? And then it happened. I found myself at a gathering one night and there was a radiant older man with a djembe. He encouraged me to give it a try obviously noticing that I desperately wanted to but wouldn't dare think I could do such a thing. But I did and that was it, the magic of the drum had captured my heart!
I Answer the Call
I start to drum a lot, and I start collecting instruments. At first playing mostly the African djembe, then after being gifted a beautiful frame drum I begin attending regular community drum circles, more sweat lodges and exploring drumming and Spirituality in general.
I met the man who I chose to be the father of my children in 2001 and we moved from Calgary to Saskatoon in 2004 with the intention of buying a house and starting a family (that was always the plan, I just didn't have the right guy for the job the first time!) I start looking for other drum circle folks. I find and attend some very good circles led by both Trent Deerhorn and Kellie Welk.
We are blessed with the birth of a healthy baby girl! (We were very fortunate to be able to do this at home with the help of wonderful midwives)
I miss the community drum circles I used to go to in Calgary. I get really excited to hear that there is a drum festival that's going to be taking place! There I make the most wonderful discovery that I am not alone! All kinds of folks turn up on the riverbank with drums in hand eager to play together! We try to play along as best we can with African Drum Master Joseph Ashong, we are not trained in West African drumming so most of us do not understand the structure of the music. Joseph, speeding ahead driving the fantastic rhythm, we drum along but then like a bus taking a sharp right turn, Joseph does what's referred to as "a break", a sudden change of rhythm. Most of us go tumbling off the bus and into the dust, until it gets going again and because we are moved by the rhythms and called in our hearts we again try to play along. But again the rhythm changes and we are flung to the side of the rhythm road not understanding that this is traditional West African style drumming and unless you are familiar with it's structure, you can't wing it and play along like one would at a community drum circle where the pulse remains constant providing a foundation you can always call home, without the breaks! One of my brilliant teachers Cameron Tummel described it best when he compared Traditional West African Drumming to a triangle. There is a hierarchy. You start at the bottom and work your way up through a great deal of practice and playing with those who know the ways.
There are specific patterns and rhythms to learn and master before advancing. When all levels work together they lift the Master up at the top who is then able to soar and it is a magic like no other. Not understanding any of this at the time I lament how unfortunate it is that all these people are eager to play yet there is no Judy here to facilitate. "if only Judy were here, she would know what to do" I thought. The circle and the triangle are two very different schools of thought. Joseph did an incredible job inspiring the crowd to want to drum along, his energy and rhythms were infectious! It was a wonderful performance. I just showed up needing, wanting and craving a circle, so I could take my place and lose myself in the medicine of the drum circle experience; tuning into deeper parts of my soul and connecting with others doing the same, together reaching new heights and experiencing that wild and carefree joy that I remember used to come so easily as a child but now seems often so elusive. It wasn't until recently that I began to understand the difference between the circle and the triangle and the value of each. So, when the opportunity arises in October of 2006 to attend Judy Atkinson’s facilitator training program through her company Circles of Rhythm, in Calgary, AB. I go because, after all this time, I think I might finally know the answer to the burning question "So, what do you do?"
"I am a drum circle facilitator."
I rent a great space and begin hosting and faclitating a series of regular circles in Saskatoon. By word of mouth I reach over 200 people. Our “baby” is now 3 1/2 years old.
We welcome another baby girl to our family! This time it was a beautiful home water birth. She was also officially the first baby born under Saskatchewan’s new Midwifery Program.
2009 - 2015
I am C.E.O. of Domestic Operations
I spend the majority of my time/energy being a dedicated stay at home mom juggling the multiple roles of cook, chauffeur, cleaner, gardener, researcher, educator, mentor, inspirational & motivational speaker, administrator, social coordinator, photographer, medic, inventory manager etc. You know, all the usual parenting stuff, trying to stay balanced and grounded and all the while I continue to offer drumming circles and learn more about my craft. My studies, level of awareness and spiritual growth all continue to evolve.
Word of mouth continues to reach more and more people.
I also create a performance piece and incorporate it into a workshop called TribalNESS which has been offered at the Ness Creek Music Festival now for the past six years.
Thanks in large part to the encouragement of Fred Chlan I come out of my shell as a performer and have the opportunity to collaborate with local artists and musicians.
My email list for drumming circles grows to over 350 people. More than 100 drummers come out for a drum circle and potluck social in February of 2015!
180 Drum Circles later...In addition to facilitating the community drum circles my facilitation skills are now sought out by various individuals, groups, businesses and organizations. Whether team building for an engineering firm or healing with grieving family members, the drum’s ability to unite people through rhythm and deliver transformative experiences continues to motivate me to pursue this passion as my life’s work.
10 years have flown by and with our youngest daughter now in school full days, I am ready to take this to the next level!! Oh where to begin?!?! Well with a vision of course! And that my friends has been evolving, brewing, stewing, developing, simmering, growing and percolating with me all these years…
Launch time! Introducing...
Zen Rhythm Co.
A Professional Drum Circle Facilitation Service
Serving Saskatoon and Area
And the beat goes on...
This marked the beginning of and intense a period of personal growth and change for me that continues to reveal layer upon layer of the truth and reconciliation I've had to face within myself. More commonly referred to as Shadow work, I have come to realize many things about myself. I see that I have been living in a self imposed prison originally designed to keep me safe but that is certainly not serving me or others any more. Until recently, I remained unaware that I was denying myself of my own authentic voice and the depression I have struggled with my whole life is a direct result of this suppressed parts of me.
I am consciously working on changing my mind and creating new thought habits. It is not easy but I know it is worth it to persevere.
So I am here to finally make peace with myself so I can get on with the work I came here to do!
Peace Be With You!
In 1995, after a short and vey misguided period of time enrolled as a student of Engineering at the U of S and feeling very lost in a world that didn't make any damn sense to me, I ran away and then got married at the young age of 22 in an act of total desperation and self preservation.
I know, sounds awful right? But don't worry, it gets better.
Soon after I was accepted to the Alberta College of Art and Design and felt I was really on my path. I studied for two years before the debilitating lower back problems I had been experiencing on and off since my early teen years forced me to quit. I knew between my back problems and my husband's road rage something just wasn't right and we needed to make a big change. Around this time several couples, both friends and also some family members, had been embarking on some pretty epic travel adventures overseas that seemed to cause them to either break up or become solid as a rock.
So, I suddenly had the crazy idea to sell our house and use the money to finance a "make it or break it" trip of our own. He aligned himself with the idea and voila! When two or more gather....magic happens!! From the time I first brought the idea up with my husband one Saturday morning, to the time the closed the deal and signed the papers that would change the course of our lives forever, less than 6 hours had gone by. Yep. You read that right. The idea led to an inquiry, the inquiry led to a meeting & appraisal with a realtor which led to a couple coming to see our home and make us an offer all in a matter of hours.
Prepared for the "make it" scenario, we had a garage sale and then packed up our remaining belongings and moved them into a storage unit in Saskatoon with the intention of buying a house and starting a family when we got back...if we made it. We spent six months travelling around South East Asia and Australia. Three months in we knew it was a "break it" trip we were on but a fateful encounter with an 82 year old traveller(EarthAngel) in Malaysia led me to create a brilliant new reality for myself. We would spend the next 3 months travelling in Australia as friends, diving the Great Barrier Reef and bungy jumping in Cairns, exploring the Sunshine Coast and thoroughly enjoying ourselves before returning to Canada to begin a very amicable divorce process.
After all that, it was clearly time for some very serious soul searching to begin. After a summer spent chasing a hot air balloon around Saskatchewan I made my way back to Calgary and decided to pursue some of my deep and long ignored inner Soul cravings. I became a volunteer facilitator for the John Howard Society's AVEPY program. The Alternatives to Violence Educational Program for Youth was designed by former inmates from the prison system who assembled the wisdom of "what they wished they knew then " to help youth choose alternate paths and hopefully save themselves from the fate they themselves had suffered due to not knowing a better way at the time.
I decided to pursue my interest in performance and theater as well at this time. I joined the Green Fools Theatre Troupe and began my training, learning to walk on 6 ft stilts at one point! I took some storytelling workshops with Ghost River Theatre Company and was feeling my way into a new version of myself.
I then went on to join a theater production company that toured around Alberta with a violence prevention themed show and accompanying classroom activities. I was involved with all aspects of the show from costuming, and set design to running the sound and lighting during the performance and managing the tour on the road.
The owners/operators ran into some financial troubles and after a great run the program came to an end.
I suddenly found myself right back where I started, at least that was my thinking at the time. I'm right back at the beginning with no idea where to go next.
I started spiralling downwards, spending too much time with the inner critic and all the while suffering from chemical imbalances.
I just really believed there was something deeply wrong with me at my core. I looked around and saw "everyone else" knowing what to do with their lives, what they were meant to be and do, yet here I was in my mid twenties still blowing aimlessly in the wind. The despair and desperation grew and I began having suicidal thoughts....again. Late one night, on a walk through the graveyard, in desperation I pleaded to whatever great Mother/Father God forces might be listening
“Tell me why am I here?!!" "What am I here to do?!!! And with that plea the added threat "This is it. You show me what I am here for, you show me what me purpose is on this planet or I am done. I am leaving!"
I asked very specifically to 1) be given/sent a teacher who would show me the way, and 2) to make this teacher obvious to me.
I also felt compelled to learning more about the occult, magic, mystics, anything new age - astrology, tarot, crystals, past lives, nutrition, hidden history (the true history of Canada that was not taught in schools )the Ancient architects, Earth Medicine, Shamanism etc. all became areas of keen interest and exploration. At this time I eventually found myself turning to the sweat lodge as a place of healing through the Turtle Medicine Wheel teachings.
I should add that Energy Medicine was not something new to me. I practically grew up with it. In my earlier years, my mother Donna Chicoine was a pioneer in our home town of Prince Albert, studying, practicing and then eventually teaching Healing Touch beginning around the time I was 13.
Having grown up on an acreage with fields and forests as my playground and animals and birds as my best friends I had a profound connection with the natural world. The rhythms of the seasons were observed with awe and wonder, the stars and the sky filled me with a longing for a home I couldn't remember. I began having mystical experiences and visions as early as age 4 and have been an incredibly lucid dreamer my whole life. My Catholic upbringing had become more and more difficult to reconcile yet I was having a very direct and real relationship with what I felt was "The Holy Spirit".
Around age 12 I had I guess what some might call a Spiritual Awakening although I think I was always awake and it was only then things were starting to really collide with the so called "REAL WORLD" that my poor father kept telling me I would need to get busy living in. It was the 80's and I felt drawn to spend my time before going to bed lighting a candle and settling in for prayers, quiet contemplation and doing gentle stretches (I think they call that yoga and meditation now lol) It was then that I fully pledged my life to God and asked "Make me an instrument of your Peace" it was so profound that I thought I would wake up with stigmata,. Seriously. I was all in. In another culture, in another time and place I may have had some kind of initiation ceremony at this point. I may have gone to live with a see-er, a teacher and elder a medicine person or been sent a monastery. But not in my world. In my world I was alone on the path. Finding no guidance, no one to talk to and certainly no answers from the nuns at the convent where I attended school,. My secret holy life seemed to not matter in this "real world" place and in fact it seemed there was really no place for it or for me whatsoever if I wanted to succeed/survive here.
I turned away from God and instead was initiated into the world of "my culture." A world full of of escapism and addiction, a world broken by the toll of wars and the fleeing of homelands in search of a better life. These were good kind hearted people, carrying the burdens of generational traumas...like we all do in different ways. The world I saw was one filled with alcohol, non sacred sex, cigarettes and all the bloody demons that came with them. By the sheer Grace of God, drugs somehow did not cross my path, otherwise I am certain I would not be here today writing this. My amazing aunt Bev died of cancer when I was 13. I had already been drunk once or twice by this time and grief as far as I could tell was better handled with alcohol. So were weekends, birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, births, weddings, holidays well pretty much everything. It was just normal. Having left the Holy Spirit behind, I entered now into the Soul Shattering time.
In high school, someone I was closely associated with was killed in an incredibly tragic accident a few days after we had been hanging out after school together with a few other friends in his kitchen. It was surreal. I felt like I had timeline shifted into a strange hell reality. Little did I know at the time, this would be the first of many funerals I would attend during my high school years..
Accident after accident, horrific things that I only thought happened in movies were happening to those in my inner circles. (which were many as I was desperate to find someone else like me) After a while I started to notice that the only thing these tragedies seemed to all have in common was me. Not one single friend of mine was also friends with the people in all the other circles that had just lost someone from their pack. On some level I began to believe that I was cursed. I prayed no one would find out. I knew deep inside that it was turning away from the Holy Spirit that had caused me to be cursed and to live in this new horrible hellish reality. I believed I was being punished for my sins. But the trauma of it all only led me to hurt myself more. Not long after one of my best friend's mom began a long and painful journey with breast cancer. She passed away at the beginning of my first year of University. Looking back now I think this had a lot to do with why I ran off to BC and got married.
I needed to completely escape my current reality.
After my divorce and not long after my plea to Mother/Father God in the graveyard I found myself making friends with a number of people who happened to be self employed as psychics in Calgary. In hopes of gaining some insight into some of the more "out there" things I had experienced during my life, I thought they might help me answer the question of "Was I crazy?" Or "Was any of it real?" It was around this time that I also started really noticing the drummers around town, accompanying my musician friends, playing at street festivals and in performances here and there and felt the strong pull towards the call of the drum not knowing where it would one day lead!
Then, one night at a pot luck gathering of psychics, while sitting in the back yard an older man emerged from the bushes bordering the back alley. He was carrying a most impressive djembe drum over his shoulder and the clear voice of Spirit spoke ”There is your teacher.
I spent the next year and a half immersed in deep learning with him on a daily basis. The drum he carried that day was the first drum I had ever played and it happened to be one that he himself had made along with the legendary Babatunde Olatunji, (look him up, seriously!)
He is the man largely responsible for inspiring the kind of community drum circles you see so much of today. One day this respected teacher of mine showed up with the beautiful frame drum you see me with saying that Spirit had led him directly to this drum and that he had been instructed to bring it to me. I couldn't even fathom at the time how this could be, but I trusted him wholeheartedly and it wasn't long after that I met Judy Atkinson of Circles of Rhythm. We started attending her community drum circles. I was hooked. As my appreciation for the many benefits of drumming grew so too did my personal collection of instruments but it would be a few more years before I would realize that this was MY CALLING IN LIFE.