Shamanic drumming meditation helps people tune out world, tune into themselves

John Melendez

A small group of 20 participants lay down on the floor with pillows and blankets, their heads all directed toward the small altar and drum in the center. Jason Traweek begins to play his drum in hopes of providing a path to self-awareness or at least some relaxation.

On Tuesday, Oct. 9, Mediation Bar held its monthly Shamanic drumming meditation session facilitated by UT alumnus Jason Traweek. He is the creator of Spirit Lab, a project where he provides three different soundscape events to help facilitate meditation.

Traweek said although he markets the event as meditation to make it more approachable, it is actually called “journey drumming.” He said while traditional meditation involves focusing inward through breathing, journey drumming activates brain activity.

“Rhythm can induce trance,” Traweek said. “Sustained rhythm in a safe environment where (inducing trance) is the intention can bring you deeply enough into yourself where it’s almost like an alternate reality.”

Traweek said there is always something to take away from the experience, regardless of what beliefs you hold true. He said he does not try and interpret what participants see or feel but simply provides a conduit for it to happen.

“(Journey drumming is) using the drum as a tool to open a doorway to an alternate place where you can communicate with spirit, or if that’s not your thing, a place where you can communicate with yourself through imagery that comes to you,” Traweek said.

Traweek is also an elder council member for the Shamanic Community of Austin, an organization with a variety of contemporary shamanic practices such as drumming and dancing to explore spirituality.

He said he draws from a global collection of practices rather than drawing from one specific group of people.

“I don’t call myself a shaman,” Traweek said. “It’s such a loaded word now that it feels really important for me to say because I’m not appropriating any indigenous practice that I’m not a part of.”

Attendee Simon Kessler said he decided to participate in the event to become more present and mindful. During the session, he envisioned himself descending into the earth through a series of ladders and reflected on what it could mean.

“I’m not sure why I was choosing to go deeper and deeper,” Kessler said. “Maybe (it means) going deeper into everything that you’re doing a little bit more, whether it is a conversation or mastering your craft.”

Participant Monica Badgley said the drumming session made her envision herself in a simpler time without technology. She said she saw people she did not recognize but still felt comfortable
and familiar.

Badgley said she tries to put herself in situations where she can disconnect from technology and focus on living with intention. And although she did not have a spiritual journey, the experience still helped her focus on being present in relationships.

“We all have so much going in daily lives, and you’re reachable pretty much 100 percent of the time,” Badgley said. “Looking people in the eye and having a conversation without checking your phone 10 times changes the dynamics. It makes you feel more connected to people, and that has a huge effect in our daily lives — whether we know it or not.”