From our first moments of sentience we were in the wombs of our mother, held within an amniotic fluid that cushioned us in the rhythmic vibrations of sound and movement. Our stimulus, beyond any kind of verbal and intellectual dimension, was a primordial communication that made us know that we were connected. This first feeling we experienced was the feeling of home and we long to return to it throughout our lives. We seek it in people, in places and in things, yet ultimately it resides within that integrated experience of body, heart and mind synchronized with its environment, just as things were in our mothers womb.
There is a point within each of our early lives where we experience the wound of disconnection, a fracturing in the wholeness of our spirit when the oneness we had always assumed up to that point, was inexplicably unavailable when we reached for it in the human world. This feeling of disconnection is amplified through repeated instances of rejection, and we gradually build up a kind of armour that shields us from trusting in others and in life.
In these moments of dislocation we fall out of rhythm with life, reliving to some degree the chaos and turmoil of our early experiences of disconnection. The problem that often arises is that once we fall out of rhythm, it tends to throw us so off balance that it takes us a long time to return to it again. If sustained, the ramifications of this deep fall out of rhythm are immense. We compound this disconnection by our internalized voices of self-doubt, criticism, worry and regret, creating our own obstacles to returning to life’s rhythm (which is always ready to pick us up where we left off and continue on our dance of life).
When we are in the womb, we have no choice to fall out of rhythm. The gig is rigged for our own protection. However, as a maturing adult, we must learn how to consciously work in symbiosis with the rhythm of life so that we can fulfil our evolutionary potential as true human beings.
What if there was a practice that could help us fall in and out of rhythm in a safe container to that we could experience the process of leaving “home” and returning again as though it was a natural part of living life?
It was my interest in this question that drew me to the work of Brian Hoover and Shasta Martinuk, who have been trained in a process called TaKeTiNa, developed by an Austrian man named Reinhard Flatischler. In his own words:
“Profound rhythmic orientation can only be achieved by learning to alternate between synchronization and de-synchronization. Rigidity and control detract from that which is truly the essence of the rhythmic experience – a feeling of being supported, of vitality, of joy, and of inner peace. The TaKeTiNa process purposely and harmoniously balances stabilization and destabilization. Participants alternate naturally between two states – “being in rhythm” and “being out of rhythm.” Every time they find their way back to the basic pulse, they experience rhythm at a more profound and intense level.
This sense of balance can be directly transferred to daily life and to helping you deal creatively with chaotic phases. Such situations lose their capacity to throw us off so easily. When turmoil arises, you know that somewhere deep inside you have the capability to find your own orientation again. This lets you develop a deep trust in life.”
I caught up with Brian and Shasta following one of their RhythmKeepers retreats and interviewed them about the process, their intentions with the retreat, and their invitation to others who want to experience it. In my opening conversation with them, we started talking about addiction, referencing the pioneering work of Dr. Gabor Mate. I asked if rhythm and song was a fundamental human need which, if left unfulfilled, would leave a void that we try to replace with substances and interactions. Shasta replied by reframing my statement with the following words:
“Connection is a basic, fundamental human need, and for thousand of years humans have used rhythm and song to create the level of connection which meets that same need…..everywhere in the world that is what people do, and they feel connected.”
This profound insight arose with the recollection of the words of Dr. Mate – “the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, but human connection.” This is a core part of their work, which is not only about facilitating deep connection to self and others, but enhancing the quality of this connection as well.
The wound of failure
Shasta went on to share that “what people are going to learn [in TaKeTiNa] is not something about rhythm, but something about themselves. The rhythm provides a neutral, non-judgmental mirror for yourself to be witness to yourself”. Through their years of observation, they have seen that one of our deepest woundings is around the sense of failure, which they attribute to an overemphasis on goal-oriented vs. process-oriented learning.
Our mainstream educational models are all based on attaining specific goals (or “learning outcomes”), and the results of not attaining them are experiences of varying degrees of failure. In a process-oriented approach, the journey is the goal, and the only way we can “fail” is by not attempting it all. Ultimately, the journey is bigger then we are – we have agreed to participate in it by virtue of coming into this world in the first place – so it is only a matter of time before we being to learn about this rhythmic journey and how can move in harmony, and disharmony, with it.
Brian and Shasta talked about TaKeTiNa as an expansive practice, where each participant is encouraged to take all the time they need in order to continue expanding into the greater degrees of complexity that are offered through the combinations of vocables, claps and steps that constitute a session. Although TaKeTiNa can take many different forms, a common type of rhythm journey takes place in a standing circle with the facilitators at the centre, guiding everyone through call and response while providing a steady rhythmic orientation through the berimbau and surdo drum, instruments native to the highly rhythmic culture of Brazil.
I asked them how the practice had transformed their own lives, and their response was very interesting. They both shared that it had truly deepened their power of listening, with the biggest changes occurring within their own personal relationship. It helped them be in a place of being a neutral observer, making them more able and willing to witness someone as they moved through their own suffering. Their teacher shared that this ability is a basic necessity of being a TaKeTiNa facilitator, and I can attest to their amazing capacity to hold this space for others.
The healing dimensions
This brought us to discuss the healing dimensions of the work itself. Shasta commented on how it significantly helped to reduce her own anxiety, particular in doing things that were out of her comfort zone. It reduced her reactivity and expanded her awareness of possibility. Brian shared that they have modelled the current series of RhythmKeepers retreats around twelve qualities of human experience, and also incorporate other modalities to complement the TaKeTiNa practice.
On a spiritual level, they shared that because the practice expands our potential for simultaneous perception, it also heightens our capacity for accessing the trans-personal state. In simple words, it allows us to step outside of our limited self and connect to a deeper Reality that is in itself healing. One of the reasons for this is that it is not a discursive practice, meaning that it doesn’t rely primarily on engaging the rational mind, but rather seeks to reclaim and integrate deeper and older parts of our consciousness. Rhythmic movement is a powerful way in to those unconscious parts of our being.
Shasta and Brian refer to the experience of TaKeTiNa as rhythm meditation, which could be as important as sitting meditation. Just as many find it difficult to sit still for a few minutes without our mind racing, many find it difficult to move for a few minutes to a simple beat without falling out of rhythm; this inability to synchronize with even a simple pulse is symptomatic of the disconnection of our modern lives.
They view the practice are archetypal, powerful and useful for modern life, where we are constantly being exposed to sounds, movements and other energies that affect our own bio-rhythms. In our search for naturalness, a practice like TaKeTiNa is a useful tool for helping us learn how to cope with the challenges of external life, and even more importantly, how to return to flow within our internal life whenever we undergo the inevitable experience of chaos and turmoil.
As healers, they see this as an essential offering for learning how to witness ourselves and others with compassion; to release the negative thoughts and feelings that arise in the times when we fall our of rhythm with life; and to see those times as opportunities for learning. Ultimately, this group practice of rhythm and song returns us to the inherent feeling of connection that we so deeply yearn for, the experience that many describe as “returning home.”
For more information on TaKeTiNa, please visit: http://www.taketina.com/