Primal Rhythm - Ancient Healer
TaKeTiNa with Reinhard Flatischler
By Randy Peyser
A group of twenty patients in an Austrian hospital were offered an opportunity to participate in a study to see if rhythm could help them better manage their pain. Bracing themselves to sit as comfortably as they could, a few felt hopeful about the process they were about to undergo, but most showed signs of the emotional wear and tear that often accompanies long standing pain and morphine drips. When the rhythm exercises, which initially consisted of simple movements in response to the steady beat of a drum, were presented, every member in the study had a hard time finding the basic pulse.
To instructor, Reinhard Flatischler, this made perfect sense, since "people who are in acute pain often disconnect from, or leave, their bodies," the reasoning being that the pain is too difficult to deal with, so why be there? To synchronize their body movements with a basic pulse became the first order of business.
"We had to bring them into their bodies again, to bring them into rhythm," says Flatischler, who has been facilitating a rhythm process known as TaKeTiNa for the past thirty years. In time, the group members, who met weekly for a year-and-a-half, were able to synchronize their movements with the TaKeTiNa rhythms.
What Flatischler discovered was that in those moments when the participants felt synchronized with, or "at one" with, the rhythms, the entire group reported that their pain went away. By the end of the study, the medical society in Goeppbeingen (Austria) and the nearby German Pain Colloquium noted that those who had participated in the study were able to reduce their medication by 45%.
Through the intervention of a rhythm process, a very natural method for reducing pain had been discovered. How was this possible?
"TaKeTiNa is a way of using rhythm quite differently than one would typically use rhythm," says Flatischler, who performs in Europe with an internationally acclaimed group of "all star" drummers, including Glenn Velez, master of the hand held frame drum, and tabla player, Zakir Hussein, in a band he created called, 'MegaDrums.'
"In a drum circle, one might study a specific rhythm, such as a Brazilian samba rhythm, or a Balinese or African rhythm," he says. "Rather than work with specific rhythms, TaKeTiNa works with what are called, "rhythm archetypes," which are described as "movement images that are inherent in the senso-motoric system of every human being."
Flatischler explains that in the mother's womb, we have a very intense relationship with rhythm. "Rhythm is the first information we receive. It is the bridge that guides us from the world before birth into this world when we are born. When you are in the mother's womb, you hear the heart beat and the flow of blood; you feel the mother's movement and you hear the rhythm of her speech. All of that is rhythm. You are not understanding what is happening, but you are feeling rhythm. As you grow, there are millions of brain cells that have to fire in a rhythmic synchronization in order for you to understand what is happening around you. Without the senso-motoric system, you could not move or think or make any sense of the world. That you can see or hear something is all based on rhythm."
In TaKeTiNa, the body is considered the instrument through which primal rhythmic images, not specific rhythm patterns, are accessed. Through the use of one's hands, feet and voice, the process involves the simultaneous incorporation of three contrasting rhythms. Standing in a circle, students first begin by moving their feet in a simple side to side motion. In the center, a Brazilian surdo drum with a deep, booming bass is played to reinforce and anchor the steps. As students connect their steps with the repetitive sound of the drum, they are next instructed to clap in a pattern that is initially in sync, and then eventually, slightly out of sync, with their foot movements. Finally, the voice is added to create a third level of independent rhythm.
Other techniques involve the use of "call and response," where, while maintaining certain foot steps and hand claps, the leader sings one part, then students respond in turn. Sometimes what the leader sings will be in harmony with the footwork and the response of the students. Other times, however, what the leader sings will rhythmically conflict with the student's footwork and hand claps, thereby, creating a palpable tension, which eventually leads to students being unable to maintain the rhythm. At this point, everything will fall apart.
According to Flatishcher, the journey of falling in and out of rhythm is essential to the TaKeTiNa process. "Like the ebb and flow of life, we go in and out of chaos and order," says Flatischler. "This process brings students out of the rhythm, and then back into the rhythm. In this alternation between losing rhythm and regaining rhythm, one falls into a state where, all of a sudden, his or her senso-motoric system is triggered and he or she just knows how to move." As a result, people who have never trained in music are finding themselves moving to very complex rhythms.
"Within three to six days, everyone will fall into rhythm. No matter how complex the rhythm might be, they are in it with their voice, their steps and their claps. It's not that they have learned this rhythm; it's that they have become one with this rhythm and they are one with themselves in this moment."
"By tapping into one's primal rhythmic knowledge," continues Flatischler, "one can master these multi-layered rhythms - known as polyrhythms - that can take the most advanced music students months or years to learn. Voluntarily, it would be impossible for anyone to master these steps so quickly. One cannot linearly access this knowledge, however, as the body remembers those rhythm archetypes, one automatically falls into it."
He continues to explain that "when you fall into rhythm, you lose track of linear time, as well as of the past and future. You are just falling into the 'here and now.' The process brings people into a very relaxed state of presence. There are many ways to achieve this state, but rhythm is probably the most ancient and easiest way to access this state. At the same time, you are developing a real rhythmic competence, because what you have experienced in rhythm is something that stays with you."
While most learning situations require students to be alert and focused, in TaKeTiNa, participants are encouraged to either be active, and engage in the exercises, or be passive and lie on the floor and just listen. "For many people, lying down in the middle of a circle creates a reconnection to the time when they were in their mother's womb," says Flatischler. "There was nothing to do then but absorb rhythm. A person who is lying down in the center is entrained, meaning that all the information of the rhythm is subconsciously and unconsciously absorbed by that individual."
One word form that is frequently vocalized in TaKeTiNa is "Ga Ma La." Flatischler explains that while "Ga Ma La" has no real meaning, it is composed of three syllables, that have not just been randomly chosen. "When you say 'Ga-Ma-La,' notice that the 'Ga' sound is created in the throat; 'Ma' is created in the lips; and the 'La' sound is created by moving one's tongue up in the mouth. You are describing a movement circle inside your mouth without knowing it."
This movement circle creates what is known as a rhythm entrainment. When our minds are entrained, our bodies have hypnotically adapted to the strongest pulse available. "Rhythm entrainment is the basis for our senso-motoric system," says Flatischler. "With rhythm entrainment, you are not learning a specific rhythm pattern, of which there are a million random rhythmic patterns. Instead, you are going back to a rhythm archetype. An example of one rhythm archetype is a pulsation of two beats and a pulsation of three beats pulsating together.
According to Flatischler, the relationship of two beats pulsing in relationship to three beats occurs in the whole realm of nature. For instance, studies involving fish show that a fish's side fins and tail fins move in a two to three relationship to one another; one fin swishes back and forth three times in the same time period that the other fins swish back and forth two times.
Says Flatischler, "Ga Ma La is composed of three syllables, so speaking 'Ga Ma La' in a rhythmic way entrains the three beat cycle in the body. At the same time, Ga Ma La is not associated with a known word, so it empties your mind. You just speak it again and again, and all you hear is sound and rhythm. It does not fill your mind, it empties your mind. As it empties your mind, you come into the present, into the silent state of here and now."
Studying TaKeTiNa in the early '70's in a class sponsored by the German Cultural Institute allowed Flatischler, himself, to end a lifetime of asthma attacks. Since childhood, the young musician, who had studied the piano from early on, had been plagued with acute asthma. Describing himself as a "nervous child who couldn't sit still," as an adult, he still found it impossible to end his ceaseless motion.
One evening, after having heard the world famous, sitar player, Ravi Shankar, in concert with tabla player, Allah Rakha Kahn, he had decided to go to India to study the lyrical drum. In India, he discovered TaKeTiNa, and as he learned to work with the primal image archetypes, his asthma disappeared altogether.
From personal experience, he believes that "most of the psychosomatic illnesses, like asthma, are symptoms that the body starts to create because the mind cannot express something." He also believes that psychosomatic diseases can be overcome by many different kinds of intense mental training, of which TaKeTiNa is just one form.
Now, Flatischler has a very different perception of his world, as compared with the world of his childhood, stating that he is much more mild with himself and the world around him. "With TaKeTiNa, I learned to access a silent, present state," he claims. "It's not just silence and it's not just active; it's both. You are with someone and you are relaxed and focused at the same time." It appears that in this state of relaxed peaceful presence, healing occurs.
"About fifty years ago, scientists started to understand that rhythm provides a base of information for everything that happens in our bodies," says Flatischler. "Rhythmic relations in our bodies define our health or lack of health, and our state of mind. Whether you are sleeping, awake, in trance, relaxed, or under stress; all of these transfer into rhythms in the neo-cortex section of our brains. EKGs and EEGs are based on rhythms. All of this basic knowledge is integrated in this TaKeTiNa process. When one studies TaKeTiNa, one learns something that is already a part of themselves, not just something that is being taught by a teacher. Through TaKeTiNa, one regains one's innate relationship with rhythm."
With the ground-swell of Americans who have discovered the pure joy of beating a drum over the past decade, it's no surprise that many people are drawn to TaKeTiNa just for the sheer fun of it, let alone for its healing effects. From serious musicians, to lawyers and housewives, people from all walks of life are attending Flatischler's classes in the Bay Area, Portland, Boston, New York, and Seattle, as well as at five different universities throughout Europe, including the Viennese University, which is the largest music university in Austria. Whether for the purpose of using it therapeutically or in musical settings, some additionally choose to become facilitators of the TaKeTiNa process, which is taught by Flatischler and his wife, Cornelia, around the country.
For more information, contact Zorina Wolf: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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