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Get Your Flu Shot in a Drum Circle?

Circles Of Rhythm - The Integrated Community Drum Circle - Calgary, AB - The #1 Community Drum Circle in Canada!

By:  Judy Atkinson

Living Well Between the Beats

Last Friday night I attended the first Circles of Rhythm drum circle in 2019 and the following quote, which was written after my very first drum circle in 1997, came to mind and became a reality once again:

“I walked into the drum circle sad and weary, I walked out on fire!”

The drums were beating, the lights were dimmed, hearts were opening and joy was in the air.  I closed my eyes and felt the skin of my drum; it was pulsating, physically moving to the heart beat of the circle, connected to every person there, to every hand, every heart. Everyone was engaging and involved whether listening, drumming, dancing or sitting quietly, everyone was giving and receiving in harmony, connected, ONE. 

Then it happened! Joy rushed through me like lightening.  It was electric; goosebumps raised every hair on my body and I was taken back to the feeling I had at my first drum circle so many years ago.  That feeling was one of hope, fearlessness, connection and pure unadulterated JOY!

This experience was a reminder that the drum circle is a place where I can go when I am sad, lonely or world-weary.  It is a place where I can go to have an actual in-the-body experience of hope for our seemingly falling down world; a place where I can let go of my own fear, worry and doubt for a while and just let the rhythm of those gathered hold me.  

Image taken @WUB_Gathering 2018 in Banff, AB

Circles of Rhythm drum circles are like flu shots providing an immune boost for hopeful thinking while counterbalancing the negativity in the news and media.  Over time the drum circle has helped me come to know deep down that the purpose of life is to live fully, to embrace it all, the good and the not so good, getting help and support when I need it, offering it when needed by others and truly enjoying the beauty of this earth and good times as they present themselves as well. 

“Years of attending drum circles has helped me to know that heaven on earth is not something to seek or to look for, it is something that comes through me when I allow it, notice it, and set myself up for it by putting myself in those places and with those people who know this too!”   –Judy Atkinson, Messenger of Joy

 So, let heaven come through you in 2019.  Stop trying so hard to feel good. It’s easy in a drum circle, you just have to show up as often as possible and get dose after dose of good medicine.  You will begin to know that goodness and harmony are not only possible but right here in front of you, pulsating through you wanting to be heard and acknowledged.   Joy is awaiting you in the drum circle, come get your flu shot, of joy regularly. 

See you in the circle!

Judy Atkinson, Founder: Circles of Rhythm

Author: The Drum Code, Living Well Between the Beats,403-862-5654

Judy Atkinson continues to support the growth and development of Circles of Rhythm from afar while she travels – and – as a board member of the Circles of Rhythm Foundation. Thank you Judy for your ongoing support, wisdom, and strength over the years.
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Healing Starts Here

There is so much pain in the First Nations Community. Addictions, trauma, and soul level hurting are so prevalent in their lives. The pain from the past still haunts them today. Where can healing even begin?

On Wednesday November 16th, I was asked to facilitate a group of First Nations who came together to drum for Wellness. It was incredible to watch the group connect with the ancient tool of the drum. The group was there for each other, with the purpose of bringing about change for their community, for their families, and most importantly, for themselves. They were there to fix and to mend the hurts. During the drum circle the participants were listening to one another, being totally present, and engaging in community music making. During the Rhythm Cradle one participant said, “Wow, that felt really good.” I said to her, “It felt good because you were able to relax your body. Your mind was able to be still. You felt safe emotionally. Most importantly, you knew in that moment that you are not alone spiritually. She began to cry, and frankly so did I, we had reached the truth together.

Drumming like this is meant to give and receive support and it has impact on every level of our being. The whole group is experiencing the sense of unity that drumming can bring. It is a true honor to share this gift. This is where healing begins. The drum circle can be a catalyst for positive steps toward a brighter future.

Written by Jamie Gore


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Letting Go of Shame

Once a month a local women’s shelter has a therapeutic drum circle. This program has been gaining momentum and appreciation from the women who live there, and on Monday October 17th we had the largest turnout yet! The women who have been attending monthly are so excited and cannot wait for the next circle. 

Some women have just moved in to the shelter and are absolutely STRESSED to the max. The struggles that they are facing are huge. The drum circle is a safe welcoming place and they quickly realize that they can breathe a little deeper. Faces soften and smiles begin to appear.

 After about twenty minutes of drumming I suggested we create some rhythms and have some intentional rounds of drumming. For the first round I asked them if there was one thing they would like to let go of. After a pause, one woman suggested, “Shame.” Everyone unanimously agreed that would be something amazing to let go of. We created a rhythm, ‘Letting go of Shame.’ and drummed together with that phrase running through our minds. I suggested to entertain the question, “Who would you be without the shame?” 

We came to silence and it was time to create our second rhythm.”What would you like to drum up more of?” Again a pause, and the same woman said, “Love.” Another woman said, “You have to love yourself first.” Isn’t that the truth! We drummed for love with the phrase ‘drumming up the love’ in our minds.

At the end of the circle I was packing up the drums and a staff person came to me and said, “Every single woman that came out of that room was radiant and smiling! Not sure what you did in there but it was clearly remarkable.”


Written by
Jamie Gore


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Alberta Aphasia Camp, Drumming For Wellness

On Sunday September 18th, 2016,The Department of Sciences and Disorders from the University of Alberta held a summer camp for people living with a brain injury and surviving and thriving with a condition known as Aphasia. They asked Circles of Rhythm to attend and facilitate a drumming session. In years past one of our affiliates from the Edmonton area had done this for them, but he was not available this year. Upon arriving at the camp the day before I was met with much anticipation for the drum circle. Everyone was excited for the event, it was the highlight of the camp for most everyone. One individual in particular was very exuberant and ready to drum.

The morning arrived and the setting was amazing. Drumming in an enclosure with a view of the lake. Everyone began to drum and the sound was incredible. What a surprise! I have long ago let go of what to expect from people, and am always so amazed at the capacity of people when they listen and play together, no matter what struggles they face. I spoke about the harmony we were creating and the impact it has on the disease in the body. The music of the drum circle brings the body into a state of wellness and balance of heart and mind. At one point in our drum circle many participants were teary eyed with grattitude for the time they were sharing together.

At the end of the circle the man that let me know how excited he was about the drumming approached me. He asked me if I had read a certain book that he was reading. I said yes. His response was I KNEW IT! He proceeded to tell me that he had started to read the book before he had his stroke and the message did not mean anything to him. Now that he had this condition this book meant so much more to him. He had found the messages I delivered to be in alignment with the books meaning for him. The title of the book is ‘Conversations with God.’

He had been seeking the truth outside of himself for years. The stroke had changed his entire perspective on life, and he found that the truth was in him all along. The drum circle was a way for him to connect to that which he knew to be true.

Written by Jamie Gore

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Women’s Shelter, Drumming Making a Difference

For the last year Circles of Rhythm has been offering a therapeutic drumming program at a local women’s shelter. The women are not obligated to attend, so at times there are only two participants. Even when two women show up we carry on and have a lovely evening. The circle in July was special because we had five women attend, some returning and some new ladies! A staff person is always present during these sessions, to be support, to witness and to be there in case of emotional crisis. On this particular circle it was this support person’s third drum session with me, so she had witnessed and grown accustomed to drumming, and could see that these circles were very beneficial for the women.
At the end of the session the following day I received this from her. With permission I am sharing this communication, she had sent this to her boss to speak about her experience in our drum circle:

I just have to let you know that drumming group last night was awesome!  It was everything a group should be and more!  We had 5 participants. I actually had to turn one lady away because she was a last minute sign up and we couldn’t accommodate anymore children in childcare.  

The group was asked to choose 2 words to think about while drumming , something to discard in their lives and something they would like to receive in their lives.   It was unanimous, the drumming themes were: “ getting rid of anger “ and “ bringing in the money”.   Following that,  each participant took a turn in being the “receiver”, in which one person sits in a chair and the rest of the group walks around them playing a drum or percussion instrument.  The idea is to receive healing from the group.   Afterwards each “receiver” spoke about what they felt.   At the end of the drumming class a drum stick was placed in the middle of the floor and used as a “talking stick”.   Each lady spoke about what they could do to bring more happiness into their lives.   Finally we all stood in a circle , held hands and choose one word to describe how we were feeling, the words spoken were, “happy, good, and….. like skipping”.

I cannot stress enough the positive and healing energy in the room.  I know each lady felt it because they expressed it verbally.  The group went 5 minutes over and the ladies still were not ready to leave.  They left on an emotional high and wanting more.  I feel deeply that the participation last night is evidence that our ladies can and will share in a group setting.   I know all of us are trying to educate the ladies to “buy in” on why we run groups as part of our program, how trauma affects the brain and how these groups can be incredibly healing and fun.

I also have to credit Jamie Gore our drumming group facilitator who demonstrated excellent skills in maintaining control and flow of the group throughout the evening.  Jamie was very creative, flexible and shared on a personal level, which created a safe and fun environment for our ladies.”


Written by Jamie Gore

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Is Circles of Rhythm A Good Thing?

Judy received this incredible feedback from a gentleman. He was responding to her ensure that she is aware of the impact she and her team of facilitators and volunteers have had on his life. Sometimes in life we question if we are making a difference, and when we receive recognition like this, we can step back and say, “Thank-you, universe for giving me that chance to live my purpose here.”

I wanted to drop you a line regarding the comment you made last night concerning someone or some community of people suggesting that you were not providing a good or valued service. Perhaps it was that you were not in keeping with some drumming “standard” as you did not elaborate on the matter too much. I found the thought of this deeply disturbing as this attack could not be further from the truth both for the organization and for you personally. Given the above I would like to share with you what you and your program means to me as it is not anything like the feedback you experienced from those others.

I first encountered you and your drumming team at a workshop during the New Thought Conference in June and was amazed at how easily I was able to transform from a very anxious state to that of engagement with a group vibrating in energy as one. Not only did my anxiety subside to the point that I no longer wanted to “bolt” and leave the conference but I now felt a part of it and was much more comfortable with the entire group and individuals. The experience was transforming right in that moment and the lingering positive effects carried me through the entire 3 day conference. One of the other beautiful things was that there was a “knowing” positive energy between the participants of your drumming circle that shone in the eyes and sprit of those that experienced it along with me and that too was evident all weekend.

Further to that initial experience I sought out your organization and found your Friday Evening Circle of Rhythm held in Inglewood and promptly began going to these every available Friday. These have become an integral part of my spiritual growth, personal emotional enhancement, addiction recovery and perhaps the most significant….a sense of actually belonging and fitting in with others. Your 2 hour session of drumming mixed with meditation and spiritual concepts is the perfect blend of powerful healing and growth energy, action and thought and each time I participate I am renewed, restored and energized in a way like no other activity I know of. This has become such an important component in my life that I have encouraged several friends and family to join me on Fridays and each time I am so rewarded to see that they too are able to both give and receive the magnificent gift that your drumming circle provides.

Surely I speak the words of many souls in saying that you specifically and your team provide one of the most incredibly spiritually connective programs available. The evidence is so very clear to support this statement just by looking at ones neighbour while drumming or witnessing the deep moving energy of those in the healing circle, or the passion and sincerity of the drummers on the hand drums beating a rhythm of love and compassion for the benefit of others.

I implore you not to take council from anyone who believes that you, your organization or the format is not appropriate, beneficial, healing and a magnificent gift for all that participate. As I see it these negative thoughts must stem from complete ignorance of what you truly provide to a very large community. Please, keep doing what you are doing, continue to bestow this incredible experience on all that love and follow you.”

To all the drummers on the path of life, thank-you for being a part of the change we wish to bring about in this world.
Circles of Rhythm Team
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What can I do?

I was given the opportunity to bring a group of women together to facilitate a rhythm cradle evening for them. Some had drummed before, some had not, and two women had even participated in the Rhythm Cradle before. There were eight ladies present for the event and it happens with three rounds of giving and receiving support healing and nurturing from the group. They were numbered off for the three rounds and I knew during the last round there would only be two women to receive. I had a plan for the empty chair for round three. Rounds one and two came and went and then it was time for round three. Instead of removing the empty chair I said lets keep it there. I asked them to drum over that chair to represent everyone affected by the devastating fires at Fort Mac. It gave them a chance to do something, like a prayer in action. We silenced the drumming and began the hands on giving of support. We all continued to send our intentions to that space on the empty chair. Our compassion as a group was there in its fullest not only for the women who were receiving, but also for the space we created to send our love to Fort Mac people. At the end of the drumming we had a sharing circle. One of the women said how precious the action of drumming over the empty chair was for her. She expressed how sad and heavy she had been feeling to see the loss and struggle of her fellow Albertans. The action of drumming gave her a way to process the feelings she had been having.

Find ways to take action!

Written by Jamie Gore

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Why do you drum? Reflections on a Rhythm Lodge



Why do you drum??  

Most people do not have and answer to that question as it is their first time drumming let alone in a circle of people!

At the end of a drum circle my hope is that they have an answer to the question, and they decide to return to a drum circle again. The answers can be as varied as the people who show up. At the first drum circle a person experiences they may have one answer such as ‘this could be a fun time’! But if they choose to attend once again their answer may change. Drumming has the power to literally impact all areas of your life, especially in community. It is a way to bring about a sense of well being and harmony inside and out. Regular drumming can certainly become a practice for people to integrate into their life to bring balance, stress relief and even peace. Not to mention the original answer, pure fun!

On April 3rd I was able to bring people together for a drumming experience called the Rhythm Lodge.  I asked people to introduce themselves and tell us what brought them to the event. Answers were so varied: for friendship, community, healing, and even to have an experience that would help to bring a sense of grounding and getting right into the body. It was a great experience to share with these people, and each of the participants was able to find what they were looking for, and maybe find some things they did not expect! It is always so special when people are surprised at what can happen.

A close friend of mine has found the drumming to be instrumental in his life. There are many individuals that find their way to a drum circle that have had their entire life affected in a positive way. The rhythm has rippled out to influence all aspects of their life, mental, emotional, physical, and even spiritual. It will take a person as far as they would like to go!

So, Why do YOU drum?
Written by Jamie Gore

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Humble Pie ANYONE?

Humble pie anyone? Today I was to facilitate a very special group of people. All of these people’s lives have been touched by something in common. Cancer. The drumming today was the first of a six-week session for these survivors and their caregivers. I was on my way and pulling up to the site when I got a phone call. ‘Hello is this Jamie? Are you aware that there is drumming today at Wellspring?’ I reply with a yes. The volunteer proceeded to let me know that the program was to begin at 1:00 and it was now ten minutes past one. My understanding was that it was to run from 2-4pm!

Oh my goodness what has happened! My first reaction was to be upset. This is the fist time in the six years that I have been facilitating drum circles that I am late. As I was scrambling to get the drums inside, I really needed to stay calm and centered. This was not the time to be in a tizzy about being late. There were twenty people waiting patiently in the room for me. One of the participants had brought a drum and had stepped in to keep everyone entertained with a clapping rhythmical game. We got the drums in and everyone had a drum to play and I was in the center to commence. I started off this session in a way that would assist me to get centered. I encouraged everyone to focus on the breath. I immediately was able to let go of my judgement of myself for somehow dropping the ball with the start time and be fully present for the rest of the two hours. Life gave me the opportunity to LET GO and relax into the challenge. These people are facing a struggle of their life, and I have the gift of the drum circle to give to them. I could have spent the time wondering about where I went wrong, but instead I was able to come back to the present moment with the attention to one thing, my breath.

The rest of the session went incredibly smoothly and everyone had an amazing time, including myself. A participant shared with me that she had never experienced anything like this before. Her words were, This experience is more valuable than thousands of dollars of healing therapy.” What an amazing gift the drum circle is, for me and for these beautiful souls.

I took a few moments at the end of the session to sit in the room and feel the gratitude for the opportunity to bring this amazing tool of the drum circle to people, and to forgive myself for being late for the first time in six years. If life gives you the opportunity to judge yourself, take a deep breath and LET GO, and learn to be gentle with yourself.

If you or anyone you know is living with Cancer please follow this link to find out more about the amazing facility: Wellspring Calgary.

Today, I ate humble pie, and enjoyed it.
Written by Jamie Gore

Circles of Rhythm's photo.
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Drumming up Wellness at AHS, Written by Julien Lepage

She walked into the room with her head down; unaware of her surroundings. Consumed by the physical pain and a swelling of the soul, that depression often brings any person who is experiencing the sting of mental illness. Her friend had dragged her out of her home to drum… “You need to experience this” she said with a deep respect and understanding of her pain.

The rhythm was soft at first; the vibration ran through her entire body. “What is this that I feel?”, she thought. No one spoke, no instructions were given at first; however she was able to join in the gentle rhythms seamlessly – immediately feeling successful. Soon a deep sense of oneness with the larger group came over her. She closed her eyes…

It was as though her spirit came alive. The pain and suffering that, moments before had consumed her entire body were no longer present. Looking around the room, she felt a deep mutual respect with all those who surrounded her. Suddenly, she became aware that she was not alone.

This story is one that is shared with me time and again after the Friday afternoon Drumming-Up Wellness program – a Rhythm Project initiative. Drumming has been a therapeutic tool for me personally and professionally. I am so pleased to be able to share it with others- due to the innovative support of Alberta Health Services, REMO, the drum manufacturer, and Judy Atkinson from Circles of Rhythm.

The Rhythm Project has a vision to connect people through Community Drumming Circles; a place where everyone can experience hope and healing throughout their journeys towards physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness.

The stigma associated with mental illness is debilitating. It is in the shadows of isolation that the problem thrives. I know it to be true that when one breaks apart from themSELF and joins a commUNITY Drum Circle, the weight of mental illness slips away. Shifting perspectives from the ME to the WE, one can experience -if only for a moment- reprieve from the weight of life’s challenges.

This program is not only for patients. As health care providers, we take on the stress and anxieties of our own personal lives and those of whom we serve. We cannot care for others until we can care for ourselves. This is an invitation for EVERYONE: staff, physicians, patients, and the surrounding communities, to join in with the Rhythm. A place where you can release, recover, and renew your energies so that you are prepared for the next learning opportunity that life has in store for you.pfh-drumming-up-wellness