Young and old attend monthly drum circle

Eric Burk Photo/Gila Valley Central: Robert Brown attends the full moon drummings without fail.

By Eric Burk

THATCHER – The February full moon, named the Snow Moon, set over the Gila Valley on Saturday morning, and on Sunday night, the folks at Rose Hill Wellness held their monthly full moon drumming. Seventeen people from young to old participated in the drum circle, which was designed to help people release day-to-day distractions and focus on their intentions for the month.

Alissa Stockton, co-owner of Rose Hill Wellness with her daughter, Marissa Poland, led the participants and started by asking them to formulate a good intention, such as to experience joy, peace or to be pain free. Then, with the striking of a gong, the drumming began. Stockton provided a variety of percussion instruments and a didgeridoo. The tempo started out measured and calm, building to a high-energy, exciting, pounding finish. Afterwards, Stockton asked the group to share any insights or experience from the session.

Eric Burk Photo/Gila Valley Central: Rose Hill Wellness co-owner Alissa Stockton plays the didgeridoo while leading the drum circle.

One participant said they felt healing energy. Another felt “liberated and enlightened.” Regular attendee Tyrel Wright experienced a “sense of being surrounded, yet when you’re into it, you have a sense you’re right on your own.”

Stockton said the mission of Rose Hill Wellness is “to bring the community greater awareness of ways of experiencing life, ways of being, and bringing health to the community, mental and physical.”

“Drumming is a lot like group chanting,” Stockon’s husband, David Robinson, said.

He added that monks chant to limit their thoughts, and drumming frees participants from the miscellaneous thoughts of the day.

Stockton said drumming is an ancient tool to aid with mental health, mimicking the rhythm of a mother’s body while a baby is in the womb. She says drumming can even help Alzheimer’s Disease patients. Additionally, the monthly full moon drummings help build community for the participants.

The full moon is also an ancient tradition.

“The full moon and the drumming happens, bringing out the new month and the positive intentions that you want to happen,” Stockton said. “It helps bring that (positive intentions) to you more. Instead of just thinking about that and letting it go, you’re spending an hour drumming, and thinking about the positive intention.”

Eric Burk Photo/Gila Valley Central: A wooden frog is one of the rhythm instruments available at the full moon drum circle.

Robert Brown has been a regular since Rose Hill Wellness opened in 2014, but he’s been practicing yoga and dancing for 50 years. The genesis for his lifestyle was when he was a teen in the Navy.

“They taught me things, such as with the calisthenics, and I found out that that’s what keeps me going, so I keep at it to keep going,” Brown said.

Brown is 90 years old. When he was in his 80s he volunteered with Meals-on-Wheels and found himself serving people 10 years younger who had given up on life.

“[Drumming] keeps my long life interesting,” he said. Brown participates in other events at Rose Hill Wellness, and said, “[Stockton] keeps me going.”

Having outlived much of his family, Brown has found a new family with the people at Rose Hill Wellness.

Eric Burk Photo/Gila Valley Central: Two participants are absorbed by the rhythm of the drumming.

Tyrel Wright brought his mother, Carol Wright, who had just completed a grueling shift at Walmart. It was her first time, and she seemed unsure of the experience, sharing that it was “interesting and different.”

“It was soothing a little bit with getting the beat going,” she said.

Carol Wright said she enjoyed the drumming and that she will come back, depending on her schedule. The next drumming is scheduled for March 10 at 7 p.m. and is open and free for the public.

Eric Burk Photo/Gila Valley Central: While feeling the rhythm, drummers concentrate on their chosen good intention for February.

Stockton recognizes a drum circle might be out of some people’s comfort zone.

“Just be open,” she said. “Just try to feel what’s there and not judge ‘what am I supposed to feel (and) what am I supposed to do? This is weird.’ Let that go, and drum, and move with the feeling of the sound and just feel. Experience what you experience and accept it, whatever it is.”