This retreat is a unique opportunity for an intimate group of students to study with Master Drummer, Andrea Piccioni, who will share with us not only the history of the Frame Drum in Italy, but also his unique playing style that he calls “Hand to Hand,” a Method for Tamburello and Frame Drum. His is a unique approach to aligning and focusing the mind, body and instrument. This retreat is for a group of 10-15 frame drummers, with at least an intermediate level of skill. It will be held at Spannocchia, Tuscany, which is an historic estate, educational foundation, and organic farm. Andrea will focus some of his teaching on the Italian tradition of drums with and without jingles. This will involve sharing some of the history of the tambourine in Italy, which is deeply related especially to women since this was the instrument of women from the earliest times. Livia Giaffreda, a colleague of Andrea’s, will be joining us for 3-4 days to introduce us to some of the traditional dances and vocal pieces, as these elements are all deeply related, interpenetrating one another. Please contact Shirsten Lundblad by email for more details.
In my yoga classes, I am integrating the theme of the “smiling breath”. I learned this practice from the teachings of Dennis Lewis, whose books and teaching cds I would recommend. An explanation of the smiling breath can be found in his book, “The Tao of Natural Breathing”. He quotes his teacher Mantak Chia: “Taoist sages say that when you smile, your organs release a honey-like secretion which nourishes the whole body.” And research has shown that the chemistry of a smile in terms of brain activity does not much differentiate between a spontaneous smile and a voluntary smile. In other words, activating an inner smile, like the smile one sees on Buddha statues, or on the Mona Lisa, naturally causes one to be healthier and happier. It is so simple. One evening last week when I was prepping for the next morning’s yoga class, I was irritated about something, mostly due to being tired and the grumpiness that can accompany exhaustion. I discovered that by simply consciously practicing the smiling breath for a half hour or more, my irritation melted away and actually seemed rather silly and funny. Life is too short to waste much time feeling irritated or angry, especially when one recognizes that those emotional states are actually unhealthy for our bodies, not to mention to the people around us.
To practice the smiling breath, begin by relaxing your face and your eyes, and then simply activate an inner smile. You can imagine the face of someone you love smiling at you, and receive their smile, let it light up your heart, let it light up and soften your eyes, and awaken your inner smile. Sometimes I imagine looking into the face of a baby; that simple recollection can activate a softening in my eyes, and a smile. And now, thinking of your smile as a gateway for the breath, breathe in, blessing your heart with the sweetness of your smile, and breathing out, blessing the world with your smile. Breathing in, smiling breath, breathing out, smiling breath. Simple.
Let this be your practice. Think of it as an experiment. Every day remind yourself to engage that inner smile and let the breath travel through that gateway. And just notice the effects.