Treating Ebola is a lot like Playing in a Drum Circle

Team members awaiting instruction in the Ebola care setting
Team members awaiting instruction in the Ebola care setting

Having spent 17 years in nuclear medicine in various medical settings, including, in some of the earliest testing for AIDS, I see remarkable similarities in what medical personnel face in Ebola care, and what drummers must contend with in the group play of a drum circle.

To outsiders, a drum circle may appear more like a bunch of wanna be hippies banging on drums & such around a make shift venue. But to seasoned percussionists and drum circle facilitators such as myself, I view it as much much more. In fact, the group dynamics and adapting to changing conditions in an Ebola care setting, is what makes group play in a drum circle so special.

In group drumming, the team concept in play is of the utmost importance. Each drummer or participant learns to trust in their fellow drummers to play their part that leads to the entire group sound & effectiveness. Each drummer, just as in medical personnel in Ebola care, bring their own expertise to the group setting. But, it is the interpersonal dynamics, communication, and discipline in the art that gives both the drum circle and Ebola care setting its exceptional qualities. Both also rely on a high degree of improvisation to adapt to rapidly changing variables. Communications in these setting are of the utmost importance. Each setting calls for heightened intuitive and interpersonal skills. And it is in these regards that Ebola care and group drumming have so much in common.

Group drumming owes much of its early development to the practice of “shamanism,” and similar mind-body healing arts which have been reported under anthropology. These modalities also form some of the earliest practices in modern medicine. And so it is today, that we find these practices continuing to intertwine as we contend with the complex dynamics in the Ebola care setting, and in trusting oneself and others around you. And in many cases, the biggest obstacle is in interpersonal dynamics.

Facilitating Women's Evening at Chabad Temple
Facilitating Women’s Evening at Chabad Temple

I’ve been in hundreds of different drum circle and medical settings, and I can share that more than any other factor what leads to success, is the willingness of participants to set aside egos, trust in their fellow team members, and work for the good of the whole. Without this trust and willingness to stay in the “now”, mis-steps will most definately occur, and can dramatically effect the group outcome.

In my nuclear medicine work, I routinely worked with radioactive materials and infectious diseases, where protocol was critical, but you adapted to ever-changing conditions. As a result, I was inter-dependent upon my co-workers to make the appropriate decisions at key times in support of my efforts. And this is exactly what happens in a drum circle. The drummer participants are continually listening to and observing the moves of their fellow participants, and adjusting their play to what they see and hear from others in the group. The better you listen, the better the group play. There are over 150 different pieces of world percussion that are played in drum circles. And each participant will have varying exerience with these instruments, much as different medical personnel have in an Ebola care setting.

Because of the group dynamics in group drumming or drum circles, drumming workshops can be well adapted to a wide array of settings, including, team sports like football & basketball, military & police training, high risk operations like oil drilling, and many different business and technical settings.

Contact me at to learn more.

Stephen Dolle
Drum Circle Facilitator


How do you decide on Burial versus Cremation?

How do you decide on whether to be burried, or cremated, after your death?

As one or the other will certainly happen to each of us, there’s no time like the present to address this difficult decision. More recently, the deaths of a cousin, and a fellow drummer and friend of mine, both of whom were 48 and Catholic, prompted my brother to send out an email to all family seeking to learn of their interest in using a family burial site. Such decisions are not easy onces, but as a medical intuitive having worked in health care, and now a neuroscientist working with drumming and the brain, I feel I have some qualification and insights I can share on this topic.

Of the two deaths in my life recently, one was buried while the other was cremated. I suspect my drummer friend may have preferred burial, but opted for cremation due to the lower costs. Outside of the financial aspects of deciding how to dispose of our remains, I think the bigger and more relevant two questions are: which method is most conducive to the proper moving on of our spirit; and which method brings to most comfort to family as far as being able to memorialize and visit you?

A permanent resting place is of significance too in that it allows the family to perhaps better memorialize and visit your body in the earthly world. But, I’m not sure how relevant it is for family to visit your ashes. It would seem the best way would be for family to be able to look at your writings and others works, and reflect on who you were and your contributions to life here.

Burial does offer the luxury of an more undisturbed body for “that period of days and weeks” when we are in spirit form, but are not fully done here or ready to move on to our next place and assignment, that we may still somehow need our body. There are no proven studies on the subject, but a great deal of discussion and suspected revelation.

There are many reports of people who have died and come back to life and shared in great detail what they saw. But, I don’t know of any accounts of people being in the spirit world for any length of time, and then coming back to describe it.

Historically, Jewish, Catholic, and Islamic religions have forbid cremation.  But about 20 years ago, the Catholic church made cremation OK. And to the best of my knowledge, the others remain unchanged of their views. The articles I have included shed some light also on religious views.

Most recently, with the passing of my drummer friend, Carlos, I had an epiphany type moment 6 days later where I erupted in tears while listening to an early Santana song I was to perform that day. I can’t be certain if it was due to Carlos, but it was very unusual for me.  It may also be unrelated.  During Carlos’s prayer vigil, there were moments that were powerful. But it is hard to say if his spirit were actually involved. There were two things, though, that became clear after this service:

1) He had evolved to a higher and much more “self-less” person in the past 2-3 years, unbeknownst to most of us, and this put him ahead of his years, and likely opened the possibilities to his early death & assignment elsewhere; and 2) I was primarily there to convey a message to his closest brother, and offer support to his other brothers. And I have some skill in there areas.

My intuitive experiences in death originally arose in 1981 during my work in nuclear medicine imaging and the skill I developed as a medical intuitive. It was normal to carry on conversations with patients during these 60 to 90 minute exams. But after developing this medical intuitive ability, i.e. to see illness in my patients, I found I also could see impending death by way of who had agreed to die from their illness.

I was required to spend several minutes up to 10 minutes or so doing a clinical workup and history of each patient, and this often led to other dialog from my patients during the exams. Needless to say, over 11 years and 10,000 procedures, I had some pretty interesting encounters and conversations.

My intuitive connection to death and the afterlife then really took a leap forward in 1987 as I attended the death of my great aunt.  During two occasions that day in the mortuary parlor, when I got within 6-8 feet of her body, a sense of “weightlessness” overtook me and a message was delivered from some higher power and said, “She was right and she is moving on to the highest possible place.  Heaven.”  From then on, any time someone I knew passed away, I would experience a very unusual and striking conversation with them for a period that lasted days and weeks, presumably the time period they remained nearby.

Of these deaths close to me since 1987, 3 were via burial and 3 were via cremation. From this limited number of 6 deaths, I can’t say I sensed any difference in “spirit” communication between those who were buried, and those who were cremated. But, I wasn’t thinking about it either.  And now I am.

Earlier this year, I shared my experiences with a very Catholic man from Ireland and he spoke very confidently that what I had initially experienced in 1987 at my aunt’s funeral was the “Communion of Saints,” where I am actually in open communication with the spirit who just died, and those in Heaven. I had read about this earlier and it surely seemed plausible. But one thing seemed almost certain, that what I initially experienced in 1987 opened a doorway to my consciousness to better understand the “unseen.” And in fact, I think I can say that about all of my intuitive traits.

But this brings me back to my original question: Which is the better way to dispose of our bodies: Cremation or Burial? All I can hope for is that by discussing and praying over this question, we may have the better answers revealed. Perhaps we may also come up with new and better ways to memorialize the contributions of a loved one.

Please share your thoughts and experiences. Stephen Statistical Article:   Article from the traditional Catholic position:

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