Beating the Heavenly Drum
Easy Qigong For Ear Relief
Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts
The Beating the Heavenly Drum Qigong exercise is a valuable tool in aiding and maintaining a healthy ear, hearing mechanism, and beyond. I will describe two ways of how to do the exercise, and recommend that you try both and decide for yourself which one feels more comfortable and natural for you to carry out on regular basis. Personally I have found the exercise to be of great help in alleviating the effects of tinnitus, focusing one’s mind and hearing, and providing relieve to tired ears. I owe my knowledge of the exercise to the Dr. Stephen T. Chang’s invaluable Burn Disease Out of Your Body and Supawan P. Panawong Green’s Qigong classes.
Take a moment to relax and allow your natural focus to help you to prepare for the exercise. First close your ear canal by pressing on your tragus (sticky-out bit in front of your ear canal) with your index finger. Now tap gently on your index finger with the same hand’s middle finger, in a slow steady rhythm. Tap 12, 24 or 36 times and then release your fingers from your ears and have a rest. I recommend that you tap both ears simultaneously or alternatively, but if you find this difficult the exercise can also be done individually for each ear. When feeling comfortable to continue, repeat the whole cycle 3 times. The exercise can be done whenever you feel the need to do so (e.g. after a loud gig or before doing focused listening), but regular exercise routine will give you greatest pleasure and benefit your ear most, 1–3 times a day would be an ideal.
When tapping on the index finger you should hear a hollow metallic drum-like sound in order to have the required effect of the exercise. The basic principle is that if you are not pressing firmly enough you will not get the hollow sound, and the harder you press more metallic the sound gets. However, to begin with it is best to use lighter pressure on the tragus and to increase the pressure over a period of time once you feel comfortable with this and/or more focused stimulus is needed. The exercise is very much about revitalising your ear through relaxation, so try not force it, tap too fast, or carry it out mechanically in a chore-like fashion; simply allow your awareness to focus on the produced sound and sensation.
It is most pleasant to carry out the exercise in a quiet environment, but this is not necessary, and often simply impossible. I often do this during long listening sessions whenever possible. In general it is advisable to aim for at least a 15 minute break for each 45 minutes of intensive listening, something that can be difficult to achieve for many reasons when recording, mixing or composing. Beating the Heavenly Drum can be used effectively in those situations where you only get a limited break, but it should not be used as an excuse not to have longer regular breaks.
Like in Method 1, take your time to relax when planning to do this exercise, do not just rush into it. This time close your ears by placing your palms over them, with your fingers facing towards the back of your head. Now either tap the back of your head with your fingers, or alternatively for more powerful stimulation, place your index fingers where your skull begins to turn back in towards your neck, and then put your middle fingers over your index fingers and snap them down onto the indent in your head. Regardless of the tapping method you choose, the best results will be achieved through the use of a steady pulse of beating combined with a relaxed focus on the produced sound and sense of vibrations. Again tap 12, 24 or 36 times using either the alternating or simultaneous technique, and repeat the sequence 3 times.
For those interested to learn more about the Qigong, and how ear and hearing is connected to the whole of human microcosm in the Traditional Chinese Medicine, I advice you to seek out a genuine Qigong master or TCM practitioner in your local area. You may discover that your hearing problem is caused by something else than exposure to sound (alone), particularly if you have or are experiencing lower back pain, kidney problems, and/or extreme stress and fatigue.
Chang, S. Burn Disease Out of Your Body: Self-Healing Through Chinese Yoga. Wellingborough: Thornsons Publishers Limited, 1986. (The book has also been published under the titles of Chinese Yoga and The Book of Internal Exercises in the UK and the USA, respectively.)