Shaking: An Ecstatic Celebration of Spirit and Life with Bradford Keeney

Forget listening to this one in your car. Clear the living room, kick off your shoes, and get ready to shake it up! To record his new program, Bradford Keeney surrounded himself with African drums, a nine-foot Steinway concert grand piano, a synthesizer, and dozens of microphones. There was no script. Six hours later, our engineers had captured an authentic offering of “shaking medicine.” We spoke to the “radical improvateur” about this one-of-a-kind event, and the path to spiritual realization and healing presented on Shaking.

Sounds True: Most people can relate to the experience of whole-body shaking as a natural response to intense events. But the idea of intentionally using unbridled movement and sound is something that might seem foreign or even strange. How is shaking a spiritual or healing practice?

Bradford Keeney: The world we live in is dominated by words. We live in a word universe, and look for books, theorists, and grand models to point the way to enlightenment. We've forgotten that there's a deeper, more immediately accessible way that doesn't find itself through words; it finds itself through feeling.

This is something our original ancestors—the Kalahari Bushmen, the oldest living culture on earth—have always treasured, and held primary as “the way,” the path to healing, to full realization and relationship with nature.

Shaking medicine points to the therapeutic and freeing aspects that come about from something we all once knew as children when we let our feelings get amplified: we let ourselves get out of control as part of a truer state of being—an entry into the wild. If we want to enter the wild, we have to become wild, and we have to rediscover that which was put away—ourselves as beings who feel. Amplifying feelings will always bring forth a moving body.

Sounds True: Losing control might sound frightening.

Bradford Keeney: Well, if you believe that being in control is the way, you're going to be further removed from the heart-center. Life in its fullest form is wild, which is a metaphor for complexity beyond the reach of human knowing. Indeed, our greatest fear is being out of control. How do we exercise control of ourselves? Through understanding—but that's what has paradoxically blocked us from finding our way.

Sounds True: So the practices on Shaking are designed to steer us away from understanding and control, and instead find spirit in the opposite direction?

Bradford Keeney: Yes. When we talk about love, play, heart, and spirit, it's typically a head talking about it. That's upside down. Our mind should be inside our heart, rather than our heart inside our mind.

Sounds True: Shaking is meant to help us get out of our heads and into our bodies, reconnected with feeling?

Bradford Keeney: Absolutely. These sessions are the perfect medium to awaken the ecstatic celebration of life, because by making sound and feeling rhythms and music that make us want to move, we find that the mind says, “I'm gonna take a nap,” and the heart awakens a>nd takes charge.

On these CDs I just go into the spirit—or as they say, “the spirit comes inside me.” It's all happening in the moment, fully present, with the purpose of arousing the spirit. I say things you won't expect anyone to dare or even imagine saying. The whole thing is a sonic medium through which the arrows of n|om, or kundalini, or spirit, are shot out.

As the Bushmen say, if you're soft—that means you're in your heart—you're going to be hit by something. And it's going to help awaken your expression of ecstatic joy, which is your link to the creative principle, to the greater source of wisdom from the deep wild.

I'd say it's the first time our culture has experienced anything like this. It's the way of the Kalahari, the ancient elders, that has not been heard, seen, realized in any form. This is a direct, “let's jump into it” experience. These aren't words poured into space; this is sacred water from the sands of the Kalahari, being poured through the sound waves into one's living room.

Sounds True: Is there a simple exercise you can offer readers to give them a taste for what Shaking will be like?

Bradford Keeney: Hold a CD in your hands, and do something with that CD you've never done with any CD. Rest it on top of your head and say out loud, “This CD is not for my head.” Then lie down on the floor, put it over your belly button, and say, “This is for you.”

Bradford Keeney

Bradford Keeney Return to top of page

Bradford Keeney is an internationally renowned scholar and therapist. He has conducted some of the most extensive field studies of healing and shamanism, and is recognized in cultures worldwide as an...

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