A Hero’s Journey ® Interview:

 Jim Donovan


Jim Donovan is an award winning musician, teacher, motivator and founding member of the multi-platinum band Rusted Root from 1990-2005. He was recently voted “Facilitator of the Year” by the readers of Drum! magazine. In addition to being a full time instructor at Saint Francis University, Donovan also regularly offers workshops in the US and Europe focused on using the power of rhythm, drumming and the voice to assist in consciousness transformation, healing, personal growth, wellness, and creating community.

Name: Jim Donovan

Hometown: Greensburg, PA

Career: Musician, performer, educator

Passions: My family, teaching, performing, seeing someone go from point A to point B and to see their light turn on

Participation in the Hero’s Journey ® work: 6 years on support staff at the aggression council sessions on the mountain.

HJ Message To Live By: Consistently and relentlessly forging ahead and being unafraid to jump in.

HJF: What exactly is your role in the aggression council?

JD: The idea that aggression in of itself is not the negative thing that some people make it out to be. It’s the addition of fear to aggression that creates violence and pain. The aggression council is a way to create a space for men to experience aggression- really expressing it out in a healthy way. What I do within that experience is I drum for the men go through their processes. I support them with rhythm. Sometimes making the rhythm really driving to inspire them to action, sometimes bringing it back so they can breathe.

HJF: How would you describe the atmosphere in the room during the aggression council, and how did you choose to drum accordingly?

JD: For me, rhythm is something that is comforting. It’s hard to explain how it can be comforting. There is something in the repetition and in the intent of the player that can really help move energy. When I see some of the men going through the process, I try to feel where they are and do my best give them what they need … There is a mixture of emotions that I witness on the men’s part. I see fear, frustration, anger and even sadness sometimes. I also see a lot of courage. There hasn’t been a year where I personally didn’t experience catharsis. There is always really intense release that happens in a very, very good way. To me, that’s why I keep going back. I think it’s a sacred space and very very sacred work.

HJF: What do you feel that you gain from being a part of this experience?

JD: I gain energy. When I see somebody evolving, I evolve myself. When I see somebody having a release, I have a release myself. Even though I’m being of service and that in of itself is good for me, there is a whole other level of what I get from it. I think it’s a very unique experience. It’s very powerful.

HJF: Do you feel a little different every year afterwards?

JD: Absolutely. There is a catharsis on the part of the participants. But at the same time, we’re all there together. As individuals have change, it affects everybody around them even though we don’t really know each other very well. You see someone going through something very intense, it gives me a sense of hope that this is possible. It also gives me courage- anytime I need to go through something that is challenging, I’ve already witnessed someone go through something that they might be very afraid to do.

HJF: Is there a time that you’ve gone through something challenging that you applied what you felt at the aggression council?

JD: A lot of what I’ve been doing the last few years is speaking in front of people. Although I often performed in front of audiences, I was always faced behind the wall of my drums. I wasn’t afraid to be on stage, but to actually get up and seemingly without anything to hold on to and just talk, was very, very challenging for me. I can’t say that I was thinking about the aggression council as I was learning to speak in front of people but I know that seeing men face fear, and seeing it every year over and over again, affects me very deeply.

HJF: Are there any other ways that you’ve implemented what you’ve learned from the aggression council in your daily life?

JD: That aggression in of itself is a positive thing, that it’s really a source of creativity. Anytime I start to push that part of me back, I realize that I’m losing a part of myself. I’m not doing myself any service. Just allowing the expression of aggression to be a part of my being. It’s something that helps keep my creativity open- to me that’s the biggest thing. And to realize that the only time aggression starts to become unhelpful is when you add the fear to it.

HJF: Although you have not directly participated in a full Hero’s Journey ® experience, do you feel that you lead a hero’s journey?

JD: I really feel that my mission is to help people turn their light on, to evolve. To pass through the fears that are holding them back, the patterns that are holding them back. The Hero’s Journey is very in line with how I view my own purpose here on earth.

HJF: How do you see yourself as the hero of your own life?

JD: When my own patterns that are unhelpful get out of balance…such as overworking, or over-committing to things. To be able to see the imbalance, and say to myself, “Wow look, you are doing that again. Let’s bring that back into alignment.” The key is not being afraid to start over again. I feel like a hero most when I bring myself back into balance.

HJF: That definitely sounds like it is in line with one of the Hero’s Journey’s® messages.

JD: If I give in to being afraid to fail, then I’ll have lost. Because without failure, true growth does not happen. So I know that from experience over and over again, that the big key is just coming back and starting again. Not even aspiring to be perfect ever, but just to keep coming back and pushing forward.

HJF: Is there anything else you would like to add?

JD: The only other thought that comes to my mind is that my wish for this program is that it was worldwide and implemented everywhere. Prisons, police academies, corporate training, a requirement to be able to graduate high school… It may sound far reaching, but if all men had to go through this kind of experience, our world would evolve very fast.

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