Drumming at the Edge of Chaos (part 2)
Click here for part 1
So... I left off my drumming story at the point where I attended a drumming class. Let me back up just a *bit*. A few years before this, I came to know that I was meant to be a healer of some sort. I can't tell you how I came to know that; I honestly don't know. It's just... over time, it became obvious that was one of the reasons I was here. I remember trying to figure out what I was supposed to do, exactly how that would play out in my life. Would I become a counselor? Therapist? Massage therapist? Psychologist? Nothing immediately jumped out at me, made me feel passionate. I'm an unschooling mom, which means I'm deeply connected with my boys. I realized then that my priority should be them, and following where they led. I know this goes against a LOT of parenting advice - "Don't lose yourself! You have to live your life, too!" - but, they're only going to be my kids once, they're only going to be under my roof a short while. I have my whole life to live as time and space opens. Not that I put myself and my needs on the back burner - but I didn't just shove my kids aside to pursue my 'calling'. I have a whole post written in my head about losing yourself in parenting, because 1) you never really lose yourself and 2) who you emerge as on the other side is much, much more than when you went in. I think some women are afraid they won't emerge! So they push their kids away, which is supported by our society, rather than dive in. So, that's not this post. That's a different one.
The point is, I knew that I would know what to pursue when it was time to pursue it. I didn't have to go digging. I trusted that the same wisdom that let me know this was my path, would let me know what I needed to do, when. So this was in my heart and mind when I attended a drumming class in Winston-Salem, taught by Mamady Keita. Not consciously, the knowledge was just part of me. The class was... incredible. Mamady's spirit is SO huge, you're raised up as soon as you walk in the room. He is a beautiful, beautiful soul, and a wonderful teacher. I was taking two classes with him that day. Between classes, I walked up to this Thai restaurant close by. I was feeling a bit sorry for myself. A man who had completely broken my heart used to live in Winston-Salem, and I had kinda not thought about him in a while. I had pushed my hurt away, and being there, where we had spent some time together was painful. I'm also not SUCH a group person. I tend to stick to myself, unless invited in, or unless I'm really moved to invite myself. So I went to lunch alone - but, as luck would have it, a few other students were there, and invited me to eat with them.
Over lunch, I mentioned that I felt like drumming - specifically West African drumming - should be offered to all kids, everywhere. It's such a powerful thing. It's all about community, and communication, and belonging. I believe those rhythms, some of which have been played since there have been people, hold power. I especially thought drumming should be offered to African-American kids. When enslaved people were brought here, their drums were taken away; no one was allowed to drum, on threat of death, or having their hands cut off. Drumming was such a huge part of life for them in Africa, it was something they experienced from before they were born, hearing and feeling these rhythms -- and we ripped it away from them. I felt like there could be so much healing, and reclaiming of themSELVES, if they could know these rhythms.
One of my dining companions told of how he had taken drumming, and drumming circles, into nursing homes. He told a story of one man, who was completely lost to Alzheimer's, playing along one day, and the nurses and doctors called each other into the room - this was the most present they had seen him since he had been there, the most he had ever participated. *Nursing homes!* It just blew me away. I had thought of bringing drumming to young people... but wow! It's powerful on either end of the spectrum!
So, we had our conversations, and were walking back to class. I was thinking of everything we had been talking about, and suddenly, it hit me: drumming is healing. Drumming is healing! And it's already something I know how to do, and I love to do it. Part of my path as healer would be.... (drumroll)... drumming!! It was a moment when time literally stopped. I stopped walking, and just stood there, feeling every cell of my body come alive. Drumming is healing! I told a woman what I was experiencing, how I knew I was meant to be a healer, and how I just realized that drumming is healing, and we both got teary-eyed. It was a defining moment, I tell ya.
I knew a friend of mine offered what he called healing drum circles. I called him, and asked exactly what that looked like, what he thought. I found article after article, and books, detailing exactly how drumming is healing - and it is measurable. I was *inspired*. Ooh, here's a great time to tell this story: I have not used drugs or alcohol in many years. For most of those years, I was an active member of a 12-step group. I've moved away from meetings (yet another blog post!), but was still attending when all this was happening. I've bartended or waited tables for extra income (or sometimes my only income!) the entire time I was in recovery. I know that's not recommended, lol, but there's something about that work I enjoy, and I'm good at it, and it's relatively easy money. One night, after all this, I was bartending - and I had the *strongest* urge to drink some of the wine! This had never really happened before, in all the years I'd been clean and doing this work. There was a small bit of wine in the bottom of a bottle, and I was thinking, "No one would know. I could pour it into a styrofoam cup, and no one would even know." I was so surprised by that thought! I'd been meditating for a while, so had the ability to observe myself thinking that thought. How strange that I wanted wine! I couldn't get away to call anyone from the meetings, but I was struggling. Suddenly, it hit me: I am a person in recovery. I cannot drink this wine! I threw the bottle away (NO, country clubs do NOT recycle!) and grabbed a napkin, and wrote: "I am ready for whatever growth is coming my way. I am not going to drink. I am willing to grow in whatever way is needed." Through my recovery, I'd come to know that sometimes, people relapse because they're about to grow and change in big ways, and they're afraid of this growth. Drinking, or using other drugs, is like an old comfortable blanket that they can hide under. After my temporary insanity of wanting to drink, I saw that clearly. I didn't know WHAT growth was coming, but I knew that it was.
The very next day - the next *morning*, I got this call. It was a woman who was holding a celebration at her home, to commemorate the installation of a totem pole that she and her friends had carved. She wanted some drumming at the celebration, and had googled "drummers in Charlotte" or something like that. One of the links she got was the group in Winston-Salem, and the person she talked to there gave her my number. I was not the contact person for our drumming group here. The person that gave her my number didn't really even know me, or know that I was thinking of offering drum circles. She just remembered that I had attended the Mamady class months before, and had searched their records for my number. Quite a synchronicity, eh? Especially when you consider the woman that called had just started a nonprofit, promoting alternative forms of healing. And before we talked, she hadn't really thought about the healing power of drumming.
I love how things come together like that, when you're in the flow, and there's no doubt.
I'm writing all this like I felt oh, so confident and sure the entire time. I had so many moments of doubt, and feeling like I didn't know enough to share, and there's NO WAY I can stand in front of a group of people and lead drumming. But I trusted the path, and kept moving forward in spite of my fear. Sometimes assuredly, sometimes with stops and starts and stalls, and many calls to friends. But moving forward.
I'm so glad to be writing this, because something happened last year that caused me to set down my drums. I didn't drum at all for a time, not even for myself. I stopped offering drum circles. I would serve when I was asked, but I didn't put myself out there. I've just now started offering drum circles again. I stopped playing West African rhythms altogether, and haven't started back with that. I don't know that I ever will.
I'll tell you all about that in my next installment. Hopefully sooner than a month from now.
In the meantime, check out DrumStrong - a 24-hour drum circle held here next weekend, to send positive energy and raise funds for cancer research. It would be great if you could come! But if not, you can donate here. That link goes directly to my personal donation page. Any amount appreciated!