“And you discover where music begins
Before it makes any sound,
Far in the mountains where canyons go
Still as the always-falling ever new flakes of snow”
– William Stafford
The first time I heard Joni Mitchell’s “The Jungle Line,” a crazy switch flipped inside me. I didn’t have a name for what I was hearing, or a way to box up and store away the emotions the pulsing drums, menacing synth lines, and impressionistic lyrics were stirring up. The music was unsettling and beautifully pleasing. What we don’t categorize, we drink straight.
Drumming is like that for me. It breaks down the walls, sweetly demands my attention and in return sets the world straight again. It short-circuits all habitual attempts to write off the given moment as more of the same, making vivid the danger and possibility that are equally inherent in each new moment.
“Rhythm is the most perceptible and least material thing” – Leopold Senghor
Our bodies, the earth, and the multiverse exist as layer upon layer of rhythms, poised to unleash the creative potential in each moment. If we are mindful we can feel the pulsing currents and patterns in and outside of our bodies, the perpetual hissing in summer lawns. Self-mastery requires that we become keenly sensitive to the many rhythms in our bodies and learn which ones and what balance of them brings us ease and which ones arc toward dissolution. When we drum, we are accessing rhythms – internal and external streams – that if responded to with mindful awareness, help us navigate the ocean of space and time. They are the currency of growth, realization and connection.
Music arises as a response to the deep stillness that lies at the center of everything. Whether we are drumming, running, in the midst of a riotous celebration, if we stop and watch, look deeply inside, we can find the center around which it all revolves. That center is stillness, vast open potential. Birds join together to greet the morning, flowers bloom accordingly, and the snow falls all as a response to that stillness, a coming forward to turn the wheel. Striking the drum confirms we are here, engaged in the rolling-tumbling-cascading song of life. Response becomes call – sending out new vibrations that in turn attract new opportunities for the sweet collaboration of life. Together, one beat after another, we bear witness to the mystery and teach the body the way home.