Years ago, I fell in love with the djembe drum, a hand drum that originated in West Africa. There was a shop selling them at the Colorado Renaissance Festival. For several years in a row, I would visit that booth and play along with other drummers, allowing my awkwardness to melt away as I lost myself to the brilliant sound and compelling vibration I felt in my body. Finally, I bought one, and sadly, hardly ever play it.
Still, I yearn for the primal, earthy sensation of being inside the drum vibration. This feeling came back to me last Friday while dancing in my friend Sandy’s Nia class on Zoom. (It’s an awesome class that you can learn more about here.) We were exploring movement from the ground up, using our strong base as the impetus for propulsion. I was bouncing along in the flow of a lively percussive beat, when I heard these song lyrics, loud and clear: “Do you know where you’re drumming from?”
I’ve been thinking about that question ever since. Where am I drumming from? What’s my base? What propels me? It’s a fascinating idea to ponder. And a reminder that I am inherently powerful, and you are, too.
The place I’m drumming from is a deep knowing that I am here on earth at this specific time for a reason. I don’t have the details of the reason completely figured out. I’m not really trying to. I trust that if I follow the rhythm of my heart, I will find my way. Just like playing the djembe. It’s not planned out. As I understand it, you master some basics, then allow your body to follow the groove.
Another way to ponder the question is to ask myself, what am I rooted in? In yoga class we often talk about rising from a rooted place. In my case, it’s first and foremost my spiritual practices that connect me to my higher wisdom and my body. I have a daily practice of reflection, meditation, journaling and movement. When I stay faithful to it, I feel supported. I feel anchored in peace, oneness and unconditional love. And that has been crucial lately, during this time we’re living in (this time that I’m here for, for a reason, by the way) that can feel so shaky, so uncertain.
It all works pretty well until something unpleasant or difficult happens directly to me. This is when it behooves me to be very mindful of where I’m drumming from, but of course, I’m not all the time. For example, during the holidays, I had an unexpected conversation with a family member where I felt attacked. Instead of sensing into my strong base of peace, oneness and unconditional love, I entered self-protection mode. I responded from an injured place that hooked into some old, dark stories. I lost my awareness. If I had been drumming this conversation, I would have been all over the place in an erratic, jarring rhythm, not following the flow of my inner music at all!
Luckily, life gives us many chances to practice and do things differently the next time. It’s important to note that we get to build our own base and rebuild it as many times as we need to. We choose where we are drumming from and when we forget where that is, we have opportunities to find our way back. We also have the power to decide how we want to play our drum, and really, whether we want to play it at all.
Which brings me to my poor, lonely little djembe. Perhaps it’s time for me to pick it up again and make some music.