Allow me to elucidate.
First, some history: I was raised just outside of New Orleans, Louisiana by a WWII generation grandmother (of blessed memory), because of personal, family-related reasons, but that’s not what we’re here to unpack. So, in addition to being two generations apart with all those accompanying challenges, she was also, how should I put this… mean. Just mean. It’s not that she couldn’t ACT nice, but beneath the facade, she knew she was only appearing nice because it kept the social peace. Others knew it too, and usually gave her space. Some, however, wouldn’t take her shit.
ANYWAY… what became socially “right” for me in dealing with my own frustration was: off-gassing. That’s right. Off-gassing: a term stolen from physical science manipulatively applied to social and psychological sciences that is used to justify and make excuses for acting like a social asshole, usually directed at those closest to the off-gasser.
In short, I blew my composure… in order to regain… control? WTF was I doing?
Gods be praised, I got better. How?
Drumming… from days long past.
No bullshit. Drumming.
Perhaps it’s elucidation time again?
Some time ago, while sitting in meditation during one of my “composure management” sessions, I involuntarily (unconsciously?) replayed a memory, and sort of experienced it again from a first-person perspective, but not in real time… more like a flash of “groking” this moment for what it was then, but I couldn’t see that truth until nearly 30 years later. Anyway, here’s what I experienced:
The drum head beneath my stinging hands, and the sweat running down my chest and back. Rhythm carried me, while I, somehow, supported it at the same time… paradoxical truth. I could see, all around me, other drummers… two or three dozen others, all completely present, and yet... I knew we were all “somewhere else”, too. Directly in the center, priestesses dance and circle one another… special dances known to gods not my own. With ground meal, special sigils and marks were drawn on the ground, welcoming spirits… thinning the veils…
Riding too long on that moment of egoic bliss, my hand took too long to return to the drum… and I lost the beat. Oh shit, I’m gonna fuck this whole thing up, I thought to myself. I’m gonna be known in the New Orleans voodoo community as that druid white-boy that can’t even work a drum properly. Wait… that’s more ego bullshit, too. Damnit, I need to get back to the “now” before this gets out of control... breathe William… open up and take a breath.
In… and out…
With a breath… just one mindful inhale and exhale, a moment of letting my body and breath return to their natural buoyancy in the present, percussion river all around me… and suddenly I was there floating and uplifting again. Back to the mindful control it takes to be a welcome guest of another culture’s deep blood n’ bones magic.
Hang on… Let’s look at that again: I didn’t lose my shit (aloud, at least), and I didn’t fall into responding with “intensity”, or even off-gassing with a frustrated “FUCK!” or some such utterance.
It seemed so clear seeing it a second time, living it a second time! Just return to the beat. See, Billy-Badass, the Druid had assumed he could both keep the beat AND bliss out. Well, even though I was full of confidence and some skill, shit didn’t work out like that… AND my response to it was flexible and gentle.
Discovering dead batteries, finding forgotten windows left open after the storm has passed, technology failures, etc. etc. etc… on and on… we assume things are going to be right and good and that they’ll chug right along as they’ve always chugged, thank you very much. Sometimes those assumptions are incorrect. What do we do when that happens? How do we behave?
When assumptions of outcome become trusted in as if they were real, and they don’t pan out the way we’d assumed, we can lose our cool really quick…
… and if we’ve allowed ourselves to become unmanaged “intense personalities”, we’ll discover how few people have the tolerance to put up with our level of “intensity”.
(See y’all tomorrow)