Having been at this for a while, I can say with certainty and experience that HOW we gather matters. A great compliment to musicians is that their sound is "tight", meaning they're in sync, steady, and focused. In a drum circle, this is helped when we are geographically tight, too, sitting close together rather than spread wide and far. You know that when you're seated 20' across the circle you can't hear the other side. Get closer -- we're all friends now. Lift your faces from your drums and shine your light on the friends and family gathered around you!
We gather in a circle because everyone has equal voice and equal responsibility for our success. Those big bass drums may be driving the rhythm, but we're all in this together. Our circle creates a container to hold the gifts we each bring to the gathering. Don't clutter up the container with unused gear; sit that stuff outside where passersby can get to it and be inspired to join in. The middle is scary to someone new, and to many who've been around for a while, too. Keep that space clear and available for the magic to maneuver.
Our circle is a container, but to fill them containers need openings. When you bring new chairs and fill in the gaps, you close off the gateway where the goodness can flow in and out. Quite literally we shut out our dancers. Don't you know this is holistic? Drumming is only one piece -- singing and dancing are the other slices of this pie, the pieces that make us whole.
Drum circles aren't just for drummers, you know. That space in the middle is there for the dancing. Come in! Bring your gifts of hoop and staff and poi and stomping and flailing and song! We see you out there, scattered like leaves blown across the lawn. And we know that great things happen out on the margins. Yet those gifts have their greatest value when you bring them back to the center, when you bring them to share, when you rejoice and revel WITH us, where we can bear witness to your joy and sweat and stumbles and skills, where we can uplift one another. Let's not drum like the ensemble hiding down in the deep, dark orchestra pit. Let's not dance alone in the corners as if the curtains were drawn tight.
We're here NOW. We're here together. And that won't always be so. Make the most of THIS. In the village when they're done dancing, each dancer parades before the drummers to touch the ground, then touch their hearts, then touch their heads to acknowledge the sharing of this space, this time, these gifts. When you dance to the drums, consider taking a minute or two to come into the circle, to share your moves and your smile and your spirit with those who create the beats that move you. We welcome you, and we appreciate your gifts.
Remember: this dance you do is all about flow, about yin and yang, about give and take. Bring that vision with you into the circle. Flit in and out like the butterflies in Spring. Dance your dance among us and pass on like the seasons, like the tides rolling in and out. Let us taste your goodness, then let us savor it. Allow others room to bring theirs to fill this bowl, too. Leave us longing for more of the good stuff, looking at one another and exclaiming "Did you see that? Did you see what just happened here?"
You've been called here for a reason. You CHOOSE to be in this place. Something inspired you to move those hands, those hips, those feet. Deep down you know that you NEED this; that the world needs THIS! Bring yourself NOW to this time, to this place. Bring yourself fully, whole-heartedly. Fling it down in front of us and shout "Look! Look at this fantastic thing I've brought here... to share... with you." Don't be coy! Don't show up puny! We desperately want those gifts you bring.
We need YOU to help us make this place, this time, something worthy of telling to our children. Through you, we dance and drum and sing, too. Someday they'll ask: "Do you remember? Do you remember when they danced and drummed with WILD abandon on the grass there in Pullen Park?"
*Previously published on Facebook, September 4, 2014