Yesterday on New Year’s Eve day afternoon, I got to go out to a nearby beach and drum with my Cuban Bata teacher and another woman bata student. We drummed to honor Yemaya, the orisha sea mother with friends. We were lucky because it wasn’t raining, blowing or storming. Friends were there with silver dimes, candles, white flowers and prayers for Yemaya and their wishes for the New Year. The three of us playing bata had little metal folding stools and the sand was firm enough for us to sit on the stools and play. Photos were taken, along with a couple of videos, then posted and shared on Facebook.
I had the pleasure of sharing the photos and video with my teacher and other drumming friend this morning, and then we had a 3 hour bata lesson/session. I found myself drifting into tears halfway through, having a lot of sadness, fear and doubt come up. This happens when I am drumming sometimes. Sometimes it happens because I’m in extreme reaction to what is happening in the class. Other times it’s just what’s brewing internally and it wells up to confuse and distract me while I am drumming.
After more than a year being in the bata crucible with a cuban teacher and the other woman student, I have become able to be present with what comes up without knowing exactly what it’s about. It’s that thing they are always yacking about in yoga and meditation about finding an inner awareness of a witness part that is indestructable, no matter how outwardly insane and terrifying life is. And then there is that nifty little thing various sources say about a reaction never being quite about what it seems to be on the surface.
I’ve had days drumming where just not leaving the room and never coming back was the hardest thing for me to do in the world. I’ve spent brief interludes hating my teachers and other people drumming as though they are some kind of pestilent scum who inhabit this plane just to torture and humiliate me. It’s been hard not to act from those warped perceptions. But I’ve learned not to act from them for my own good, and this does not mean that it’s all just some sort of projectional illusion. People do good things, bad things, and sometimes blind,stupid things. Some of what they do really matters. But an awful lot of it is just water under the bridge.
Experiencing emotions that I can’t control feels insane and terrifying for about 1 minute, which seems an eternity until I’m through it. Now there’s simply a beyond where my mind stops trying to make any sense out of things for a little while. Today I got there after feeling bad for no particular reason and having to fumble around to find something to wipe tears off my face quietly. I went through several additional mini-anxiety moments trying to know what I was feeling and why, and then, somehow all the confusion and fear drained away and it didn’t matter anymore. I wish this meant I could count on being more present for myself in my life and dance on that edge well and more, but it doesn’t. That I exist and have managed to make it this far is the real paradox.
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