Damn. It’s 6 o’clock on a Friday – a day I had all to myself, ALL TO MYSELF, NOTHING SCHEDULED. And here I am. Finally forcing myself to glue my butt to a chair and write out what’s happening. To tell the story, let me start with yesterday. Increasingly, my Thursdays are becoming a big energy drain on me, and I am trying to observe why. Some of it is my mental anticipation of the people I deal with on Thursdays, which is reinforced when something ridiculous happens to validate my worst fears. I do notice thoughts swimming in my head like, “WHY am I doing this? WHY am I here?” But I can’t stay distracted for more than a few seconds while I’m teaching. People have learned to become uncomfortable with silence in my lessons. Hmmm, isn’t that interesting.

But as I was slogging through my emails – it was one of those weeks where I barely had time to sit in front of the computer, hooray! – I saw an announcement about a free outdoor concert at Stanford by a Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista. One of my classmates from CIIS was inviting our class to join her, knowing that the likelihood would be low given the fact that only four or five of us live down here on the Peninsula. I took her up on the offer. Even picked up the phone to call her (for me, this represents unprecedented levels of effort these days!). It took two calls to resolve everything. We coordinated a meeting time. The second the musicians showed up, I knew it was going to be good. Even in the dark, I somehow knew they were the real deal. Maybe the fact that they would do a free nighttime outdoor concert for about 20 people on Stanford campus told me that they were the real deal.

They played a mixture of Afro-Brazilian traditional instruments. Then they got all of us involved, foot-stomping, clapping, saying rhythms, making the sound of rain on a river in the Amazon. Puh-chee-coo-COO, Puh-chee-coo-COO,…Plac, Plac, PLAC! Plac, Plac, PLAC, plac, PLAC!….all are still resonating in my mind and body.

I thought a million things as I was standing there in the 45-degree (freezing for California!) night, smiling from ear to ear, bopping to these rhythms and the energy of the group:

  • That’s it! I’m changing my name, learning to play one of those instruments, and going on tour around the world as a musician!
  • Wait a minute, why do I need to learn Afro-Brazilian indigenous music? What about my own roots? Where is the exuberant music of ancient China? THAT’S what I’ll do.
  • I know! I’ll start teaching totally differently, getting people to move their bodies to the rhythm more. I already do some of those things, but not enough. We say the rhythms (as Cyro suggests everyone do in order to hear them better), but we don’t say enough of them. And I don’t repeat enough for people to get them. My whole school is much too restrained in our bodies! How do we feel it in our feet, all the way up to our hands?
  • I am JOY! I have so much love and spirit and laughter and joy inside me! I am ALIVE! I am just so dead in my life right now and thank God I realize it now! I don’t need more STUFF. I don’t need more TO DO. It is all in me. The rhythm, the sound, the spirit, the movement of JOY.
  • Why don’t the Chinese people have exuberant music like this as part of the traditional culture? I thought about this one for a long time afterward, mainly when I got home and did a YouTube search for traditional Chinese music. I don’t know enough about the history to guess why, but I see that the stuff we call “traditional” Chinese music all involves stringed instruments. There is Tibetan singing, which is different. But I have not found the right keywords to find examples of how the Chinese people celebrated life, released their stresses, found joy in the midst of great suffering.
  • When you connect to the music of a culture, you can begin to understand it. Images flashed in my head of all the Chinese-American kids who spend hours mastering Western European stringed instruments throughout their childhood. They are spoon-fed the aural history and tradition of a period of about two hundred years in a portion of the European continent. That, and what plays on the radio in America, serve as our musical diet, unless we are adventurous or wise enough to venture beyond these tiny borders. Brazilian music has African influence, reflects the rhythm of the languages spoken in Brazil, and the sensual total-body movements of Latin American dance.Β  Even our current American music scene, which is commercial in nature, reflects our commercially focused society.

I went to sleep feeling anticipation for the Cyro Baptista concert I will be attending tonight – our plans came together completely impromptu, as my CIIS classmate cajoled her way into a pair of free tickets being handed out to Stanford students after the gathering last night. Of course I wanted to join her! I was also approached by a member of Stanford Capoeira, asking me if I”d like to try this form of Brazilian martial art. Actually I would. It is apparently always done to music, since the movements in the martial art are very rhythmic.

All of this reminiscing about yesterday has made me forget why I was so mad about today. Let me see. I guess I had great plans for writing a blog post, figuring out my schedule for January, coming up with a new workshop series, letting go of some limiting beliefs, and reflecting on some poetry I read last night. Instead, I went to yoga class – which was AWESOME as usual with Birgit. Then I started down my list of errands. Lunch. Look for craft supplies (my new outlet, which has replaced retail therapy for the time being). Buy groceries. Post office. Fill up air in tires. Schedule oil change.

Finally I found myself at home and after firing up my computer, I could not get to the still place I needed to think and write from. I clicked around a bit, opened up a few notebooks, and decided it would be better to get up and make dinner for the next few days. Use my hands, keep busy.

So that got me all the way to 6 o’clock. An entire day THINKING ABOUT what I really wanted to do, while I did other things. An entire day to myself to enjoy and do what I wanted, which I spent not entirely present as I moved efficiently down a list of To Dos. By the time it was “time” to do the thing I wanted, I was so accustomed to being out of the moment and living sometime in the future, that I couldn’t even remember what it was that I wanted.

Until now. Sitting here for the last forty minutes has finally brought me to this moment, right now. In the process of remembering all that I had forgotten earlier today, here I am. I remember now.

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