Hold the Beat

I spent the weekend at a Rhythm Retreat, getting to know my Djembe, a type of African drum. We had a circle of about forty people for the weekend, and it was fabulous.


It reminded me of a realization I experienced a few years ago, when I entered a new intimate relationship through drumming.

We were drumming together on a Mother drum – an immense, beautiful drum. The sort of drum that can hold the beat of the earth.

We hadn’t ever drummed together before – in fact, we were just meeting that weekend, and were both drawn to spend hours together at this beautiful drum. We each would bring our own rhythm, listening to one another to synchronize the beat in a beautiful way.

In the beginning, we fumbled quite a bit – we would hold the beat together for a little while, and then one or the other of us would loose it. We would both kind of back off, trying to follow the other one back into the beat. It never worked. We had to just stop, and start together again.

As the weekend progressed, we began to feel our way into keeping it going. The one who had temporarily lost the beat would stop for a moment, and step back to listen. The one who was still holding the beat HELD IT POWERFULLY. That allowed the resting partner to re-engage, step back in and rejoin with her own strong rhythm.

I have come to understand this as a powerful metaphor for relationship. Creating a strong, loving, powerful relationship calls for being willing to hold your own rhythm, while listening to the rhythm of your partner, and allowing the two to flow together.

Sometimes one partner or the other falters. There may be sickness, sadness, deep challenge. When the relationship is challenged is the most important time for the one who is feeling strong, feeling the beat, to hold that beat.

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