The Power of Enthusiasm

Twenty six years ago I reconnected with my African drum teacher, mentor, and spiritual guide, Baba Olatunji. The first time I met him was when I was nine. His exciting music had shaped my early years. By the time the stars lined up so I could learn from him I was in my early forties.

My first class was 90 percent ego annihilation: I was horrible at drumming and dancing. (It is not easy to be a rhythmic retard.) The remaining 10 percent fueled my intent to learn to drum and dance~despite my shallow learning curve.

My excitement pushed me out of my safety zone.  Enthralled by my new-found love, I began to organize drumming events. I wanted others to experience this joy. Arthur Hull, drum circle master, calls it “rhythmic evangelism”.

At first, I sent out invitations to small events..drum circles and solstice gatherings. I advertised by mail or posting flyers, phone or word of mouth…(Reminder:this was before internet or cell phones!)

I did the legwork myself, hanging flyers, calling friends… I explored ways to get people to attend things that I loved.  I imagined we all wanted to connect– a village of like-minded people.

Later, I began to organize workshops and concerts for Baba. I knew that everyone I knew should meet this man, be in his presence.

I didn’t have a “look”, a graphic design, or a brand. I didn’t know how to create a good flyer, let alone distribute it.  I invited people to these events the only way I knew how…pure excitement and joy.  This was going to be the greatest party ever … why would you want to miss that? And guess what?   People showed up.

If you build it they will come. I did and they did.

In my desire to share what I love, I discovered a true gift: unbridled enthusiasm!

When possessed with enthusiasm there is no ego/persona, just excitement and joy. I am not the “Zorina” who needs strokes or to be admired and loved. I am the one who has a bead on something that can change your life… if you let it… and now I would add, if it is the right fit for you.

This power and force which comes to me, through me, is fearless and irrepressible. I become a bigger entity than the sensitive, self-conscious person that I am at other times.

Enthusiasm has shaped my life. When I love something, there are no obstacles or resistance, no difficulty in achieving my goals. What I don’t know how to do something, I fake it until I make it happen. I have arranged for radio interviews, newspaper and magazine articles, cable television shows for my teachers (and for myself), and all because I believe and feel deeply that the things I am excited about will touch others.

 

When I am not in my enthusiasm I am a lot more cautious.

In 1996 I met an Austrian musician, Reinhard Flatischler. Reinhard had founded a body of rhythm work called TaKeTiNa. I took my first workshop and loved it. I did not have to” know “‘ anything, but felt rhythm directly in my body–stepping, clapping and singing.  I could relax and cruise in the groove. I was hooked. My enthusiasm spoke to me and in a short time Reinhard and I agreed to work together to bring the TaKeTiNa Rhythm Teacher Training to the US .

I  ended up organizing three 3-year intensive teacher trainings over twelve years.  Huge commitments of time and energy and money went into creating each training. Because these were long-term projects, there were times  I was doubting there would be a successful outcome.

Somehow, things worked out. The participants came for the training, and despite some trainees leaving, everything managed to work.

My enthusiasm to have this teaching style infect the US was bigger than all the doubts and fears that visited me during the twelve years.

 

In my own professional life, the door opened for me to teach drumming long before I was highly skilled. I was happy to be the one to have a torch to pass on — Baba’s lessons, other teachers’ lessons. I stayed within simple boundaries… I taught what I knew solidly.

Last winter, I celebrated my twentieth year of teaching drum and rhythm. Each class inspires me, urges me to include everyone, opens up different ways of breaking down the information — no matter what an individual’s skill level. Enthusiasm bypasses obstacles of age, gender, and nationality– which might appear as limitations to learning to drum later in life.

Once year we–my students and I–celebrate our love of drumming with a performance. This gathering is part ritual, part celebration, and part advertisement for the power and art of drumming. Lots of students take part–including some of my “graduated” students.

The rehearsal, the day before the event, is messy and chaotic. It doesn’t look or sound like much of a performance. Some folks forget their drum parts. Half the group look like deer in headlights. People ask the same questions because they never hear the answers. No one can tell how it will turn out, but most are doubtful that it will come together.

The next day, when we arrive, everyone is excited.  The drummers dress up in flashy shirts and pants. They look colorful and festive. Our audience starts to arrive. The performers are nervously warming up–banging away, excited to get going.

We begin. Smiles and joy are visible on the musicians’ faces, and the energy is contagious. The audience gets up to dance. The performance flies by. We are no longer in linear time.We are enthusiastic. We are joy. The music is the vehicle for all of us to celebrate dancing, singing, clapping or just being there.

We are part of a transformative moment that changes the landscape of everyone who participates. And all because we show up. And play together. Create together.

 

When we finish, there is an alive vibrancy.   The resonance of movement and sound are still in the room. Slowly, we pack up our instruments, dissolving the recital gathering. Something else lingers. What is this feeling in the air?

We started out as individuals. Through our process together, we became a group. We added  a participating audience, sound and movement, song and dance. We then transformed into a village, celebrating our human life together. This good feeling remaining reminds us that we created something creative, immediate and wonderful. We did it together through joy, excitement, intention, and the superpower–enthusiasm.

Luck? Gratitude.

 Because my habit of mind is looking at what is missing in my life, or what’s wrong, or what could be wrong, I sometimes don’t see what a great life I am actually having. Isn’t that odd?

So I’ve removed my head from my butt for just a few minutes to share (and maybe crow about) some of the highlights of this amazing life that I live.

  • One: I have awesome jobs!

Job 1: I teach drumming and rhythm to people who feel called to it.They might not know they are called, but if you show up for one of my classes, you’ve been called.

I am especially good at working with:

Beginners: I deeply enjoy teaching the BASICS of drumming–how to make sounds, explore rhythms, having fun making music. Learning the origins of rhythms in the oral tradition. Creating a village through playing together.

Explorers: Folks who want to explore rhythm as a means to mindfulness, health and vitality.  Get your strength and focus on with drumming!

Musicians: Anyone who wants to deepen their understanding and knowledge of rhythm, timing, and expression. This is the real deal. Learning about time and space is NOT for sissies. Rhythm can kick your ass

 If I am just in my own quiet bubble, not comparing myself to anyone else, or my approach to other system of learning, I feel good about my teaching and its contribution to the world. I  have had quite a few students progress and become teachers in their own right, and I count that as an indicator of “success.”I see that people feel happy when they are drumming. They smile and their body language expresses relaxation and joy. Drumming is magical, transformative AND fun! And I get to teach it!

I also guide people in TaKeTiNa, a different kind of rhythmic work. TaKeTiNa is a musical rhythmic process which engages people through their whole bodies–with stepping, clapping and singing. This modality connects to rhythmic intelligence by grounding it in the body–before playing an instrument. TaKeTiNa boggles the minds, delights the senses and cannot be explained easily– since it is not a linear process. I enjoy the evolution that people go through as they let go into a deeper sense of knowing.

Job 2: I read Tarot cards. I started to learn the Tarot in 1973, when I started exploring  spirituality and the occult. I am largely self-taught.  I settled in with the Crowley deck, and I read cards for the Spring and Summer Renaissance Faire  in Northern and Southern California from 1974 to 1977. There were also long periods of time where I didn’t want anything to do with the psychic world: it took too much energy for me to read. It was difficult for to confront the pain some people brought with them. They come looking for solutions. What if I can’t help?

Last year I began to read again “professionally”, at a metaphysical bookstore in Port Townsend, Washington, not far from where I live.  The world of the Tarot is a mystery for me, always fresh and new. I don’t know if I am “right “ according to Crowley or not, but my clients seem satisfied.  I intend the readings to be for the highest good for each individual.

Job 3: I marry people.  I do about two ceremonies a year and what I earn doesn’t even dent my cell phone bill! I love the process. I have developed a list of questions that I have the prospective bride and groom answer separately and independently. No, this is not the newlywed game; it’s the Zorina-is-going-to-get-you-to-think-about-being-married game. Each partner is asked to reflect on what they value in the other and also to identify the“ touchy spots” between them. When we read the answers together, there is opportunity to  discuss whatever is unclear. Then I write the ceremony for that couple based on their their answers,using their own words as often as I can, so the ceremony reflects their sentiments, their voice. What a great opportunity to be with people during an important step in their evolution.

  • Two: I have awesome people in my life.

I have family.

I am married to an interesting man who I love and feel deeply connected to. We are on a journey of relationship together that is mysterious and ever-unfolding.  Terrance is a meditation practitioner and lover of all things consciousness-related, primarily with a Buddhist slant. He is also a therapist.  Great chemistry between us. He is my supporter, and true partner. He spoils me and cooks for me, and reminds me to stay in the moment. He is an artist in many ways. He’s a great dancer. I sleep better when we are together. He remodels our houses and he built our studio. He is my life companion and we are evolving our co-creative abilities.We’re two very different people and there are sometime impasses. He would like me to go on more retreats, and I would like him to be more social or to like watching trivial movies. And there we are. The longer we have been together, the deeper the curiosity of our “other”-ness becomes. Respect, intimacy, love and affection, and learning and humor are mainstays.

I have kids.

I gave birth to a wonderful son with my first husband, Glenn. Terrance ( husband number two)   has brought a step-son, daughter-in-law and grandson into our lives . I am amazed at the close relationship that we share (or at least I feel that way). We are friends as well as family.  I  absolutely love Thanksgiving, because it is when we get to hang out. I realize the treasure of feeling close to our children.I also appreciate the evolution of these relationships as they changes from parent-children to equals and family.

I have two wonderful brothers.

Both of them are introverts, which means I sometimes don’t understand them, but I definitely love and appreciate them. Because of family dynamics and a wonderfully (note: sarcasm)  controlling mother, we spent many years away from each other, developing own lives and families.More recently, Queen Judith the Great and Dominant passed on, and contact seems easier. even though they are both older than I am, we’ve agreed that I’m the big sisters, and  am training them to be little brothers  It is important for our education and continued growth to shift the balance from time to time, and for them to to realize that there are other ways of looking at the dynamics of our relationship.

My middle little brother and I hang out in Florida, where he lives. I remember when we were kids we were reading these Peanuts comic strips. One of the “themes” was Linus imagining himself as a simple yet rich country doctor with a red sports car. That is my middle brother. Mark is a very successful doctor and surgeon who created a thriving practice. He is in partial retirement now. He occasionally assists in surgeries and her raises bees. I love hanging out in the South, eating oysters, walking his four (or sometimes five) dogs, and giving him foot rubs.

Mike, my oldest little brother, and I meet three times a week on-line to write together–if we both remember. He is my first mentor in this life. He turned me on to everything: from Odetta to Joan Baez, how to play guitar, e.e. cummings and jazz. He is very, very bright. Unnecessarily, and without invitation, I used to compare myself to him and always came up short. In our maturity, I see the gifts and talents that I bring to his life.  I appreciate the time that we share, building a new relationship .

Then there are my brothers’ kids, too! Yeah!  and their kids!

I am lucky to have surrogate “children”. These are people who pick me to be part of their family.I have a “spirit” child, who I have known since she was four. One woman calls me her ‘soul‘ mother. I have been connected to her since she was fourteen.  “Nems” – the third woman is a dear, dear friend. I am so fortunate to be chosen to be close to these women. There are others too–soul sons.  When we are together our relationship is beyond the category of “friend”. We have adopted each other.

I have friends.I am  a social being, an extrovert’s extrovert, although as I get older, I need more time to retreat into my own world. However, by any introvert’s standards, I am way out there! I will admit that I am super, super lucky. I  have a few friends that go back as far as high school, but I have even more friends that are part of my first family of choice. No matter how much time and distance there is between us, there is an ageless quality of interaction. My first tribe (outside of my family of origin) was in California:  my psychodrama family. We were part of a group of psychodramatic “actors” lead by Vic Lovell, exploring alternate ways of working on dreams, relationships, problems. We led groups or participated in groups and marathons every week. We lived together in communes, explored the counter culture in every way there was to explore it: sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Also meditation, the occult, bodywork, and alternative healing.

Most of us ended up thriving as professionals: therapists, writers, restaurateurs, computer scientists, deadheads with jobs, entrepreneurs, rolfers, nurses. A few suffered collateral damage and passed on. There is this sense of connection that lasts to this day. Each and every one of them is dear to me. I have a history that cheers me and awes me. We had so much fun, and it was so crazy! I can imagine why Burning Man is so great for so many people… but I feel like I had my Burning Man every day for years. Doesn’t mean that I won’t go to Burning Man someday, but boy oh boy, the sixties was a wild ride.

And I have continued to develop my network of connections, expanding relationships with those I have worked with, taught, and have encountered as like-minded individuals . Sometimes I am better at spending time developing community than one -to-one, but it is because of my tunnel-y visioned propensity. But even given that, mine is a rich, rich  life!

I have had powerful teachers. Give credit where it is due. Starting with my brother Mike, Vic Lovell, Jim Price, Baba Olatunji, Ma Boukaka, Fritz Smith,  Reinhard Flatischler- I have had a series of remarkable teachers and guides. Despite the tough times– the difficulties of learning and the differing of agendas, the wanting and desire to be recognized and accredited by my mentors–I feel enormous gratitude for all that I have learned. With some, there’s unfinished business. With others, our time together on this earthly plane is over. I say it now even if I am no longer being mentored by you: thank you. I am glad our paths crossed.

  •  THREE:I have health.

Despite my tendency to be a drama queen, and the internal crises that I occasionally suffer, I am grateful and fortunate to have a healthy body. I am strong from drumming, walking, yoga, and when not lazy, swimming. I have the embodied ability to dance, sing, express myself in a thousand joyous ways.  Thanks to my genes, my jeans fit year after year. One lucky duck! People say that wealth is not as important as health. As one ‘ages?’ ‘matures?’, you really begin to get it. Things sometimes ache for no apparent reason. There are visits to eye doctors, dentists and the like which are necessary evils. Colonoscopy, pap smears, or mammograms, anyone? Good health is an amazing gift.

In summation:

You might see that I have designed an interesting life for myself. I would even say without fear of jinxing myself that it is rich — filled with interactions that  encourage expansion, growth and positive change . From time to time I lose focus on the map, or forget the friends or family that give meaning to the shape of my days.

But when I do, I just need to open my eyes, look up and out, and remember.

So count your own gifts, the parts of your own lives that flow in the background because they operate so well. Appreciate all the the people that contribute to making your life work, feel supported. Notice the invisible support that life gives you each and every day, the breath that you inhale and exhale. Remember that your life is a journey, not a destination. Nothing is cut and dried. And it ain’t over till the Fat Lady sings.