Disciplined Resonance

Disciplined resonance. I was talking to my husband the other day about this idea, and he, ever the English professor, stumbled a bit on the phrase. “Wouldn’t it make more sense to say ‘discipline and resonance’?” He is right, and yet this does not feel right. I realized it is because I am trying to capture something that happens between those two words; it isn’t a side-by-side pairing but rather a relational one.

Resonance has got to be one of the best feelings out there. It is a close relative of aliveness, which I have long been obsessed with. 

Drumming is one of the contexts in which I’ve been resonance-focused recently–pursuing it, hearing it, losing it, and, in the most deliciously humming moments, experiencing it.  

My teacher often says, “Jill, you need to take this more seriously.” Keep in mind I am told at least as often to relax, breathe, and “not push so hard.” I am flummoxed by what feels like mixed messages. I attend more classes and play in more contexts. I try different stances – sitting up straighter, back farther, legs crossed, feet on the ground. I try thinking, not thinking, concentrating on the pattern, concentrating on the feeling, eyes closed, eyes open.  

One day, I repeatedly fall off a rhythm that is the spine of the piece we are working on. I stop playing, wait, and come back when I re-find the timing. After class, my teacher turns to me and says, “You need to be more disciplined.” “What does that mean, exactly?” I ask, determined to get clear. “When you fall off the rhythm, don’t just stop. Be disciplined about finding your way back while staying in it.” “If I keep playing when I am off, isn’t that disruptive to everyone else?” “No,” he replies, “when you leave, everyone is left with nothing to work with. It’s like you’ve walked away in the middle of a conversation.”

Turns out this is a totally different and way harder project. To hang in there, to stay in the sometimes discordant conversation, to move in between, back and forth, away from and toward requires…yup, discipline. The result is nuanced, frustrating, jangly, exhausting, and bursting with all sorts of different flavors. It reminds me of the experience in yoga when, instead of simply falling out of a balancing pose, I wobble, put more weight on this foot, square that hip, and drop breath more into my belly in order to regain solidity in stillness. Maintaining the conversation.  

Staying in it while finding a way back can be messy, disruptive, and definitely requires tolerance for discord(ance) and instability. It can also be deeply creative, texturing, and generative of new ways of listening and hearing–a rhythm, a point of view, oneself, another. I encourage you to hang in there, friends, in the conversations that matter, with the discipline required to keep ears, hearts, and eyes open.

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