As I strive for inner peace and clarity, I can’t help but notice how many challenges there are to pursuing that goal out there in the world at large. These are my occasional thoughts on how we might become happier and saner (individually, and as a world-wide family), or what might be standing in our way.

Notes on Whole Brain Drumming

August 27, 2023

In the Beginning was Noise
and Noise begat Rhythm
and Rhythm begat Everything Else

We are beings of energy, in a universe of energy.
It is our gift in each moment to direct that energy as we will.
In rhythm together, we direct that energy to our highest purpose,
For the greater joy and well-being of all.

Dana McCurdy

The name and main theme of this workshop is based on this insightful and powerful book:
Whole Brain Living, by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor

Ideally, a community drum circle is not a place for someone to show off what a “good drummer” they think they are. It’s also not the place for anyone to worry that they’re not a “good drummer”! It is a place to celebrate our connection with each other, even with the whole universe, by sharing in a communal rhythm. In my experience, the greatest joy in a drum circle comes not from celebrating being me, but by celebrating being us!

In many drumming traditions, there are specific patterns taught to students by experienced players, so there is a hierarchy which everyone is expected to respect and follow. This gives rise to some wonderful and inspiring music which celebrates and helps to preserve the unique contributions of each musical culture, but it also limits the free expression of novel rhythmic ideas. (Mention playing the “wrong” clave pattern during a Cuban jam, or Astor Piazzolla receiving death threats for creating a “new tango” style.)

In ego-based (left brain centered) drumming, you’re likely thinking about what you “should” play, or judging what you or someone else is playing. In non-ego-based drumming (right brain centered), you let go of thinking or judging, and allow your hands to express whatever best fits the group energy and rhythm, based on what comes naturally based on your unique experience and abilities. Maintaining an ego takes thought and effort. When we let go of thought and effort, our sense of connection with everyone and everything naturally arises. There is nothing to figure out, nothing to do, there is only being present, trusting and allowing your body’s natural expression to manifest.

As the religious philosopher Eric Butterworth used to say, each one of us is an “eachness in the allness”, and the tapestry of sound we create when we drum together is a perfect expression of that!

Poem: A Community in Rhythm

Another example of community, in this case, inspired by astronomy:

All of a sudden, they drop their guard. They’re talking to the people in front and behind them. I guess we’re all starved for connection. When people look through a telescope, they’re all the same.


February 11, 2022

My thought for the day:

Most of the injustices and lack of understanding in this world
come from people letting their egos determine their behavior.

If we all learned to look inside and take responsibility
for our darker, more selfish impulses,
this could be a much happier, more peaceful planet!

January 14, 2022

The trouble with concepts is that they don’t often relate to reality in a useful way. Only through direct experience can we see what concepts are useful in a given moment, and in order to have a direct experience, we have to give up all our concepts, at least for a moment.

The trouble with direct experience is that it’s not always comfortable, and so we tend to wrap ourselves in a cocoon of our favorite concepts, lulled by the thoughts that are most familiar and agreeable to us.

And the trouble with that is that as long as we stay there, avoiding discomfort, we are cut off from direct experience,from the very things that make life joyful and vibrant.

And so we hide from life, hemmed in by our own ideas, wondering why we feel so empty and alone.

Our Shit

April 18, 2021


September 3, 2020

For those who have no regard for objective reality or the wellbeing of others, it’s all too easy to create a compelling narrative that will seduce the emotionally vulnerable, playing on our fears and hatreds.

Beware of statements that excite or disgust you - in most cases, that is exactly what they’re meant to do!

Strive to be a dispassionate observer of what you see and hear, and separate, as best you can, what you are being told (which may or not be true), from how you feel about it (which is, most likely, a feeling you have lived with for many years, which may have been deliberately provoked in you so that you will become enslaved to someone else’s point of view).

The more we are bombarded with the opinions of others, the greater the challenge is to discover what is real and true, independent of external influence. We will not be free, as individuals, as a nation, or as a species, until we learn to think for ourselves. The clock is ticking, and there is no time to waste!

Drinking the Koolaid

July 29, 2020

In response to another one of those knee-jerk reactions (as my dad used to call them) to the “Lberal media” (ABC network news, in this case, who were trying to expose the tragic mistakes in leadership by both the Chinese and US governments in handling this pandemic), I was moved to express the following in a Facebook comment. So, thank you to the Trump supporter who got me thinking along these lines!

There are many different flavors of Koolaid these days! For me, the true acid test is this: if it feels TOTALLY right, it probably isn’t, because it’s most likely just someone trying to manipulate your emotions. If it feels a bit uncomfortable, though, then it’s worth looking at more closely. Electronic media is full of people trying to make you feel good (on both sides of the fence). You’re best bet, then, if you’re actually interested in the truth, is to believe none of them! Keep an open heart and mind, and don’t discard any idea just because it makes you feel uncomfortable. The truth is almost NEVER comfortable, and that’s one way you can separate it from convenient lies. The more I learn to live with being uncomfortable, the more I feel I can begin to see with open eyes!

Black Lives Matter: a reflection

June 2, 2020

This is not about black people versus cops. 
It’s about people who value justice and peace 
versus people who don’t.

What Is Different Now

May 31, 2020

This has ALWAYS been happening - people of color being brutalized and murdered at the hands of ruthless killers who are never brought to justice. What is different now is that there are always cameras at the ready, along with the means to show these atrocities to EVERYONE. So, now that we are exposed to what is happening with a vividness and thoroughness that has never before been possible, we can begin to see and understand what has always been true, but had mostly been hidden.

And so, all who witness these crimes and their failure to be prosecuted or prevented have a choice: to speak sanely but forcefully to power, that we as a society find this situation unacceptable, and that we will use all peaceful means to ensure that it changes for the better. The other choice, of course, is to do nothing, and allow these horrors to continue. If we choose the latter, we have no cause to complain, and we become guilty ourselves.

Too Little, Too Late

May 20, 2020

I got a letter from the White House today, with an ostentatious signature that suggests an ego of pathological proportions.

The letter, dated May 1 (almost 3 weeks ago), informed me with glowing words that I would be receiving a check for $1,200 (which I had already received on May 4), as a result of a bipartisan bill which this man “proudly signed into law”. He goes on to thank our legislators for “working so quickly with my administration to fast-track” this legislation, never explaining why it took an additional month to send out this “fast and direct economic assistance to you”.

Having been paying attention to a variety of news sources, though, I’m aware that part of that delay was a result of the check distribution being held up at the last minute, so that his signature could be added to each check. It also occurs to me that the USPS, being severely under-staffed and under-funded, might account for another part of the delay (which could also explain why I got this letter more than two weeks AFTER I got the check).

Of course, news of the upcoming “stimulus payments” was a welcome relief from all the otherwise bad news we’ve been getting, and I know that all of us who’ve received the payments are grateful for the help. I have to wonder, though, how much of this is political theater, intended mostly to distract us from how badly this crisis has been handled. In my case, as a Social Security recipient who gets direct deposit payments every month, I was expecting to likewise receive this as a direct deposit well BEFORE any checks were mailed out, as per several government news releases. I never saw an explanation of why I didn’t get the direct deposit, but, some time later, I got the check in the mail instead.

Relatively speaking, as someone who is semi-retired, I’m doing just fine, but I have to wonder how many millions have been much less lucky than I. Just this afternoon, political commentator Robert Reich posted a well-documented analysis of how severely this pandemic is impacting our fellow Americans who are already most at risk because of their racial background or economic status. For those of them who do receive these payments, it will most likely be a case of “too little, too late”. Many more, however, including the ones who need it the most, will never receive these payments at all, but I imagine that the powers that be don’t particularly care about those folks, since they’re less likely to vote than wealthier folks.

Of course, this whole Economic Impact Payment thing is just a minor detail in a much larger crisis, but I think it puts into perspective why we as a nation are having such a hard time right now. Extraordinary circumstances call for strong leadership, and that is something we are sorely lacking these days. My fervent hope is that, in the not too distant future, we will see a change in that regard. Until then, may we all keep our eyes and ears and hearts wide open, and stay safe and well.