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Spiritual community drum celebrate life love church spirituality meditation allegheny Unitarian Universalist church pittsburgh

Photo by Matthew Spiteri on Unsplash

I like to think that, at least at Allegheny, we have come to an understanding of the yin/yang aspect of individualism and communitarianism. That’s what I experienced when we worshiped with community drumming during “Drumming in the New Year” worship the first Sunday of 2018. Community drumming is not just a worship experience—an invitation to nourish the soul. It’s an opportunity to heal, if you let it; to create community, if you make it; to listen to your own drum while listening to others in a way that makes the whole sound better. Or not. It’s all in your hands.

“If you feel lost; just listen, allow yourself to sway with the rhythm, then start to play again.” That’s the wisdom of the drum.

Play. Get lost. Listen. Sway. Play again.

It struck me that this lesson from community drumming is similar to the process of mindfulness: Breathe mindfully. The mind shall wander. Recognize that the mind has wandered. Attend to and name where the mind has wandered. Return attention to the breath. Breathe mindfully.

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Photo by Robin Changizi on Unsplash

Breathe. Wander. Notice. Name. Breathe again.

It’s like the so-called “Hero’s Journey” of mythic religions that the Coming of Age crew explored recently. The protagonist listens, leaves home, faces challenges, gets help, heals and overcomes, transforms self, and returns to transform, making home a better place. (Like what happens to many of the students we host on their “Alternative Semester Break”!)

Listen. Leave home. Get challenged. Get help. Heal. Return home. Listen more deeply.

And it’s like mindful community: gather, wander, attend to where wandering leads, face challenges, heal, overcome, return transformed by your wanderings, transform community for the better.

To the extent we enter community (or drumming or worship or committee meetings or vacations) fully, we will be challenged, we will be transformed, and we will transform, empowered to make the world a little better.

Gather. Wander. Discover. Heal. Gather again, more deeply.

Yes it can be messy. In fact, if it’s not messy, if there’s no challenge, if there’s no personal and communal transformation, we’re not paying attention! Maybe we’re not listening. Maybe we’re not breathing. Maybe we’re not really alive. For sure, we’re not living the promise of spiritually mindful living. The promise of life fully lived.

This cycle (Gather, Wander, Discover, Heal, Gather again more deeply) can take a day, a week, months or years, maybe lifetimes, maybe a breath. The current winter worship series “Listening Within” is smack in the center of a “Year of Listening Dangerously.” What is your intention as you listen deeply? What are you hearing? Where have your (physical, mental, spiritual) wanderings led? What are you hearing about yourself? About yourself in community? What are your challenges and overcomings, dreams and nightmares, spiritual whispers and shouts calling you to be or become? What are you hearing about the communities that you, in no small part, create? How are you healing and transforming? How will you transform?