by Nick Andrea
Last Sunday I had the joy of performing with an orchestra. Though I perform music regularly, African polyrhythmic drumming has been my mainstay for nearly the past decade. Needless to say, it’s been many years since I read music and played this kind of music. So, I was a little nervous. I was also confident, though, because I’ve always felt this way about my drumming and it hadn’t taken me long to get back in the saddle.
Now, before the orchestra went onstage there were some soloists performing so for twenty minutes or so we were waiting behind the curtain. The air was electric with a silent but relaxed tension. My inner state mirrored this as I sat there, doing nothing in particular but observing the moment.
This suspension between tension and relaxation made me very alert, very aware, very present. I wasn’t thinking about anything. I wasn’t anywhere else. I was just there, pure and clear, and that’s when I realized that this was meditation.
I believe that is the experience that spiritual teachers like Eckhart Tolle, the Dalai Lama, and Suzuki Roshi are pointing us towards. As I seem to recall, one Zen teacher described it as, “hanging from a branch off the edge of a cliff by your teeth” (I don’t recall the reference) and in that relaxed alertness, I believe, lies our peace of mind.