In drumming class this week, we learned a new rhythm. More complicated than the last few weeks. The teacher breaks it down and then we play. This requires both total concentration and utter relaxation. I try to get the technique of slap! and tone just right, but then I notice that takes me out of the pocket.

So I keep with the rhythm in my head of “RIGHT! Left-right-right-left-RIGHT!”

We play on and on, the teacher jamming out, the notes of his improv on top and all around us, crackling through the air like electricity. Somehow my hands keep moving, at times seemingly by themselves, miraculously alternating the pattern they are supposed to, the sound coming from my drum keeping pace with the others. We are one, and many.

When we finish, I ask Teacher, “Which is more important to focus on- the right technique or the right rhythm of the hands?”.

Teacher says, “Technique will pull you out of the rhythm“. He said, “Give technique TIME and let yourself get the feeling of the rhythm instead”. He said, “It’s better to feel  it than know it.”

I think of all the times in my life that I’ve hesitated or held back, for fear of failure, or the sense that I had to do it just right, to be perfect off the bat. That I’ve unwittingly participated in the binary thinking of good or bad, and nothing in between. I’ve let that lead me away from the sheer, pure joy of doing for the sake of doing.

I have gotten better and better at ignoring the fear and have greater comfort around imperfection, and I’ve surely got dance and music to thank for that, in large part. I’m ever humbled by this lifelong process of learning, and unlearning. I am grateful for experiences like this that the arts provide, that life provides, that reinforce the importance of giving oneself permission to be imperfect in order to be more present for the moments of our lives. To forget about doing things just right, and instead, to be able fumble about as you learn. To learn how to play by feel, and not worry so much about making the perfect sound.