Before we even arrived in Edmonton and unpacked our bags, my heartbeat was already attuned to the culture of the Aboriginal people of Canada.
I soon began my search for more information about their spirituality, leafing through the tourist brochures that my then-partner brought home. While the primary purpose for these was for planning trips to places of interest that we could get to by bus, I looked for places where I could experience Aboriginal spirituality. The pressures of finding employment and keeping on top of the bills finally superseded. Although my interest in learning more about the native people of this country never died, it waned.
Dance To Every Heartbeat
You can then understand my gratitude to find when I later became an Intern Chaplain that Aboriginal culture and spirituality was part of the Pastoral Care programme. Through this, my experience of Aboriginal spirituality had me dancing away from my head to my heartbeat. I first got that imagery from an Aboriginal elder who used it in a workshop. I would again hear that the longest distance is between the head and the heart from another elder at a sweat lodge.
Over the ensuing months, as we tried to settle into our new home, I would often reflect on this and tune into my heartbeat. It would eventually occur to me that migrating to Canada and our several moves since being here, was part of that journey. Actually, I was continuing my journey from the head to my heart.
Another thing that I noted about the Aboriginal culture is that it shares several commonalities with my own African-Jamaican heritage. We are both oppressed people. More importantly, we both have not forgotten how to dance with Spirit and to our own heartbeat. Here are some Scriptural examples:
“I am blind and do not see the things of this world; but when the light comes from above, it enlightens my heart and I can see, for the Eye of my heart sees everything; and through this vision, I can help my people. The heart is a sanctuary at the centre of which there is a little space, wherein the Great Spirit dwells, and this is the Eye . . . If the heart is not pure, the Great Spirit cannot be seen.” Black Elk, Sioux Tradition
“Set me free, I entreat thee from my heart;
If I do not pray to thee with my heart,
Thou hearest me not.
If I pray to thee with my heart,
Thou knowest it and art gracious unto me.” Boran Prayer (Kenya)
Every Beat Of My Heart
There is a song that I used to sing most passionately when I was younger and hopelessly in love. The words go something like this:
“With every beat of my heart,
There’s a beat for you . . .”
How many persons have I sung those words to in my younger years? Many, albeit unknowingly.
It boggles my mind to think now about the number of heartbeats I have given to others. What scared me, even more, are the answers to the questions, “How many beats did you give to yourself?” “How many beats of others did you dance to?”
Tears flowed down my cheeks as I heard myself answering, “very few,” and “too many,” respectively to these questions.
Like me, there are many people, particularly women, who spend a lifetime giving away their own heartbeats, dulling the drums of their hearts, to dance to the heartbeat of another. Like me, many finally and painfully wake up to this reality when the only beat they hear is silence. That is the moment when you awaken to the seemingly harsh reality that there is, “Ain’t no drumming going on here, baby!
The Sound Of Silence
The sound of Silence can be quite deafening. The silence was not a favourite tune of mine but it kept playing for me, between lovers, jobs, financial crises and other similar life changes. I could not stand Silence and very quickly, I would start searching for a heartbeat other than mine; I would literally hunt or go on the prowl for someone’s heartbeat to dull Silence.
One day though, in the middle of my frenetic dancing to the familiar and comfortable drum of my job and my boss’ vision, the music stopped. In a panic, I moved from cursing my co-workers, the economy, the government, my car, anything and everything for causing my beat to die. I did not want to hear the sound of Silence but try as I might It got louder.
With the same quiet gentleness, yet forcefulness of the sun bursting through the clouds on a rainy day, a low, very low thump rose slowly from the well of my soul. It filled me up with a melodic tune – my own heartbeat. It was beautiful!
The Melody of Life
For the first time in my life, I listened to the tune of my heart with no attempt to give it away, just allowing it to move my feet to its beat. Real-life, true living from the essence of me, from my heart, commenced and the melody has been smooth to keep in step with.
Admittedly, I made missteps over the years. However, I came to realize that, as I dance to my own heartbeat, dancing partners, whether it is a job, a friendship or an intimate relationship, come to me with greater ease and less striving on my part. What is sweeter, is that like a fine orchestra, the instruments (hearts) complement each other and naturally and harmoniously create great symphonies.
My friends, take it from me, Silence and the music it helps to write is glorious. Therefore, I am rewriting that song to say:
“With every beat of my heart,
There’s a tune for me.”