The men’s sharing circle

I went to the Grove, where there are thick logs to sit on and drums to play. The man leading the group says this group is for Men, but I say my Y chromosome is as good as anyone’s, and he ceases to object. I am in my purple dress, pretty sandals, wig and make-up; I am not trying to fit in.

There are not enough drums, so I pick up a washing up bowl and try hitting it with the flat of my fingers. Not loud enough. I use a dry twig, which makes a more satisfying sound, and drum off beat, or attempt a slower beat so that my strokes sometimes are just after the others’ beats, sometimes just before. It is a way into the silence with others, just listening to the beats of all and making my own. Sometimes I am investigating different noises the bowl can make, sometimes thinking about my strokes, sometimes just in the group activity, mixing beats. The Grove is beautiful.

I cannot fit into roles defined by others. They imprison, squeeze, constrict, suffocate me. I have to carve my own role, breaking rules, being inconsistent, selfish- at best spontaneous and creative, at worst like a toddler screaming all the louder because he has just received what he was crying for a moment ago. I have to make a lot of mistakes to get one thing right.

The group leader, a big man with a strong baritone voice begins to speak, and I could almost lose what he was saying in the incantatory repetition of the word Men… Men… Men… Their group is based on the ideas of Richard Rohr, and leads Rites of Passage workshops.

We split into two groups, nine in each, and share. Our two questions are, why we are here, and what is our darkness. The rules are to speak from the heart, and listen from the heart- not to spend time while others are speaking planning what I will say, but to pay attention to the other Men in the circle; then to speak spontaneously. This gets easier as I age: I have practice, and I care less about how I appear and more about truth. I have space to observe others. Of course what they said is confidential.  I want to honour my femininity as a male way of being, to flit between the Man and Woman in myself, and unite them, and to expand my expression, my understanding, and my options. I don’t say all this there, I say it now.

What is your darkness? My darkness is a tiger, pacing angrily in a too small cage. The image came to me then, spontaneously as I spoke it. In the right places, letting go of the inner censor can produce wisdom. My darkness, the parts of myself I cannot permit, are power and strength which I can use if only I can open that cage. The tiger seems frightening, and is untrained, but holding the cage shut takes effort I could use elsewhere.

I do not want to disrupt this Men’s group, but to contribute to it. I come not to mock but to affirm, to speak truth as best I can, to state positive, good, opportunity, reality rather than the Bad. Rohr preaches on Noah’s Ark- God invited everything in, clean and unclean, predator and prey, male and female, and locked it in together. I used to think it was about balancing all the opposites within me, but slowly I have learned that it is actually “holding” things in their seemingly unreconciled state that widens and deepens the soul. And if I am here, listening and speaking, I am a threat and a promise to the group, just as I am in the Red Tent, just as every group member is.

8 thoughts on “The men’s sharing circle

  1. Do any other women ever say they would like to be a part of this group and their drumming? I’m curious too as to how you felt they received you, in as much as did you sense any resentment at their ‘Men’ gang being infiltrated at all?

    Esme greeting Clare, hugging her and pouring the tea upon the Cloud

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    • A man I knew really objected to a trans man (AFAB) in a different men’s group. I don’t know if men shared differently because I was there. When we heard of it no woman said she wanted to crash it, and one found me going a bit dodgy. I was too tired for the late night men’s group, I wonder what that was like. I was happy enough to have gone. Possibly they thought I was nutty enough to not want to confront me. The closest I felt to resentment from someone else was when a bit of the dry twig I was using as a drumstick broke off and flew towards him.

      I think it is late enough in the day for wine, myself. I have had some already.

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      • Interesting that the resentment would be at an AFAB rather than you, though it is possible they thought you too nutty, or perhaps beyond their comprehension, so said nothing, and deemed him to be a woman still and therefore less strong, but it’s good to hear you both went there regardless of potential negative reactions, and ultimately it sounds like it was a successful venture, playing the drums out of beat makes me smile. “I do not want to disrupt this Men’s group, but to contribute to it.” – Yes, that’s the nub of it, and contribute you did. I like to drum too sometimes, on a bodhrán a friend owns. I wanted to play the drums at achool when they first offered musical instuments to the children and was told that no girls were allowed to play drums, only boys. Even then I was incredulous. I ended up on the bloody oboe.

        Esme not on wine for it makes her joints ache so sticking her green tea until spirit o clock comes around later on upon the Cloud

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        • Mine was the first year at school where the girls did woodwork and metalwork, and the boys did cooking and sewing. Maybe that was where I caught transsexualism!! I like the oboe, ever since it was Peter’s duck. I ended up on the Tuba.

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          • Ah yes, in Secondary school we had that too. “Maybe that was where I caught transsexualism!!” – Hahahaha, maybe it was from the Tuba! The problem with the oboe is the face you have to pull whilst playing one. Here’s a picture I found titled ‘Where’s my oboe’

            That’s the face. They tried to palm off (misses) the bassoon on me, but I’d noticed an older girl with a stoop from carrying the monster about and put my foot down. falls about The harp player was practically hunchbacked, she had to carry the beast to school and back twice a week!- falls about

            Esme -baby she was born to drum upon the Cloud

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  2. I have been playing the drums for over fifty years, but I’ve participated in a drum circle but once. I found it to be rather boring, so, to break the monotony, I began playing in a 5/4 time signature to the group’s 4/4. I was never off the beat, technically, but there were some who perceived me to be so. Later, I tried to explain what I had done, but even the math would not satisfy them. There are those people who will allow you to participate, but they’ll never really think that you measure up.

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    • I suppose what they wanted to communicate was that they objected. Your explanation could only amount to “Well, you should not have done, if you understood properly.” Then that stays your fault. “The question is, which is to be master?”

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      • I am the mistress! I’ve done the same thing, although not so much out of boredom, while playing with accomplished jazz musicians. It basically gives different accents to the same beat, and, after four measures, we all fall on the same 4th beat together. The question, at that point, is whether I will continue so that my 5th beat is their 1st.

        This reminds me of the big laugh I’d get every time a band leader I had would say, “Let’s take five for a minute.” 🙂

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