For the Love of the Tribe

Last weekend was the last show of the year for Zepparella. It was in Oregon, and the schedule was: Saturday, leave at 9AM; drive nine hours; load in; play the show; celebrate our year back at the hotel; leave at 10AM on Sunday morning; back in San Francisco around 7:00.

The van is very comfortable, but, no matter who you are, to be cooped up for so long can be rough. These are long drives, barreling down highways with infrequent stops. We time our hydration so we’re on the same page with rest stops. Everyone has their little area, where they nestle in and work on the computer, read if it’s a flat road, and sleep. Sometimes, Gretchen and Angeline will play their instruments, practicing or learning for an upcoming show. Noelle writes constantly.

We listen to music individually, so the van is very quiet most of the time. I know the idea of a band on the road is of the stereo blasting music. That’s a nice Hollywood image. In reality, with so little personal space when traveling in a group that is in such close quarters for so much of the day, harmony comes when each person gets their alone time, even when only inches away from the others. This is the beauty of headphones.

Of course, there are also hours of long, rambling conversations about pretty much everything. I am usually the driver, and often someone will come keep me company in the passenger seat. I love these conversations, which unravel like the yellow line that carries us along the track of asphalt. Little is unsaid. We sail through wide expanse of earth and sky that unlooses any barriers in thought and conversation, and we expand our ideas and spin out a train of thought that can go for hours. There is time for observation, for every possibility, for imagination. There is time for examining every side of an issue, for making wild suggestions and for diving in deep.

When one person brings up an issue, the others rally together and parse it out, dissect and look at it from every angle. We have time, so much time for this. Each of these women is thoughtful, so smart, so compassionate, and every difficulty is empathized with as our own. This is my tribe, the ones I learn from, the ones I get the truth from. Their support is as cushioning as the wheels that carry me through the landscapes of hours.

I’ve been playing in all-women bands now for 20 years or so for reasons I don’t quite understand, except to say that I love the tribe. I have other tribes: my sisters and mom, for instance, that are in my heart, but these women, because of the special situation of so much close contact, are a dearly loved tribe. We travel together, and then we get on stage and communicate with waveforms; music furthers the conversation and deepens the communication on a particle level. We have fun together; we unite against any difficulties; we have each others’ back in a fierce and infinite way. We laugh until we cry.

People in my life have been complaining for years that I don’t hire someone to travel with us, to help with the driving especially, but also with the loading and all the other stuff that goes into a show. But I can’t give this up. I can’t give up this bubble that gets created when we are together, when the van doors close and it is just the four of us. I would rather work extra hard to protect it. It is precious to me, and sacred.

When I was a little girl, I loved the tribe then too. My friends were in my class, in my girl scout troop, on my teams. The slumber party was the pinnacle of the year, when we would be left to our own devices late at night, sleeping bags on the living room floor, laughing and connecting in that rarefied bubble of connection of the darkened house, the special late night, the feeling that we were in our own world. Sneaking out of the house and slinking through the moonlit suburban streets, just to taste a little freedom and the magic of midnight. It was as if with these people, time stood still for a night.

Often, when the party would be in full swing, one of my friends would get sick. As kids, someone always seemed to have a stomach ache of some kind, or nervous, or coming down with something. As the friend would be ministered to, I would close my eyes and will their illness into my body. The night was so important to me, the connection so vital, that I couldn’t stand to think that someone would have to leave and break the bubble. I would breathe in and imagine bringing their stomach ache into me so that they could stay and have fun. I wasn’t worried that I would be sick too. I knew that even if I took on their stomach ache, I would be able to still have fun. The excitement of the party would carry me through. I always felt that I was the strongest one, that I would be able to handle any difficulty, especially for the sake of the tribe.

When it comes to my friends, to that rarefied bubble that we move in when we’re together, I have infinite reserves to make sure the people around me are happy and protected.

In the past few years, I’ve been examining that early attempt to ease my friends’ misery by breathing it into myself. I’ve been interested in learning about the energy of our thoughts and emotions, and through meditation, seeing how these things rise and pass away. Witnessing this in my own body, when I am dropped into the place underneath the ego, that place of infinite peace and stillness, how all these things rise and pass away: emotion, fear, shame, pain, thoughts of the past, projections into the future.

There is a meditation in Tibetan Buddhism called the meditation of give and take. We fall into this infinite place. I breathe in and bring the other person’s pain inside me, where it passes through and disperses into the infinite plain of consciousness. I breath out light into their being. I am not taking on their pain as if I were a martyr, bringing it in and letting it bring me down. I am bringing it in because in this infinite consciousness, it disperses.

When I was first taught Vipassana mediation, I recognized it as the same technique I had been using to fall asleep since I could remember. When I heard about give and take meditation, it rang a bell. I had known how to do this since I was about eight years old.

In the past few years, I have been studying related techniques in energy work with my mentor. I have been working with people for a while, doing this work. During a one-hour phone call, we fall into a guided meditation. We fall into the true self. We watch as blocks, patterns, thoughts and emotions rise and fall away. For musicians, we work on letting go of the mind and creating from that true space of improvisation. For others, we work on dropping in to that infinite space of truth and observing patterns that keep us stuck, releasing old emotion and energy that blocks us from our true path.

I’ve now made the calls available to everyone. My new website is here: Awakening the True Self. I am so happy to have a way to help. To use the years of spiritual seeking to help guide people down the path of finding their greatest potential. My heart fills up. I look forward to helping one person at a time find this rarefied communication, this deep understanding, and the true clear light of the infinite self. I look forward to expanding my tribe. I look forward to creating new ones.

3 thoughts on “For the Love of the Tribe”

  1. “We have fun together; we unite against any difficulties; we have each others’ back in a fierce and infinite way.” A glorious sentence amid a lot of other beauties.

  2. I love the way you describe your long hours on the road – ranging from deep conversations to each being nestled in their personal space.

    I mean, I’ve often thought that there is something slightly off in the stereotypical distinction between “talkative extroverts who love company” and “non-talkative introverts who need to be alone a lot”. Why is that ‘being talkative’ somehow is portrayed as the primary form of being together? Or that being physically in the company of others but remaining silent is portrayed as a strange kind of behavior which needs to be justified or something. Hehe, I really don’t know, as I often feel that I don’t fully understand some of the mainstream common sense concepts =)

    But the way you describe your togetherness – how you allow and accept each one to dwell in their personal space and still feel a deep tribal connection, and how that connection then sparks up when it is time for a conversation. Or for a show. The same seems to be true with your on-stage behavior; those moments when it seems that Gretchen is almost autistically concentrated on her instrument only, or you are hiding behind your blonde hair like the rest of the world didn’t exists – yet the whole band plays as one. The way I see it, to have a deep connection with others, one first has to have a deep connection with oneself. It is on that level where the tribal togetherness works magic.

    And that’s why I fail to fully agree with the stereotypical distinction between introverts and extroverts. To meditatively connect with the depths of ones own soul opens up the way to beyond-words deep connection with ones fellow tribe members. And once you have that connection, there is no need to prove it with constant chatter or ‘stereotypically extrovert’ behavior. It is perfectly fine to spend time in the company of others while nestled in ones personal sphere. It is easy to love your tribe when your tribe loves you and accepts you the way you are =)

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