C H A P T E R 1 & 2 S A M P L E
R H Y T H M S H I F T I N G
“Drumming and music has always been my life path; the
ultimate emotional reset button”!
Jim Anderson, MFT
Chapter 1 / Finding Your Groove
Welcome to Team RhythmShifting!
I want to start off by congratulating you on your interest in beating depression playing drums! Anyone willing to pick up a pair of drumsticks in the name of beating depression has my vote! Drumming is rhythm and rhythm is drumming - they are one in the same - an amazing life enhancing energy! It is my belief that the process of drumming will help you activate your own higher level vibrations, get your mind and body moving to a new rhythm, and get you feeling a whole lot better!
In life, we each plug in our own experience to make choices and figure out what works best. Some decisions happen at a conscious level and some happen at an unconscious level. By age four, I was totally intrigued by drumming. It was like this magnetic force - pulling me straight into the rhythm vortex!
Looking back, this makes a lot of sense. My dad died when I was 4 days old. During this same time period my brother was in and out of the hospital - in a fight for his life, battling spina bifida. Although neither of these things happened directly to me, they both affected me profoundly at many levels. It was like there was this very real negative energy that was somehow a part of me, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I had no understanding as to exactly what was going on - I just knew that somehow things were different for my family. Things were difficult.
By age three, I began to figure out that I didn’t have a dad. I was also struggling to try and understand why my brother was so different than all the other kids, as he could not walk. It was all quite upsetting to me at times. Psychologically, I would say I am a pretty sensitive person. Somewhere deep inside all of this early chaos, a path was paved as I began to search for answers to many unanswered questions.
Even as a young toddler I was drawn towards music. After my dad died, we lived with my maternal grandparents. My mom had gone back to graduate school to get her teaching credential and would return on the weekends. One weekend she noticed, “At around 18 months you would sit in the corner for hours with your little record player, spinning the song Puff the Magic Dragon over and over again - playing rhythms on your legs while rocking back and forth to the beat”.
When there’s nothing outside of us that is comforting, sometimes the best place to go is deep inside. This was no doubt my first purposeful connection with the healing power of music. My grandfather was a kind man. He was a sign painter, super creative - yet always working very long hours. My grandmother - not so easy to deal with. Thus my unique alignment to music and movement began out of necessity as a way to cope; to have some control of my own environment.
Your connection to music is as individual as you are. How we each connect to music is very relevant. I encourage you to take a moment now and remember all the way back in time; to revisit your own initial connections to music. As my teacher Steve Lankton once said, “Don’t just look at the flower - look into the flower”. So true! Music is the flower. Our quest is to listen with a new set of ears - to connect the deeper song.
I can still remember all the way back to age two; my mom holding me and my brother in the rocking chair while singing the song “I See the Moon and the Moon Sees Me”. At first read that seems normal enough, that a mom might do something so simple to soothe and comfort her kids. However, below the surface - there exists a completely different rhythm, and the force for good embedded in the music!
And if you really think about it, it makes a lot of sense . . . and even more sense to the unconscious mind. Rocking, singing, holding and soothing set the stage. Even now, the song remains the same! Music provides a holding environment echoing the vibrational resonance of safety, security, comfort and love. Such a powerful example highlighting the ability of music to connect us, and heal us at a physical, emotional and psychological level.
By 1st Grade I began noticing all other kids with their dad’s and feeling what I can only describe now as intense confusion. I began to disengage. At school I felt sadness and fear. At home, we spent countless hours in babysitting waiting for mom to get home from work. I also recall longing to run and play with my brother - but that was an impossibility due to his spina bifida.
This was also the same time period when I became more active in a realization that I could come up with my own musical ideas. I began to use music to comfort myself my humming, tapping on things, playing songs on the piano and singing. Music was my secret super power; my companion that fueled me with positive energy and path to feel better instantly.
Most kids had sports, I had the Beatles. I began asking for records on birthdays and Christmas and would spend my allowance money on Beatles Albums. I also began making cardboard drumsets from my brother’s old model boxes and would play them with unsharpened pencils, emulating Ringo Starr and other drummers of that era. I remember feeling alive beating on those boxes. This is the release - the physicality of drumming. Out of all the many musical instruments to choose from, playing drumset is by far the most physically demanding - requiring perfect timing, hand / foot coordination and physical stamina.
This was my private stage. It’s also my early proof that music is magic and holds an innate power to lift our spirits. I was the drummer, pounding out rhythms on my imaginary model box drumset! And it was fun! I would play them for hours as my brother assembled his models - eventually wearing them out, then begging my mom to buy my brother more models.
My brother use to rate my drumming and fills on a scale of 1 to 10. It was a blast, and for the first time I felt like my brother and I found our own cool groove together! By Kindergarten I began to identify myself as a drummer. Those early years playing the model boxes gave me a sense of personal power I could not find anywhere else, and memories I still hold today as part of this same path.
Rhythm as a Knowing
There has been much research and documentation over the past 20 years on the evidenced based benefits of drumming and group drumming. As a contributing writer for 21st Century Drumming Magazine - I know firsthand the power of music. Some of the gains include reduction of stress, tension and anxiety; reduction of chronic pain; immune system boost; release of negative feelings associated with trauma, as well as group connection, cohesion and purpose. For more information on this research, please visit 21st Century Drummer Magazine online at or project-resiliency.org
The reason I am giving you a bit of history per my first experiences with drumming is simple. I believe these early experiences were pure in nature - and were pointing me towards the path of rhythm. For me, this was the answer; a way to feel better. And although research is useful, as a kid playing drums I didn’t need to understand what was happening scientifically to know that it felt good. When you’re jamming with the Beatles and hanging out with your brother having every fill and beat evaluated, there really need not be any need for further qualitative or quantitative research. Drumming provided me a sense of security and connection. It was a deeper knowing that happened unconsciously.
The conscious mind is busy, busy, busy trying to figure it all out. All the while, I knew that drumming felt good - and that was all I needed to know. For the conscious mind, it’s hard to understand something without first experiencing it. I could tell you everything I know about surfing, but until you actually get out there in the ocean on a surfboard and experience the waves first hand, it’s going to be next to impossible for you to fully grasp what I am talking about.
As far as depression, I tend to agree with the “depression as an activity” similar to the way William Glasser describes depression, as the act of depressing. Any mental activity involves running patterns and rhythms of thoughts, feelings, attitudes and perceptions. You are not just depressed as an end-all-be-all static stuck place you arrive. We each are co-creating our own worldview - be it happy or sad.
This brings us to awareness as part of a consciousness filter. There is an engaged involvement that springs forth from the mix of thoughts, feelings, attitudes and perceptions. It’s this process that shapes your individual view and experience your are living moment by moment.
Sometimes when I run groups I ask each member to pick out a song that has a deeper personal meaning to them. This is what subjective perception is all about. One minute you can be bumming out thinking about how hard life is - the next minute you can be listening to a favorite song and completely shift your train of thought. The context of what comes next becomes a creative intersection of what you think is going to happen, versus what actually happens. Open some space for a new dance to emerge, and a new rhythm of creativity brings a new potential to come bubbling up to the surface. The unknown is waiting patiently to be discovered - experiences will emerge.
And this is precisely how and why drumming has worked so well for me. Great grooves versus stinking thinking? There is no contest! Music moves the collective consciousness from linear thinking to an orientation based in creative musical expression; rhythms, grooves, movements, dynamics, space and silence. Life is a song, and the song is contextual. Music is contextual and the process of creating music opens doors to insight, awareness, growth and change.
Drumming has alway been my reset button. It’s amazing what can happen when you simply put drumsticks in someone’s hands. During my work as a Therapist at Southern California Addiction Center, I would often begin my music groups without words - just handing out drumsticks to each client without any clear cut instructions. By the time I had gone around the room of 12 to 15 members and placed sticks directly into each of their hands, the entire vibe of the room would completely change. This change happened instantly. Just the idea of playing drums releases thinking and shifts energy.
This is the power of drumming! It was as if “the holding of the drumsticks” brought people back into the room and a reconnection to the here and now of life. It also created a kind of heightened interest in what was coming next; a sort of non-verbal anticipation. The emotional state of the room would change instantly. Talking subsided without any request to do so. As thoughts are released the body somatically begins to engage in new rhythms, without having to say a single word. A new dialog of rhythm emerged as a natural force of energy - all on its own.
Post group discussions also reinforced this insight, as members often reported that “Just the idea of drumming shifted everything”. So not only the talking subsided but the thing that drives talking (thinking) subsided for long periods of time, which is similar to the same space that is opened up through meditation.
The other thing I love about playing the drums is that it’s immediate and accessible for all people. A simple 3-2 clave pattern can open up a 20 minute rhythm flow of intense grooving without anyone even noticing what has happened. Clock time consciousness also gives way to a deeper rhythm. Even a first time total beginner can get an immediate result and feel the vibration and joy of playing rhythms. Again this makes total sense, as this drumming mind-body state change has been researched and proven to release dopamine, endorphins, serotonin and oxytocin.
For me, playing drumset is an exciting experience in and of itself. There is this same single moment of musical anticipation right before I begin playing. This does not mean drumming will be a hit or fit for everyone, but as I have grown to better understand the intersection between psychology and drumming, it is my hope that this book will shed some light on the subject and open the door for those who have an interest to explore the possibilities available thru drumming, music and rhythm.
Tragically, rates of depression and suicide are up for our entire population - kids and teens included, which is exactly why we are in need of these types of new alternative ventures. To engage creativity is to live! There is magic in the music we create. We are all living in very stressful times. When I think back to my first 5 years of life, it’s very easy to understand how drumming and music helped me cope with the real tragedies of life that I faced.
Vibration of Happiness
Now, as I look back over my past 50 years, I can’t imagine my life without the experience of drumming and music. Life is rhythm - rhythm is life. To play the drums is to ride that deeper flow. Drumming is at its core an externalization of the heartbeat of our shared universal experience. And it’s within this groove context, we can begin to reconnect back to our own inner dance and true source of happiness. Turn off your mind and flow! Your theme rhythm will appear. Your theme rhythm will find you!
To drum is to take action; to paint the airwaves with sound color and vibration. When you hit the drum, the first thing you feel instantly is vibration! Drumming activates the drumhead to vibrate, and in that, there is an instant feedback loop. That sound travels straight back to source; to another vibratory membrane - your eardrums. It’s this sonic reflection that validates our musical creativity, mirroring back the same stuff we are constructed of at a quantum level - energy and vibration. Everything in the universe is pulsing with rhythm. Thus, when I speak of the vibration of music - I like to think of it in the broadest sense - resonating physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually all as one song, one dance!
As we move towards playing - our first basic goal is to simply put the drumsticks in our hands and notice any changes in state. Just allow that process to unfold naturally. This is to get a sense for how it feels - and to enter the realm of no thinking required. As we allow sticks to drop down and strike the drum, we are only doing what comes natural.
As Newton pointed out, “A body in motion tends to remain in motion”, which is exactly what we are going to do - put this body in motion - in total motion! You don’t have to think too deep about that one. There is an automatic drive to move the sticks. And it’s in this movement that inner energy captures external attention and the common everyday trance begins to come to the surface.
As deeper unconscious primitive forces suspend thinking - thoughts begin to dissipate - replaced instead by musical notes, phrasing, rhythms and rests. The expressive dynamics of rhythm take on a communicative role and move us to the center of a new creative discussion. This is to think musically - to think rhythmically and to be free of words.
This non-verbal inner discussion takes place grounded in self-expression, reflection and creativity. I recently read that our brains are pattern looping machines - constantly scanning the environment just looking for rhythms to help better understand the world. The sound and movement playing drums activates resonation and physical pleasure centers. The release of hitting the drums jump starts feel good patterns which when looped in succession create the continuous reinforcement cycles that support the feel good “pattern seeking” centers of the brain.
A New Connection
From a social standpoint, drumming became my path to an entirely new set of positive life connections. One of my first drum teachers, Kris Berry once told me that his drumset was his best friend and that when he would get together playing with other musicians, it was like having in depth discussions with those musicians without ever uttering a single word in English.
When I think about it, my drumset has been there for me too - thru everything; always available and safe; never too busy to hang out; always ready to create something new, something cool and something exciting! And while there was a certain interest in the possibility of fame and fortune, it was always the more simple pleasures of playing that drove my motivation as I reflect back on my 20’s and early 30’s playing drums professionally.
As a kid I struggled in sports. Growing up, I recall being picked last for impromptu football teams, basketball teams and soccer teams at recess in elementary school. Although I had no idea at the time that the bones in my foot were all fused, I can tell you that my inability to run fast culminated in the awful feeling of being picked last out of all the kids. It was also painful. So I can remember that feeling of wanting mastery over this feeling of inadequacy. Drumming gave me the physical outlet I could succeed at.
By 10th grade an orthopedic surgeon figured out that I was born with a congenital arthrodesis in my left foot - basically a foot with any joints. Fortunately drumming does not require any running and my feet worked perfect on the pedals. Playing the drumset became my perfect aerobic workout and with everyone into music, playing in bands became my path to a new sense of motivation, self-confidence and self-esteem.
I remember practicing long hours in my parent’s home in Placentia. I was a bit shy socially and going out into the community was sometimes a struggle for me in middle school. As I improved on the drums, it was as if I carried that great feeling with me wherever I went. There was a self confidence that began to emerge thru my playing.
The more you play your drums, the better it gets; the better you get; and the better you begin to feel about yourself each and every day. This became my new pattern - to play drums and then carry that good feeling around with me for the rest of the day!
Sharing this creative passion as a therapist has always been at the heart of my clinical work. Music has helped me get thru my darkest days and many of my own struggles with anger, anxiety and depression. As I have walked the path of healing, there is a kind of reverence I hold for the power of creativity as a force for good and change in the world and a special connection to playing and creating music that has always been there to encourage and support from the inside out.
Even in the most difficult situation, it was thru drumming that I began to feel alive again, renewed and back on the path to feeling better. We’ve all felt stuck at times. And sometimes more thinking only gets us more frustrated. This can be the conscious mind trying to out think it’s own thoughts. You have heard the saying, “It’s your best thinking that got you here”? This is where music opens up some large spaces in between the notes to not think. As you step now, deeper into your own rhythm - I believe you too will find that drumming is the perfect avenue to release the frustration and get that stuck energy up and moving forward again!
And please don’t mistake RhythmShifting for drum lessons or psychotherapy, because it’s neither. Music does not need a teacher, a label or a diagnosis in order to help you heal. In RhythmShifting, we leave the lyrics, the content, the rap songs, the death metal and all those other controversial musical styles and political ideology at the door. 12 notes and a world of rhythm is what this is about. Harmony, melody, rhythm and sound textures. It’s hard to believe that 12 notes can change a life, but I am living proof. Music is beyond words - so let’s give the music the reverence and respect it deserves. Let’s make the choice to move past all of those stuck words for a moment now - especially the ones that keep us the most trapped.
RhythmShifting is simple. This is not American Idol or the Voice. RhythmShifting is not a competition. Music has never been about competing or some stuck frame of reference like, “trying to be good enough”. In fact, that’s the furthest from the truth. Music is a gift we can each access to find our own truth. It’s about releasing all that is not helpful and shifting away from any negative thoughts that bind us. It’s about accessing and connecting to your own natural healing tones and calming rhythms.
Drumming is not some outcome oriented thing where you all of the sudden mysteriously arrive. Drumming is a state of mind, a state of flow; an ingenious, innovative and inspired dance - a present moment gift for us all to connect and share with the world. Drumming is an expression of the musically creative part deep that we each have available inside.
When I was at Fullerton College I learned to play Marimba and Vibraphone. This was another awakening for me, to pick a series of 2 notes, 4 notes, 6 notes and 8 notes - and play them in systematic well tempered patterns that were meditative in nature - this was a new gift I picked up thanks to my teachers Kris Berry and kevin Tullius. When we are open to learning new things, new instruments and new ways of seeing the world - then opportunities begin to open up.
Consider music as a journey thru time and space and your drumset - your rocket ship ready to transport you out into the stratosphere! Are you ready to blast off now? As you pick up the sticks, realize this is all just a metaphor for finding your own true rhythm in life. This is where drumming really sidesteps most cognitive behavioral therapies. Music opens up a different mental door, that stops the negative monkey mind dead in its tracks. Often times this is all we need to feel better . . . and to think better!
Part of playing drums and feeling it involves releasing our logical linear thinking. As we begin to speak the language of rhythm - consider speaking thru your hands. This opens up a new connection to the creative unconscious mind. This is where the rhythms come from, where the sonic vibrations are felt, and where the dance is first realized. This is that space and place we all shine, performing on a stage in the mind’s eye; free and clear of judgement.
Try and imagine this book and program as a springboard to connect back to your creative source; back to your deepest parts. Some of the greats describe music as an enlightened stream of consciousness. We each have a song and a groove inside, just waiting to emerge. Now is your turn to find your own inner musical connection to you; to your own unique rhythm. To embrace your own inner beat is to stretch and expand what is possible.
Drumming brings with it a reflection and a new excitement for what is possible in life. Creative grooves, rhythms, beats, mantras, tempos and musical loops are the landscape of this new inventive terrain we will traverse together as one. The Mantra is - “Everyday I play drums is a good day”.
To play music is to inspire generations. It’s a gift! And drummers love to share their gifts of rhythm as a source of knowledge, wisdom and inspiration. Just as one of my first mentors once gave me a small red practice pad and my first pair of drumsticks, so this book and program are my gift to you. Drumming and music lifted me out of my depression many moons ago and continue to hold that sae power for me today.
I remember hearing motivational speaker Jack Yenesis say, “Frustration is the penalty of breathing - there can be no life without it”. This is true, and even more reason to make sure to have stress management tools and coping skills in place to deal with the stress. Even as a Licensed MFT - I still have my days! If I begin to get overwhelmed or stressed out, I automatically take a 10 minute time out to play my drums - finding a rhythm of meditation. The mantra is “This too shall pass”. No storm lasts forever.
As I mentioned, my other fascination is the exploration of the human mind - this is the field of psychology. Throughout the program I will be teaching you all that I have learned over the past 25 years from all the masters I have studied with. Rhythm and psychology fit together like a glove. We will utilize the natural flow of the rhythm to integrate both process and context into a total action strategy designed to make your drumming experiences as empowering, uplifting and personally rewarding as possible!
Psychology has only been around for 140 years and is still in its infancy, exponentially growing new schools of healing each and every day! Be intrigued - search, seek and explore. You never know what you will find or what may find you!
The RhythmShifting Book you are holding represents my life’s passion. The take action part of this platform has been calling me to step outside of my own comfort zone for quite some time. And there is no time like the present!
Chapter 2 / Re-Framing the Problem
We each have our own unique struggles in life. As I mentioned, my dad died when I was four days old. Looking back I can say with absolute certainty that I was a very depressed kid. I felt lost and fearful - like I was the weakest kid in the entire elementary school. The word scared basically sums up my early existence. Fortunately, my mom was a school teacher back then and was very encouraging and supportive which helped out some.
When I was 10, she remarried and we moved to California. This gave her a new lease on life. She eventually went back to college and earned her Masters Degree in Counseling, and went on to become a Therapist. I’m proud to say I followed in my mom’s footsteps attending her alma mater (Cal State Fullerton) and earned my MS in Counseling and my license to practice psychotherapy and fulfil my passion to help people grow, change and improve their lives.
Self projection is a great way to open up. We must first reframe struggles, and begin to see our lives from multiple vantage points. Here is a great example that my mentor Stephen Lankton once said to me, “I am not so interested that you understand each and every detail of what I am saying to you. I am much more interested that you develop the skill of noticing what is most relevant to you”.
The same applies with this book. Projective metaphors allow us a blank canvas to entertain new ideas - to learn what the unconscious mind wants to teach us. Like Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, metaphors, songs, poems and storytelling are all powerful tools to open wider avenues for thought to appear. As you read this book, I want to encourage you to actively notice your own reference points. Project yourself into each and every storyline. Remember, it’s not what I am saying that’s important, it’s what you are thinking while you are reading. The inner thoughts you create - those are the ones to notice and pay closest attention to.
As a therapist, my graduate degree required me to receive my own individual psychotherapy. This was during the same time period that my son Matt was born. This is when my childhood and the reality that I never knew my own father came crashing down on me - this time as a grown man. I use to question, “What kind of dad will I be” in hopes that I would be good enough, and above all to be a kind man to my son.
So at age 29, I began my own therapy, this time as a somewhat resistant client. It was obvious to my therapist that the past pain was still there, being triggered by my new role as a father. After a few challenging sessions, my therapist said something to me that I shall never forget. I was telling him how I had low self-esteem and felt I was the weakest kid in grade school. He said, “I don’t think you were the weakest kid at all - I think you were the strongest kid at that school. Just think about it - you were the kid carrying the heaviest load; you were the kid carrying the most sadness; you were the kid carrying around the most pain”.
This insightful reframe was a huge psychological breakthrough for me. In one single moment I felt better about a lifetime of sadness and loss I had been dragging around in a negative context. The idea of reframing past interpretations and events was totally new for me. I never would have connected it to see it as a source of strength without the help of my therapist leading the charge. It was an amazing experience. This reframe also helped me recognize that the low self-esteem was part of a false inaccurate interpretation. I was able to begin the process of releasing my “less than” negative self perception, which had tormented me most of my life.
This is a great example of utilization; to take the problem and reposition it as a new source of strength. Erickson taught us to utilize our problems - and thus create new shifts in conscious awareness. That session was a serious turning point in my life. You can’t change the past, but you can alter the way in which you see it and learn to better understand how past associations unconsciously continue to play out in the present moment.
What was most amazing to me is how this one shift helped me turn 29 years of negative into a new perception of strength. And so, the question I pose to you is simple: what weaknesses might you be carrying around that is actually a misinterpretation, and how might we begin to turn these misperceptions of the past into your new source of personal power and strength?
When we are stuck in depression - we often end up patterning and repeating the same internal negative conversations over and over again. Wayne Dyer use to say that we think around 60,000 thoughts per day - often the same ones over and over again. I recently heard a psychologist saying that about 40,000 of those 60,000 thoughts are negative in nature. This is where reframes will help you break these cycles and open up new associations and new patterns of more useful dialog.
If you are interested in doing your own reframing, I recommend journaling, either recording with a voice memo or writing in an actual journal. Document self talk, awareness, insights and any reframes that come to the surface. If you opt to journal, I have developed a journaling system based on Question, Answer, Awareness, Insight and Reframe that you can find on my website. When in doubt - write it out!
As I consider running more thoughts in my mind, I shift back to music. Can you hear the groove in your own mind? Can you feel it? It’s no wonder we all want to attend concerts and uplifting musical events. To think in grooves, music and melody is to free our minds from this tortured world of stress.
On a side note - If you are interested in developing this skill of reframing - to see things from a new frame of reverence, check out Milton Erickson’s work, Google search “the African Violet Queen” as told by Bill O’Hanlon / or copy and paste this link -
Finding the Path
My general lack of anxiety drives my wife crazy! Humming and drumming have always kept me at a distance from self talk. You could say I've lived in the RhythmShifting groove for years, without any need or interest in running words. This is because my own self-talk is not self-talk at all - it’s self-music and self-beats that have actually replaced most of my internal communications. For me, this a big key to my own flow in life. Music puts me in another world; in a new groove - this is my un-depressed state of bliss.
As a therapist, I have learned that mentally patterning music goes a long way to knock out anger, stress, anxiety and depression. I can still remember back to age seven, sitting in my friend’s bonus room spinning his new single “Hey Jude” by the Beatles over and over again. I was sitting there for hours just listening. I mean, long after all the other kids had lost interest and gone on to play something else - there I was - in my own alternate reality - in my own rhythm trance grooving to the Beatles!
We all have this capability to move into the groove, release the stress and let go of the worry thru music. I was more introspective than most seven year olds and the simple fact that I can actually remember this as an ah-ha musical moment also indicates that it hit me pretty hard. The memory is feeling based. The song shifted my mood from depression to an awareness that others have experienced similar feelings. Then at the end of the song, there was a musical shift that mirrored hope and happiness.
Everything has its time, place and reason. Looking back, I’m certain this synchronistic encounter with the Beatles was no mistake. This was a huge defining moment in my life. Hey Jude spoke directly to me. The lyrics of the song reflected my own similar theme of loss. It also spoke directly to my pain, as the end line tag “Sha Na Na Na, Hey Hey - Goodbye” mirrored a moment of self reflection and gave me hope that someday my brighter day might also come. It was like walking straight into a vortex where everything stopped - then a positivity emerged for me and suddenly the current trajectory of my own story was altered and changed forever - thru the music.
I am not sure as to the how or why, but to have that kind of insight at age seven listening to the Beatles - that was huge. I finally got the realization that I was actually in pain for a real reason; my dad’s death. I also somehow had an insight and a new understanding that his death had also radically affected my entire family, and that it was finally OK to let out my sadness thru the shared sadness in the music.
This got me thinking about how each of us might tap into our own past list of musical favorites. My theory; it’s likely that our musical tastes were unconsciously influenced by what was going on in our lives - and how those experiences were seeking resolution. This is the music mirror connection - how our favorite songs were used to manage loss, pain, depression, fear and anxiety. Since that day, music has been my teacher, my mentor and my ray of sunshine and hope in life. Wherever your pain is, please know this - music is probably the single best avenue you will ever find to explore it, understand it, and release it.
Music helps us express and manage both pain and happiness. Did music help me process my childhood depression? Absolutely! Did it visit me again as a teenager to help me build a new sense of self confidence and esteem? Yes, for sure! And now it’s music again, opening up another new channel for me to help others all over the world with RhythmShifting. Yes, to this day - music like the very essence of life is a dynamic process that continues to speak to me; to lift me up to a higher level path. Change comes - this is for sure. Music has been there helping me to turn the lows into grows, the depressions into insights and access a positive path to growth and change in life. And it can do the same for you too!
The groove of the drumming is an amazing felt sense of energy - maybe even the very energy you have been longing to connect with. Music brings with it movement. Is the groove calling you? We each have our own reasons that bring us to music. When I heard the Beatles, it activated something deep inside. It was like a burst of insight and creative energy came over me that had to be released. My unconscious mind was busy trying to break free of the negative; searching for bliss. In this dance, drumming became my new voice of freedom and strength!
As a therapist, music continues to call my interest as a best direct channel of felt expression. It’s a great way to process thoughts, feelings and perceptions in life. And even more relevant, back then as a seven year old - I believe it was the action of beating out rhythms and hitting those model boxes - to have that high impact causal effect upon the world - to see what it felt like to hit something beautifully and have an impact - that was a spectacular awakening.
To see the outer world resonate with what I was feeling inside; I believe this process propelled me to take action - to reach for my goal to play drums and to find a future in drumming. The motion and movement - even on my little imaginary drumset, helped me to eventually build my own momentum to vision a future as a professional drummer touring the world.
I found my voice thru the rhythm - deep inside the drums. I can still remember it like it was yesterday. I was about 11 years old. We were visiting my grandparents in Kennewick Washington and the kid across the street, Mark - had a red sparkle drumset in his basement. For an entire week I would go over there and play that set. It was the most amazing experience! Fortunately, Mark’s mom was patient with my obsession to play those drums.
This too, is more of an emotional memory - as I just remember the excitement and moments of bliss I had jamming on that red sparkle kit! This was another turning point - a defining moment engaging life at a new creative level. That memory is still there - an uplifting positive feeling that comes to me now! More than anything else - this amazing experience helped me to cement a knowing of exactly what I already believed I had deep inside; the ability to find a meaningful voice; mine just happened to be thru rhythm, music and drumming! This is what I have come to understand as my “escape thru reality creation”!
You never know when a stroke of creativity will hit! And this is yet another reason why I recommend you journal, record digital sound bites or keep a time log of your playing - as a way to monitor and notice your own thoughts, feelings, perceptions, attitudes and experiences as you are playing. Your rhythm has its own brilliance; an inner pulse with its own mental constructs which can only be felt and realized in this deeper state of flow. One step removed, you will enjoy processing your creativity!
Open the door. As it becomes second nature, make it a habit to gather up your own new musical awareness for what is happening inside of you. As we connect to songs and beats, you can stack up your own hit list of significant songs that have relevance in your life. Begin to make time to play along with them for fun.
It could be as simple as listing the date, time and song you were jamming to. Or maybe you will remember when you first heard a certain song - and where you were, or what you were doing, or what the song meant to you back then versus now in the present moment.
Now, as that seven year old fast forwards some 50 years into the future - it’s still music fueling my source to creativity, inspiration, enthusiasm and strength. As a Licensed Therapist I use music with almost every client as a channel to create connection, decrease anxiety, disrupt depression and build increased self-esteem. On a side note, I still pick up the sticks each and everyday and continue to play the drums. I have also since taken up the piano as a creative channel to source flow, inspiration and happiness.
When it comes to feelings, words are highly overrated. It’s the experiences - the sensorium that’s more the actual substance of living. Consider listening to a song that really speaks to you, versus having a person tell you what they are thinking about. In the music a projection screen opens up to explore our own emotions. Step into the rhythm flow. Playing rhythms is trance producing.
Going deep - physically into the groove brings a very primitive aspect to the surface, allowing us to connect somatic movement and auditory sounds to raw emotion. As we play, we hold the potential to move deeper and deeper into the groove. Musical non-verbal flow patterns are the ultimate feedback loop for reflection of our emotions. Once in the loop, creative skill sets begin to flow. This opens up the door to improvising as a way of life - to increase flexibility at an unconscious level.
Drumming provides a direct channel straight into this projection screen. And when we connect the grooves to our emotions, they automatically bypasses patterns of resistance. What a great tool to release deflection, avoidance and denial and begin to say yes. Say yes to your problems. Avoid avoidance! Reframe your own next new solution. And as we say yes to our pain, it shifts the context and structure and power of that to keep us stuck. To express it is to transcend it! Denial suddenly holds us no longer.
As a drummer in my late teens, I had many a jam session with drummers from the drumline in high school. Although I had no understanding of this at the time, it was the vibration of playing together that brought us all closer as friends. Fast forward now to the future. As we play several key things will begin to happen simultaneously - including rhythmic synchronization of breathing, heart rate entrainment and a heightened ability to listen contextually - to both self and others. Entrainment produces a synchronization of physiology and musical connection. These come in thought, emotions, physical sensations and ultimately can open up flow states and peak experiences. When the world stops you know you are in total state of flow. With it, an automatic time distortion can occur.
Time distortion is when you think you have only been playing drums for 20 minutes, and you look up at the clock and realize you have been jamming for over two hours. It’s in this deeper zone that time slows down and thought rhythms begin to rhythm shift. The flow brings a more expansive experience - mirroring deeper realms of vibration at a quantum level. This inner conversation of music opens up new pathways - new vibrational channels for learning and growth that we are only beginning to scientifically understand.
This is also why I am so excited about this book, because all of this work is based on similar creative flow experiences, many of which I have realized with my students and clients over the past 40 years. Not unlike watching the last 5 seconds of a final basketball game while someone is talking to you. And how much of those words do you think you would remember? Or seeing the ball flying thru the air towards the rim and swish thru the net with no time left on the clock. The truth is, “there is no clock time”.
All time is and always has been continuous. The same applies playing drums. And it’s this common everyday trance that drumming can bring to the table as a deeper expression of rhythm. As the concert demands an encore, it’s in these altered state of awareness that I have seen negative thoughts and self critical judgements fall to the wasteside - giving way to the music as a more experiential invitation to connect to what is most relevant in the moment. These are patterns of pure non-verbal positive energy and with them, new insights can emerge in thought forms and intelligence.
I know it sounds crazy to say, you can reinvent yourself right here and right now - in this next moment. But it’s totally true. In fact, life is a groove and within this context, with drumsticks in hand - any new groove might be that next new groove, that next unspoken potential, your new possibility! I’ve left my house with a clear mind, beginning my hour commute to work - to then start accidentally humming a simple melody and by the time I have parked my car, I have written an entirely new song start to finish, singing into my voice memo recorder on my phone.
The mood shift creativity offers us is dramatic! I have seen clients go from frustrated to elated in moments. This is our birth right - to step into this zone and melt away all other negative reference points. This is the joy emanated by your new musical dance of life. For we become that which we focus our energy, awareness and attention upon.
It’s true, we all experience depression in different ways. I rather call it depressing, but I am not going to spend a lot of time here explaining depression or going over it. There is no single source or symptom or reasons why a person might end up living daily in a depressed state of being. Rather than spend a huge amount of time talking about depression, I would rather spend more quality time disrupting the process of depression. Thru creativity and imagination, all solutions become available and this goes double for the utilization of drumming to shake things up, release the stuckness, and get things moving forward again in a positive direction.
Listen, you can spend an entire lifetime trying to sort out all the reasons why and miss your life in the process. I believe we are to a place as a society in which we need a new understanding of balance. For me drumming and music are the yin and the yang of that balancing point. I believe music activates a deep inner vibration we all share - a direct connection to the soul. Pleasing vibratory fields of sound color resonate - as the intention behind them speak to that which motivates a new set of interests. If your interest is to move deeper and deeper into the music and further and further away from the depression - then the movement called drumming is calling you home!
As you play, your own connection to your own theme rhythms will begin to emerge as a potential to fully free your mind to just simply be. Try and play a drum beat and think negative thoughts. Can’t do it! Rhythm patterns are very trance producing and capable of overriding the monkey mind, building new inner soundscapes and supplying new sources of creativity and happiness to your daily life. In a world of chaos that seems to be constantly changing (not always for the best) music is that song that remains the same.
The Power of Music to Motivate
Music is motivation to my ears. I remember sitting in Mr. Fuller's class - Tuffree Jr. High School 7th grade - History. It was an 8AM morning class. And speaking of rhythm - Mr. Fuller had none! No energy - and the monotone of his voice literally put the entire class into a deep state of sleep. No one was into it!
Fortunately, this was not a problem for me. I used the time efficiently to daydream my projected career as a drummer. I am not saying you should tune out all boring monotone people (you will have to make your own decisions). Rather, what I am saying is that we all have the capability to visualize. I used this down time to visualize music, often hearing full songs in my head while he was lecturing. I remember being there and seeing his lips moving - and the blah, blah, blah of it all, and yet at the same time, there I was - at the other and another concert - the one going on in my mind. Thankfully, that was all I could hear.
What did I learn from this other than he was an awful teacher? Actually everything! Such an early exposure to the hum-drums of life gave me a first hand opportunity to actively and emotionally choose to design my experience in real time. Seriously, by no means do recommend this daydream strategy if you want to successfully pass middle school now days! But there is something to be learned here about flexibility and an ability to design your own internal experiences in life.
For some kids school feels like a gigantic cage - trapped. I was one of them. Utilizing imagination I would sometimes write beats out and visualize them at both an auditory and somatic level - as a way to hear them even better. I even filled up a 100 page binder with all the rhythms, sticking and accents I came up with in my more unattractive classes. I still did fairly well academically, and by the end of the year I had a full folder of different drum beats that I composed. Then, once I returned home to my drumset, I would run thru the exercises I had created for the day to see what worked and what didn’t.
This creative visualization is how I coped with the most difficult parts of the public education system. It was internally fun, and it’s this interest and energy for learning that is at the heart of what I call pull motivation. Seriously, I could not wait to return home from school to play my drumset. Can you imagine that feeling of loving to play drums so much?
The pull is an unconscious energy that shows up of its own volition; all by itself it comes barreling into reality from deep within. It’s a drive we each have. It brings with it tools and skill sets of awareness can be practiced, connected, utilized and improved upon. As you connect to your own pull - the power of music will become your new power to motivate. Feel it come alive from deep inside. Let it rip!
Internal Pull Motivation
Although my grades were mostly A’s and B’s (some C's), middle school was by no means a great experience for me. It was during middle school that I personally struggled to find myself. I lost a lot of friends absorbed in the other drama of life - girls! One by one they were gone. Going steady had eliminated my friend pool quickly. I figured it was once again time to change; to take a new path.
I went to a dance, and all I could see was the drummer. He had an 11 piece white Roger’s Drumset and he was amazing. I can still remember him playing the song “Vehicle - by The Idea of March”. It was at this key point in life I remember my first “knowing” that I was destined to move into my own space - to become a professional drummer. It was a definitive stepping off point, in which my drums ended up becoming my go to connection in life.
So this was 7th grade. I was in band at school playing drums one hour per day. I got home at 3:30PM and my Parents didn’t get home from work until 5:30PM. This added two more hours of solid practice each and everyday. Then after dinner and homework I would practice again on a pillow for another hour while watching TV. This routine became my new religion; playing at school; playing before my parents returned from work; and again in the evening on pillows. This was a total of four hours per day. All I can say is, enjoy your time in your youth - soon you will be selling your time for money. Yes, these were truly the good old days!
Little did I know at the time, this pattern was actually paving the way for my own improved mental health. There was a positive reinforcement paradigm playing out. Every time I would play, I would feel better. As I began feeling better, I also began playing more. The more I played, the better I got and the better I began feeling. I began to improve quickly! People notice! This gained the attention of my drummer friends and bandmates.
I improved musically and so did my sense of self esteem and mastery in life. Music has this magical power to lift us all up. It’s an amazing connector and builder of positive experiences. Over time, my newfound skills provided me the sense of self confidence to begin to reach out and meet other musicians. I ended up playing in a variety of bands all the way thru high school, which actually paved the way to my career and success as a professional drummer.
This was what I might call my own personal Rhythm Shifting! Life was no longer depressing - but rather now officially in a state of groove! By the time I hit High School I had a pretty good idea that I was on the right path with my drumming. Music helped me learn to focus in, listen better and I even started getting better grades. In 9th grade my mom showed her support and helped me buy my first real professional drumset; a Tama 5 Piece Kit with Zildjian Cymbals. Thanks Mom!!
On the weekends my parents would go places, and I would stay home and practice for 6 to 8 hours per day and have musician friends over to jam in the evenings. Soon I was considered the best drumset player at the high school. Although it didn’t solve everything, this one positive loop helped me develop a completely new life script as I approached my junior year in high school. I had failed at just about everything else - so drumming was one way that success came to me and I loved that experience. We each have the potential to redesign our relationship to ourselves!
It was a magical time in my life and during this time I began to realize that it was thru the drumming and the music that I began to connect to my own voice. My suggestion is that you too, utilize the drums as a way to build on all your inner strengths.
As time progresses, the better you get, the more you will want to practice. And the more you practice, the better you will feel - both physically and psychologically. This is a positive continuous reinforcement paradigm that can quickly move you to new places in other areas of life. Music may even become your “go to path” for increased insight and awareness, as it has been mine over the years.
In all my musical success, something else occurred. It was as if the patterned beats in my mind - the grooves had actually replaced my negative thinking. This was where the path became the groove. For each of us, the playing becomes the dance; and the dance becomes our life. Who would have thought that Mr. Fuller’s class could inspire anyone or anything? So all is possible.
Use these ideas of reference to channel your own rhythms. Anticipate and create your own new defining moments. Really, who knows where you might be with it in 10 years from now? One thing is for sure - when you keep moving, grooving and playing - the power of rhythm will constantly reinforce your life and supply you with the inner fuel to ignite your own passion for living at a higher level.
For me, I see drumming as a transformational tool - a voice to heal internally. If you want to feel better - play drums - everyday! The time is now! Get lost in the rhythm and ignite your passion; get lost in the groove and find yourself!
End Chapter 2