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5 Things I Learned From Rock And Roll

5 Things I Learned From Rock And Roll

We live in a world where rock and roll is largely seen as the product of a bygone era. At least it seems to me like that, while the underground seems to be hinting at a comeback. As someone who’s identified as a rock and roll kind of guy for most of his life I’ve grown concerned of this largely because I fear that there is some very real wisdom that rock and roll brought us that we are missing out on. Here are five of the most important tings that my years running around gigs and partying with everyone from Aerosmith and KISS to Cannibal Corpse has taught me.

1. Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

The roadie is puking in the bathroom after accidentally taking a bunch of meth that he thought was cocaine (A surprisingly common mistake!), the bass player just hooked up with a chick who probably has chlamydia (Or at least local punk Crusty Pete says so) and the rest of the band is sitting at the bar laughing at the rhythm guitarists antics (Hey man, Johnny is hilarious when he’s drunk!). What the hell? Do these people have no grasp on reality? Where do they get off? In fact – these guys have an incredibly firm understanding of what’s going on – rock and rollers are fully aware of how hard this whole thing is. They are the ones trying to make a living off of it after all. So why are they so chilled out all the time? Shouldn’t they be freaking out?

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Not really. See – these men of the road are in a stressful environment day in and day out, and sometimes are on the road for up to ten months of the year. They’ve been through it all and the vast majority of them have come to realize that eventually the natural order of the universe will come into place. If the gods don’t want them to play their next show because the bass player has to deal with his latest STD, so be it – there is nothing that can be helped by worrying. You’re always going to have to face struggles, new challenges and bleak futures – that’s just how it goes, especially in rock and roll. Once you come to terms with that, it’s a whole lot easier to chill out, take life by the horns and embrace a brand new day.

2. Do It For The Cause

The most maligned group of people in rock and roll are the infamous ‘posers’. People who are there simply because they think it makes them look cool and not because they are trying to actually contribute to the scene. Thee are the people who have no real interest in the music – and that makes everyone have a worse time. If you’re killing the vibe and showing up somewhere for the wrong reasons then nobody is going to like you – that’s just how life works, there’s nothing that you can do about it.

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So anytime you find yourself in a new situation – and one that you think you might end up deeply invested in – take a minute to step back and evaluate why you’re there. Are you doing it for the right reasons? Or are you just trying to profit? People can spot a phony from a mile off, so you have to be careful when figuring out what you want from a new opportunity. If you’re not their for the cause, ideologically, morally or whatever, then you might want to move away from it because if your heart isn’t it, what’s the point anyway?

3. Keep Your Expectations Low

I’ve seen David Bowie’s longtime trumpet player Mac Gollehon play in front of 20 people in a tiny bar on a Wednesday night. I’ve seen Billy Milano – a platinum selling artist – play a tiny basement show. Hell! I’ve even seen a band on tour from Europe – in their prime at that – play a show in a crust punks basement in a shitty South Philly neighborhood. That’s just how this whole thing works: many of us are bitter, worn down and tired and there’s nothing protecting us from that. The simple fact of the matter is that even by having expectations, you are simply setting yourself up to be disappointed.

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Nothing is handed to you in this world and as long as you can keep on going, you should be happy. In a world of entitlement it’s the rock and rollers who possibly understand this best. They are used to playing packed crowds one night and then empty clubs the next – the audience is fickle and keeping one step ahead of the rat race is always a challenge. So ultimately, why even bother? When you can simply chill out and enjoy life as it comes with no real expectations it’s much easier to come to terms with the existential suffering that can to often come to define our lives.

4. Everyone Can Help You Out

What the most successful touring bands have come to realize is that anyone and everyone is a potential ally. As New York City blues legend Tomàs Doncker is fond of saying “We are under siege” and when in a siege you need to take help wherever you can get it. Here’s the thing: everyone feels better when they can help someone out, and while not everyone is looking to actively help you (and in fact some folks want quite the opposite) in my experience people are generally out to do good. Everyone is a potential connection, and our nations rockers get it.

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Being in a touring band often requires you to trust strangers, trust that they won’t harvest your organs when they sleep on their floor, trust that they will be paid at the end of the night, hell, they even have to trust in small things like that their food has been made properly and they aren’t facing a twelve hour drive whilst suffering food poisoning. Being in a touring band is a larger metaphor for life – everything is incredibly precarious and chaotic, and while some people have a lot of help you still have to keep your head up and make sure you don’t screw up, because after some mistakes there really is no coming back.

5. Life Is A Party

This is perhaps what rock and roll is best known for – the parties. No matter what the circumstances a lot of these bands are made up of fun loving dudes who are excited to be out and on the road and stoked to see their buddies, buddies who they might only cross paths with once or twice a year. Being in a band on the road is an adventure in and of itself – that’s why there is so much romance based around it. And that’s why amidst all the chaos and confusion that can define your typical tour experience there is a certain zen to chilling out, lighting one up and drinking a beer with your friends.

Remember that no matter what, if you’re doing what you love then you’re partying. Even as I write this hunched over in a crappy train station waiting to go to my parents house for a few hours before going onto the next great adventure, I’m smiling and feeling good because life is a party. Sure sometimes there aren’t pretty girls, lots of drugs and money being thrown around – but there is a sublime party to be found even in solitude. Coming to terms with that and coming to terms with the eternal joy that every day life can bring you is essential, if you want to be able to carry on through the fire and the flames of our daily toil.

Featured photo credit: Digboston via flickr.com

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

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This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

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“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • They rile up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

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For example:

If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tension

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

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Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

For the Sleep Depriver

(They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
  • Shut down your thinking.
  • Calm your feelings.
  • Simply focus on the present moment. 

The Bottom Line

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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