gathering focus…

It’s been a little over one month since I’ve been on tour with Blue Man, and so far, I’m seeing how I go through waves of gaining focus on my goals, then straying away.

I’ve broken my goals down into 5 basic things, so it’s easier for me to keep track of. Then, recently, I decided to make this image with one symbol representing each of the 5 goals:


Clockwise from top the symbols represent:

music (the “play” symbol on a stereo or video player)

And those are my 5 goals in their simplest forms. To expand a little bit:


For several months now, I have meditated (almost) every day, first thing when I wake up in the morning, for 30 minutes. My goal is to come into better contact with who I really am, and dis-identify from my thoughts, although I understand that the benefits of meditation are much more widespread than that. Meditation causes our bodies to activate the relaxation response, which is a natural state that our bodies can enter when we’re able to quiet the mind. It’s sort of like putting the breaks on our nervous system for a moment. Sleep by itself does this as well, but while we’re sleeping, or trying to sleep, we can still hold subconscious tension. When we meditate, our bodies essentially enter a type of sleep, and by focusing the mind, we can enter a very deep state of relaxation.

With only a couple of months of experience under my belt, I’m definitely no expert, but I’ve wanted to have a meditation practice in my life for quite some time, so I’m happy that I’ve finally been able to stick to one. At this point, meditation for me just feels like I sit still with my eyes closed, and say one word to myself over and over, and as my thought stray, I bring my thoughs back to my word. Sometimes 30 min feels very long, but I stick to it. Often times my thoughts stray, and it can feel like I’m not making much progress, but I’m really trying to just stick to it. I wasn’t very good at drums at first either, but I stuck to it, and now it pays my bills.


For quite some time now, I’ve wanted to make my own music, and the music that I can imagine in my head is some kind of marriage between acoustic music, and technology. I have some knowledge of music theory that I learned in college, but was never taught any way to really utilize what I had learned. I also know my way around a piano keyboard, but would never really say that I ‘play’ piano.

A few years back when I got a laptop, and the music program called Reason, it opened up a whole world of possibilities to me. All of a sudden, I could just crudely play things that sounded good to my ear, fix them up, play with it some more, and I could come up with some stuff that was pretty cool. I could also record myself playing acoustic drums, or whatever else, and add this to the mix. There’s a whole world there that I really want to get into.

Having a baby, and buying a house, and settling into the responsibilities of being a provider for my family put this world of music on hold for a couple of years. So now, there’s another program called Logic Pro, that is going to be one of the biggest tools in my arsenal, but it’s a deep program. Deep meaning that it’s got tons of capabilities, and that it’s not a program that you learn over night. My goal while on tour is to learn Logic Pro from taking on-line tutorial lessons at, and begin to really get into making my own music.

In the mean time, I’m working on writing music using the iPad version of Garage Band, which is a surprisingly cool app.


As far as drumming goes, I’m on tour as a drummer, so that’s happening “at work” for me everyday. My goals for drumming at this point are actually very closely tied into my meditation and fitness goals. I’m approaching fitness through yoga, so yoga and meditation are practices that are very aware of the breath. In an Elvin Jones interview that I read, he said something to the likes of, “It all came together when I figured out the breathing.” In a way this makes sense to me, but the actual practice of it is still fairly illusive. So I practice paying attention to my breath in my meditation and my yoga, eventually hope that it will work it’s way into my drumming. The broader goal is a higher level of mastery and confidence with my playing. I wish to be able to perform difficult things, while mentally and physically being calm. I feel like I reached a certain plateau with my playing, and hope that by changing things up, and taking this very rounded approach to my life, that it will allow me to grow.


So, as you can see, Blogging is one of my goals, and I’m actually starting to get that going. I feel very lucky to be where I am in life right now, and I want to share that. I want to express myself, my thoughts, feelings, experiences, and knowledge with the world. I feel like I have a different perspective on life, that has come from the fairly unusual life that I lead, and that people might benefit from hearing about it. If they don’t, that’s cool too. But I actually enjoy putting my stuff out there, and for anyone who’s reading this right now, thank you for reading. Really. In this world with an overabundance of media and information, I’m thankful for anyone who will take the time from facebook, and their busy lives and read what I have to say. I really try to pay attention, and to be careful with the media and information I let into my mind. There’s a lot of junk out there- a lot, and as I see it, junk in, junk out. So, as George Clinton says, “be careful of the thought seeds you plant in the garden of your mind, for seeds grow after their kind.”

Hopefully this blog, and this little corner of the web can be a place where I can talk about some positive stuff that will, at very least, inspire me, and perhaps some readers too!

I started doing yoga over 10 years ago, but I wouldn’t really say that I’ve practiced yoga for 10 years. I’ve had some periods where I’ve done yoga somewhat regularly, but it never became an everyday practice for me. I like yoga, and I really feel like it’s such a good thing for me, and I know that if I do it everyday- or at least most every day- that I can get into the best shape I’ve ever been in.

More than 10 years ago now, I was trying to “bulk up.” So I was going to the gym, and pumping iron with the goal of getting BIG. I now weigh about 165- (which is thin for a 6’2″ guy), and at the peak of my bulking up, I got up to about 185. So I had put on an extra 20lbs of muscle, but I really didn’t feel that great, my joints hurt, I felt like the amount that I had to eat to stay that size was very unnatural for me, and it certainly wasn’t helping my drumming. If anything, I felt stiffer, and less mobile. Not the greatest thing for a drummer. I’m not saying that pumping iron won’t be good for any drummers, it just wasn’t the thing for me.

So in came yoga. What I like about it is the emphasis on keeping yourself calm while exerting yourself. This is where it relates to my drumming. Drumming is a form of physical exertion, but if you tighten up, and hold your breath while you drum, you’re working against yourself, and can cause injuries, back problems, etc. So yoga gets you focused on using your muscles to perform these difficult poses, but at the same time, pay attention to your breath… keep your breath from becoming labored.

Then there’s the mind-body integration which I like. This also relates to drumming. In yoga you’re encouraged to maintain focus throughout your practice- your focus is held for a long time, as opposed to weight lifting where you focus on your 10 or so reps, then take a break. It just felt like a choppier focus to me.

There are so many benefits to being in shape, and now that I’m doing yoga almost every day, I’m really realizing just how out of shape I really was. It’s no wonder I was dragging, and feeling so dumpy. My body was getting used a lot, but not in a way that was making it stronger every day. I have an awesome 4 year old son, and I want to be strong for him, so I can play with him, and keep up with him. That kid has a lot of energy! And I’m going to be right there with him! I know that by being in shape I will feel better, have more energy, have better posture, be stronger, and be able to accomplish more. I want to be in the best shape I’ve ever been in when I turn 40 in less than a year!!

All of these goals lead to what I believe will be a better quality of life for me. More focused, so that I’m using my energy and time better, more in shape so that I feel better, and just more ME.

more expressive-

more fun-

more me-ness to bring to the world.

As always, and for real-

thanks for reading!


Published by rionsmith

drummer husband father philosopher composer lover of life

2 thoughts on “gathering focus…

  1. Enjoyed our short visit last night. And I enjoyed reading your latest. After our visits in Orlando, it makes me happy for you to read about your five goals and your progress toward those goals. Love you every day, Mom

  2. I so appreciate reading where you are on your path right now … many of your goals are very similar to mine! Music is making its way back into my life after a 20 year hiatus, and I’m loving it. My yoga and breathing is a huge part of my calm and focus. I used Garage Band just last month to record a special yoga session for one of my students! So cool! And I too need to be blogging more. The drumming thing is all you though, lol. Glad you are making the most of your time alone on this journey! xoxo

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