Friday, December 18, 2009

Another New Album!

Number Six...

I know this sounds a bit crazy and hey it probably is, but I have another album out! It's called "Up For Grabs" and along with my two double CD's "Undiscovered" and "Maybe Nothing's Wrong", and my one single CD "Flow More~Force Less", this makes six in one year. I've never had a year like this and maybe I never will again. Although I thought the four I did last year would be my all time record high...

As usual, all the songs are available for listening and downloading at my site Downloading is free or you can leave a tip/donation in my "Digital Tip Jar". My experiment is to see what comes back freely when I give my music away freely.

So far so good. The video that this guy in Holland made FREE of my song "Jump You Fuckers" is currently at 51,000+ views. The video that a company called made FREE of my song "Free-Range Chicken" is at 4,000+ views. I've gotten loads of great comments, over 70 youtube subscribers, more CD sales than I ever got when I was just giving away 20 second samples, and I've even gotten some tips too. A guy named Butch Maier put several of my songs in his movie "The Bride And The Grooms". So all sorts of cool stuff is happening and I'm only just finishing up year two. I'm calling it my "Five Year Experiment" but that was more to keep my focus on the longer term bigger picture. It will probably end up being my "Rest Of My Life Experiment!"

I've spent a lot of time over the years trying to come up with some sort of relationship with "The Music Business" that felt right to me. I think I've finally found one that works: I don't want much to do with the music business as it is today. I just want to play anywhere I can, post everything I write free, and see what comes back. And as I said, So Far So Good!

This new album features my first Christmas song, a profane little ditty that should ensure my attendance in the "special" room in Hell someday. It's called "Let's Put The Ass Back In Christmas".

(Here's a link to my youtube channel where you can see the video of "Ass Back In Christmas" as well as many others. Most recent video posts: Shut The Fuck Up, Just Like Bob Dylan, and Smokin' Too Much Weed. )

On the new CD, I also have a song inspired by the original Wolfman movie called "Destiny" which was the original title of the movie. There's a couple of songs from back in 1997 that I wrote with a female voice in mind: "Sure" and "Now Is The Time To Wait". I've even got some legal advice in my song "Easy For The Man". There's also a couple of Dylan-esque long ones: "Up For Grabs" and "Fated".

And as usual, Thanks For Your Support!


Monday, November 16, 2009


We all are...

I find it so interesting how different two brothers can be, even raised similarly in the same family. My brother
Allison was describing the differences between his two very young sons, and I asked him if he saw any similarities between them and us when we were that age. He said in his reply email that he couldn't see any obvious similarities, but added half-jokingly that he and I were skewed and damaged by the events of our childhood until we were 30. This, to me, pointed out the differences between us.

For instance, I see skewing and damage as inevitable results of being born self-conscious human beings. Whereas he seems to idealize the state of childhood somewhat and believe that if it weren't for the damage done to us as children, we would all be better people.

I think we'd just be fucked up in different ways.

I think being human is to be fucked up, that is to say wounded, conditioned by early traumas, stuck in the past, etc. There are different flavors and intensities for sure, but we're all, in my view, everyone of us, wounded, groping, overly something, underly something, not fully alive, all fucked up.

Great joy is possible, of course: the pleasure of living a creative life and loving nature and other people (all of which I experienced all through my childhood and still do), but I think we mostly miss the mark by a pretty good measure. I just see damage as so inextricably part of being human. I've never met anyone in my life who wasn't damaged in some core way. Life is damaging to all living things and ends up killing us in the end. To me, the task of existence is to connect with life and express myself as best I can in spite of whatever inevitable damage has occured. Preventing it seems mostly impossible. In fact, tons of damage gets done by people trying not to do damage. I would even go so far as to say: To have children is to damage them.

(I have a song about this on my new album,
Flow More~Force Less, called "Scarred For Life". It's on my site under Musical Recordings. Other relevant songs, also on the new album, are "Grateful For The Shovel" and "I Don't Care What You Call Me".)

I hardly ever focus on what was done to me, or how I was damaged. I only want to touch life as fully as I can with whatever parts of me feel alive and functioning. True, I did a lot of work on myself, my body and its capacities when I was younger, to wake up as many parts of me as I could that felt asleep, but basically, with a few exceptions, the changes I made were modest. I'm still basically the same person I always was, I've just learned a few things, tossed a few patterns, and done as much of what I wanted to do as I could.

I've had a lot of pleasure in this damaged body, much more it seems to me, than many other people I've met who seem much less damaged in the standard sense. Then I look a little closer and I see that their joys are different from mine, that they value different abilities, and that they're as alive as I am, just doing different things.

Everyone seems obsessed to me. Seriously obsessed. Everyone. We're just obsessed with different things. We tend to look at other people's obsessions and call them "sick" or "obsessive" as though they had a disease and we're fine. But I have never met a single person who wasn't obsessed with something. Sometimes it wasn't obvious, but everyone seems to have something they can't say "No" to, something they "have" to do. In my view, it makes us all equal. We're all obsessive nut cases. Some are just more visible, or honest, or sneaky, or dangerous, or transparent, or legal, or societally approved of at the moment. I'm much more forgiving when I see other people this way. And much more alert.

I might be wrong here, but I think this fundamental fatalism of mine about damage, is a place where my brother and I are not very alike. Another difference, as I see it, is that he tends to express his opinions as though they were facts, as though what he's seeing is how things are. He has great confidence in his perceptions and opinions. I tend to express my opinions as opinions, because I think we're all, myself included, groping around and have no real idea where we are or what's happening. I have a limited confidence in my perceptions because I see perception itself as inherently inaccurate. I do have unlimited faith and confidence in the part of me that knows what feels right and what doesn't. I obey that all the time and my ground is most solid when I just report this, as in "Your song didn't work for me" vs. "Your song was bad.".

I think things out, I analyze like anyone else, I see a certain world out there, I have opinions that I express as facts too, but what I keep coming back to over and over is: I just have a point of view and it's probably mostly wrong. My certainty is constantly falling away, and I find myself less and less drawn to categorizing damage. I find myself more and more focused on what feels right to do right now. That, and questions like, Who can help me?, Who can I help?, and, Who should I stay the hell away from?

In these comparisons, I don't feel critical or judgmental, at least not that I'm aware of. They're just ways that we seem different to me. Like his kids are different from each other. Is it biology? Wired in? Is it a result of their experiences? Some complex interaction of the two? Who the hell really knows?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Flow More~Force Less


Well my friends, the wait is over...

I have a new album out!

But first I wanted to tell you that I've finally finished adding meta tags to all the songs on all of the albums at What this means is that when you download a song to your computer, iPod or iTunes, you'll get not only the song itself, but also the song title, the album title, the album cover, the year it was released, my name (or as I put it:, the composer (moi) and genre.

This has been a long time coming. Previously, there were either no tags at all, or mostly inaccurate ones. Now, anyone who downloads a song can easily find their way back to my site to download more, or buy CD's, or tip me, or email me nice comments, or whatever. Plus, these tags make it much easier for you to organize my songs into your own collection.

As you may already know, this has been the most prolific period of my songwriting life. Just when I think it's slowing down, another wave comes. After having released two double albums this year, "Maybe Nothing's Wrong" and "Undiscovered", I've got another one done now and that makes 5 CD's this year. And, I'm thinking I'll probably do one more before the year is done.

The new album is called "Flow More~Force Less", and as usual all of the songs are available for free listening and free (donation basis) downloading at my site:

Tipping is totally optional. You'll make my day if you do, but I'll still have a good day if you don't.

I like this collection of songs a lot and I'm particularly happy with the recording itself. We changed the mic configuration a bit, and while I think that helped, I think the bigger difference was that the new configuration allowed me more space to move a bit while I was playing. A big part of what I'm doing and trying to capture has to do with the state of mind and body that I have to be in in order to make my sound. I'm as interested in sharing this state as I am in sharing the music itself. With a less restrictive mic placement I was, I think, better able to relax and sink into that state of mind/body connection and unforced balance that I'm after. So I liked what was captured the night I recorded the songs.

Aside from the title song, (which is about oddly enough, flowing more and forcing less) there are a few new favorites on this CD. "By The Stars" is about how little I think any of us knows where the hell we really are; "Grateful For The Shovel" is an ode to my guitar and the healing power of self expression; "Loner" is, I hope, about the loser in everyone and contains some adult language (hint: it rhymes with the title...); "I Don't Care What You Call Me" is about my obsession with writing songs, and "Hell Yes" is about the good stuff.

Here's the title song lyrics along with some links to ID some of the suspects. (Check out the links if you have time. They were really fun to find and I think you'll enjoy them.)

Flow More~Force Less
by Gene Burnett (2009)

I asked Jimi Hendrix
The key to his success
He said: Flow more force less

I asked Casanova
How to get the no to yes
He said: Flow more force less

I asked Tiger Woods
How'd you get so good?
How to shake it with the best
He said: Flow more force less
Flow more force less

I asked Donald Fagen
How do you lose the stress?
He said: Flow more force less

I asked Barack Obama
How to get out of this mess
He said: Flow more force less

How do you ease the strain
How to get to his address
He said: Flow more force less
Flow more force less

How to sing with such finesse
She said: Flow more force less

I asked Mother Nature
How'd you get into that dress
See said: Flow more force less

I asked Michael Jordan
I asked Leonard Cohen
How to get out of this cage
I asked Elvis Presley
How to shake it with the best
He said: Flow more force less
Flow more force less

Thanks for your support!


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sick of the Beatles

Enough already.

I think it's time for an anti-Beatles backlash. I think I'm going to write a song called "I'm Sick Of The Goddamned Beatles!" As much as I love their songs, I am actually tired of the frickin' Beatles already. It seems like every few years there's some new huge Beatles media push.

One year it's "Oh, here's the Best of the Beatles albums", then it's, "Ooooooh, look! The Beatles Anthology...and a new Beatles song! No wait, there's two!!!!", then it's "Oooh, now they're on CD's!!", then it's like, "Ooooh! Look they're re-releasing their movies!", then it's like, "Ooooh! Now there's a new movie made up of their songs!", then it's "Ooooooh! Cirque du-frickin' Soleil is doing a Beatles show!", then it's "Ooooh! Look! An album of all their number one hits!" and then it's, "Ooooooooooh! Now look! They've done mash-up remixes of a bunch of their songs!", and, "A new version of Let It Be!", and then, "Wow! There's a whole bunch of tribute albums!" and now it's "Ooooooh! Look! Remastered versions of all their albums!" Not to mention, a full scale re-hashing of their entire careers every time one of them dies or turns 64.

Holy Lennon, haven't they made enough money yet? Haven't we heard enough of this music? It's not enough that the rest of us musicians have to compete with these guys who're right next to us in every frickin' iPod in the country, but we have to weather a new media onslaught 5 times a decade.

Look, they were a great band no question. Great hooks, great singing, great songs. But they weren't perfect. The lyrics are nice but mostly weak. Paul does not honestly reveal anything at all about any of his feelings about anything except: I'm in love and happy. John is mostly a testy head-case who's completely full of himself. (OK, maybe he came to his senses later, but that was later!) George is always writing these minor key dirges and when the frickin' SUN returns to frickin' foggy, winter ravaged ENGLAND, all he can muster is "It's All Right..." Ringo, is admittedly a great drummer: Simple, understated, never ever gets in the way of the songs and often (as with Here Comes The Sun, Something, and others) actually makes them much better than they are without him. But can we move on now? There are many great bands and songwriters who deserve more listening. These guys have had more than their share. Let's "Let Them Be" !!!

Don't buy the new box set! Be content with your memories! Go to and buy my CD's instead! Better yet. Download all my albums free! And then leave me a tip!

Sunday, September 20, 2009


It's up to you.

Well, my 5 year experiment continues. I'm recording and posting everything I write on my site and it's all available for free (donation basis) downloading. I also post as much as I can on youtube and myspace. My experiment is to see what comes back freely when I do this. So far so good! Lots of good comments, some tips in my digital tip jar, youtube subscribers and more CD sales than when I only had 30 second clips available on my site.

I'm doing what I'm doing because it feels right. I'm trusting that feeling and going with it. This is what "The Unforced Life" is all about: doing what feels most deeply right and natural, using as little force as possible. There are now 19 (soon to be 20) albums of songs posted. Four (soon to be five) from this year alone! I'm not trying to impress anyone, I'm just being myself. As a line from one of my new songs says: "I'm this way by Nature not by choice".

When I was younger, I wanted to impress every single person I ever played my songs for. I'm glad I wanted that and I'm glad I went for it. I have found that the desire to impress people is a very good thing to study and learn about, both in my self and in others.

These days, the more I focus on delivering my sound the best I can, and letting people's decisions about whether they like it or not be their business, the better I feel, and the more fun I have. It sure takes a lot of energy to care about, and try to control, what other people think of me.

I know I'm kind of a semi-autistic eccentric nut case, but at least I enjoy what I'm doing for its own sake. When I watch other people play, I want to see genuine enjoyment and I want to see a spontaneous act of creation. When a performer is rehearsed and polished but their essential feature is a hunger for worshipful attention, I tend to lose interest.

I guess this is why I am more of a singer and a writer than an entertainer. My first concern is to be true to my own inner sense of rightness and creative expression. Pleasing others comes second. I take my potential audience into account, but I write and sing for myself first. This can be entertaining, but it is not inherently so.

I don't judge my performances solely by whether my audience enjoyed what I did. Sure, it's nice if they do, but my real concern is, Did I play the songs the way I wanted to play them? Did I find that unforced balance between spontaneity and coherence? Did I breathe life into the songs? Did I feel better for having sung them? Did I sing them as naturally as I could without unnecessary effort? Did I get out of the way and serve the songs?

Most of the time, I'd rather play really well to a crowd that was indifferent to me, than play a mediocre set to a crowd that loved me. Missing the mark I find somewhat painful, and the fact that "people liked me" doesn't really make it worthwhile. I'm after that unforced feeling of balance and belonging that comes from singing my own songs in my own voice. When I'm doing that, the last thing on my mind is whether or not anyone is impressed or whether it's entertaining. And oddly enough, that is, I think, when I'm the most impressive and entertaining!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bandon T'ai-Chi Retreat

Walking the beach

I just got back from my annual trip to Bandon on the Oregon Coast where my teacher Andy Dale holds a T'ai-Chi retreat. This year the events were organized by Ken Wright who did a great job coordinating the various instructors and scheduling the classes. It's a pretty informal affair with 6 or 7 classes offered each day. Students pay $10 per class directly to the instructor. The "dojo" is the beach. This year Ken set up a blog to help publicize things as well.

I taught 3 classes: Healthy Knees, Guiding Your Own Practice, and one on T'ai-Chi Troubleshooting where I invited people to bring their problem movements to see if I could help. This last class was my least attended but most enjoyable. I'm thinking of just offering 3 Troubleshooting classes next year.

To me, this annual retreat isn't really about making money. I'm lucky if I can pay for one night's motel room. It's really about hanging out with Andy, bringing a few of my students, taking classes, seeing how my work resonates with people, how the other teacher's work resonates with me, and mostly, it's about walking the beach each evening with my old friend Joel Hartshorne. He started studying T'ai-Chi with Andy around the same time I did 25 years ago, (although BaGua has always been his favorite art).

For the past 3 years we've had a tradition of walking 4-7 miles each night along the beach in front of the Sunset Motel where we all stay. (The Sunset is great by the way, not too expensive, friendly help, lots of different types of accommodations.) We know this beach really well by now and can practically walk it blindfolded.

If you haven't been to Bandon, it's got an amazing beach. There are these huge monolithic rocks in and out of the water. Some are huge, others small, but all of them are beautiful and very cool at night. And it's never crowded! And I mean never.

This year there was almost no moon so the stars were truly awesome. The tide rolls in and out and we sometimes hang out and practice as it comes in and see if we can stay just out of the incoming surf's reach. But mainly we just walk and talk and see the nighttime sites. And amazingly, there's almost always no one else out there.

At one point I wondered out loud if we were imprisoned on this beach and would not be released until we had walked the equivalent of the distance to the nearest star, how long would it take us? How many circuits from one end of our beach walk to the other? Of course neither of us could do the math in our heads and we...uh...gave up pretty quickly.

But here's the actual math: Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. There are 31,536,000 seconds in a year (60 X 60 X 24 X 365). So, forgetting about leap years, that means light travels 5,865,696,000,000 in a year (31,536,000 X 186,000). The nearest stars, according to our latest wisdom, are around 4 light years away which would be 23,462,784,000,000 miles (5,865,696,000,000 X 4). Since our beach walk round trip is about 4 miles, we divide 23,462,784,000,000 by 4 which gives us a total of 5,865,696,000,000 trips up and down the beach!

The average walking speed of human beings is around 3 miles per hour; but since we stop and practice, take our time, and are walking on sand, I'm thinking it's more like 2 mph. Since each round trip would take us two hours (4 miles divided by 2), we take our trip total (5,865,696,000,000) and multiply by 2 and we get 11,731,392,000,000 hours of walking. We take that total and divide by 24 to get the total number of days: 488,808,000,000. Divide that total by 365 and we get the total number of years we'd have to walk to win our freedom: 1,339,200,000. Only about 1-1/3 billion years of beach walking! That's only a bit more than a third the age of the Earth...(Special thanks to

I was thinking as I walked this year that there are some things I'm really glad to have done in my life. Things that make me feel OK about dying.

I'm glad I got to record, perform, and write so many songs. I wanted to be James Taylor when I was young and while that level of success is beyond me now, what I've really enjoyed most is just sorting out so many things in my life and expressing them musically.

I'm also really glad that I learned to practice and teach T'ai-Chi. I became fascinated with Chinese philosophy and martial arts back in high school when I first say the TV show "Kung Fu". I wanted to be sage/bad-ass like David Carradine's character and while I've let go of the whole combat side of that dream, I feel I do have some things to offer people about health, balance, self-defense and living less forcefully. And I do it for a living which is really amazing to me.

I'm also really glad to have been married for 15 years to my wife Samarra. I always wanted to be in an intimate relationship where my partner and I could both really be ourselves and be accepted and loved that way.

I'm glad I found a way to live in a small town and make a living. I dreamed of living close to Nature for many, many years and now it's my life.

I'm also really glad that I got to see a bit of the world. While I'm anything but a "traveler", (I hardly ever leave Ashland), I have lived in New York City, Evanston Illinois, rural Iowa, Seattle and Naples Italy for a year when I was young. I've seen some really amazing wildlife and witnessed many of Nature's little and larger miracles.

And now I add to the list that I'm so glad that I got to walk along one of the most beautiful beaches anywhere with a good friend, talking about our lives, practicing unforced balance, and making each other laugh.

Thank You Bandon!

Thank You Joel!

Thank You Stars!

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Not yet.

Whenever I see someone with several tattoos, which honestly is about 10 times a day around here, I always think of those huge bellbottoms which were such a "must have" in the early 70's. I mean we would not have been caught dead with straight leg jeans. You had to have bells and the bigger the better. What if we had had those suckers tattooed on! Or those big parkas that were all the rage one year. Or mullets.

Today's cool is so easily tomorrow's "D-List". And, for better or worse, these things send distinct messages to people with distinct results. Imagine showing up for a first date or job interview or project meeting dressed in huge bellbottoms, with a mullet, mutton chop sideburns, a tight bright polyester shirt, a puka shell necklace, a big "Peace" medallion, a huge "Keep On Truckin" belt buckle, and platform shoes? It's hard to believe possible but in 30 years (or 30 minutes) tattoos could be exactly like that. And, they'd be under your skin and not too easy to get rid of invisibly.

Take the sacrum tattoo for girls. The first time I saw one, I thought, Oh that's kinda cool. Now it's the radical girls who don't get them. And the tattoos are being called "tramp stamps". And if yours is tattooed on, well...there you go...

I've got nothing against tattoos, if you like 'em, go get 'em, but man, I'd just be too scared to get some trendy thing on there and end up with a "tramp stamp" or something else that actively sends a constant message to the world about me that is no longer accurate. I want flexibility in my relationships with the people and the world and I'm very wary of doing anything that would take any of mine away. I believe it's in my nature to be overly cautious in this way, so I'm not fighting it. I'm just kind of guiding it.

That said, the kind of tattoos I really like are the ones that mark some kind of passage, like when vets have one of the branch of the service they were in. I had a friend once who was doing work in Laos in the jungle and the locals were so happy with the work he'd done for them that they "offered" him their ceremonial tattoo. He felt like saying no would have been in very bad form so he sort of bit the bullet and said, OK...

They let a big fire and he's sitting there shirtless and this guy comes out with a sharp bamboo stick and a little bowl of some kind of jungle ink. My friend is thinking, Oh Jesus, and just closes his eyes and lets him go at it. A couple of hours later the tattoo is done and the fire is out. The guy reaches into the fire and pulls out a big handful of ash, slaps the tattooed area and rubs it in hard. My friend thinks, oh God, I'm going to get every jungle infection known to man. But, it turns out, the ash is sterile and somehow helped the tattoo "set" or heal or whatever. He showed it to me and it was really beautiful. It looked like a Celtic knot or mandala. This a tattoo that reminds him of something incredible that he went through, not something he bought to feel cooler. It's more of a scar than a decoration.

I also really like self-designed stuff that seems in tune with the person or the physical lines of his body. The picture above this post is of a porn star who goes by "Bella Donna". I like the swirling one around her shoulder and breast. I think it really blends into her whole physical self.

It's the sort of randomly added odds and ends approach is my least favorite. But hey, whatever anyone wants to do with their skin is their business. I treat tattooed people pretty much that same as I treat everybody else.

Here's the thing: I have to commit myself in life. I can't not commit. If I say, I won't commit, I'm committed to that. And, when I commit to anything, I'm more vulnerable, my options go down. There's no avoiding it. I can't not commit. So what I like to do is commit consciously, in ways that enhance my life and where I keep as many options open as possible. I think ahead before I commit. I want to be as sure as I can that I don't end up committed to something that I really regret.

I search my mind and heart for what feels most deeply right. And then, if it's a tattoo. Fuck it. I'll get one. But it hasn't happened yet...

Points Of View

I got plenty.

When I see how lazy people can be sometimes; how afraid of risk, how insecure, how wobbly in the face of challenge, I have this strong urge to say:

"Hey, stop dreaming and start doing. Start showing up and heading in the direction of being or becoming whatever you dream of. You can change your mind along the way, but keep moving! Your life will pass you by if you don't. Your Dreams Won't Chase You."

I'm currently helping one of my students write a song with just this point of view.

But you know, at the same time, I also have the feeling that my dreams do chase me. Not in the sense of breaks or "dream" opportunities chasing me, but in the sense of constantly reminding me when what I'm doing doesn't feel right for me. In the sense of: My deepest dreams don't die away. They keep after me, advocating for their fullfillment.

I certainly have I have a strong sense of "Your Dreams Don't Chase You" in my life, but I'm working on a song about this other angle as well.

I find it fascintating how apparently oppositional points of view can be held at the same time. It's kind of like seeing an object or movie in 3-D. If I can see something, almost anything, from more than one point of view at the same time, I get a very clear, distinct sensation of added depth in my perceptions. I feel that I'm constantly arriving at an understanding about what I'm looking at. I experience it as something that's alive and changing and mysterious. What I don't feel is a sense of being, or becoming "right".

People seem to be thrusting a lot of opinions around these days. Opinions about what really happened on 9-11, who's really behind the economic collapse, what'sreally the truth about climate change or peak oil or the Middle East War or military spending or the environment...and on and on. Well, it seems to me that if anything is really true about anything, and I have my doubts that it is, it's that WE DON'T KNOW WHAT THE REAL TRUTH IS.

We have ideas, we have guesses, we have theories, we have points of view. I try as much as I can to acknowledge that my point of view is just that, a point of view. When people start talking about what's "really" true, I start to kind of "go away". Literally or in some other way, I start leaving. It's just tiresome being around people who are passionately interested in something that I'm not at all interested in. And I'm not interested in pretending I know what's really going on or in hanging out with people who think they do.

What I'm interested in, and what I get energy from is meeting people who seem to be saying, "This is my current view and here's why I see it that way. What's yours?" I'm not looking for agreement about anything except this: We are talking to each other to learn about each other, not so that one of us can be right. I like arguments, but not as a way of determining who's right. I like arguments as a way to get to know someone and to learn more about what we're arguing about. As I get to know other people and sense into what their points of view are, and hopefully try them on myself, I end up with more depth to my perceptions. I still gravitate to my favorite points of view and I can be as close-minded and "right" as the next person, but I find it easier and easier to expand my "view" and take in more, rather than less, of what's around me.

So, here's one of my points of view about points of view:

I picture the universe like a giant crystal or matrix of energy. It's a huge network with an infinite number of interactions and events all connected and constantly changing, always effortlessly beautiful and in dynamic, perfect balance. What it's made of and why it's here are unknowable mysteries. It just is.

Any point of view to me, is like drawing a little line in the middle of this complex matrix from "Point A" to "Point B". Point A is what I call "me" and Point B is what I'm considering or looking at. Every angle, every point of view, reveals some kind of "truth" to me. But what it reveals is SOME truth, not THE truth. I believe THE truth is out of my reach and always will be. All I have is a point of view within this massively complicated, or elusively simple, dance of energy.

That said, the more points of view I can sample, the more things I look at, the more "truth" or information about this dance I get. I feel more and more in contact with the universe. It's not easy though, and taking on a new point of view can take more energy than I have to spare. But when it feels right and I do it, I always feel the richer for having done so.

Any point of view seems to invite drawing conclusions or forming a "position". I try my best however, to see these conclusions as models or lenses to look at things through, rather than as competing truth candidates.

For instance seeing the human body through the lens of modern Western medicine or science can be very useful to me. So can seeing it through the lens of the Chinese "chi" model. Or through the lens of the Moshe Feldenkrais method. Or though the lens of Alexander Lowen's Bio-Energetic model. Or through the lens of my own subjective experience of my own and other's bodies. I don't think that what I see through any of these lens "is" what the human body is.

The human body, like everything else, is an unknowable mystery. There's no one who can tell you what you are made of in any definitive way. Just keep asking, "And what's that made of? And what's that made of?" and you can turn the world's greatest minds into Beavis and Butthead, because sooner or later you get to....uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. But I find all of these body models useful to me in coming to a better understanding of how bodies operate and behave around me. I feel like I know them better for having looked at them through these various models.

So, from this point of view, points of view are also like fishing nets. Each one brings in whatever fish it can catch, but can never bring in all the fish. But I don't mind. I just like fish.

I have other points of view about points of view, but this one is my favorite.

And it makes for some satisfying songwriting.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

New Teachers!

This jpg. came out blue for some reason.
The actual certificate is as red as this text...

It is my pleasure to announce that I recently gave Teaching Certificates to five of my students. They are: my wife Samarra Burnett, Neil Buettner, Benjamin Grunde, John Michael Greer, and John Soares. Samarra, Neil and Ben all live in Ashland and may teach in some capacity around here. John Michael is moving from Ashland to Cumberland, Maryland this Summer and plans to teach there. John Soares lives in Mount Shasta and may teach down there.

Every teacher has to come up with their own criteria for giving people permission or their blessing to teach. Some teachers require that the student know their entire system inside and out, including all the forms within that system. Some require that the student take over some classes and get years of teaching experience under their belts. Some teachers charge quite a bit of money when they issue teaching certificates. There are valid reasons for requiring all of the above and more. But for me the important issues are summed up in what we as a group came up with for the text of the certificate:

This is to certify that


has reached the stage in his/her study of the Symmetrical Old Yang T’ai-Chi Style of Tchoung Ta-Tchen where teaching may become part of that study. He/She has shown consistent and demonstrable understanding of the core T’ai-Chi principle of cultivating unforced balance in action – including the Bone, Muscle, Energy, and Spirit levels of work – and has shown consistency in both the form and content of T’ai-Chi practice. Therefore, I proudly issue this teaching certificate to him/her on this

29th day of July, 2009.

(The certificates also include an approximate lineage and a red yin/yang symbol.)

In my opinion, each of these five students has met the above standards and are indeed ready to include teaching in their study of T'ai-Chi. Some know more of the forms in this system than others, and each of course, has their own strengths and weaknesses, but I'm proud of all of them and wish them well on as much of the teaching journey as they choose to take on.

We met several times as a group to discuss different aspects of teaching and what the contents of the certificates would be. In the spirit of the way I was taught by my teacher Andy Dale, there was no charge for the certification process, nor are teachers "under" me expected or required to send me a percentage of what they earn as teachers.

I am, like Andy, inspired primarily by my love of the art and particularly by the cultivation of "unforced balance in action." Expert masters are wonderful, but what I personally value and encourage most is simply the ability to help people live less forceful lives, lives more in tune with what's going on, in and around them. I sincerely believe that helping people with simple things like having better posture, breathing in a more relaxed way, having more spring in their legs, improving their ability to respond physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually to the world around them is vastly more important and needed than helping people do a jumping high kick, adopt super low stances or punch a hole through a wall.

To sum it up simply: what I love to do most and what I hope these five new teachers will love to do as well, is to help people to flow more and force less.

Congratulations John, John Michael, Samarra, Neil and Ben!