Sunday, October 31, 2010

Look Alive...

Stay Alive...

Ever wonder what it's like to have a bunch of people want to kill you? It's easy. When you get to the counter at the bank or Post Office, and there's a line of people waiting, just do one or all of these things: Engage the clerk in mindless chatter about nothing, ask questions about things you don't need the answers to now, and then before leaving, rearrange the contents of your purse, wallet or backpack.

When I'm in line somewhere, or riding my bike in traffic, or doing just about anything in the world, I like to attend to the flow of things around me and not get in its way. I think life would be a lot more smooth and enjoyable if everyone did this. I'm not talking about rushing through life or trying to be some kind of hyper-efficient machine. I'm just talking about attending to the flows you are in and not blocking them.

For instance, I'm on a bike. I'm slowly approaching a stop sign at a street that I want to cross. You are in a car approaching my cross street. It's clear that I see you and I'm not speeding up, but I'm not completely stopping either. I'm just slowly approaching the stop sign. Now, if you glance in your mirror and see that there is no one behind you, keep going! You don't have to stop and I don't have to stop. Flow happens. You pass by and I cross the street behind you. (If I have a choice by the way, I always prefer going behind a car to going in front of one.) But if you stop, or slow way down, now we have to go through this little, who's going to go first game of charades. Now if there is a lot of traffic behind you and want to give me a break and you have enough space to stop without being rear-ended, fine. Stop and let me cross. I'll do it quickly as I safely can and the flow can continue. But if it's just you, and you see that I'm hanging back, go first. That's why I'm hanging back, because I'm attending to the flow and thinking, how can we get through this without anyone having to stop. I'm amazed at how reluctant people are to do this, even when I'm motioning with my hand, go, go, go! I want to go behind you not in front of you! There's no one back there! It's just you! Go!

I guess for a motorist stopping and starting is just a matter of pushing the pedal, but for us bicyclists, it's much easier to ride slowly than to stop and start again. When we stop we lose all momentum and have to restore it with our legs, not our engines. Add to that the fact that most motorists are not also bicyclists and don't understand the energy economics of riding a bike, the fact that most motorists are somewhat distracted by their stereos, phones, conversations, and the like, and it's understandable that attending to the flow is not high on their priority list. Still....I sure wish it was!

How many people as they go through their day are even aware of these flows all around them, let alone looking to see how they might be impeding or helping them? I've seen people wait for 30 minutes in line at the Post Office, and then, when it's their turn, forget all about the other people in line and start chatting and asking dumb questions they don't really need the answers to. Or they'll stand in the middle of a busy sidewalk talking on their cell phones. Or worse, they'll cross the street while talking on their cells. Or drive their cars. Or block the aisle at the grocery store while pontificating about their latest guru discovery. I don't care what people do with their own flows, but once you leave the house, if you don't attend to the other flows around you, you will annoy people at best, and endanger their lives, as well as your own, at worst. So look alive and you might stay alive!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Or Die-Hard?

It's so interesting for me to see how people hold things like music in their lives over time. I'm back in touch with some of my old musical cohorts from the 70's and 80's through facebook. Many of them are still doing music at various levels. I hang out at and host open mikes around here, and I wonder sometimes, How many of you people, so committed and so psyched about your music now, will even own a guitar in 10 years...or 20?

I guess in any epoch, there are experimenters and diehards. Just like the hippie thing. Some people grew their hair, dabbled in art, smoked weed, espoused the values, and then moved right on with the next wave of cultural change. Others felt something there and stayed with it. I have no judgment about which way people go, but I do find it interesting to speculate on who's experimenting and who's a die-hard, really committed to what they're doing right now.

I think I've always been pretty eccentric and naturally sort of a Bohemian. When it was cool in the 70's, I was in my element. But when the tides shifted, I didn't. I used to have this crazy room on the third floor of my mom's house when I was younger. I had all these animals: lizards, snakes, birds, fish tanks, gerbils, you name it. And I had all things of things that were fun to do or look at while stoned.

Well, almost every place I've lived in since has been similar, though not as balls out nuts! I've gone through a few purging phases where I'd get rid of almost everything I owned, but the last time I did this I realized that I was collecting "space" with the same obsessive zeal that I ever collected anything, and it was, by far, my most boring and pleasureless collection! So I finally just said Fuck it. I'm going to collect whatever I want to and give this crazy thing some space to freely express itself. All I did was temper it a bit by saying this: I'll only collect things that give me ongoing pleasure, and I'll only collect things that I can keep organized and are not in my way. My wife is similar. She's always been a Bohemian too. Our place is colorful and full of all kinds of pleasurable, artful, and more or less organized stuff. And only a couple of fish tanks...

In the early 80's I went to NYC, ostensibly to pursue music, but soon got sidetracked into this therapy cult group called Direct Centering. I learned a lot of good stuff there but the lessons were costly and I eventually jumped ship. I realized too in NYC that I couldn't stand the business of music and can stand it even less now. I was hanging out with the New Folk scene there and rubbing elbows with Suzanne Vega and the other New York folkies. I liked some of the musicians but that was it. I couldn't stand anything or anyone else in the biz. So after a particularly revelatory mushroom experience, I decided to quit music and leave the city. It was in Seattle that I got back into it, forming a duo with my friend Victor Cummings. We played together for about 10 years and made some nice music. 2 of our best albums are posted on my site. It was sort of a serious hobby. Eventually my wife and I got tired of city life and moved to rural Iowa. While there, I tried "selling songs" and what little affection I might have harbored for the business was quickly shot in the head and buried in a fittingly shallow grave.

It was only after we moved to Ashland,OR in 1999, that I finally found a way to do music on my own terms and have some fun at it. Only 30 years after I wrote my first song! So it's really been a journey. I've been a more or less broke artist of one kind or another, since I was a kid! For me that whole 70's time was just the beginning. I've changed for sure, but not really! In many ways I am the same guy I was back then. I don't fault anyone's choices though, especially as I get older with no health insurance and no retirement money aside from what we'll inherit when Samarra's dad and my mom finally die, and who knows what money will even mean or be worth at that point. I figure the best insurance is a bunch of friends anyway and I do have that.

I guess some people went for the money because that's what they wanted, some went for more "straight" lives because that was really their karma and desire anyway. But for me, when it comes to art, music and the artist's life: I'm a die-hard.

Happy To Be Here

And The Experiment Continues...

Today's audiences, if one can even call them that, are more and more inattentive and don't follow any song very long unless it's just incredibly funny or hooky or danceable. It's my experience, playing in front of people since the 70's, that audiences used to give performers their attention and then they had to keep it. Now, I feel a performer has to almost forcefully grab it and throttle it with everything they have to keep it. I've heard of many clubs these days where the crowd, mostly texting and talking on their cell phones, is louder than the band.

I play mostly background music gigs myself and very rarely, maybe a couple of times a year, I get to play for what would be called a "listening" audience. There is no listening "scene" where I live, no place where people regularly go to listen, and I mean actually listen to music.

Still, I put out my sound and see if anyone listens and/or tips me. I very rarely see a person under 35 or so, listen to a whole song, that is, without checking their phone, talking, or reading something. Since I don't travel, the internet is my "tour bus". I have found a few listeners out there on the web, but in general, I think that songs that invite or require real listening have less and less of a market in the world. I would say that the majority of my shows are neutral to mildly discouraging. And I'm talking about the audience response. I almost always enjoy singing and I still do alright in tips which is nice. People are recognizing something they want to support and those tips pay for my all my musical expenses, especially recording and getting my stuff on the net, so I'll take 'em and happily.

Music is becoming like wallpaper, meant to be in the background while people do other things. Sad but increasingly true. I mean, I can be hooky, funny, pop-y, smart, dumb and a bunch of other things and I still have a hard time getting anyone to pay attention for more than a minute or two.

I mainly sing because it's my nature to sing. I sort of have to. But if I was aiming to make a living, I would be hopelessly discouraged. Not only are people listening less and busier than ever, but there are more people than ever before singing, writing and recording music. This democratization of music is good in one way in that anyone and everyone can do it. The downside is that the water is incredibly crowded and muddy. It's never been harder to stand out.

But then, I'm mainly doing it because I have to,and while it is discouraging at times, it doesn't bother me too much. The less I expect the more I enjoy playing. I just keep doing it and seeing what comes back. I have over 20 albums of my music available on my site for downloading free, or with a donation. I've been doing this for about 3 years now and as of today, I've made just over $900.00 in tips. On the one hand, it's a tiny amount of money in the music world. On the other, that's $900.00 freely given to me by people who didn't have to give me anything. So, hey, I'll take it! And I'm grateful anyone listens at all, let alone tips me. Other nice things have happened too, like the man in Holland (youtube name SebastianHawks) who made a video of my song, "Jump You Fuckers", that, as of today, has gotten over 100,000 views. He just did it for free and posted it. I've gotten lots of good comments and some tips, CD sales, and youtube subscribers to boot. So the experiment continues and so far so good!

It May Look Like I'm Racin'...

But I Ain't Racin'.

I've tried hard to figure out ways to describe my musical life to people who don't seem to understand what I'm about, or what I'm doing with my music. I think I've finally hit upon a metaphor that works for me...

Imagine that I am skiing down a hillside (like I'd ever do that, but bear with me, it's a metaphor...). I used to race, but now I'm just enjoying the ride, seeing if I can pull off a nice move now and then, maybe show a little style. Now right next to me, very close on either side, are people racing like crazy down this very same hill. There are crowds everywhere cheering the contestants on. There are announcers describing every detail of the race going on all around me. There are scorekeepers tallying who's in the lead, who's next and who's last. There are critics making a living pronouncing their opinions about the race as if they were facts. There are fans of each racer yelling and screaming as well as groupies willing, or acting like they are willing, to have sex with their favorite racers.There are awards given constantly to the best racers. The race is covered by TV and radio stations worldwide. There are all kinds of prizes and money awaiting the winners, ridicule and derision awaiting the losers.

Now I'm just there in the middle trying to enjoy my ride down the hill. I'm not racing but since I used to, I know how, and even though I'm done with racing, I find myself unable to ignore the frantic pace on either side of me. I find myself leaning into it a little bit and catch myself noticing how the racers are doing and starting to strategize and think like a racer. All around me, of course, people assume I'm in the race. If they like me, they give me racing tips and cheer me on like I'm a racer. I am, after all, among all the racers doing essentially the same thing (writing, recording, posting songs and videos, etc.).

But then I notice what I'm doing and I have to remind myself what racing really involves and ask myself again if this is what I want to be doing. I regain my balance because, having given it a real look, I decided a long time ago that I don't like the race, don't like racing and don't want to be a racer. I'm constantly mistaken for one though, and truth be told, as long as I can just ski my own way down this hill, if I happened to win a race now and then, I'd take whatever came with winning. But I'm not "in it to win it". If I'm in it at all, I'm "in it" because it's the only place to ski and I like skiing.

Do I Contradict Myself?

Very Well I Contradict Myself

I write from all kinds
of points of view. What I like to do is to write songs that release a "charge" for me. Songs that make me feel better for having written and sung them. I'm not trying to present a consistent world view, or position, or even trying to write a "good" song. I'm looking to express something in me that wants to get out, and I use my bodily responses to guide me in this process. Whatever feels right to sing gets sung.

I used to operate under more of a dictatorship. I had one central position or world view and each song was like a brick in the wall of that position. They all had to be consistent and logically in agreement with the "party line". But not anymore!

Now I've switched to a more democratic parliamentary system. It's like there's a parliament in my head and every member gets at least one song to have his or her point of view heard. I have my favorites but there's a lot of value for me in letting all of my MP's have their say...

My favorite Walt Whitman quote:

"Do I contradict myself? Very well I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes."

Right For The Job...

Is All Right With Me...

I love making music and I love making music in public. If people listen so much the better, if they enjoy it, better still. But what I really like is when I feel like I'm right for the job. If I have something to offer that is a good fit for the venue. I don't care so much about the "good" gigs, and I mean "good" as in high status gigs. I just want to feel right for the job, and right in the job. I really like when I can find a portion of my music that is a good fit for where I'm playing. Sometimes it's just making the right background sound for a bunch of people who are eating and talking. Sometimes it's providing the right songs for a themed benefit show. I particularly like playing short sets between bands setting up. And though I suspect I've played my last actual "concert", every once and a great while, I get to play for a concert type semi-listening audience where people are looking at me expecting to hear something.

But no matter what the venue, I like to feel like I'm a good fit. I'd rather play in a parking lot for six people where I'm a good fit, than opening for a band in a packed house in a prized venue where I'm not a good fit. Maybe it's the "forceless" feeling that comes from being in the right place at the right time, I'm not sure, but whatever the reason, when I have one of these "right" feeling gigs, it encourages me like nothing else. As I've said many times, a lot of my gigs are neutral to mildly discouraging as far as the audience is concerned. No one shows up or people aren't listening, or don't tip, or actively avoid having to hear any music...but all it takes is one gig where I'm a good fit and I'm happy for a week.

Music. What Is It Good For?


Writing pop songs that sell is just a tiny sliver of what it is possible to do with music.

Music can do so much more than aim for the sounds that are the most entertaining to the largest segment of the music buying populace. At the other end of the spectrum, music can express or release a charge for a single person and that person only. Music can touch and release a charge for all kinds people, in groups small or large, for practically any purpose imaginable. Making young people dance is only one of many things music can "make" people do. Music can also make people think, feel, laugh, work more cheerfully, recognize themselves, and focus their energy better, whether or not it is popular with the masses or with teenagers. Aiming to please has its rewards but its costs as well. And think of what music can do for the musician herself who's aiming at nothing but her own satisfaction. I'm not against aiming for commercial success, it that's what feels right to you. But that's not what I'm aiming for.

I like to ask first, "What will release a charge for me?" not, "What will release a charge for you?" Releasing my own charge, getting things off my chest, is essential to my health. In the long run, focusing on what will release a charge for you, rather than what will release a charge for me, is destabilizing, draining, disorienting and disturbing to my inner sense of wholeness. I lose track of what makes me feel the most alive, because my focus is on what makes you feel the most alive.

When I'm focused on my own release, I may not reach you, but I feel truer to myself and more grounded in my own sense of right and wrong. I feel more integrated and less conflicted, like the members of parliament in my head are starting to agree to fight fair.

It's not that I'm oblivious to what other people might like or appreciate, but it's not my first focus. If anything I do works, or "sells", it's because I happened to find something in me that's also in you. Most of the time, if I have to choose, I'd rather find something in me than in you. When I start with what feels most deeply right to me, then I find I'm naturally more aware of, and more interested in you. If I start with what feels right or would feel right for you, then I become more and more resentful and less and less interested in you. I find I want to pull away and take care of myself. So I skip all that and just start with taking care of myself first. If I happen to overlap into the "pop success" formula in some way, I assure you, it's an accident.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Power of...

Overly Abstract Loaded Language.

Recently, a facebook friend posted this:

"The past has no power over the present moment"
Eckhart Tolle

I was inspired to comment and then edit and expand that comment as follows:

My problem with "spirit speak", as I call it, is that it doesn't hold up to any kind of rational inquiry. All the words are so loaded with special meanings that they can defy any kind of meaningful discourse. Words like "We are all one" or "We are the silence" or "We are love" are abstracted to the point of near uselessness.

As for the Tool comment above, uh...I mean Tolle...first of all, there is no such thing as "the present moment". It is an illusion created by our brains to make some sense out to the swirling sea of chaos around us. Relativity shows this pretty clearly I believe.

Secondly, even if we discount all that bothersome quantum physics and stuff and accept a sort of conventional, every day meaning of "the present moment", it is self-evidently obvious that the past has near total power over "the present moment" in all kinds of arenas.

For instance: Cue ball hits 8 ball. 8 ball travels towards side pocket. 8 ball cannot decide to have a different past. It's past determines in a huge way what will happen to it next. The family, culture, and society you grow up on has a huge "power" over you. The language you grow up speaking has a huge effect on not only your mind but the very structure of your facial muscles.

The way I see it, statements, like Tolle's have a target audience who already speak "spirit speak" who know what he's talking about.

I would translate it thus:

"I am so certain of the following that I state it as Truth, based solely on my authority as "one who knows". Your mental conception of what the past is, including your personal biography, does not have to determine or interfere with your experience of your current moment and it's possibilities. You can let go of our past and be present with what is happening now."

I don't agree with this statement myself, even though, in my opinion, it's a bit more honest and clearly stated. I don't believe he or anyone else has any idea what Truth or the Ultimate Nature of anything is. I don't believe that it's possible to let go of one's history and experience nothing but the present moment happening now. I don't believe that "now" exists. Even the screen you are looking at "now" is actually the past. The light takes a fraction of a second to get from the screen to your eye and brain. I don't even believe that living in the present is a good idea, even if it is possible. Nature sure doesn't. Every species on Earth seems to be the result of past events shaping flexible DNA molecules in the interest of survival. Without a past you would not be a human being. In addition, I believe that anyone who claims to be "enlightened" or to have transcended self-interest is lying, either to themselves, to you, or both.

I would also posit that the "you" that is selecting which memories to hold or let go, the one selecting Heaven or Hell from the existential juke box is itself a product of the past. I believe we are all infinitely less powerful than we think we are. (This is the opposite of most New Age thinking which tends to posit the opposite.) I believe we exist for a little while in a swirl of mysterious stuff, we tell ourselves the stories we need to hear to fulfill an agenda, mostly biological, but also partly psychological and partly spiritual, and I believe that agenda comes from the past. (Every human being has an "ego" right? A sense of separate identity. It's not a choice. It's built into our DNA to have this thing. Our DNA might be a "point" in the present moment, but it seems to be a point with a direction that was plotted a long time ago.)

I think we are wrong about just about everything, we mostly miss the mark, we are pieces of sentient space junk who think we are the center of the Universe. I also think that point of view is damn near everything; "Truth" is something we made up to establish identity, to comfort ourselves, and kill each other over; "Now" is something we made up to make sense of the world; "Free Will" is an illusion and so is its lack. (Whether the Universe is absolutely pre-determined, or the product of chaos interacting with free will, or some combination of the two, it would look and feel exactly as it does now.) I also believe like any good surfer, that our sphere of apparent control, if it exists at all, is pretty small, but hey, it's what we've got, or think we have, this wave is awesome, surfing is more fun than drowning, so what the Hell?...Choose a point of view, or pretend to choose one, and... Kowabunga!

I believe that everything is ultimately an unknowable mystery. Balance, kindness, friendship, music, and awe are worth cultivating.

And we're all gonna die.

And I would give up my best 10 songs to have written this line:

"Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." from Anthem by Leonard Cohen

Friday, October 8, 2010

Your Mind...

Use It Or Lose It

I worry sometimes that we modern people are relying too much on our various glowing screens to do our thinking for us. Instead of exercising our problem solving capacities we are turning to google at the first sign of difficulty. We watch hours and hours of other people's fictional or "real" lives on TV, instead of entertaining ourselves or living our own adventures. I've heard that the human brain is more active in sleep than when watching television and I believe it.

The focus of our lives seems to be increasingly "virtual", and, as I say in my song "Virtual", "Virtual means almost, but not." I think the virtual world is great and can be an incredible tool in life. But only as long as the physical world is the real one and the virtual one is its shadow. When this is reversed and the physical world becomes the shadow of a person's "real" virtual world, then the trouble starts.

This is because we are adapted to live in the physical world and our bodies are most healthy when we interact regularly with the physical world. In other words, without being judgmental, if you spend more time on-line or or on TV, than off, you are getting less and less healthy. As we let computers solve more and more of our daily problems, our brains lose their capacity for thinking and we lose the capacity to solve them ourselves.

And, since we live in the physical world, being distracted by our virtual worlds can be dangerous. The consequences of inattention in the virtual world? You miss an email or lose a video game. The consequences of inattention in the physical world can be fatal. I ride my bike everyday and I have to be constantly on guard for people on their phones, driving or walking, who do dangerously inattentive things. Every now and then I notice that every single person in my view, inside or outside of a car, is on or looking at their phones.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about. When I'm recording an album, I'm on a serious budget. I can't afford more than a take or two of each song. Messing up a lyric means starting over. So instead of depending on my memory, I'll bring in my song lyrics on paper to read while I'm singing. This is to ensure that I'll get them right and not have to do another take. What I notice happening is that while I'm recording the song, I let go of the part of my brain that knows the lyrics and I become temporarily dependent on that lyric sheet. If I've typed the wrong lyric down, chances are I'll just sing what's there. Or if I glance away from the sheet, my mind is blank and I mess up the song. My memory has become "external", committed to that sheet of paper.

This is something I do intentionally to save money and time when recording. I think if I brought lyric sheets for all of my songs to all of my shows, pretty soon I'd be lost without those lyrics sheets. I would have an atrophied memory capacity. And this is what I fear is happening to more and more people. I notice their distress when they lose or accidentally leave their phones at home. I've even heard people say, "I'd be lost without my phone."

I heartily recommend any activity which demands thinking and problem solving. Even crossword puzzles. One thing good about the virtual world is that due to facebook and other networking sites, people are writing more. Writing can be a real problem solving activity, but only if you care enough about what you write to want to find the best words you can find to say what you want to say, if you're thinking about and taking your words seriously. I suggest that before you hit the "share" button, ask yourself if you've what you've typed is the best way to say what you're trying to say. If not, make it at least a little better before you hit that button. You'll be exercising your brain a bit and being more clear in your communications, both of which will serve you well in life.

And every now and then, give yourself a Cell Phone Free, or Computer Free day.

The Good Stuff

Is Between The Lines...

Every time my teacher Andy Dale did a T'ai-Chi form, he did it differently. Not that he changed the form each time, but that his own balance seeking process expressed itself differently each time. One I noticed this, I'd watch him carefully every chance I got. Watch your teachers people. You can learn more from them than just forms and techniques, and what they teach directly. The really good stuff is what's expressed within the forms.

You have to read between the lines, so to speak, and you're "reading" with your whole body: joints, nervous system, muscles, all of it. I would be trying to nail it down with my typically over-active left brain and Andy would say, Just taste it, get how it feels, let it go in like a virus, you can figure it out later.

I think that's how these forms started originally. Someone had an inspired moment and later decided to organize it so other less inspired people could get a taste of the magic. But, as Andy always says, The form is not the T'ai-Chi. It's a container. A shape, or an environment, in which you learn about T'ai-Chi. Rigid adherence to form is a huge stumbling block, not only within the art but in the lives of the people practicing it.

J.Krishnamurti used to say, Break the vase. In other words accept the nourishment, or the flower, but break the container it came in, because that's not IT. Or the Zen proverb: The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon.

But even without all the poetry, just watching your teacher move, whether that teacher is a human being, a fish, a tree moving in the wind, or a mountain stream...just watching with an open mind and body, can really help your art.

Of course, forms are important, especially for beginners and especially for learning correct body alignment to prevent injuries. So don't ignore forms, just don't get too attached to them. As Leonard Cohen says in his song "Anthem": "There is a crack, a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in." And as Master Dave Harris used to say: "A man with a plan is a man on his can."

The picture above is Dave Harris, Andy Dale and Harvey Kurland, all senior students of Grandmaster Tchoung Ta-Tchen. And the weakest thing in the picture is probably the trees in the background! ;~)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Star Wars

And The Best Mushroom Experience Of My Life

When I was a young kid, I used to love the training scenes in the old "Kung-Fu" TV show with David Carradine, as well as the training scenes in "Empire Strikes Back" with Luke and Yoda. I think I was hungry for guidance from an older person with some wisdom to offer, someone who would take me under his wing, something my dad totally dropped the ball on when he chose alcohol over just about everything else. That hunger led me to trust some sketchy characters at times and I had to learn some hard lessons. But it did lead me to some great teachers as well. And, while I ain't no Yoda, I have become something like the kind of teacher I used to want as a kid.

But back in the early 80's, before I learned T'ai-Chi and began to teach it, I was still groping for some kind of center in my life. Ironically, I was involved with a therapy-cult group called Direct Centering in New York City, which proposed to do just that. I did learn some valuable lessons there, but they were expensive ones and many of them were negative, things like learning what not to do, and who not to trust. I was struggling somewhat with my involvement in this group, as well as with doing music as a career, which was ostensibly why I was in New York in the first place. Neither felt completely right, even though I said they did, and wanted them to.

One day a friend called me and said, "Let's take mushrooms and go to "Return Of The Jedi." I was a big fan of the first two Star Wars movies and I'd had a couple of enjoyable mushroom experiences, so I eagerly agreed and we made plans to go.

We took the mushrooms, I don't remember how many, probably one each, and while we were waiting in line I felt this familiar kind of hollow feeling in my legs that told me I was beginning to get off. We found good seats and the movie began and I had what turned out to be one of the most pivotal experiences in my life. I'll describe what happened during that experience, but the power of it is something I don't think I can fully capture in words.

While I was watching the movie, I began to have a second "screen" in my mind's eye simultaneously. I was able to follow the film totally, but in my head I also had this other screen, this alternative inner movie, that somehow I was also able to follow. This inner screen seemed very real. More clear and real than the movie on the big screen in front of my eyes.

I saw the planet Earth from a distance, just this little blue globe. Then I sort of panned out to zillions of miles away. I could literally feel how small and insignificant the Earth is in the vastness of space. It felt smaller than the tiniest pebble. Then I zoomed back in and saw myself as this even tinier little spec on that pebble, running around with my guitar, trying to become rich and famous. It struck me as deeply absurd and in a flash I decided/realized that I didn't want to do music as a career anymore. I just liked writing and singing songs for my family and friends. The rest seemed incredibly silly and pointless. Not to mention unpleasant, because, aside from a few of the musicians I had met, I literally could not stand anyone I'd met in the "business" of music. So, right there, in a flash, I decided I was not going to do music as my career anymore. I felt a huge burden lifting off of me and a deeply right feeling settling in to replace it.

The inner screen then faded away and a little while later this "voice" came into my head and started telling me that some important opportunities were coming my way in the future but that I was not ready for them. When "I" tried to talk back to this voice, it literally stopped me so I could not "speak" with my own voice in my own head! It just silenced my own inner thinking voice. I can theorize now that this other voice was some deeper part of me, and maybe it was, but at the time it felt like it came from elsewhere. Who knows what the Hell it was..I didn't care at the time and I still don't. It was what the voice was saying that was important to me.

This voice told me that I should see my whole life as training to meet this opportunity. It told me not to get arrogant about this, that it was not about "me", but about the opportunities coming toward me in time. It said this with a kind of authority that was overwhelming to me at the time. Like it was just The Truth. I had not a glimmer of doubt about it. After a few more things, just before it sort of "signed out", it said, and I'll never forget this, "Oh, and you'd better learn to defend yourself." I instantly thought of my friend Roy who taught Filipino stick fighting and resolved to contact him right away.

And then I was sitting there, without this strange inner voice, or the strange inner screen, just a guy watching the Ewoks and Han Solo, Luke and Leia, Chewy, C3P0, and R2-D2 fighting the Empire. I had been following the movie totally right up to this point, so I just continued watching and enjoying it, while simultaneously feeling very different inside.

After the movie, as we found our way out of the theatre, I immediately announced to my friend that I was quitting music. He of course, said things like, "Hey, Gene, you're tripping. Don't make any rash decisions here." But I was absolutely sure this was what I wanted to do.

I found a Yoga teacher and contacted my friend Roy and started taking a few classes. It turned out to be a false start, but I was happy to be doing something in line with what the voice had told me. Before long, with music out of the way as a career, I realized I had very little motivation to stay in the city, so my girlfriend Toby and I ended up leaving Direct Centering and moving to the San Juan Islands off the coast of WA. Her family lived in Seattle and had property up there. After a six months or so of enjoying Nature and decompressing, I realized I had to go back to the city. It just felt too soon to be living the simple rural life. Something was missing. I didn't know what it was but I knew it was in the city. It was then, after a lot of soul searching, that I decided to learn something physical and teach it. I moved to Seattle and started training for real.

I found great Yoga and T'ai-Chi teachers and started massage school. I fell in love with T'ai-Chi right away, and though I did the other two for several years, T'ai-Chi was the one that stuck, the one that I still practice and teach today.

So those 'shrooms, which came from the Northwest by the way, got me to leave New York and Direct Centering, quit the music business, and got me to start training in T'ai-Chi, which became the central practice of my life. I also met and married Samarra, the love of my life, in Seattle. Many years later, here in Ashland, I've found a better way to do music than as a "career", but giving it up back there in NYC was a great thing for me. It cut me loose from things I didn't even know were holding me down. And it led me to a life that feels deeply right to me now.

I should say too that I've only taken mushrooms a handful of times in my life. After that pivotal experience, it was many years before I took them again and I didn't enjoy the experience very much. It upset my stomach, which is somewhat delicate anyway, and gave me a woozy, dizzy, drunk-like feeling which was very unpleasant. So I'm pretty sure I'm done with this particular avenue of exploration. I'm glad I had that one experience though. It changed my life for the better in so many ways.

I don't recommend mushrooms or condemn them. I leave it up to you to decide for yourself what to experiment with in your life. Get as much information as you can and trust your inner genius, your inner sense of right and wrong. But whatever feels right to you, whatever you do, whatever you don't do...

"May the force be with you!"