Saturday, January 28, 2017

February News

From Gene Burnett

I started 2017 with a cold plunge into Ashland Creek with a bunch of other “polar bears”. It felt great! Except for my feet which felt like they were frozen solid. But nothing a nice hot shower didn’t fix. We are in the middle of a colder than usual winter here in Southern Oregon and we’ve had more snow than in the last several winters combined. But generally, it’s been good to be out there teaching and practicing. I love doing T’ai-Chi in a park, particularly the one where I teach, because parks, like T’ai-Chi, are a nice blend of Nature and Culture. Any exercise is great, but outdoor exercise is even better. At least for me.

I posted a bunch of new videos this month: 15 Music videos (all sky videos from my 2012 album “Why Start Now?”), 3 Rogue Poetry Slam videos, 3 T’ai-Chi Videos, and one Nature video. See links below in the Videos section of this post.

So here we go…I’m going to start with local shows in case you’re in the Rogue Valley and then proceed with the usual information about where to find my music, videos, and pictures, including information about new projects.

There is so much to listen to and watch on the net these days…I’m amazed anyone even gets this far in the newsletter let alone watches or listens to anything I’m doing. I’m sincerely grateful for every view, every listen, and every nice comment I receive. I’m happy if anything I post truly reaches even one person. I’m offering all this stuff in a “just in case you’re interested” spirit.

Upcoming Shows:

Wednesday February 1st, I'll be hosting my regular Themed Open Mike at The Wild Goose CafĂ© & Bar. Usually this happens on the First Wednesday of every month. This month's theme will be our 6th annual “Love Songs”,  so musicians and spoken word artists will be doing songs and poems, covers or originals, that are about or mention love in any way. We're never too strict or narrow about the themes for this event. The main idea is to focus our attention a little to hopefully inspire and motivate us creatively. These are always fun community events. No Cover at the friendliest bar in Ashland. Sign-up is 7:30pm. Show starts at 8:00pm.
*A heads up for next month: Wednesday, March 1st, 2017: “Love Gong Wrong”

Monday February 6th, I'll be playing at one of my favorite Ashland venues, Liquid Assets. A relaxed living room vibe with great service, excellent food and wine, and a really nice place to listen to music. I play from 7-9pm

Saturday, February 18th , from 10am-Noon, my good friend Jesse Biesanz and I are hosting a Hacky Sack session outside Caldera Tap House on Water Street in Ashland. We’ll be under the overpass. This happens on the third Saturday of every month. We both miss the fun and camaraderie of a good friendly Hack Circle and…more importantly, we miss the practice! It’s fun, aerobic, cooperative, demands balance, coordination, quick thinking and accuracy…So whether you’re new to the game, or an experienced player who wants to brush up your skills, or an expert who just wants to meet some new players, come on by. Hacky Sack basically involves keeping a small footbag in the air, usually leather and fairly soft, using only your feet. When there are more than two players, it’s usually played in a circle. If the circle gets too big, it is split into smaller circles.

The only rules of this Hack Circle:

1. You’ve got to use your feet to keep the sack in the air and off the ground. No hands! (10 voluntary pushups if you do)

2. If you miss or otherwise screw up, you can’t say, “I’m Sorry.” (10 voluntary pushups if you do)

3. No serving to yourself. (10 voluntary pushups if you do)

4. No hotdogging. Meaning this is not about how many tricks you can do before the sack hits the ground, and it’s not about working obsessively on tricks. Tricks are fine but in general, we want to keep the hack going as a friendly group and keep everyone involved.

See you at Caldera rain or shine. The overpass provides shelter from the rain and once the circle gets going, you’ll be plenty warm regardless of the weather.

Tuesday, February 21st, I'll be competing with many other poets at the Rogue Poetry Slam which happens at Caldera Tap House in Ashland. Sign-up is at 7:30pm and the show starts at 8. $5 cover, all of which goes to the winning poets. If you've never been to or competed in a Poetry Slam, I highly recommend this one. Come to watch, compete, or be one of the judges. Some people think of slams as hardcore hip-hop events or places where people are mean and talk trash, but nothing could be further from the truth. All kinds of poetry are welcome and people are very supportive. And it's so nice to participate in an event that is all about the words, or in my case, lyrics. For me it's really not about winning or losing, but just the fun of sharing my words with people and seeing what happens.

For more info about these and all of my shows, and to confirm that there have been no cancellations, click here: Calendar  

Since I'm putting this newsletter out once a month, it's possible there may be a cancellation of a given show by the time it happens. Please double check with my web calendar if possible to be sure the gig is still happening. I'd hate to have you come out for nothing. Also another gig or two might be added or times or locations might change, so do check the calendar for the latest info.  

Recorded Music

All of my over 30 albums are available for downloading free or with a donation at my website:

Videos In General

Overall Mission: I post a lot of videos on youtube, over 1000 so far! I'm not trying to build a fan base...In fact, I'm not trying to build anything. I'm not expecting you or anyone else to follow what I'm doing or watch all of these videos. Posting videos is just part of my overall plan to make my music (and my T’ai-Chi and Nature videos too) as freely available as possible and see what freely comes back. I think of each video as sort of like a message in a bottle...and more I toss out there the more likely one of them will land on a friendly shore and something good will come back to me. So here are some video links in case you're interested:

How to Find My Videos: First of all, I've set up a "Videos" page on my website ( with a menu similar to what you see below as well as a digital tip jar in case any of you want to contribute to my cottage industry. Every little bit helps and not just financially. 

I've also set up some blogs that make navigating and viewing my various videos much easier. You can go to any of these blogs and see thumbnails for all of the videos posted there. Scroll across the thumbnails and you will see the titles of each video. Click on it and a page will open that will let you watch the video right there without going to youtube. My latest videos are always in the upper left hand corner.

To see all of my Music videos in one easy to navigate place, click here: The Unforced Videos

To see all of my T'ai-Chi videos in one easy to navigate place, click here: The Unforced Movement

To see all of my Nature videos in one easy to navigate place, click here: The Unforced Nature

For a quick and easy way to sort through, listen to, or download all of my albums free or with a donation, click here: The Unforced Music

To see my regular blog “The Unforced Life”, click here: The Unforced Life

To visit my youtube channel and possibly subscribe, click here: My Youtube Channel

To see all of my youtube playlists click here: My Youtube Playlists 

New Videos

New Music videos:

Youtube playlist with all the songs from my 2012 album “Why Start Now?” including alternate versions: WSN?

Youtube playlist with all the songs from my latest album “Love & Heartache”: L&H

3 new T’ai-Chi videos:

Three New Rogue Poetry Slam Videos: 

One new Nature video:


I've stopped posting as many pictures on facebook, (for many reasons), and started posting them instead on Flickr, which I like much better.

Here's a link to my "home page" at Flicker: Photostream.

I have many photo galleries there but a few of my favorites are:

Small Miracles (mostly Nature related stuff)

The Dish Whisperer (I started posting a daily picture of my dish stacking work over a year ago. I recently crossed the 1800 straight days mark. I have no idea how long I’ll keep doing this. I’m so used to it, it hardly takes any effort at all to continue. I made a video for my song “I'll Do The Dishes Tonight” that featured a slideshow of the first year. 

"Head" and "Boot" (devoted to our two gerbils)


I continue to offer all of my albums for downloading, free or with a donation at my website: I started doing this about 8 or 9 years ago and considered it a 5 year creative experiment. Well the 5 years passed and I decided to start calling it my "ongoing creative experiment" as I have no plans to stop. Since I returned to my folk roots and stopped climbing, or trying to climb, the industry ladder, I've been enjoying music in my life more than ever before. And enjoyment, rather than achievement or worldly success has always been dearest to my heart anyway. So now I focus totally on what I love most: writing, recording, performing and sharing what I create. If other people like it, so much the better, but getting other people to like me or what I do is no longer my goal or focus. I'm out to please myself first. I want to do my music exactly the way I want to do it and see who likes it that way, not figure out what people will like and try to do it that way. I put it out there freely and see what comes freely back. So far so good. I've never had more success and appreciation than I have since I started doing it this. Go figure. 

Thanks, as usual, for your support and well wishes even if you don't make to any shows.


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Developing Strength

 I like it!
The desire for mysterious powers that don't involve developing strength runs really deep in a lot of people. I'm not sure what they have against the development of strength. The time in my life when I was the most "woo-ist" and suggestible to woo ideas was the time when I was the weakest and the time when I was most  "anti-strength". I think I was afraid of any arena where strength would be a factor because I was not very strong as a kid. The whole realm of physical strength was very intimidating to me. I associated it with male on male violence and competition and since I wasn’t very strong, this was daunting. My fantasy life was rich but in real life, I was afraid of the physical world.

One of the reasons I was attracted to T’ai-Chi was that it seemed to promise a way to be able to defend myself but not have to depend on strength. But as the years and decades passed, it became more and more clear that strength was not only necessary but an essential part of the art. I’m not talking brute force here, but strength: having strong coordinated muscles.

I used to believe in weak old men defeating young warriors by communing with some deeper level of "energy", or at least I thought it might be true. But it's hard to ignore the fact that while a weaker person sometimes "wins" a given moment, sometimes a given fight, in every martial art, all around the world, in any realm where there is any kind of realistic and consistent pressure testing, the top fighters across the board are physically strong people. There is no world champion in anything who is not a much stronger than the average human being.

I like martial training games, but I don’t really train for combat, I mostly train for everyday life. And I’ll tell ya, strong muscles, as well as aligned bones and ability to coordinate agile physical responses to change are really nice, especially as I get older.

Over and above my regular T’ai-Chi training, I’ve been working specifically on building strength for the past few years. I’ve been going very slowly and carefully, because I have had a tendency to injure my tendons and ligaments whenever I overdo things. I have had a few injuries doing this, but they’ve been relatively minor and each one taught me something about alignment, flow, and connection.

I wanted to see if I liked working with kettlebells so I found an instructional video and worked through the exercises with an 8 pound plastic kettlebell that I found at the Goodwill. And I worked with that light weight kettlebell for quite some weeks making sure my form was pretty solid, before I decided to buy some heavier ones.

I’m not saying my posture is perfect with the kettlebells, it’s not, but it’s good enough to avoid injury. My next step was to get a couple of metal kettlebells. The Russian guy in the video said that men usually start with the 35 lb. ones and women usually start with the 26.5 lb ones. I figured he was talking about Russian women, so I opted to be conservative and got the 26.5 Lb. ones. And I haven’t regretted it. 26.5 was plenty. I worked with them for about a year or so before I stepped up and got a 35 Lb. bell which is where I’ll most likely stay. Strength isn’t the only thing I’m building. But at least for now the two 26.5 Lb. bells for some of the exercises and one 35 Lb. bell for others is feeling right.

I worked out with 5 pound hand weights for a long time before stepping up to 8 pound weights. I’m pretty sure I’ll step up to 10’s at some point but for now I have my hands full with the 8’s.

When I restarted working on pull-ups after an elbow injury set me back a bit, I started super simple, just hanging and lifting my head up over my shoulders, little mini-pull-ups. I would do 10 a few times a day…after several weeks I upped it to 20 and one day, I just had the feeling I could do a relatively strain free complete pull-up and I did. Then I started doing one, a few times a day. And I’ve slowly upped it to where I can do 6 and I can do that maybe twice a day…or maybe once and then a couple of sets of 3 spaced throughout the day.

I did the same thing with pushups. I don’t do them fast to bust out the numbers. I do several sets of ten complete pushups daily with good form, connection to breath, and going at a moderate speed.

So for me, taking it slowly and easily with a lot of attention to form and breath and balance has really been working well. I also put extra attention on making sure I’m not getting tighter or more rigid as I get stronger. I work a lot on flow and softness and looseness to balance and include any newfound strength I’m building. I’ve also added a 20 minute or so mostly uphill bike ride to my routine of teaching T’ai-Chi in the park. I do it 3-5 times a week on my way home. This has coincided with changing some of my eating habits. I’ve cut way back on grains, cheese, fried foods and sweets and started eating a lot more vegetables. As a consequence of working out more, biking more, building strength and eating better, I’ve lost about 15 pounds. When I first started to build more muscle, I started getting bigger. My shirts started to feel tight. But then I started to get leaner and I ended up smaller but stronger.

I can’t think of any aspect of my T’ai-Chi that isn’t better because of the strength I’m developing. I’m faster, stronger, softer, more mobile, more responsive, more relaxed, more agile, my wind is better, my balance is better. Developing strength and then taking that strength into relaxed, balanced, natural movement has been a real pleasure. When doing pushing hands I so feel that in some ways I’m easier to push than I used to be. Those extra 15 pounds to settle into my belly and legs used to make me harder to push since those were 15 educated and settled pounds that would probably feel more like 40 to my partner. I like the challenge of working on making up for those pounds with better technique, increased strength when the time is right to use it, and better mobility and responsiveness.

I used to think strength was the enemy. Not anymore. Brute strength, thoughtlessly applied, that’s what I try to avoid. Tightness, rigidity, lack of mobility, those are the things I work against. But developing strength, at least the way I’m doing it, has been nothing but helpful to me.