We had the good fortune of connecting with Kenneth Cohen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kenneth, have you ever found yourself in a spot where you had to decide whether to give up or keep going? How did you make the choice?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many who are asking various facets of this question. Do they give in to depression or hopelessness when they are unemployed and it is difficult to pay the bills or when they have lost friends and loved ones? If they live alone and then must practice social isolation, how to keep going when a “virtual hug” provides little solace. Do they give up when, faced with lack of medical services or an overburdened health care system, they are forced to be self-reliant and manage their own health? How to keep going when life is not proceeding according to preconceived plans. For me personally it is actually not a question. Not because I am ignoring the issues or have not personally faced disappointment, illness, and poverty. Rather, I simply don’t ask the question. Life is a gift, and whether we believe it is a gift from God, the Tao, or simply an unknown power, gifts require reciprocity. The response to the gift of life is to not take it for granted and to be grateful. Gratitude for life keeps me going. I am also inspired to keep going, to do my best because of my responsibility to relationships: my relationship with the earth that requires me to live in an ecologically responsible way and to leave the world in a better state for the coming generations. And I am responsible to my human relations—my parents who gave me the gift of life, my children, my wife, my friends, and any and all whose lives I touch. Focus on the good things you have been graced with (including positive life lessons learned through hardship) and “pay it forward” by being a good example and being of service in any way you can.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
My study and career have focused not only on the technical skills of Tai Chi, Qigong, and Chinese martial arts—how to do them correctly—but also on the broader context. I have graduate school training in Chinese language, Taoism and Buddhism, and a deep interest in how science interprets the benefits of Chinese healing arts. I have also studied various western bodywork therapies and how ancient Chinese arts apply to modern fitness, athletic, and sports training. This background allows me to address the needs and interests of a wide variety of students, who I teach in workshops, classes, and private coaching, and now through zoom sessions. Here is what I am most proud of in my 50 year teaching career: most importantly the students and clients who have improved their physical, mental, and spiritual health and well-being; the kind accolades that my book The Way of Qigong has received; becoming the 2004 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award in Energy Medicine; and the honor of lecturing at and advising medical schools and hospitals on ways to improve health care.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Here’s a sample itinerary for introducing a friend to a week in San Diego (where I live much of the year). Of course, to maintain social distancing during the pandemic, some of these plans would need to be modified.
Day 1 Visit Barrio Logan/ Chicano Park and see the magnificent murals; learn about Mexican American history, and then lunch at Salud or one of the other fine restaurants. Go to Old Town to walk and shop, followed by a drive along the Sunset Cliffs. Dinner at Rana’s Mexico City Cuisine.
Day 2 Visit various Kumeyaay museum exhibits and cultural centers to learn about San Diego’s original people—start with the Museum of Man in Balboa Park. Take a long walk through Balboa Park. Then visit the cultural centers at Sycuan and Barona, followed by the Barona Casino Buffet.
Day 3 An afternoon hike on Mount Laguna, then Italian cuisine at Mediterraneo Bistro in Alpine.
Day 4 Dim Sum brunch at the wonderful Jasmine Seafood Restaurant, followed by a relaxing foot massage, relief after the previous day’s hiking. Afternoon drive to see the seals a La Jolla Cove and then enjoy La Jolla Shores Beach. Dinner D.Z.Akins, where we also pick up deli meat, cole slaw, potato salad, bread, and dessert for the picnic planned for the next day.
Day 5 Long drive, but well worth it, to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Take a hike, enjoy the desert scenery and a picnic lunch.
Day 6 Visit the Encinitas Retreat, famed home and garden of Swami Yogananda. On the return an ocean view dinner at the Poseidon Restaurant in Del Mar.
Day 7 the San Diego Zoo, and in the evening enjoy the high energy of the restaurants, cafes, and shops in the Gaslamp Quarter.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Credit goes to so many. After all, who can count all of the people who have made them who they are? I am grateful to my brother Mark who shared with me a book he was reading about the life of the Buddha. That was a life changing event. I was fifteen years old and already determined to learn Dharma (Buddhist teachings) and hooked on meditation! And as a teacher of Chinese healing and martial arts, I am always grateful to my teachers, who balanced wu shu (martial arts skill) with wu de (martial virtue and integrity), including Grandmasters William C. C. Chen, B. P. Chan, Madame Gao Fu, and Taoist Abbot and acupuncturist Huang Geng Shi.
Photos courtesy of Kenneth Cohen