Ken Cohen is the author of The Way of Qigong: The Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing and also Honoring the Medicine: The Essential Guide to Native American Healing. He is the rare individual who has entered fully into these spiritual traditions, studying and honoring the lineage, language and practices with absolute integrity. It was my honor to have another chance to interview Ken for my podcast and YouTube series having previously spoken with him for my book, Crossing the Boundary: Stories of Jewish Leaders of Other Spiritual Paths.
In our conversation we cover a lot of ground and I hope you take the time to either listen to the podcast or watch the video. We begin with discussing his identity as a Jewish man as well as his being an adopted member of the Cree people. He recalls his Jewish family history that shaped much of his life’s direction even while choosing to focus his attention on two distinctly different paths: learning the Chinese language, Taoism, Qigong and Tai Chi, and finding himself adopted and trained by Native American elders in their traditional, healing arts.
In response to a wide range of questions, he offers rich teachings from a Taoist perspective as well as his views on learning from nature. In regards to the latter, he emphasizes the importance of cultivating deep knowledge and intuitive relationships with plants for healing body and mind, much of which he learned the elders.
We explore the focus of much of my own work: how the spiritual quest, (Taoist or otherwise) relates to helping relieve suffering and to activism for peace, justice and a sustainable human relationship with the world. I find what he shared to be very powerful teachings for being with our internal process when responding to the painful state of the world. Recognizing his own troubled reactions, he describes going out into nature and praying for guidance. What he received are four guidelines. He emphasizes that this is not a substitute for active work in the world, but for preserving personal, psychological and spiritual well-being in the face of injustice. (I’ve summarized them here, but hope you listen for the full explanation of this very powerful teaching.)
1.Release the injustice you experience up to Creator. Don’t return the fire. 2. Never indulge in negative thinking. That only strengthens what feeds the abuse. 3. Don’t allow even a single shell of bitterness to form around your heart. 4. Do whatever is necessary to keep your heart fully capable of receiving and giving love.
We continue on to discuss the use of psychedelic plant medicines, the use of tea as a spiritual path and the need to focus deeply with a spiritual tradition rather than diluting or mixing them haphazardly, . Ken is quite an amazing individual and I encourage you to listen to our interview and check into his books and websites to find out more about him and his teachings.
“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? –Mary Oliver
This is an invitation to take part in a free online series focusing on keeping a healthy balance while working to improve the conditions of the world. These one-hour presentations will be aimed at supporting those already active in the movements for justice, peace and Earth-care, and anyone seeking to find their way to be more involved or supportive.
As a psychotherapist and meditation teacher for over 45 years and a long-time activist since the Sixties, I have for several decades been working with those who seek to integrate spirituality, psychology and progressive social/political action. I believe that this holistic orientation, sometimes called “spiritual. sacred or holistic activism” is the path for truly shifting the consciousness that underlies injustice, war and the destruction of our home planet, Gaia, Mother Earth. It is the path for those seeking to sustain the courage, energy and attitude needed to help bend the moral arc of the universe towards true justice*.
I’ll be doing this through Zoom and will send the invite link to those who request it by replying to this message. Following is a flyer that describes some of the themes that will be part of the series. I hope you feel inclined to give it a try.
Added note: All actions for justice must consider the healing of past injustice. In this regard it is important to recognize that we live on land taken by violence and honor those first peoples and their descendants. Here is a resource for finding out something about who lived on the land you now occupy. https://native-land.ca
STAYING SANE WHILE MAKING THE WORLD BETTER
ONLINE GATHERING EVERY OTHER MONDAY STARTS – SEPT. 21 – 7:30 EASTERN TIME
This will be a series of one-hour sessions, each focusing on an aspect of the main theme, staying sane while making the world better. We will focus on teachings and practices with two essential goals: 1) not going crazy or getting stuck in depression or anxiety in response to what is going on in the world, 2) finding a full bodied, fully human, fully YOU way to take an active part in the transformation the world needs. Each session will include an introductory talk, a meditative/inner work experience, and a chance for questions. All sessions will be presented with a holistic view integrating body, mind and spirit.
Below is a tentative outline describing some of the topics we will focus on. Changes will likely be made as things unfold and I receive feedback, comments and suggestions. We are at a pivotal point in human history, we are all feeling it in one way or another, we are all being called to be who we are and do our part.
I offer this for free to activists or anyone who is wanting to become more active but has not yet
found a way.
1- Intention – Why do we do what we do? Intention is what determines what we pay attention to and it is what moves us to do what we do. Being able to make our intentions clear and conscious is essential. Wisdom traditions tell us that we each have a unique, core intention or purpose for our lives, but we have to recognize and choose it. We will look at how we can open and align with that core intention. We will also shine light on and recognize the unconscious intentions that distract and sabotage us and move us towards confusion, anxiety, depression and/or destructive behaviors.
2 – Your body and your mind as your primary responsibility – We all need to make our own bodies and minds a first priority. People frequently share the simple metaphor of being on an airplane when there is a problem, the oxygen masks drop down, and you first put on your own and then help children and others. Yet, most folks, especially those helping others, don’t operate this way. We will experience specific methods to bring caring and healing attention to the well-being of your own body and take responsibility for the state of your mind. It’s been said, “Be the peace you want to see in the world.” Let’s BE that.
3 – Being with and Dealing with heavy emotions – It is quite human to react to the things happening in the world with anger, sadness, guilt or shame. There is nothing wrong with that. It is how we respond to these emotions within ourselves that determines how they affect our physical and psychological health, and our effectiveness in our work. We will work with practices for looking inside, sharing in group ceremony or ritual, and finding empowerment in the energy of all our emotions.
4 – Finding your ecological self – You are not alone. You are part of a family, a community,
humanity, and the community of living beings of all the realms that are with us here on Mother
Earth. Though you may feel alone at times, this reality of inter-relatedness is always a fact of
life. Yet, just as our minds have been conditioned to see through the lens of patriarchy and
white superiority, we have learned to experience ourselves as separate from and a higher form
of life than the rest of nature. We will seek to reawaken to a more unbounded sense of who we
are and find support for our activism from the web of life of which we are part.
5 – Being the Peaceful Warrior – The Warrior, as an archetype or aspect of our true nature, works to support and defend an individual organism, group or natural system. While most people associate it with violence, it is more profoundly expressed by the non-violent activists who devote time and energy for social justice and peace, and to protecting and sustaining our natural world. It is a part of your nature in the way your immune system protects your body. It is what gives us the strength to carry on the struggle for a better world. We can learn to call on it for what we are called by our soul to do.
6 – Finding Your Unique Part – Few things are more frustrating than receiving dozens of messages, each calling for help related to a piece of the puzzle of world suffering, and knowing you cannot respond to them all. How to decide? Where to place your attention, your money, your time, your energy? We will share some ideas and exercises for answering these questions. We will also draw on ways of finding guidance that comes from the wisdom traditions of our ancestors.
7 – Empathy for the “Enemy” – Many of us struggle with feeling hate towards people whose ideas and behaviors are repugnant to us such as White supremacists, misogynists, homophobes or Donald Trump and his allies. There is an almost instinctual feeling of hate towards those who hate. It’s easy to repeat the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” But it’s sure not easy to do. Let’s look at how we can be in this world with haters and not poison ourselves or anyone else with more hate.
And lots more if there is interest!
We start Monday at 7:30 Eastern Time, Sept. 21st (International Peace Day and Autumn Equinox) and will meet every two weeks. Attend when you can. I’ll plan to record and make available for those who miss the live event. Email me for link to participate: alevin@SacredRiverHealing.org