Contemplating the Cycles of Time

We’ve been on a long-planned vacation, including two weeks at Priscilla Beach which is south of Plymouth, Mass. We dropped off our son at Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA) for his 11-day orientation, which is part orientation, part boot camp. If he successfully completes orientation, he will graduate along with his fellow cadet candidates and be officially appointed to the Academy.

During orientation, the cadet candidates turn in their phones and are not allowed to call their parents. It’s a full immersion, full team-building experience. For many of these young adults, including our son, this may well be the first time they have not had any interaction with their parents for such an extensive period of time.

I must admit: it’s been hard! It’s been so weird not to speak with my son, feel his energy, joke around with him, or do something together. It’s also been hard because this is the first step to letting go and allowing him to move forward into this next chapter of life. He doesn’t need Mom all the time anymore. He will have to figure things out on his own, or with the help of his fellow cadets, cadre, academic advisors, and professors. All we can do is make sure he knows he is loved and supported and we are all (by all I mean our entire family) rooting for him.

Now it’s up to him to grasp this opportunity and begin to fulfill his potential.

And it’s incumbent upon me – Mom – to relax and let go.

Thinking about how fast the years have passed has been especially poignant these past few weeks at the beach. During most years as my son grew up, we anchored each summer with our annual family beach trip. This is the first year we have been at the beach without him! (Although we will have him for five days around Labor Day weekend and he will get in some beach time then.) It’s made me think about the cyclicality of time. Each year cycles through the full set of seasons; the work, school, sports, and family obligations; the rhythms of family life; the amazing growth and development as our kids get older.

When you’re in the middle of it, you can easily lose perspective on just how much they are changing and developing.

And when you look back, you can only wonder, “Where did the time go? “.

Time Is Cyclical

If you can relate to the angst I have been feeling, here is a thought that may comfort you: Time does not run out. It doesn’t move from left to right.

As the round clock tells us, time keeps coming ’round. The seasons keep cycling ’round. Time enjoyed in the past is still there. Our achievements and our good deeds still exist. The present is real and precious, regardless of how short or long our future may be. So enjoy it!

If you can view time this way – appreciating that it cycles, it doesn’t just run out – you can live in a more relaxed, integrated, and connected way.

Relaxed because time gone is not time used up. More integrated with life and more connected with others because we can focus on the present. We appreciate the wonderful gift of life TODAY to be enjoyed and used as we choose.

Each moment of life has the quality of eternity. Our memories live on in our hearts and minds. The impact we have made on others – such as our kids – lives on in theirs.

My Medical Qigong lineage is a Taoist one, and we Taoists believe that we are each an integrated part of God’s creation. As such, we are happiest and healthiest when we follow and align with nature’s laws.

So, as we move from late summer (at least here in New England) to Fall, I will follow nature’s cycle, not fight it. I will allow this bittersweet feeling – a combination of pride in my son and readiness for him to take the next step, along with the sadness of letting him go off into the world – to wash over me, permeate me, and somehow comfort me. Which perfectly aligns with the five elements as we enter Fall and the Metal / Lung phase – a phase which includes inspiration and new hope…integrating what we have experienced and learned…and letting go of the past so we can move forward in our journey.

I will cherish the memories of the past, look forward to the new adventures that are coming, yet remain fully present in THIS moment and THIS time, so I can take it all in.

You Can Do It!

Dr. Karen


How to Leverage Structural Tension

There is a wonderful framework used by artistic creators called “Structural Tension”.

Within this framework, the artist or writer or other creator focuses on two ends of the creative spectrum or process.

The first point of focus is the vision for what they wish to create.

The second point of focus is on where they are now, or the starting point.

Creative tension results from the dissonance or distance between where the creator wants to go – their vision of their finished creation – and the beginning of the creative process.

As long as the artist or creator stays focused on their vision or goal, they maintain the creative tension. And by tension, I don’t mean something negative. It’s more like a “pulling toward” feeling, by which the creator invests emotional, mental, and sometimes physical energy into the process, so they stay on track and, bit by bit, chip away at what they are working on.

Each of us can use this Structural Tension framework as we approach our own goals, dreams, and vision for our lives.

Medium to longer-term goals may require that you operate on a lower but more constant level of creative tension or energy. You feel the dissonance between where you are now and where you want to go or what you want to manifest in your life. And at times, you may lose the feeling as you focus on shorter-term goals or current life problems or challenges.

Eventually, you will come back to that goal or dream. It’s always there, percolating under the surface.

Get back in gear by renewing the creative tension. Allow yourself to feel the pull of the goal and the emotions of wanting to achieve it. Bask in the feelings you will experience once you have it. Then begin. Take a small step today from where you are today.

As Teddy Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

Creative Tension in Our Practice

We practice within this Creative Tension framework every time we do our Qigong and related dynamic exercises.

In fact, our standing practice helps us to develop structural tension and stability – what’s known as “tensegrity” – so we feel more stable and grounded and can stand for extended periods of time. This in turn strengthens the supporting structures and allows the body to open so the energy can flow.

We strive to stay relaxed… yet we also learn to focus our mind and intention. We stand still in our Wuji stance… yet the energy flows and tingles throughout our body.

In many of our forms (such as the Yi Jin Jing or Muscle-Tendon Changing Classic), we stretch to create structural tension on our ligaments, tendons, fasciae, bones, and muscles…then we release that tension into relaxation or into movement in another plane or direction.

Tension, relaxation, tension, relaxation…stretch, relax, stretch, relax…inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale…rhythmic cycle after cycle after cycle.

These instances of “micro” structural tension – relaxation cycles help condition us and improve our abilities to leverage creative tension in all areas of life, helping us bring into being the person we want to be and the contributions we want to make.

You Can Do It!

Dr. Karen

Qigong and What Else?

Practicing Qigong is a fun, wonderful, fulfilling, and minimal impact way to stretch and strengthen without the potential risk of injury from other exercise modalities.

In addition to moving forms, such as the Ba Duan Jin (Eight Pieces of Brocade) and Yi Jin Jing (Muscle-Tendon Changing Classic), standing practices also improve our strength and flexibility. In fact, as you progress in your Qigong, you will find that your standing practice, coupled with the internal work (Neigong) that you do while standing, becomes the more important and profound aspect of your practice and development.

Having said that, I also feel it critical to point out the following: Qigong practice alone is not enough!

This may go against the grain of some purists, but it’s true.

You must also include other types of strength and aerobic capacity-building exercise to help ensure you stay fit and strong, as well as help recover from or prevent the common injuries and complaints many people experience as they get older. We’re talking resilience against back problems, knee problems, osteoporosis, diabetes, early aging, etc., etc., etc. We’re talking improving your capacity to adapt. We’re talking quicker, easier recovery if you do become injured or ill.

Dynamic Energy Exercise

This is so important that, years ago, I developed an approach to fitness for myself that included the major components that help develop resilience, capacity, and improved health and energy. I called it “Dynamic Energy Exercise” and it proved so effective for me and my clients and students, that I actually registered it with the US Patent Office.

Dynamic Energy Exercise™ is an approach to exercise and wellbeing that integrates your body, mind, and spirit through the focal point of your breath. It leverages time-tested principles and techniques from Qigong and other energy disciplines, breathing methods and practices, and traditional martial arts. It’s grounded in years of study and teaching, rigorous and ongoing education in Medical Qigong and Classical Chinese Medicine, and continued practice and evolution. It’s extremely effective yet easy to learn and accessible to anyone.

If you’re interested in learning more about it, visit my other website,

Anyways, I mention this because I’ve learned from first-hand experience that following a well-rounded program is key to avoiding injuries, getting stronger and fitter, and staying younger and more energetic. Qigong and breathwork are at the heart of this type of program, of course. Then you want to add the other components. AND be efficient in your program so you’re not tasking yourself with having to work out all the time.

An example I am super familiar with is studying martial arts, especially more traditional approaches. For years I have studied Uechi-Ryu Karate (a traditional Okinawan style with roots in Southern China) and a traditional form of Tae Kwon Do. (I took some time off from martial arts when I became a mom but have been back in the saddle the past few years.)

My instructor, Grandmaster George Mattson, is considered the “Father of Uechi-Ryu Karate in America”, because he first brought Uechi to the U.S. back in the late 1950s, and over the years has run dojos, online schools, tournaments, and been a wonderful role model and ambassador of the style. Mattson Sensei continually stresses the importance of supplemental training as a complement and support to our Uechi-Ryu. In Uechi we train for fighting, self-defense capabilities, and self-development. We perform body conditioning and special breathing exercises. AND… we supplement this with exercises such as calisthenics, lifting and manipulating weights and weighted tools, and aerobic exercise to help build up our bodies.

Your Body is a Temple

Centuries ago, a wise sage traveled to a reknowned monastery to teach his version of Buddhism. When he arrived, he found the monks to be so focused on their spiritual practices, which involved copious time spent sitting and meditating, that they had allowed their bodies and health to deteriorate. The wise sage knew they would never reach their spiritual goals unless they also built up their physical and mental health and capacities.

And so (it is said), he developed the Yi Jin Jing (Muscle-Tendon Changing Classic) to help the monks build their strength and flexibility, begin to flow internal energy, and gain an appreciation for the physical aspect of their being. (This wise sage is also said to have developed a second classic Qigong practice, which we’ll get into at another time.)

The wise sage knew that the physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual are all tied together. In fact, many believe they are all…the same thing.

It would seem to make sense to embrace all three within your own health practice, wouldn’t it?

You Can Do It!

Dr. Karen