My Cultivation Experience with the Marching Band
Greetings fellow practitioners!
My name is Cindy Zhang. Before I started practicing Falun Gong, music was my life. I never joined the Lotus Arts Group in Toronto even though I was exposed to it quite a bit and spent time with some of the dancers. After the biggest argument I have ever had with my mother last Christmas, I told my father that I had decided to become a practitioner. However, I was still more of a "supporter of Falun Gong" than a cultivator. It was only when I attended the Toronto Fa Conference on May 28, 2006 that I truly started understanding the Fa.
I remember when the Toronto Divine Land Band was just an idea. Two fellow practitioners and I went downtown to the store Long and McQuade. I remember pointing out different instruments around the store and saying things like, "Thats a French horn, thats a trombone, thats a clarinet, and thats a flute," or "Yes, the tuba is bigger." When I left the store that day, I was quite skeptical about the idea of the marching band getting off the ground.
In mid-April, the Toronto Divine Land Marching Band was formally established. Shortly after, a sign-up list was posted for any willing practitioner to join, and over one hundred people enrolled.
One day, during rehearsal, I came to realize that the marching band was becoming my main cultivation path, so I told the coordinator that I was ready to give the band my all. His response was very encouraging and made me feel good about myself. Shortly after, I realized that I only said that to feed my desire for recognition. Ever since then, I kept a quote from Master always close to me,
"Grand talk counts for naught when it comes to life and death
Actions reveal what is true," ("The Knowing Heart" from Essentials for Further Advancement II)
I have a tendency to speak rapidly because of my attachment to getting things accomplished. So, to have to teach practitioners who have no musical background, one-on-one with their instruments, was a big test to cultivate away my quick temper. I was doubtful about how much I could do for the marching band, but after seeing the progress of each practitioner whom I helped, I was encouraged to keep going. As we had more and more rehearsals, the Fa in my mind became stronger, and naturally I became calmer and more compassionate when teaching.
However, it was only after our first performances that I truly began to notice my shortcomings. At school, our music program was widely advertised in the community because of our top-notch quality. From that, I gained a strong attachment to quality of the music. Thus, after the first couple of performances, all I could think about was how we could improve, technique-wise. I let the main importance of the band, saving sentient beings and eliminating the evil, slip from my mind so easily that I am ashamed when I reflect on it today. I was clarifying the truth on the street with a new practitioner one day, and we started talking about the marching band. He pointed out something that really made me look inside. He said, "Cindy, why are you so focused on the technical side? Why cant you just feel the beauty of the music that practitioners play?" I realized that when we march, all I hear are the mistakes. I try to take note of which section did not do well, so that we can work on those parts in rehearsal. How could I be so uncompassionate?
One of the biggest hardships for my being in the marching band is the language barrier. I would get so frustrated when I said something, and all I got were blank looks and smiles. My Mandarin was quite poor. What I could understand or say was extremely limited. However, when I went to Ottawa with Sound of Hope and NTDTV for the release of the Kilgour and Matas report, I really wanted to understand Mandarin. Everyone was in a room chatting in Mandarin. I knew the importance of the press conference, and in my heart, I truly wanted to understand what they were discussing. Amidst the chaos of trying to get everything organized after a press conference, all of a sudden I started comprehending what the practitioners were saying. I started getting really excited, but I quickly reminded myself what happened to the cultivator in Zhuan Falun who was about to become an Arhat, but because of his excitement he had to start all over. Since then, my Mandarin has been improving, and I am constantly asking questions about certain words and phrases. At times, when I am in front of the marching band, I say something in Mandarin to hopefully make the practitioners understand me better. But if I get a chuckle or giggle from them, I worry that I am mispronouncing the words or saying something other than what I intended.
I have witnessed arguments among the band members, but I have only really been in one. It was over something really simple, musically, and that practitioner was driven by doubts of my knowledge on a particular instrument. I was shocked, because the matter was so simple, and I was certain that I was right. Since the practitioner had no musical background, I was surprised that the practitioner argued with me. I had never been given so much resistance from a fellow practitioner before. It was such a simple test that I did not pass. I didnt see myself as a practitioner in that situation, but as a band member.
Another problem I have is my discomfort when telling fellow practitioners who are much older and wiser than me what to do and how to do it. There are sometimes things I wish to say to experiment with the music but I dare not to, fearing that practitioners may be offended. Simultaneously, I am also attached to the fear of being wrong, so if I try something new with the music, I am taking the risk of it sounding even worse. I have also noticed that the more anxious I get, the longer it takes to get everyone quiet and listening. I often complained inside about how the practitioners did not understand the importance of moving with the music, like they are one body, and listening carefully to each other. But in the end, it all comes down to my strong attachment to accomplishment. Master says in Zhuan Falun, (Lecture Two, "The Issue of the Celestial Eye"),
"...the more one desires the less one obtains."
So naturally, when I go to rehearsals with a calm and compassionate heart, practitioners really do understand me. I get a lot of responses like, "Oh! I finally understand! Well, why didnt you tell me that earlier?" And then I laugh at myself, because I have been saying the same things since day one, but because my heart was not truly there, their hearts, in turn, could not accept it.
Though I have pointed out many of my shortcomings, the marching band is a magnificent display of Dafa's miraculous power. We are able to accomplish what ordinary people cant do. Within less than one month, we were already performing. Almost every weekend weve been busy performing. For me, the marching bands remarkable progress began to show in our performances since the Canada Day Parade in Montreal. The energy everyone felt that day, including the audience, was immense. Many practitioners had tears rolling down their faces as we marched through the streets. We have been able to improve our performances by setting the bar higher every time and getting even better feedback from parade coordinators ever since that day. At Toronto and Hamiltons Caribbean parades, there was a lot of negative energy, yet with strong righteous thoughts we were able to break through, and we received many cheers and much applause from the audience. Apparently, there have been many people showing interest in Falun Dafa in Hamilton since we visited. Hearing band members share experiences and reading their emails have shown me the significance of this time period and the magnificence of what practitioners diligently do for the purpose of Fa-rectification.
Through the process of writing this experience, I have come to realize many things. One is that I should always keep in mind that no matter what skills we have, what our backgrounds are, or what weve done in the past, practitioners get together to do things for the same purpose. As a music student, I am astonished every time the marching band gets together. I see the power of Dafa at work and it is encouraging. Ordinary people could never do this in such a short amount of time under such circumstances. I did not discover the true importance of our mission until the band was formed and I began cultivating with the body of practitioners. Thank you to all the band members in Toronto for constantly helping me improve and see my shortcomings. Please continue to point things out, as my understanding is still very limited.