My Experiences Practicing Falun Dafa
Steve Gregory, Chicago, USA
I was introduced to Falun Gong at the Whole Life Expo held at the end of October 1998 in Chicago. I went to the Expo looking for a chi gong group I could practice with. I had suffered from chronic health problems, including a large number of food and other allergies, chemical sensitivities, chronic fatigue, chronic myalgias, and chronic sinusitis. My acupuncturist had taught me a form of chi gong, but I did not get very impressive results. If I joined a group that I could practice with, I hoped I would fare better. There were several chi gong type groups at the Expo, and I spoke to all of them. The last group I encountered was Falun Gong. After speaking for just a few minutes with the site assistant, I knew this was the practice I wanted to try, but I could not really say why this one appealed to me over the others.
The next week I went to the practice site. My responses that day revealed immediately, although I didn't really know it at the time, some of the difficulties I would have in practicing and cultivating Falun Gong. Master Li says, "If human beings are able to take a fresh look at themselves as well as the universe and change their rigid mentalities, humankind will make a leap forward." In my case, change in the way I think has come slowly, as a part of me has resisted Falun Gong all along. All of my life I have wanted to be clever, and this has resulted in a skeptical if not cagey way of thinking. I tended not to believe in what I could not see. Although all of my life I had sought what I considered to be wisdom, never in my life had I thought to seek wisdom in what is spiritual. Indeed, most of my life I viewed spiritual things as the crutches used by those too weak to face the truth, or something worse, the means by which cynical men controlled and exploited those less clever than they. I had no desire to be such an exploiter, but very much wanted to avoid being made a fool of. In this habitual frame of mind, I believe I might rather run the risk of not knowing the truth, than to risk appearing to be silly. Like so many people who love cleverness, at the bottom one finds a great deal of vanity and often a certain kind of timidity. So, when I went to my first Falun Gong practice, I was on my guard.
As we did the exercises, I could feel the energy moving through me, and could feel myself becoming very relaxed and sleepy as I was accustomed to having happened like that after a powerful acupuncture treatment. I thought to myself, "Wow, I have only begun learning the exercises, and I am getting such a strong reaction, this must be a very powerful system." Then, after being introduced to the exercises, I sat down with others to read China Falun Gong together. Even though I had been told this was a spiritual practice, I didn't feel ready to learn any spiritual teachings, and the group reading struck me as very odd. I thought to myself as we read together, "Aha, I have fallen in with some cult." Of course, I didn't really believe this, but I thought it. I knew I had not been charged for the lessons I had been given, and the books offered me were ridiculously cheap. In other words, this group did not act like a cult at all. As I was buying the books, I thought, "This must be a very clever cult. They are not asking me for money now, but later on they will ask me to pay in a big way for membership." Then when the practice was over and I left the very generous people who had given me so much, I realized they had not even asked for my phone number or address. Now my vanity was wounded. "What, doesn't this cult think me important enough to find out how to get in touch with me?"
In retrospect, this is all too ridiculous. Even though I thought these offensive things, I knew perfectly well that I had stumbled upon some very good people who had quite freely given me something really amazing. After all, when I went home, I went immediately to bed and slept for several hours, only to get up briefly, and then sleep the rest of the night through. How could a mere demonstration of the exercises, which was not really a full practice, have such a profound effect? I could not account for it. Of course, what I wasn't ready to accept was that something supernatural was at work, and that Master Li had begun purifying my body from the very beginning.
I immediately began attending practice regularly once a week. At first, I hardly did any more practice than these once weekly sessions. For the three or four days after attending a group practice, I would sleep 12 hours a day, and be so tired the rest of the time I was good for very little. The latter half of the week I would work very hard to try to catch up at work, and then I would go to another group practice. At the practices, I had difficulty doing the exercises in the correct way. I would only hold the Law Wheel (Falun) for one or two minutes, would sit down between the standing exercises, and would lean against the wall as I sat in meditation. In addition to attending the weekly practice, I also read China Falun Gong, and then Zhuan Falun, and then Master Li's other books. I would read each book the way I was accustomed to reading works of philosophy. I would try to analyze Master Li's arguments, and end up quarreling with nearly everything he said. Still, I couldn't help but notice an amazing thing. When I was tired, I would have the energy to read if I picked up a book of Master Li's, but not any other books. If I was energetic, and I read his books, I would get sleepy. I had to admit that these books had energy. I could not explain to myself what I also could not deny. How could a book have energy? My mind began to open a little to what Falun Gong might be.
Even though I was much less than a model practitioner, I began noticing changes. A few weeks after beginning Falun Gong, some myalgias that had troubled me for months disappeared. I had tried so many things to eliminate my allergies and sensitivities. I had succeeded in shedding many of them, but not all, not by any means. After a few months of Falun Gong, I found I could eat anything, anything whatsoever, and not have a reaction. Not only that, but I could walk into a room freshly painted with oil based paint, and not feel a thing. Before Falun Gong a mere few seconds of such an exposure would put me in bed for three days, and now I had no reaction at all. The same was true for all my other chemical sensitivities. I was amazed, and overjoyed, by these changes. In March there was an experience sharing conference in New York City, and it was rumored Master Li would be there. I knew I had to go, but I was worried about one small thing. Due to the chronic inflammation of my ears and sinuses I had stopped flying. When I flew, I would have severe pain in my ears, and often have vertigo, so that at the end of the flight, after all of the passengers had gotten off the plane, I would still be lolling in my seat like a drunk too unsteady on my feet to get up. When the plane for New York climbed out of O'Hare, I noticed a little pain in my ears, but only a little. I thought, "that's funny." I braced myself for the descent into La Guardia, because the descents were always the worst. But on the descent I had no pain at all. This is in spite of not taking any medicine, or doing anything special for my ears.
The experience in New York changed things for me. I now knew somehow that Falun Gong was a true spiritual practice, and I knew I wanted to practice this seriously. At New York, I learned about the importance of reading Zhuan Falun, which I had not really understood before. I now understood that one of the keys to cultivation was studying the Law, and I began reading repeatedly the book I used to quarrel with so much. I also began practicing the exercises much more regularly than I had before. Around this time, acquaintances began stopping me on the street and asking me what I had been doing. Over and over again I would hear, "Stephen, I have never seen you look so good."
After New York, I had awakened more deeply to what Falun Gong really was, but then a new kind of thought began troubling me. Now that I had begun to believe in the real power of Falun Gong, I couldn't escape the thought that I could now use it to help me in my daily life. For instance, I had a job interview a few months after I got back from the New York conference. This interview offered what seemed to be a wonderful opportunity, and I was very eager to get the job. The weeks before the interview I found myself thinking, "maybe if I practice really well, those who interview me will feel my energy field and be well disposed to me without their even knowing it." As soon as this ridiculous thought occurred to me, I would think that this was literally blasphemous, and blame myself for thinking this way. Nevertheless, back the thought would come, and others like it, all suggesting ways I could use Falun Dafa to make me a better ordinary person.
I tried to fight off these thoughts, and in some respects I continued to improve as a practitioner. I practiced more frequently. And I continued to study the book regularly. But practicing the exercises and studying the Fa is not enough, not nearly enough. Master Li says that in cultivation practice one will be made to fall, and to understand why. I don't mean to make a joke, but in my case, I really did fall. In the middle of April, while pruning a tree, I fell from the ladder with the result that I crushed a vertebra in my back. Master Li says there are no accidents. Everything that happens to us has meaning. After I got to the hospital, I asked myself repeatedly why this had happened. In the end, one thought dominated my mind, something Master Li says over and over again, that cultivation is a serious and solemn matter. It is not something to be played with, or taken up like a hobby that adds zest to one's life.
In my case, for months prior to my accident, I had found myself running into conflicts, which I would not handle in the manner of a real Falun Dafa cultivator. I would get angry, and compete for small benefits, and hold grudges. All the while I would hold my actions up to what I understood the Fa to be, would find them wanting, yet over and over again, would make the same mistakes. I seemed not to have let go of a single attachment the entire time I had practiced. Such a situation cannot continue forever.
I can't expect most people to understand what I am about to say, but I am glad I broke that bone in my back. Having this happened has forced me to look honestly at where I really stand. Throughout the time that I have known Falun Gong, I have been like someone with a split personality. I have always known Falun Gong from the very beginning to be wonderful and profound, and at the same time, my mind has always tried to find ways to debunk what I knew in my heart to be so precious. I would often laugh at myself as I looked at how I behaved. If I didn't believe in the truth of Falun Gong, why was I so deeply, profoundly excited the times I saw Master Li, and why did I read Zhuan Falun so regularly, and why did I sit for hours after work reading experience sharing articles on the web, and why did my eyes fill with tears when I read of the sufferings of the practitioners in China, when others' sufferings rarely moved me in this way? I would shake my head at how ridiculous I was in thinking I had doubts about Falun Gong, but at the same time I couldn't in the end really devote myself to cultivating Falun Dafa. I had not found in myself the ability to begin giving up the attachments of an everyday person.
In English there is a saying, that one can be too clever by half. If one tries to outsmart everyone, one simply ends up outsmarting oneself. I had become a cultivator who didn't know how to cultivate. New practitioners always want to know, "how long have you practiced?" The implication is that if you have been doing this for sometime, you must really be good. I have always dreaded this question, because I have always known how far from the standard of a real practitioner I have been. In my heart, I believe I am now beginning to act more like a cultivator, but time is the true test of that. With the help of my friends here in Chicago, I hope my understanding may deepen, and my actions begin to assimilate more completely to the Fa. I hope that in the future when I am asked when I began, the correct answer to this question will be, "I began to practice in November of 1998, but I began to cultivate in April of 2000."