Dafa Cultivation and Shen Yun Presentations
(Minghui.org) Greetings, Shifu! Greetings, fellow disciples!
I obtained the Fa almost 15 years ago. The first time I spoke at a Fa conference, I was eight years old. Now, I’ve just turned 22.
These years have been quite a journey, like any practitioner’s path, but in this sharing I’d like to concentrate on the last year especially, because of the success of New York City’s Shen Yun shows and the small part I played in that success.
Almost one year ago, I started working on what would become—after many modifications—one of the Shen Yun promotional presentations used widely in the greater New York area. Reflecting back on the process, I can see how much this project has taught me about letting go of self, and the power of practitioners working together as one body.
By June of 2011, the Shen Yun presentation, which consists of a powerpoint and a presenter, had made their way to New Jersey and New York.
New Jersey had just finished a run of shows in May with poor showing, and Shifu was disappointed. For this reason, we New Jersey practitioners were anxious to do better.
Some practitioners started preparing presentations about Shen Yun, or about Chinese culture and Shen Yun, to make in front of larger groups of people in order to sell tickets. I watched a few practice their presentations and I, then a girl of merely 20 who still had not started college, looked at them and thought, “Yeah, I can do that.”
So begins every humbling story.
My first attempt at a presentation began that very night. I took someone else’s slides and formulated my own script around it. I wrote it overnight, never practiced, and took it to Fa study the next day to try out.
My total presentation lasted one hour. It went very into detail into many different aspects of Chinese history, but not in an extremely cohesive way. The actual Shen Yun parts were okay, but because I also didn’t prepare for it thoroughly, I was reading it off of my iPod. Those were three strikes against me right out of the gate.
It turns out my mother reallly liked the presentation, but she was pretty much alone in that.
A few practitioners and I, including my mom, were having lunch afterwards when an idea came to me. It wasn’t as if the idea was placed into my brain…rather it was more like in my mind an idea, like a flower, suddenly burst into bloom.
“We should talk about Shen Yun directly,” I said. “Just like those essays we wrote in high school. Just tell them: you need to see Shen Yun Performing Arts, and here’s why…reasons 1, 2, and 3.”
A new, direct approach to writing a Shen Yun presentation took root in my brain. But I actually didn’t get to work on it at first. The first presentation I ever did was pretty unpopular with those working on the project, and so I was banned from ever giving presentations ever again.
My first reaction was to give up: “You don’t want me? No problem.” I thought.
It was not the most righteous thought I’ve ever had.
My mother stopped me from quitting. Her response was swift and somewhat fierce.
“Just who do you think you are?” she asked me. “Are you someone working on something for yourself? Or are you doing something for your sentient beings?”
I went quiet, having realized my shortcomings almost immediately. The practitioner who banned me had obviously hit me right in the attachments. More specifically, my sense of self took the direct hit: not only was this practitioner questioning my ability to do something and therefore my ‘self,’ but also this practitioner showed that I was attached to comfort, as I had decided to take the lazy route and do nothing while knowing, even in spite of what people thought, that I could turn my ideas into something that would help Shen Yun promotions in New Jersey.
After my mother helped me realize these first attachments I got to work.
I borrowed liberally from the work of other practitioners in our one-body, but from an angle that started directly from the value of Shen Yun and Classical Chinese Dance.
Then I began to make a few small presentations with this new, direct approach to introducing Shen Yun. My first assignments were at Rotary Clubs, here and there in New Jersey, when other presenters were completely booked. But here and there, people started buying tickets. Or they introduced me to other Rotary Clubs. Or they pressed their friends to see Shen Yun.
The Shen Yun office eventually picked up the presentation to become one of the official ones for the New York area. The first step to making it usable was to undertake fairly large modifications. Rewriting the presentation was truly a one-body effort between all the collaborating practitioners. I could feel the energy in what we were doing. How we all tried to see the points that the other made and thought “Will this angle work?” instead of pushing our own ideas.
I think for this reason, the final presentation would go on to be used extensively.
There was a certain way I used to start the presentation trainings. Though the presentation itself may have seemed less solemn with lots of jokes and questions posed to the audience, I used to always start with a sharing.
“You have to take yourself out of it,” I would say. “When you’re in front of a room of sentient beings who need to be saved, you need to make sure that you’re not standing between them and Shifu. We are just vessels, the conduits through which Shifu can bring people see Shen Yun. So we need to be as free as possible of attachments, and not think that it’s because of us, for whatever reason—our skills at speaking, or our intellects, both of which are Shifu’s gifts—that we can bring people to see Shen Yun. At the same time, we are not empty vessels. We have the wisdom that Shifu has given us, so that we may stand in front of these rooms, so that we may truly aid in leading people to Shen Yun. At the same time, as cultivators, we must of course do the best job we can and improve our presentation skills, because a cultivator should do everything to the best of his or her ability.”
I could write an entire sharing just about New York’s training and testing program, but I’m afraid I don’t have the room.
My limited understanding is that our attachments and the purity of our thoughts, affect how much Shifu and other righteous beings work through us.
My mother and I became a presentation team. She would make all the phone calls and connections, and I would stand awkwardly in the corner until it was time to speak. Together, we have made presentations all over New Jersey. I think the furthest place we’ve ever gone, we had to drive almost two hours to get there. There was a period of time when we were averaging three to five presentations a week, usually at Rotary Clubs. I had a year before college and she was between jobs. Looking back, I can see how precious that period was. Neither of us will probably have the opportunity to spend a solid few months basically just promoting Shen Yun again, and most likely not together. Again, I could probably write a whole sharing as equally long as this one just about the conflicts we’ve had. I won’t, but I will summarize: they were always my fault.
A result of doing so many presentations is that everyone thought I was good at them. This was a cultivation test. People would call my mother with effusive praise, or come straight to me with this effusive praise. If the praiser could not see me, that is if the exchange was over the phone, I’d jam my fingers in my ears. In person, I’d be awkward and embarrassed. In other words, I could not be unmoved in the face of praise. Shifu talks about Arhat-level fruit status in Zhuan Falun.
“As you know, when a person reaches the Arhat level, in his heart he is not concerned about anything.” (Zhuan Falun)
I realized that my heart was concerned, and I was afraid of developing bigheadedness. Fear is also an attachment. So not only should I not be bigheaded, I should also not be afraid of becoming bigheaded.
Even though all of these people thought that I was good at making Shen Yun presentations, I was actually afraid of almost everything. People would come up to me and tell me what problems they had encountered during their presentations, how they were interrupted or given difficult questions, that people got confrontation or didn’t like it, or the things that they were afraid of. Without hearing these issues, I could have continued in a happy ignorance. However, the time had come to eliminate fear. Even though the coordinators, and my fellow presenters thought I was so good at the Shen Yun presentation, I was actually quite afraid of giving them. More specifically: I was afraid of giving the presentation at schools and churches—especially very conservative churches. I was afraid of giving them in front of Mainland Chinese people, as well as at libraries, senior centers, and in front of restless rich people.
Because of my fears, I’ve had to face every one of these situations. And because of my reputation as a good presenter, my local coordinator had the tendency to give me the most difficult crowds.
Usually, I could keep myself in a state of purity when I was actually in front of an audience. However, when my cultivation state wasn’t as good, it became harder.
New York City had two sets of shows last year: one in January and the other in April. Even the Shen Yun Office thought that once we got past January, promoting the April shows would be easier. It was harder.
My mother and I were assigned a presentation at a library on an evening late into the week. I spent the entire day in bed until the late afternoon feeling sick to my stomach, a nausea that had been building over days.
That night at the library, I tried to have pure intentions, and as soon as I started speaking I felt better. However, my mother, who previously had been feeling fine, suddenly had to run out of the room to vomit several times. Out of a one hour program, she was gone for over half of it.
There were several Chinese families in the audience. A section of the Shen Yun presentation deals specifically with the evil party’s destruction of traditional Chinese culture, and the persecution of Falun Gong in China. When I got to the slide that explained how Shen Yun told the story of Falun Gong, a Chinese woman in the audience started spewing poison, shouting over my voice. She didn’t say any of the worst slander the evil party uses, but throughout the evening she continued to spew poison to anyone who talked to her one-on-one. Many people in the audience were unimpressed, but a few were affected. I definitely was. I stammered my way through the rest of the presentation, anxious to the point of getting the slides mixed up.
After the presentation, a few couple people were very interested in the show. One was even toying with the idea of convincing the library to rent a bus so everyone could go.
But still, we had to call a practitioner to help us send righteous thoughts before my mom could drive home. She threw up one more time in the parking lot.
The problems that evening stemmed from my lack of faith. I wasn’t in a steady cultivation state, so I gave in to both the physical manifestation of nausea, and the fear that had been plaguing me. Not only could I not take a step back from the situation and finally eliminate my attachment to fear, I let it expand.
For the next week it was like I was shell-shocked. I almost felt like I didn’t want anything to do with the Shen Yun presentation anymore. I felt that woman’s poisoned words echoing in my skull.
Before I managed to recover myself, my local coordinator picked me for an assignment again, this time a fairly large church, one of my other most feared venues.
The difference this time was that the one body of practitioners was there to plug my loophole.
The church’s pastor had seen Shen Yun before, so he pulled his congregation together for our presentation. We had twice as many practitioners there as at the last presentation I made, and everyone was very together. I could see the difference. My fear kicked in in more-or-less the same spot in the presentation, and instantly two audience members began raising their hands and asking questions like “Why haven’t the Chinese accepted Christ as their lord and savior?”
This time, the pastor stepped in to save me by actually butting in and deflecting the questions away. Relief poured through my system: I had a shortcoming, but because my fellow disciples were with me with their righteous thoughts, they managed to fill the gap. The pastor’s actions were a physical manifestation of that loophole being filled.
Later I realized that the roots of my fear attachment came from a lack of faith. Even though on the surface I had helped write the presentation and use it to great effect, on a deeper level I wasn’t truly able to trust that I should definitely use the section of the presentation about the CCP’ s destruction of Chinese culture and about Falun Gong to thoroughly clarify the truth to the people waiting for me to bring them the truth. I’d always used notions to think about what people would or would not be able to accept. It’s comparable to when Shifu talks about a person nervous about giving out flyers in a nice neighborhood.
“But when your confidence is shaky, you drive to that [nicer] location but don’t have the courage to get out of your car. You just make a cursory trip of it and then tell yourself, ‘All right, I went there.’ Or you’ll be there in that nice community, stealthily tossing a flyer here and a flyer there, acting as if you’re ashamed to be seen doing that. Sure, some people do hate junk mail and the like, but there will always be some approaches that don’t resonate with certain people. You have to make a distinction: this is something huge—everyone is waiting to be saved!—so as long as you don’t overdo it, people will understand.” ("Dafa Disciples Must Study the Fa - Fa Teaching Given at the 2011 Washington DC Metro Area Fa Conference")
A further lesson I learned was the power of the one body. Again, this was a lesson in giving up self.
After New York’s successful April shows, Philadelphia started asking New Jersey and New York practitioners to help with their promotion. A couple times, they asked me to help them with some larger presentations for more upscale crowds.
The first event I spoke at was held in a Ritz-Carlton. I was scheduled to do the forty-five minute version of the presentation, and got there too late to back out of it. What seemed to me were more than fifty well-dressed people were milling around the room as I entered. There were chairs, but not enough for everyone. At NTD headquarters, we’d held several classier parties but no one at those would listen to a Shen Yun presentation for more than fifteen minutes.
The audience in Philadelphia drank it all in. It seemed to me that as I gave the presentation, people were still coming in and standing in the back, until all I could see before me was a packed room, hanging on every word. And they asked questions afterwards. I was astonished. But one thing I can remember very clearly from that evening is the cooperation exhibited by the Philadelphia practitioners. It was like a choreographed dance, the way they interacted, and it definitely created an environment where their guests could settle down and learn about Shen Yun.
The next time I helped out Philadelphia it was nothing short of a miracle. I didn’t actually know where the event was, so I got off at the wrong bus stop. From there, I had very little idea where I was at all. I knew what street I was looking for though, so I pretty much picked a direction and started walking as fast as I could, already late. It turns out that I was exactly right, but I still had to use my supernormal capabilities to walk there in time.
This time, only eight people showed up for the presentation, and a few left part way through. I could tell that some practitioners were hoping for more, but everyone kept their righteous thoughts. Even though there were only eight people, one woman seemed especially intent to buy tickets for everyone she could think of. As I left, a practitioner told me that their ticket output for that evening about equaled the previous event with over fifty people.
No one complained that they’d made far more food for this event than eight people could eat, or about the manpower that it took. Instead, someone quickly suggested that the leftovers could be brought to another presentation that had been scheduled.
From the cooperation that I saw from the Philadelphia practitioners, I was not surprised when I heard that their shows were very, very successful.
But every Shen Yun show in every city should be successful. The Shen Yun presentation can be a part of that. What I’ve found, in the end, is that the outward perfection of the presentation matters less than the heart a practitioner takes to it. There are some presenters I’ve seen who aren’t the best public speakers, but the sheer goodness and compassion that shone from them when they spoke had me listening to everything they said.
At this last juncture, time is running short, and the time Shifu has given us to work on the Shen Yun promotion project is running short as well. Shifu reiterated this point again in May.
“As you know, Shen Yun is getting better with time and its impact is growing. This year in the U.S. towards the end of the performances, each performance we rolled out was sold out. Next year the tickets should sell quite easily. If it really were the case that with just one round of advertising everyone would come, then I will tell you, I wouldn’t ask you to go and sell tickets.” (“20th Anniversary Fa Teaching”)
These are just some of my understandings. If you see any shortcomings, please be compassionate and point them out.
Thank you, Shifu! Thank you, everyone!