Organizing a Minghui Summer Camp: Cultivation Journey to a Pure Land
(Minghui.org) [Note: This sharing is about the Minghui summer camp mentioned here: Minghui Summer Camp, a Compassionate Environment for Youth in France]
This was the third year we’ve held a Minghui summer camp at our home in France. The summer camp spanned over two weeks. The preparations required much effort, often cutting into sleep hours, but the efforts and lack of sleep were not the hardest part.
The difference this year, compared to previous years, was that this time we established a special team for promoting the summer camp. The team was supposed to include me, a fellow practitioner who was supposed to coordinate the dancers’ workshops, another practitioner who volunteered to cook meals, and two mothers who wanted to get involved.
I had mostly good memories of harmonious cooperation with those practitioners in the past on Minghui summer camp and other projects, especially with the workshop coordinator, who was charismatic, authoritative, and very practical. She knows how to get things done and how to motivate people. I worked with her in the past as a fellow performer in a dance company. I was very glad and thought that with the experience I’d gained in previous years, and with her character and abilities, we could establish an ideal summer camp.
The practitioners were supposed to arrive a month before the camp began, in order to see the place and help with the preparations. But right after the first meeting, I felt something was undermined. It seemed that the decision as to where to hold the camp was not accepted wholeheartedly by everyone, and eventually only two of the team members arrived. Then the workshop coordinator stopped responding to my emails, as if she had vanished from the face of the earth. Another practitioner, who initially expressed her wish to help, started sending me aggressive emails.
Eventually, I found myself completely alone, as I was in previous years, only this time others were also hostile towards me. Although I was convinced that our house was located in a beautiful countryside, which hosts camps from Paris and even London, and that it was a real gift from Master, I started losing my confidence that the camp should be held at our house.
Each time I received an aggressive email from that practitioner, I thought to myself, “She invests so much time in those aggressive and demanding letters. Why can’t she find the time to help me and do what she finds so important, those simple tasks she volunteered to do? I, too, am also busy in other projects, and I also have 'guests to entertain.'”
I couldn’t find the compassion in myself required to answer her, and eventually I was left only with my anger. It felt quite odd and as though the team was not doing its work wholeheartedly. Sometimes, when the practitioners did do some work, they would do everything the wrong way, exactly the opposite of what I had asked them to do. It was as if they had done it on purpose, or understood everything the wrong way, or were confused by something.
The biggest problem I had during the preparations was that instead of delegating my authority to others who were supposed to help me, they eventually delegated their tasks back to me.
Last year, I knew I would have to do everything by myself. This year, I thought I would have a team assisting me, and that we would be doing everything in cooperation. The camp was supposed to be much more elaborate this year, larger in scope, and with a higher level of professionalism.
Not only did I not have any help this time, but people even complained to me and made various demands and claims. It came to a point that I was too afraid to read certain emails, because I knew there would be something in them that would upset me. And when I did read them, I would really get upset.
I felt so desperate that I thought of canceling it all, or at least transferring the camp to another location. But I felt the responsibility to keep going until the end, while balancing all the requests.
It reminded me of Master's reply to a disciple’s question in “Fa Teaching at the 2013 Greater New York Fa Conference”:
“When we first began Shen Yun, there were no small number of Dafa disciples involved in the arts. One would tell me, “Master, we should do it this way,” while another person would then claim the same thing about his own idea. One person would say this is how something is, while another person would tell me something different. They all sounded reasonable, and they even provided many examples. Almost daily I had people airing their ideas to me. What I was thinking was, “I’m the one who is doing this, so no one and no words can interfere, and I know very well how I should do it. If this were the coordinator of any regular project, he really wouldn’t be able to hold up.” Wow, some were really emphatic, and indeed hard to ward off. But if as a coordinator you aren’t set on your direction, you really won’t be able to get anything done.”
The hardest part was cultivating in a disharmonious environment, because suddenly I–who’s always been accustomed to working harmoniously on every project, have proudly shared my experience about it, always considered myself to be a person who exudes harmony all around me–suddenly found myself in the midst of disagreement.
I sunk into a bitter state of despair, remorse, insecurity, feelings of being victimized, anger, bitterness, guilt, insult, and perhaps even envy of all the people who managed to break loose of any obligation and left me alone. But above all, I felt self-disgusted and a sense of failure, because I thought to myself: these are the “sublime” feelings I have, and perhaps this task requires someone with a higher level of xinxing. I started to feel pressure in my chest, which grew stronger and spread all over my body. I actually told my husband, who’s also a practitioner, and several other practitioners, that I felt like was going to die.
I began sharing more frequently with fellow practitioners in France and Israel, and made sure I attended the Fa study groups online. On one occasion, I drew encouragement from Master’s words in “Teaching the Fa at the Fa Conference in Australia (1999)”:
“In fact, I treasure you more than you treasure yourselves, for you exist together with Master. You are the most magnificent gods of the future, the exemplary models of the new cosmos, and mankind’s hope for the future.”
This sentence encouraged me to keep up with my efforts.
On one occasion, a practitioner said, “Tell me, why you do this task?” and I replied, “I really can’t remember, and I also asked myself that question just the other day.” Then I remembered that this summer camp is actually a magical, magnificent time, in which everyone advances so nicely and all the children are so happy, and all is immersed in the Fa. It’s such a pure period of time, just as when I began my cultivation. And when one experiences it, one can remember everything Master has given us and can only feel grateful.
I came to realize that I should stop feeling bitter and should just work and ask for the help of anyone who could help, even if they weren’t on the original team. I started making phone calls to practitioners and parents, asking for their help. It was also a good opportunity for me to share my experiences with those parents.
Experience Sharing and Discovering My Attachments
While I called one of the mothers for help, I shared what I was going through. She said that she had seen similar cases, and assured me that the responsibility is mutual among all the parents, not only mine, and that it should be clear to me, although the camp was to be held in my home.
She said I should get rid of my attachments, which might be connected to the Mediterranean culture in which I grew up: being the perfect hostess who bakes wonderfully and cleans after everyone, to whom everyone says ‘you are such a wonderful host.’ She told me that I should break loose of that ego.
Another practitioner from Israel also said that I should let go of the attachment to perfection. She said, “So what? So it won’t be perfect. So let them say that it was lousy. So what, tell yourself and everyone else that you aren’t perfect after all, that you’re just a regular person.”
Thus, they helped me look within and work on my attachments to perfectionism and appeasing others, which are the root causes of my anxiety, anger and fear, which make me forget all about compassion.
That mother also told me that she experienced a similar situation herself, and that a fellow practitioner helped her see that the old forces are trying to separate us and throw us into despair, so that we won’t be able to do the work we should be doing.
Following that conversation, I started sending forth righteous thoughts and cleansing those disturbances. In the middle, someone unexpectedly sent me a text message, offering me her significant help.
Meanwhile, I also raised the subject while sharing my experience with Israeli practitioners online. I told them how the team I was supposed to coordinate wouldn’t listen to my instructions, and instead they told me what to do, and that I was really suffering.
In the middle of the sharing, I received an email from one of the parents, a practitioner, which was an exemplar on how instead of assisting me, people would always throw the ball back into my court. The practitioners online found the situation strange, too. One laughed and said, “It really does sound like a test.” Another agreed that it sounded so strange that it must be a test.
Sharing this experience with Israeli practitioners, I realized that these were all disturbances, exploiting some gaps in my xinxing. With their support, I got strong enough to look within myself and ignore the unpleasant things, which were in fact only tests and illusions. Following various understandings people shared with me and emails they sent afterwards, including a link to a sharing titled “Holes in the Heart,” it became much easier for me. That experience reminded me of the song “Realms” from Essentials for Further Advancement:
“A wicked person is born of jealousy.Out of selfishness and anger he complains about unfairness towards himself.A benevolent person always has a heart of compassion.With no discontentment or hatred, he takes hardship as joy.An enlightened person has no attachments at all.He quietly observes the people of the world deluded by illusions.”
Suddenly I was happy for receiving all those tests and strange emails, which allowed me to find all the gaps in my cultivation.
During that experience sharing, we also talked a lot about anger. Other practitioners shared about similar situations they had encountered, in which only a heart of compassion was helpful. They helped me realize that these conflicts occurred because the other practitioners were constantly seeking my divine, cultivated side, while I was letting them see only my human side.
Looking inward, I found that I didn't have enough trust in Master. I always felt I was holding a little fear in my heart, that decisions made by others would take the project in the wrong direction. Instead of believing [in what I already knew] that Master was the one who was leading, and who chose for the children and their parents the best way and the best environment required for their cultivation.
Concerning that parent who wrote the email, I ignored the part that made me feel angry and responded to the point to his question, which was, “I don’t understand why you are asking me to write the emails.” I thought that maybe he really didn’t understand, so okay, I would explain it to him with patience, simplicity and innocence. But at the same time, I also made it clear that I wasn’t going to do it for him. The next day, he consented to my request.
By the end of the summer camp, I initiated a wrap-up discussion online for all the parents of the young participants, on both rounds of the camp. Each group was curious to know what happened in the other group, because it was a bit different each time. The parents themselves suggested that next year, all parents should understand that having a successful Minghui camp is a mutual responsibility of all parents involved. In addition, the same practitioner who sent me the aggressive emails in the beginning had only positive things to say in the end.
The Summer Camp
Last year, when the summer camp was over, I heard that in New Jersey there was a three-week summer camp with professional dance instructors, originally from Fei Tian Academy of the Arts, as well as professional music and painting teachers. I wished in my heart that we would also have something like this in our summer camp. I felt that we lacked professional instruction in Chinese arts and dance.
While we started preparing for this year’s summer camp, a practitioner from Germany approached the Falun Dafa Association in France to coordinate the arrival of two Canadian practitioners who were both alumni of the Fei Tian Academy and Shen Yun Performing Arts. A French practitioner was placed in charge of arranging their accommodations, which would contain a dance hall in which they could give workshops for children aged seven or older.
In the beginning, they thought that it should be held in Paris. The German coordinator checked with other countries to gauge interest in hosting the two dancers. Eventually, three countries participated in covering their airfare and hosting the dancers: Germany, England and France.
Then, the French coordinator brought up the idea of integrating their workshops with the summer camp that was to be held in August in our house. This way, they could enrich the campers and constantly be immersed in Dafa, even while taking dancing classes. It was agreed that the two dancers would stay at our house during their entire two-week visit to France.
Our summer camp included two rounds, each spanning one week and hosting over 30 children and their parents. Because we did not yet qualify as a school under French law, we had to invite all the parents to stay with their children for it to be legal.
But I must mention that in previous years, we discovered that the parents, who are also practitioners, benefited greatly in terms of their personal cultivation. So this so-called “vacation” actually provided a very intensive cultivation environment which imposes daily tests, enabling families to learn from one another and advance together. It is this familial closeness that helped spouses who had not been cultivating before to start cultivating, too.
This year, more than ever, we felt that it was a Dafa activity with all of its implications, not only a summer camp. It might be because not only did we go through a period of intensive cultivation together, but we also held truth-clarification activities outside the camp. It seems that our initial decision to combine artists’ workshops with the summer camp was an excellent one.
Only practitioners and their children registered for the camp, but the dance workshops were open to everyone. I prepared leaflets and promoted the workshop in nearby towns and distributed them at my son’s school, another school, in shops, bakeries, etc.
In addition, a journalist who wrote an article about us in the past wrote a new article about our workshops, saying that the best teachers of Chinese dance would be there, and that there would also be a show at the resort in which the exercises would also be taught. For that reason, children and adults who were not cultivators also registered for our workshops.
In France, there is a company of practitioner dancers named “The Phoenix.” We once wanted them to perform at the resort next to our house, but it was too expensive for the resort management.
This year, the Phoenix dancers wanted to participate in the Shen Yun dancers’ workshops, but we had no room to host them. So we bartered with the resort: the company would sleep and eat there in exchange for giving performances. We also decided to hold the exercise site at that resort during the summer camp to maximize exposure. Every morning, a group of children and parents would leave our camp to go to the resort, where one of the parents took charge in teaching the exercises to whoever wished to learn them.
The Phoenix show attracted big audiences, and we brought the children to see the show. Following that performance, many people came to visit our exercise site.
Before the Phoenix show started, the dancers asked us to help make lotus flowers to distribute at the end of the show. Our children helped them prepare those flowers.
The dancers also held a workshop in the resort guesthouse to teach people to make paper flowers.
During the camp, the children also spent time riding horses, wall climbing and ski boarding. One of the parents arranged a treasure hunt game, and the other parents made costumes of magicians, knights, ferries and a dragon. The parents put on the costumes and “ambushed” the kids along the path. Most of the tasks in the game were related to Falun Dafa exercises, learning songs, etc. At the end of the game, a surprise campfire picnic awaited them.
At the end of each week, we held a final event and invited all the families of the non-practitioner children who participated in the dance workshops. I drew the idea from Germany, where they even held an experience sharing conference with the children.
The children knew in advance that they would be standing on a stage and raised their self-discipline. It was clear that the new standards led the children to advance diligently in their personal cultivation. It should be noted that the children gladly gave up their hour of play during their lunch break in order to rehearse for the final show.
The final show included two dances, two songs, and a performance of poems memorized from Hong Yin. For the second week, there was also a play about the persecution of Falun Dafa and a 14-year-old girl playing an erhu, a classical Chinese string instrument.
The children first seemed incapable of organizing such an event within a week's notice, but surprisingly they did a wonderful job. The boys in the first group went from disrupting classes the whole week to settling down, listening attentively, and becoming self-disciplined. The girls’ dance was so impressive that the audience believed they had previous dance training. It was just wonderful to see how everyone progressed, both in classes and on the playground.
Both cycles of the camp had excellent painting teachers. One taught the children how to work with charcoal, and the other taught the fundamentals of painting, still life, light and shade. One of the instructors took the children to the beach to collect shells and sand, and allowed them to express themselves freely with those materials. It was nice to see that the children picked subjects related to Dafa. Their final works were very beautiful and were presented at the final show.
In addition, at the end of the first cycle, we went with the dancers to Mont Saint-Michel, a famous tourist site in France. Many Chinese tourists visited the place. We were a large group with children, and as it is a busy place, we carried a flag to mark our location. The flag was yellow with "Falun Dafa is good" written on it. A lot of Chinese people enthusiastically took pictures of us and the banner.
As a matter of fact, on the first day of the camp I already felt completely different compared to how I had felt during the preparations. Suddenly, everything fell into place. Everything was perfectly organized. I realized that before I only saw the tribulations and the hard work, and wasn’t able to see how sublime this whole process was. But now it was clear that during the hard times, I wasn’t aware of processes and things that took place.
Today, it seems to me that the hardships I’ve encountered simply had to be that way in order for us to achieve that goal. There was no need to complain about others not being helpful. Working hard is just a part of it. It’s okay that I didn’t catch enough sleep. All I had to let go of were feelings of anger and despair.
Master said in “Lecture in Sydney”:
“While bearing all of this, you did not stoop to his level and your heart was very calm. You did not hit back or swear back. When your heart is very calm, think about it, hasn’t your Xinxing made progress in cultivation? If he does not create this trouble for you and he does not create pain and suffering for you, how can you practice cultivation? It is absolutely impossible for you to move up in cultivation and reach a level as high as you want by sitting there comfortably, drinking tea while watching TV. It is precisely in this complicated environment amidst trials and tribulations that you can improve your mind and reach high standards as well as high realms.”
This year, the Minghui summer camp was special and had a unique field of compassion, something that wasn’t felt that much in previous years.
One incident during the camp reflected the progress of the One Body and the growing influence of our divine side:
My 9-year-old son participated in the camp. On one of the last days, he fondly jumped on one of the other children, a 14-year-old girl. She was taken by surprise and fell to the ground. He apologized to her, but she only turned her head away and kept to herself. I arrived at that moment and saw the scene.
Meanwhile, he withdrew. I stood next to the girl and could actually feel her feelings as if they were mine. I went over to talk to him, and managed to convey her feelings to him. I started crying, and he started crying, too.
We went over to the girl and saw her sitting by herself, crying. When she saw us crying too, she was surprised. My son apologized to her, saying that he didn’t mean it. Another girl came by and asked what were we doing. I replied, “We’re crying.” The three of us burst into laughter, and everything melted away.
That girl later reported in an article published on the Minghui website that what touched her most was the compassionate environment provided within the group. She said she could feel in this camp a wave of compassion that does not exist elsewhere.
The subject of compassion prevailing in the camp was raised by other parents as well, saying that they not only felt compassion toward the children, but also a mutual sense of compassion among the adult practitioners. One practitioner indicated after the camp that she had felt how the compassion grew within her, and that it helped her in her current relationship, as well as in treating other practitioners when doing Dafa projects.
When I felt heaviness in my heart, my spouse, who is also a practitioner, took me to an observation point on top of a hill, from which we could see the vast ocean. That was also the spot where we held the campfire. My husband asked, “What do you see?” In the beginning I couldn’t understand what he wanted from me. Eventually, he said, “Right here before you is what Master taught us in Lecture Nine of Zhuan Falun:”
“…when you take a step back in a conflict, you will find the seas and the skies boundless, and it will certainly be another situation.”
Thank you, Master. Thank you, fellow practitioners.
(Shared at the 2014 Israel Experience Sharing Conference)
Category: Experience Sharing Conferences