(Minghui.org) Greetings, Master! Greetings, fellow practitioners!
I would like to share some experiences from my 19 years of cultivation as a Western Falun Dafa practitioner and the process I went through to carry out the role of coordinator.
In the spring of 1997 I was introduced to the practice of Falun Dafa by my coworker at a high-tech company in Silicon Valley. After explaining to her that I was on a spiritual path and was not pursuing a career like most people my age, she told me about the practice and returned a few days later with the English version of Zhuan Falun. With its light blue cover filled with different sizes of Falun emblems, and opening the book to see the picture of Master wearing an orange robe, I had a feeling that this was something special, but did not know what I was about to discover: The Dafa of the universe!
After reading through the book several times, and realizing that this was the path that I had been looking for, I expressed interest in learning the exercises as well. She set up a meeting with a third colleague who was also a practitioner, and they proceeded to teach me the five exercises. Little did I know at the time that many years later the three of us would serve as Falun Dafa Association coordinators for our region of Northern California. Master’s plan for each and every one of us is truly arranged very well.
My colleague invited me to some special group activities that were taking place on an upcoming weekend. A big group practice was held at Ortega Park to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Master’s first Fa teaching in the United States in Sunnyvale, California. As the park was the actual site of Master’s lecture, many people felt that it was a special place. I met many practitioners who welcomed me on the path of cultivation. Later that day we went to Stanford University where a small-scale Fa conference was held. All the speeches were given in Chinese and no translation was provided, so I just sat there observing the environment. I had a good impression of the practitioners, and the energy field seemed to be very righteous, so I decided to continue on my path of cultivation in Falun Dafa, getting rid of all other spiritual books that I had at my apartment.
A couple of days later Master began to purify my body with powerful, clean energy. I excitedly spoke to my colleague about my experiences, and she suggested that we start an English Fa study group so that I would have an environment to study and share with my fellow practitioners. A Stanford graduate student found a room for us on campus and we began to hold an English Fa study every Friday night. For the most part it was myself and several other Chinese practitioners who attended each week. After 2-3 months, one of the veteran practitioners suggested that since this was an English study group, it would make more sense to have a native English speaker host the group, rather than a Chinese practitioner. I agreed, and just like that I became an assistant for English-speaking practitioners. It was a little awkward playing the role of an assistant while still feeling very much like a new practitioner at the same time. But it was something arranged for my cultivation so I had to step up and fulfill my responsibility.
Cultivation practice in those days was relatively simple. We practiced the exercises every morning, went to work during the daytime, and studied the Fa in the evenings. And on weekends we went out to different parks and festivals to promote the practice to society. I wasn’t sure how to be a good assistant, so I read Zhuan Falun after coming home from work, and read Essentials for Further Advancement each night before going to bed. Master’s short articles helped to guide my understanding of the role and responsibilities of being an assistant.
Over the months, several Westerners came and went, studying the Fa with us on Friday nights, or coming to the park to learn the exercises. But few remained in the long run for various reasons. Finally we had one new Western practitioner who was quite serious about Falun Dafa, so I was determined to help him attain the Fa. Because of his early work schedule and living arrangements, the only time he could get together with us to practice was in the evening. So we started a practice group from 8-10 p.m. in the evening, once or twice a week. Western practitioners have their unique cultural background and various concepts and notions that they have to overcome, so it was important to maintain a steady Fa study group where they could feel welcome and could speak in their native language to share their understandings.
On July 20, 1999 the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) began to arrest and persecute Falun Dafa practitioners in China on a large scale. It was somewhat unexpected for me as I had not grown up in that society so couldn’t imagine how our practitioners could be perceived as a threat to the government. But regardless of the reasons for the persecution, we had no choice but to respond and use our position in the free world to raise awareness and gather support from kind-hearted people everywhere. Many practitioners were traveling to Washington DC to clarify the truth to the U.S. government.
But it just so happened that we had scheduled a large-scale experience sharing conference to be held in San Jose on July 24. We were told to go ahead and continue with our plans for the conference and afterwards practitioners could go to Washington DC if they wanted to. After the conference ended some of the practitioners from our area made plans to travel to Washington DC. I wasn’t sure what to do as my mother had just arrived in the Bay Area to visit me. This was her first time coming to see me after I left home (Chicago) five years before. It was a test for me whether I could let go of the attachment of sentimentality to family. A few of us practitioners studied the Fa at my apartment and discussed what to do. I decided that I should step forward to defend the Fa and booked a ticket to DC on a flight that was leaving just a few hours later.
Once we arrived in DC we joined other coordinators who were staying in the same hotel. I was asked to help coordinate the Western United States, making sure that there were practitioners assigned to visit each and every office for the congressmen and senators representing our region. It was a good opportunity for me build confidence as a coordinator as my personality is not like the natural leader type of person. This was probably the first time I saw practitioners come together and cooperate unconditionally even though many of us didn’t know each other before arriving in DC. It was simply our instinct to speak out on behalf of Falun Dafa after having benefited from the practice and having a deep understanding of Fa principles.
After returning home from Washington DC, we organized press conferences, held protests at the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, and told our friends, family, and coworkers about the persecution. One practitioner suggested that we could hold Falun Dafa introductory workshops to let more people know about the practice, and to explain how irrational the persecution in China is as we are only cultivating Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance and have no interest in political power. This fellow practitioner helped to arrange the workshops in different cities all over Northern California and put advertisements in local newspapers to let people know we were coming. My job was to give the presentation and to teach the exercises afterwards. We also answered people’s questions as it was a bit hard for Americans to understand how the evil CCP could persecute such peaceful members of society. Many kind-hearted Americans expressed their sincere concern for Falun Gong practitioners and wished us luck.
Several months went by and we traveled up and down the state of California over a range of 500 miles to give workshops. It was a great opportunity both to save people and for myself as a cultivator to let go of the fear of speaking in public and to develop a heart of compassion for sentient beings. In November 1999 some of the main coordinators from the Falun Dafa Association came to the West Coast during the Seattle WTO protests. I was asked to join the Western U.S. Falun Dafa Association to help coordinate Falun Dafa activities in our region. Although I was not sure what this role would require of me, it was once again something arranged for my cultivation so I accepted the responsibility.
In the year 2000 we made some efforts to organize and communicate with the assistants in the Western United States. We reached out to some assistants individually to get to know them, and held conference calls so that we could update each other on how things were going in our areas. It was important that practitioners in each place kept up with the progress of the Fa-rectification and helped to save the sentient beings that they had predestined relationships with, no matter where they happened to live. The states in the Western region are very spread out and some states only have a few practitioners living there. This makes it more challenging for them to have a cultivation environment and to have the support that comes with being part of a larger group like we have in Northern California.
Just as I was beginning to more fully play the role of a coordinator I ran across a very big tribulation in my cultivation path. Some practitioners who had traveled to Beijing to validate the Fa were thrown into prison and later released. When they returned to the U.S. they brought back with them some physical karma that was being used by the old forces to persecute practitioners in the jails in China. For some reason I must have had a loophole in my cultivation and I started to develop physical symptoms just like the practitioners in China have when they are in jail. The physical tribulation became more serious over the course of several months and eventually I was unable to continue working as my body was in such a poor state of health.Unfortunately at that time Master had not yet explicitly taught us the Fa on how to send forth righteous thoughts, and I didn’t enlighten on how to handle myself during this difficult test. So the tribulation dragged on for many months and I took an unpaid leave of absence from my job. I withdrew from the cultivation community and just endured the tribulation, thinking that eventually the karma would be eliminated and things would get better. This was a very passive way of facing the tribulation and caused it to last much longer than it should have. Although we hadn’t been given the tool of sending forth righteous thoughts, I should have used the power of Fa study and exercises to eliminate this evil thing from my body. But I didn’t stay diligent so things didn’t improve. The loneliness and suffering that I experienced during those months was almost too much to bear. I lost confidence in myself as a practitioner. The only thing that kept me going was that I would read every sharing article published on the Minghui website each day. I felt closer to the practitioners in China who were suffering during the persecution.
In the spring of 2001 Master gave a lecture at the Canada Fa Conference and taught us how to send forth righteous thoughts. I joined fellow practitioners at the Chinese Consulate to send forth righteous thoughts globally at specific times. Gradually I began to change from passively enduring the tribulation to proactively eliminating this evil thing from my body. I was able to rejoin the cultivation community and recover my normal state of health. But I was never the same person after that. I had an empty feeling inside as though a part of me had been taken away. I realized the seriousness of cultivation and that we have to follow Master’s Fa closely whenever encountering any difficulties along our path.
In the years that followed I went through several major changes in my life, getting married, going to graduate school to get an advanced degree, and putting more focus on my ordinary people’s career. It was at that time the English version of The Epoch Times newspaper was being formed. When local practitioners decided to create an English Epoch Times edition in San Francisco the coordinator of the project asked me to help out. I accepted the job and took on the role of managing editor for the San Francisco English Epoch Times. In the past it was always Chinese practitioners who were taking a leading role on various projects. Now there was a way for English speakers to lead their own project, and through this process we could mature as cultivators and save many sentient beings at the same time. I cherished this opportunity, and spent the next 7.5 years continuously working as an editor for EET.
Sometimes as a Western practitioner I felt like an outsider, as more than 90% of the practitioners in our area are Chinese. It was difficult to stay focused and follow the progress of the Fa-rectification. But now with my involvement in English Epoch Times, I was able to keep up with the pace of Fa-rectification at each step of the way. And because our newspaper was being published every week, there was little opportunity to slack off and slip back into the life of an ordinary person, as we had a job to do and readers who depended on us.
In the year 2011 the main coordinator for our area reformed our local Falun Dafa Association. With the development of the Falun Dafa in society and the tour of Shen Yun Performing Arts reaching more and more cities, many Dafa Associations were being established in different places, so it wasn’t necessary to have a Western U.S. Falun Dafa Association anymore. Our new coordinating group was based in San Francisco and focused its efforts on improving the cultivation environment in Northern California. I was asked to be a part of this new association so began to refocus my efforts on playing the role of an assistant.
Master gave some guidance to our local practitioners, so we knew that San Francisco should be the main focus for truth clarification in our area. We established a new English Fa study group in San Francisco, and several practitioners moved to the city from the East Coast to support the English Epoch Times. That summer, we held a small-scale Fahui which used English as the primary language. As the coordinator of the Fahui, I encouraged all the English-speaking practitioners to write sharing articles, and I reviewed each article and arranged for translation to Chinese. It was a special day for all of us; many people came up to me afterwards and mentioned how they had been touched by the open and honest sharing of the English-speaking practitioners.
After thinking it over for many months, I decided that I should resign from the Epoch Times newspaper and focus more on being an assistant. It was a tough decision to make as I really cherished being part of the media team and knew that we had a shortage of native English speakers who could serve as editors. But I felt like I was stepping on two boats at the same time, and I couldn’t do a good job at either position, either as an editor or as an assistant. I submitted my letter of resignation and continued to work on improving the cultivation environment for English-speaking practitioners.
One other highlight in my assistant work during the past few years is when we decided to hold an experience sharing conference for young Dafa disciples in San Francisco. We reached out to the students at the Fei Tian Academy of the Arts California as well as other local young disciples. Once again as coordinator of a small-scale Fa conference I had the opportunity to be closely involved in reviewing the sharing articles and making sure that everything was arranged well for the conference. One theme which came up in many of the articles is that young disciples are heavily influenced by the attachment to playing video games. To some children the attachment is so strong that it becomes like an addiction, and they can’t stop thinking about it. This is warning for all of us parents with young children that should be taken seriously.
During the past two years we have put more effort into organizing our big group Fa study every Saturday night. We give different assistants and project leaders the opportunity to take turns hosting the discussion after we read the Fa. On one particular evening last year, our main coordinator was supposed to host the discussion, but he got pulled out of the room at the last minute to handle something urgent. He handed the microphone to me and asked me to take care of the hosting job while he was gone. Although I had hosted the big group discussion before, this was the first time that I was given the task without any advance notice. So I had no prepared speakers or discussion topics. I got up in front of more than 200 people and asked if anyone wanted to share. The room was very quiet and no one volunteered to speak. Since I was holding the microphone, I decided to open up and share about one of my biggest problems. I shared straight from my heart about the attachment to lust, a problem which I had been unable to eliminate completely. I had wanted to talk about it before, but was concerned that if I did I might damage the reputation of the Dafa Association, and lose the confidence of our local practitioners. But at that moment I put down all my barriers and just spoke from the heart. I am thankful that we have such a pure environment where we can help each other to break through difficulties like this.
About one year ago we decided to start another big group Fa study in San Jose to complement the main group in San Francisco. The two cities are about 60 miles apart, and we found that some of the practitioners were not able to make it to San Francisco regularly. The new San Jose group would give these practitioners a chance to participate in the big group environment and to keep up with the development of the Fa-rectification. I was asked to take responsibility for this new group. This new responsibility has given me another opportunity to improve myself and to gain more experience as a coordinator. I had to find and choose a location for the group study, make sure the rent is paid on time each month, and try to maintain a good working relationship with the ordinary people who own the facility. Also I have to assign a person to host the group discussion each week. Sometimes practitioners try to avoid taking on the challenge of being a host, and I have to give them a little push until they agree to the task. It is not really my normal personality to do this kind of thing. Especially it is a little funny when I have to give assignments to Chinese practitioners who are hesitating. In the past it was always the other way around, Western practitioners being told what to do by Chinese practitioners. But I am getting used to my new role and overall I think the big group Fa study in San Jose has had a positive impact in our area.
As an assistant, I always try to remember one of Master’s teachings which helps to guide my attitude and behavior as a responsible person.
Master said in “Appendix III, The Standards for Falun Dafa Assistants” from The Great Way of Spiritual Perfection:
“At the practice sites, assistants must be strict with themselves but generous with others. They have to maintain their character and be helpful and friendly.”
Let us help the practitioners in our areas to fulfill their missions and try to save all the predestined people.
Thank you Master!Thank you fellow practitioners!
(Presented at 2016 New York Falun Dafa Cultivation Experience Sharing Conference)