Short Stories of My Recent Cultivation
Greetings, Master. Greetings, fellow practitioners.
Learning to Study the Fa
I’m originally from a small town near San Francisco and moved to New York City a little over 3 years ago.
Mother and I started practicing the exercises towards the end of 1998, but we did not know what it really meant to be a Dafa practitioner. We only knew that Dafa was good, and the exercises improved our health.
However, Mother and I sparingly studied the Fa. We would do the exercises, join Dafa activities, and attend Fa conferences. But in general, I was a child and “busy” with school, friends, and video games, while Mother was busy running a business.
As new practitioners, Mother and I were not aware of the necessity to study the Fa frequently. Perhaps we started as an “average person” who practiced on and off. It wasn’t until I attended a Minghui school summer camp that I read Zhuan Falun from start to finish for the first time. For those keeping track of my historical timeline, I was 14 then, so about 5 years had passed since I obtained the Fa. That was probably the first time I experienced what it was like to study the Fa and do the exercises every day.
But I was also starting high school and all my friends were not practitioners, so maintaining diligence and righteous thoughts was another issue to figure out. Gone were the days of being able to read the Fa every day, and once again I resumed my “average person” ways. At the time, Mother was also going through some difficult times with my father. A fellow practitioner reached out to help, and it was then that Mother and I developed the discipline to study the Fa every day. This practitioner explained the necessity of studying the Fa by comparing practitioners to batteries. The Fa charges you with righteous energy, and every action you perform expends that energy.
“All things are material. When you have heard something, it has been infused into you, and it enters your body. When you have seen something, it has entered. Do you know why some cultivators in the past made themselves blind or deaf? They understood this. They wanted nothing other than cultivation, and did not want to be polluted any further.” (“Fa Teaching on World Falun Dafa Day”)
Much of the world we consume, such as the music we listen to or the television we watch, contains negative energy. The only way to counteract this is by studying the Fa, which charges us with righteous energy. Consider all the things that we need energy for: negating the negative matter we consume through our senses, clearing out demons that interfere with us, sending forth righteous thoughts, maintaining righteous thoughts while doing Dafa work, etc. While the battery analogy is overly simplistic, the underlying concept was easily digestible to an adolescent me.
Although I was unable to see anything in other dimensions nor perform supernatural feats, Master reinforced my faith in other ways. When I was less diligent in studying the Fa, my face would break out in spots and my complexion would seem darker. When I was diligent, my face would clear up. Unfortunately, Mother often used this unreliable metric as a gauge for my cultivation status.
Moving to New York City
“...those who came here to be Dafa disciples: what was the vow that you made? did you honor that vow? what did the Lord Creator require of you? did you do as the Lord Creator required? If you did not honor your original vow or do as the Lord Creator required, then you would not have completed what you were supposed to do and would have in effect deceived the Lord. Since you would have thus brought losses to your local area's situation at that time, to the progress of Fa-rectification, and to the sentient beings that were thus not saved, and you would have thus brought damage or ruin to different levels of the cosmos, you would be held accountable.” (“Fa Teaching at the 2009 Greater New York International Fa Conference” from Collected Fa Teachings, Vol. IX)
Ever since this lecture, I have always wondered what my vow to Master was. Somehow, I fumbled my way through life, from high school, to college, to a working professional, with Master arranging everything and leaving breadcrumbs for me to follow and enlighten to what I’m supposed to do and where I’m supposed to be. Eventually, this led me to New York City.
Looking back, moving to NYC was extremely smooth, yet my attachments made it extremely turbulent. At the time, I was in a long distance relationship with a girl in the city and I was finally in a position to move there. I grew tired of waiting to be laid off, so I started applying to companies in NYC. For the job that I accepted, the interview process was so easy I thought it was a scam. The whole process took less than a month, the questions asked seemed too simple, they didn’t even fly me over to interview me in person, and a bunch of other things seemed like red flags. I eventually paid for the flight myself to visit the office and verify the legitimacy of the company. This was the smooth part. The turbulent part was that on the day I accepted the offer, the girl I was seeing decided to break up with me.
Master says, “To tell you the truth, the entire cultivation process for a practitioner is one of constantly giving up human attachments.” (Zhuan Falun)
I figured I’d be okay once I let go of my sentimentality, so I moved to NYC anyway. I seemed fine but there was a sense of darkness creeping in me that I didn’t want to admit. I had pretty much uprooted myself from my home state, my friends, my mother, and everything I was familiar with. I was nearly assaulted on the subway, had to deal with roommates who smoked weed in their rooms amongst other things, and I felt miserable and lonely since I didn’t really know anyone in the city. I didn’t understand why all of this was happening. It was all too easy to blame someone else rather than looking inside.
“This is something I often say: once you take up Dafa, whatever it is you encounter--good or bad--it is a good thing (applause), for it came about only because you cultivate in Dafa.” (“Teaching the Fa in San Francisco, 2005”)
I knew this was a tribulation to pass and I knew the cause was sentimentality, but I couldn’t let it go. There were many times when my thoughts wandered into extremely dark places, but Master always arranged someone to pull me back up.
“While many things may have seemed to have no rhyme or reason, all, in fact, had an order about them and, for your benefit, served to extend, bit-by-bit, this final chapter of history meant for Fa-rectification.” (“Fa Teaching Given at the 2010 New York Fa Conference”)
In the end, I realized that suffering only happens when you deviate from Master’s arrangements due to not letting go of attachments. Only after half a year did I start to understand the arrangement: it was the “stick warning” from Master to improve my cultivation and save sentient beings. I posited that I should have moved to NYC even earlier and must have missed a million signs and hints, and Master had to use this deep attachment to sentimentality to get me to make the move.
Finding Dafa-Validating Work
Not being able to work in the [Dafa practitioner-run] media full time meant not being able to find a sustainable source of Dafa work as a means to save sentient beings. On an extreme level, having a stable career and being financially afloat felt meaningless since I wasn’t fulfilling my vows to Master. Back home in California, I occasionally helped out with the school run by Dafa practitioners in San Francisco, but could never commit to a project for the long term. Every time I tried, I was heavily interfered with by lacking the mental bandwidth after a full day’s work, being pulled away by ordinary friends, or just sheer laziness.
Once I moved to NYC, I was determined to find something to do but was set on doing something computer-related since that was my specialty and computer work is generally more flexible in terms of location and time. The problem was my computer skillset is very specialized, and I was particularly picky about what I wanted to do. Everything had to be perfectly aligned before I decided to do it. Hence no real work ever came my way. I occasionally did some bits and pieces but nothing sustainable. Eventually I gave up on the search.
An opportunity came to train in traditional Chinese martial arts under a local practitioner who was a judge at previous New Tang Dynasty martial arts competitions. I had competed twice before, so I decided to train under this practitioner in hopes to display authentic Chinese martial arts to the world, and to have access to the martial arts community to clarify the truth should the opportunity come up. But once the NTD competition was over, there was no real purpose for further intensive training.
I planted seeds for a potential plan by winning in competitions hosted by ordinary people and qualifying to compete in China representing the US wushu team. The competition was over a year away, and I wasn’t 100% positive on how to proceed with this. Would I cause a ruckus before the competition so that I would be banned from entering the country? Or would I cause a ruckus at the competition and potentially get detained? Either way, the plan to raise awareness of the persecution by becoming famous in the Chinese martial arts world seemed flakey at best.
Another opportunity came by when a practitioner introduced me to a team that needed some assistance with their web server migration. The skillset required was a perfect match. This sort of work was literally what I did for a living. I was ecstatic and worked on this whenever I had the chance. However, two months after my onboarding, the company went through a restructuring and the whole project was canceled so I was back at square one.
At this point, I felt truly dejected. I kept asking myself what was I doing in New York City, since nothing had really progressed with regards to saving sentient beings. The dust had not settled from the restructuring at the company, so my contacts weren’t even sure what they could assign me.
There’s an ordinary saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I knew I had to change something, as my life was stuck in this ineffective routine where I’d go to work and return home on weekdays, train in martial arts and frolic in the city on weekends. Obviously I wasn’t going to give up frolicking, so I retired from martial arts seeing as I just won bronze at the last NTD competition and thought it better to quit while ahead.
Once I did, opportunities for Dafa work started to appear within a week. It was the perfect actualization of “no loss, no gain” that Master has lectured on many times in Zhuan Falun. I also realized I was too attached to finding what I wanted to do, and thus blinded myself from other opportunities.
So as of now, I help set up the cameras for a live broadcast discussing contemporary issues in China on Monday nights and spend a fair amount of time creating and testing recipes for the food team at the same organization.
Maintaining Righteous Thoughts
As I grew older, I gained more notions without realizing it. And slowly, these notions became the gaps that gave the old forces an opportunity to slip in.
“You have gone through so much in all these years of cultivation, and yet many people have really done poorly. They constantly make all sorts of mistakes, and have even grown used to it, and consider it nothing; even when ordeals come they don’t realize where the problem lies, as they have become accustomed to it and consider [their attachments] just little things. But it’s cultivation—whatever happened to being “free of gaps” (wu-lou)? There are no little things.” (“Fa Teaching at the 2015 West Coast Fa Conference”)
A few months ago, I met up with a friend and she told me our other friend was recovering from surgery after an unexpected case of appendicitis. He'd suddenly felt discomfort in that area and suffered extreme pain when applying pressure. Later on, he was transported to the hospital to be operated on. I didn’t think much of this at the time, but it planted a seed of doubt in my mind when I thought “Wow, this could happen to anyone, and it could happen so suddenly.”
A few months later, I had a slight discomfort on my lower left side, as if some organ had expanded and was pushing against everything else. Immediately, my first thought was, “Oh no, do I have appendicitis? Do I need to be rushed to the hospital?” I squeezed that area, and felt relief that there wasn’t intense pain. This happened several times over the next few days.
The worst thing was that I knew this was an illusion, but could not stop the negative thoughts in my mind, which triggered another thought that this illusion might become real if the old forces were to take advantage of this attachment. This led to more negative thoughts. This downward spiral persisted for 2 weeks, and my reaction was always to wonder if it were appendicitis, followed by squeezing that area. Finally, I realized that these were all illusions, and started to send forth righteous thoughts to eliminate those thoughts and elements. After that, the discomfort and the negative thoughts disappeared. It’s amusing and disappointing to think that a veteran practitioner like myself could still fail a simple tribulation like this, yet that seed was planted in an unexpected moment.
While writing this sharing, I looked up appendicitis and found out that the symptom is pain in the right side, not the left side like I assumed. I had created an additional tribulation for myself out of nothing, like Master says:
“Then, doesn’t it create a psychological burden for you? Isn’t it an attachment if you burden yourself with thinking about it? So how can this attachment be removed? Haven’t you self-imposed an additional tribulation on yourself? Won’t you have to suffer more to give up this attachment? Every test or every tribulation is related to the matter of either progression or regression in cultivation. It is already difficult, yet still you add this self-imposed tribulation.” (Zhuan Falun)
In closing, Master has reminded us many times how little time we have. I know I have missed many opportunities, but I can only aim to do better so I don’t have more regrets.
If there are any issues with my understandings, please compassionately point them out.
Thank you fellow, practitioners. Thank you, Master.
(Presented at the 2018 New York English Experience Sharing Conference)