My Design Work Reflects My Cultivation
(Minghui.org) Greetings, Esteemed Master and fellow practitioners:
I have been designing materials with Shen Yun motifs for several years. I have come to understand many things, both about cooperation and what's needed for my personal cultivation.
I started to practice Falun Dafa when I was in my 20s and was computer illiterate. The first flyers we used to clarify the truth about Falun Dafa in Hungary and also in Germany used to be done by hand. However, when I started working for the German Epoch Times, I became familiar with the computer.
Practitioners asked me if I would try designing advertisements, but I felt helpless at the beginning. When I look at the designs we used to come up with, I feel ashamed. Now I understand that it was supposed to be that way and that it would somehow lead me to design materials.
I decided to teach myself, so I talked to professional graphic designers and exchanged ideas. The advice was so simple and so effective that, even after 15 years, I still remember it. I understood that Dafa practitioners have the wisdom to learn faster than others. The computer was soon integrated into my everyday life, and I became more and more efficient in its use.
But everything seemed incredible: I had no professional training and no prior computer knowledge, yet I became more and more skilled. I seemed to acquire the right skills at the right time, as in when I had to design the print newspaper, then design magazines. Once the projects were over, I no longer had the skill. I knew that Master and gods had given them to me when they were needed.
When I wasn't in the Fa, I made mistakes or the design wasn't good. More often than not, I was criticized: the design was too dark, too modern, or too harsh. I wondered why my design was criticized again and again. Gradually, I understood that it had to do with me. I copied from the best, but they were ordinary people, living in a degenerate society, where graphic design, like all other forms of art, were adulterated.
I realized that I had to look deeper if my thoughts were too dark and modern. That was when I realized that I didn't have righteous thoughts when it came to design and I didn't have righteous thoughts when it came to everyday cultivation. I wasn't immersed in the Fa, because I listened to ordinary music as I worked. I did not rely on the truthfulness within me as a Dafa practitioner.
“So the resulting so-called arts aren't human culture anymore, because they're not produced with rationality or a clear mind, and they're not true, beautiful things of mankind created with people's upright thoughts, good thoughts, or a correct understanding of artistic beauty. With that, the arts are degenerating.”(“Teaching the Fa at the Discussion on Creating Fine Art,” Teaching the Fa at the Discussion on Writing Music and Creating Fine Art)
I didn't learn the Fa in-depth, and I was often busy with projects, so my learning the teaches was disrupted by all kinds of thoughts. How could I let truthfulness arise within me? After this insight, I understood that the effect didn't depend on how much I learned, but on how I cultivated myself.
“But no matter what profession it is, if the artist himself establishes an upright foundation, then no matter what works he creates, they'll all be infused with upright elements, and they'll all be wonderful, good, and will benefit people. That's for sure.” (“Teaching the Fa at the Discussion on Creating Fine Art,” Teaching the Fa at the Discussion on Writing Music and Creating Fine Art)
I did not know it yet, but the way was paved so that one day I could make the materials for Shen Yun for Germany.
A Great Honor
When I was asked if I could design Shen Yun materials for The Epoch Times, I hesitated. There was already an established team that already had gained some experience, but I was still a novice. At first I only designed a few small advertisements, but my contributions increased, and five years ago I took over the coordination for the design team. I didn't know what it really meant, but it felt like a knighthood. I felt incredibly honored to be offered such a huge responsibility.
Everything I had learned I could now use. I remembered the skills for newspaper and magazine design, but they needed to be improved. The difficulties also began because I felt responsible for complying with the Shen Yun guidelines.
I acted like a police officer, warning every coordinator to adhere to the rules! I became inflexible, I fought inside with myself and struggled. On one side were the coordinators, on the other, the Shen Yun office. I saw the two sides as opposites, as the methods they used were totally different. I was in the middle and tried to justify the decisions of both sides. I felt used, unfairly treated, and completely exhausted from the conflicts.
We were not really successful in Germany, resulting in dismal thoughts. Very often, I wanted to give up. What held me back was the fact that nobody offered to replace me. I simply saw no way out but to endure.
“"When it’s difficult to endure, you can endure it. When it’s impossible to do, you can do it." In fact, that is how it is. Why don’t you give it a try when you return home. When you are overcoming a real hardship or tribulation, you try it. When it is difficult to endure, try to endure it.” ( Lecture Nine, Zhuan Falun)
Some coordinators wanted design changes, a different image, different colors, even different fonts. I even had to include eight different fonts in one advertisement. I tried to explain that this is not common nor professional but without success. I felt like a troublemaker, and that's exactly what a practitioner said to me, “I can't work with you because you reject everything and are a troublemaker.” That hit me very hard. The former coordinator said that I should copy Han Xin and crawl between the legs, because the responsibility was not mine, but hers.
Through this conflict I learned a lot and let go of my pride. Although every cell in my body was against it, I did what the coordinators wanted. Suddenly I saw that I could do it: I could forebear and let go of my pride. But that wasn't sincere because it wasn't pure cooperation. I only participated and endured, only did what I was told, but in my heart I fought against it. Physically, I was not well and often had headaches.
The conflict was complicated by the fact that we had no success with the advertisements. But I did not honestly and openly state my point of view but simply continued. I thought it was the kind of cooperation that Master wanted from us.
But this is not what Master wants. I really should have taken greater responsibility, and contributed to the success of the advertisements. I was deeply involved in such a small war that I didn't pay any attention to rationality. When I realized that and was able to forbear, the situation changed, but the oppressive feeling that it wasn't going right lodged stubbornly in my soul.
I asked: “Where was the trust? Why don't you listen to us designers?” But I should have asked other questions: “How can I help them recognize it? How can I guide them in a direction that enables the advertisements to reach more people?” Because I believe that everything that comes from the Shen Yun office is correct and should only be adapted to the required format.
I have realized that I should let go of my attachments and not be trapped in human trifles. I only cooperated superficially and was not sincere and open. I only thought about who was right and who was wrong.
“As a cultivatorOne always looks for one’s own faults’Tis the Way to get rid of attachments most effectively There’s no way to skip ordeals, big or small[During a conflict, if you can remember:]“He’s right,And I’m wrong,”What’s to dispute?”(“Who’s Right, Who’s Wrong,” Hong Yin III)
Pay Attention to the Details
But one of the points of criticism took longer to hit home. I didn't understand what it meant at first, but I saw the light when a practitioner said, “You don't pay enough attention to the details.” I wondered what she was trying to tell me. I was diligent and solid. But then it started to dawn on me that this was not only reflected in the design but also in my cultivation and everyday life.
For example, in my home I didn't pay attention to proper cleanliness. When dealing with others, I didn't pay attention to my words, so I sometimes created misunderstandings. And, finally, when it came to design, I didn't pay attention to the details, which are especially important given the professional standards of Shen Yun materials.
I have now begun to pay attention to them and do more than just go over things quickly and superficially. I realized that I always wanted to be fast to get ahead of others. It's a hidden ambition that is rooted in the pursuit of fame. It's more important to think carefully about things than to do them impulsively. Since I realized this, I have been trying to be more thoughtful. Also, when it comes to cooperation, I notice that we often take more time and that it is necessary to do that. This gives everything more substance and I make fewer mistakes.
When I first attended a Shen Yun meeting in New York two years ago and the chief designer talked about the design, I was flabbergasted. He pointed at the weaknesses in our design and explained why some elements worked and others didn't.
I sank deeper and deeper into the chair, because I was so ashamed. I was so anxious to do the supposedly “right thing” that I didn't realize that I had done something wrong myself. The chief designer's examples clearly showed me what I had done wrong in the design and that was a good lesson for me. From a cultivation point of view, I realized that I was looking too much outwards, too much at what the coordinator was thinking or doing wrong, without really cooperating and being in the supporting role.
I swallowed that bitter pill, as I felt deeply ashamed. I was so anxious to do what was right, which prevented me from realizing that I did some things wrong.
“The things you made lacked artistic sense as well as a grasp of traditional and artistic use of color. Many of them look uncultured to me, so they stand to hurt Shen Yun’s reputation.” (“Fa Teaching Given at the New York Fa Conference Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Dafa’s Spreading” Team Yellow Translation)
We had designed so many advertisements that were exactly as Master mentioned—countless advertisements that didn't meet the standard. I noticed how fundamental it is to adhere to Master's words and carry out the task he gives us.
From then on, there was no problem of who was right or who was wrong. My heart has calmed down, the quality of the design has improved, and we sell more and more tickets year after year.
(Presented at the 2019 Germany Fa Conference)