(Minghui.org) The first time I saw Shen Yun live, I was eight years old. I felt the powerful energy from the show and knew they were doing something powerfully meaningful. And what a great honor to actively save sentient beings and awaken the world through such a beautiful production. 

I began learning the violin and sawed away for three hours every day, but improvement was questionable, since I did not have very good teachers. Then, when I was 12, my older sister, a dancer in Shen Yun at the time, suggested that I try dancing. So, for the next two years I found myself studying at Fei Tian Academy of the Arts in California. 

I found dancing was not my forte and returned home for high school. As I got busy with my academics, I stopped dreaming of going to Shen Yun. In the next two years though, as I watched Shen Yun, I felt something rekindle from within, a sense of direction and greater purpose that motivated me again to pick up my violin. 

At 16, the summer of my junior year, an amazing event happened. My mom received a phone call from a practitioner from another state, who heard me practicing and suggested that I go study with her daughter’s teacher, Mr. Hua. It seemed like a great opportunity, and my brother, my mother, and I spent that summer at a local practitioner’s house learning violin. I knew that it might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and grasped it thirstily. I had two 90-minute lessons every week and practiced about eight hours a day. I found my human limit one day when my fingers bled from practicing 10 hours. 

At the end of the summer, I submitted an audition tape. I did not make it into Fei Tian, but Mr. Hua was impressed with my dedication and progress and encouraged me to find a professor at a conservatory to continue studying.

I then auditioned and was accepted by a famed violin professor in my state. He is known not to accept pupils, but he accepted me. His guidance helped me improve a lot.

My senior year was very busy with academics and extracurriculars, so I had to grasp all spare moments to practice. Even an extra 15 minutes to practice during lunch break could not be wasted, and I used the time waiting for my mom to pick me up after school to listen to audition pieces. My plan was to audition for a local conservatory, and then if I got in, it would mean I was ready to audition for Fei Tian. At the audition, the music just seemed to flow from somewhere deep within, and I was not nervous at all. The audition went very well, and I was accepted. 

At Fei Tian

I also auditioned for Fei Tian in April of 2016 and was verbally admitted. Considering the short period of time for which I had formally studied music, I thought it would be better to obtain a degree and then audition for Fei Tian or Shen Yun. My older sister had a different idea: when she came home in June for summer break, every day she would talk to my mom about how Fa-rectification was pressing forward and that I would be wasting my time by studying outside instead of going to Fei Tian. A week later, on June 8, 2016, I found myself on an airplane to New York.

After I arrived, I found myself in a peaceful and focused environment. The cultivation environment was very pristine, and you could feel that people were sincere and very dedicated to improving. I was inspired to practice a lot but also struggled with the orchestra music since I had never played so much music before and was unfamiliar with many of the techniques needed. Many people tried to help me, but my music level seemed to be stuck. At a teacher’s suggestion, I made the switch from violin to viola.

Half a year later, I was doing well and placed in a touring group. Shortly after though, the viola teacher I was studying with left the school, so I had to look for a teacher in Manhattan. I studied with a famed music teacher in Manhattan, but what she taught was rather unorthodox, making it hard to understand. I tried my best, practiced as well as I could, and toured that year. There were amazing moments but also equally many depressing moments as I continued to struggle with playing in the orchestra.

After the summer break, my viola teacher went out of town, and I immediately began the search for a new teacher. After a month of trying a teacher, I told myself that I would keep searching until I found a teacher who could help address all my technical and musical needs. I had an earnest conversation with a violist in one of the Shen Yun orchestras and asked her to be my teacher.

She had a reputation of being quite tough but great for students who needed systematic training. Having seen the results in one of her former students, I developed an attachment and really wanted to become a photocopy of that student and be confident. We progressed awesomely for four months, and then some complications happened. I then self-studied for half a year. I became a better problem solver and made good progress under the circumstances, but ultimately I was depressed since I knew I was not becoming professional quickly enough.

During and after my second tour in 2019, I began to think much more seriously about why I was doing this and what cultivation was. Doing some soul-searching, I found that my motive was right: it was to assist Master to save sentient beings. Was I trying? Physically, I had done everything in my power; I was practicing 6 to 7 hours every day. The great violinist Paganini had practiced 14 hours a day; maybe I had not tried hard enough? If I practiced more than 8 hours, I wouldn’t be able to move my arms for almost two days afterward. I then remembered: cultivation (xiu lian). Master had said that the people in Shen Yun were first and foremost cultivators, then artists. It dawned on me that I had used all human methods to their limits but had not considered the equally important factor of cultivation.

I began looking within. What attachments did I have? Worry was a huge one. Worry of failing, worry of disappointing Master. But why was I in my current state, tormenting myself? Because I wanted to fulfill my mission, and I felt I had talent in music and could use it to save sentient beings. Why did I not go to music school two years ago? Why did I not stop when my mom suggested I go to a different music school or even just quit? What if Fa-rectification did end while I studied at an outside conservatory?

During this time, I finally summoned the courage to share my thoughts with a veteran practitioner about quitting. We agreed that it is challenging to succeed at the arts if one did not start studying at a young age to build a good technical foundation. Music and the performing arts are by nature a competitive field; she still had the pressure too. How did she make it and continually inspire herself? Give it everything you have and just go at it with the force of your life, she told me.

Talking to her inspired me a lot, as she looked so gentle externally and had such great motivation internally. I decided then, no matter what happens in the future, I would just try harder at cultivation and figure out how to become a better musician. I told myself, “I’m going to put in my 200% and not doubt myself or think any negative thoughts. Things are what they are right now, so from now on, every day I can be here, I will cherish it and not leave any regrets for myself.”

I had heard of life-and-death tribulations before. Living in a society without persecution of my faith, I did not know what it felt like, but somehow it felt this was the trial that would be the breakthrough I sought. When I made that commitment, a feeling of relief and an incredible feeling of peace emanated from within my body.

I made a lot of progress in my cultivation during this time as I solved my music problems. I could feel the energy in my palms while doing the Falun Dafa exercises and was very focused when studying the teachings. Every day was routine, and aside from Fa study, exercises, and eating, I dedicated all my time to practicing. Sometimes I also watched masterclasses and read pedagogy books to increase my knowledge. One time I also tried practicing in my sleep; I am not sure if it worked, but I woke up so sore the next day!

As I melded my entire existence into practicing and cultivation, I began to see the two as interconnected. When I became distracted in practicing, I realized it was because my heart was not calm. When that happened, I began to look for the root cause. Why was my heart not calm? Oh, I just had a conversation with someone whom I found unpleasant. Why did I find her unpleasant? After asking myself a few times, I found it was jealousy. Digging deeper, it was not just her; there were a lot of people I was jealous of, like people who played the same instrument better than me, or people who seemed to get away with doing things, or people who were more popular. After I came to this realization, I sent forth righteous thoughts when these bad thoughts came up. Day by day, I became more focused.

Experiencing good results, I continued pondering: what is a fundamental attachment? Why do some people succeed while others do not? Talking it out and admitting you have vices is a first step. Can you dig inside yourself deeper and see what these are? I had strong attachments to time, thinking I didn’t have enough as I had started learning music late.

I realized this stems from selfishness, thinking about myself instead of the more sacred mission I had promised to fulfill. Everything was about me, worried about me this, me that. This reminded me of one time during tour, when a friend told me that every sentence I spoke had “me” in it, and she said people found me dull to listen to. I joked with her, and we played a game where we tried not to reference ourselves, only in the third person. We discovered “I” could not avoid talking about “myself.” There were hints of egoism and arrogance behind the strong wall of “me.”

I also realized I was not humble enough, especially towards my teachers. Do I fully trust who teaches me? Even if I do not agree, can I try their methods, figure out their logic, and respect them? Like cultivators, each musician enlightens to his or her Dao, which they become strongly protective of. If I did not fully trust the teacher, how was I going to learn well with them? Also, at a deeper level, do I fully believe in this Fa? Do I trust that Master has arranged the best path for me?

A classmate and I found a Julliard pre-college teacher who lived near Long Island, which was 7 or 8 hours away round trip. I video recorded my lessons and studying my lessons very carefully to extract and replicate everything, so each time I went I could learn something new. We made the long trip for four months.

Then some viola students came together and invited an on-campus teacher from Julliard, who turned out to be a wonderful teacher and person. She inspired me from many different perspectives, as a person and as a violist; I opened my heart (and my wallet) and went to lessons as often as I could. I grew a lot as a musician during that time. I also began to think of ways to increase my knowledge faster and would peruse masterclasses and pedagogy books when I was tired of practicing. I was finally breaking through the practice game!

Simultaneously, I began to think about orchestra cooperation and evaluating my relationships with the people around me. I realized I was not a team player; I was someone who showed up for team activities and then isolated myself from other people as much as possible so I could practice more. But in the end, orchestra is about the cooperation. After that, I began interacting more with the other students and players in my orchestra, asking questions about ensemble playing, taking on some group responsibilities, interacting with my peers, and encouraging and sharing experiences with other girls in my group.

A Turning Point

In May of 2020, the school recommended I pursue a different degree after graduating. I was a few months from getting my Bachelor’s degree. It was a sad moment, but I knew it was for the benefit of both myself and the company. I left the next week to begin my new degree.

I am now eight months into studying computer science. I am immensely grateful for being able to be given the opportunity to be at Fei Tian and intern with Shen Yun, which shaped me to be a more diligent cultivator, allowed me to interact with many diligent cultivators, and gave me a constant source of inspiration over the years. Although I have left Fei Tian, my cultivation journey is far from ending. I hope that sharing my story will inspire other young practitioners to cultivate diligently and fulfill their missions.

Category: Young Practitioners' Experiences