An American’s Experience Sharing Paper
Read at Both the Spokane and San Francisco Falun Dafa Conferences
By David J.
It was the second week of April last year, 1999. I had been back in Seattle for just over a week, at that point, after living in Montana for the previous four and a half years. It was in the evening, at the end of a yoga class in the Greenlake area, lying in the corpse pose, when the thought came into my head, “Go to the lake after class.” This put a smile on my face, so I did. Strolling along the walking path next to the lake I spotted a Chinese gentlemen, up ahead, peacefully leaning up against a railing, admiring the beautiful evening. The first thought that came to my mind was, “Now that looks like someone I’d like to talk to.” Of course, my shyness got the best of me, and instead of walking further and introducing myself, I found a nice spot on the grass and sat down. Several minutes later, I noticed that the man was walking my way. He veered off the path and headed directly for me. As fate would have it, he struck up a conversation with me. Towards the end of the conversation he mentioned that he practiced qigong with a group each morning on the other side of the lake, and that perhaps, I might be interested in joining them. Sure I said, and then we parted ways.
This meeting struck a chord within me. His eyes had that familiar look, as if I’d known him for a very long time, and, he radiated an abnormally high sense of kindness, warmth, and sincerity. Vaguely aware that something important had just happened, I set my mind to getting up extraordinarily early, to check out this “qigong practice.”
The next morning I arrived to find a handful of Chinese men gathered around a small portable stereo, with a small stack of carpet squares next to hem. The guidance given to me that day was, essentially, follow along as best as you can. Then, off we went. Strange Chinese music began playing, and a male Chinese voice started speaking, and voila, we were practicing qigong.
Simple enough, compared to the Tai Chi forms I was used to, the exercises were very simple and repetitive. Then came time for the carpet pieces. I was shown some hand movements, how to situate my legs in the half lotus, and voila, I was doing a sitting meditation for the first time in my life. If my memory serves me correctly, that was the most painful, self-imposed activity I had ever done in my entire life. I kept opening my eyes and looking at these other men, saying to myself, “If these guys can do it, then I can too!”
After a tortuously long half hour, the meditation ended. Afterwards a few words were shared — that the name of the practice was Falun Gong, and that one hundred million people practiced this form in China. I remember vaguely making a snide comment along the lines of, “Just because a lot of people practice it doesn’t mean its good.” Little did I know.
After about a week of coming to the morning practice, a book called China Falun Gong was offered to me. Again, my Western sarcasm came out: “What is it,” I said, ” some kind of philosophy?” The same man who had initially invited me to the class, looked me straight in the eyes and said in a most serious tone, “No, it is much more than that.” I swallowed my tongue, and sheepishly accepted the book.
I read the whole book that night. The custom at the practice site was to not socialize much after practice. Thus, I didn’t say anything, nor did anyone ask me about the book. About a week later, it did come up. They were quite surprised that I had read it so quickly, and sure enough, another book was presented to me, Zhuan Falun. Being told that this was the main book of teachings for this system of practice, I anxiously took it home and read it in three days. I can only remember my reaction as, “Oh my!”
And so, my cultivation of Dafa, the Great Way, began.
STEPPING ONTO THE PATH OF HIGH LEVEL CULTIVATION
Teacher says: “There is a transition at the lowest level of cultivation practice, and this is to purify your body completely. All of the bad things on your mind, the karmic field surrounding your body, and the elements that make your body unhealthy will be cleaned out. If they are not cleaned out, how can you, with such an impure, dark body and a filthy mind, practice cultivation toward a higher level? We do not practice qi here. You do not need to practice such low-level stuff, and we will push you beyond it, making your body reach a state free of any illness. In the meantime, we will install in your body a system of ready-made mechanisms necessary for laying a foundation at the low-level. This way, you will practice cultivation at a very high level.”
Needless to say, the summer of 1999 was a life changing one. Watching the nine-day lecture for the first time in May, I experienced my body being lightened, and overflowing with child-like energy. I slept very little during this time, and found mental shifts occurring at a rapid rate. I came to understand the relationship between karma and qigong practice, and with a calm mind and heart, I halted the last of the physical therapies, acupuncture at that time, that I had been clinging to for over two years. With the intensity of the energy flow and the ever-increasing number of purification experiences, all of which were new to me, the practices of Tai Chi and Yoga that I had been doing, on and off, for the past ten years began paling in comparison, and, amazingly soon, became a waste of time. Thus, by the end of the second month, I had quit them both.
At some point my body was pushed into the milk-white-body state. From China Falun Gong, on the topic of cultivation levels and the milk-white-body state, teacher says, “This stage may last only a few hours, and it will be over before you realize it. One day you feel that you are very sensitive, but after a while, you will no longer feel so. In fact, this means you have entered higher cultivation.” This heightened sensitivity experience came on one morning while in the shower. It lasted most of the day. It was followed, shortly thereafter, by two weeks of diarrhea.
The second month of practice also began what I’ve come to recognize as cleansing reactions, or rings of karma being pressed out. That is, some area of my body will feel intensely uncomfortable or, downright painful. It began with the bottoms of my feet during the standing exercises, an intense pain, as if the soles of my feet were on fire. Through conversation, I came understand this as a good thing, signaling the opening of key energy channels. This discomfort then moved into my ankles. For several weeks, it was as if I was re-experiencing the injuries that I had sustained to both ankles as a teenager while participating in competitive sports. Stiff and painful, I truly wondered what was happening to me. Sure enough, the pain gradually faded away. Left behind were two seemingly brand new ankles. Over the course of the next nine months this cleansing pattern continued in a very systematic fashion, next moving up to my knees, then hips, then bit by bit, up my spine to my upper neck and then the back of my head. With each shift of the area of focus, a rejuvenated area was left behind. My body was being transformed, renewed, and returning to a youthful state.
During this first summer, I began noticing a familiar pattern. Over and over I would sink into what I’ll call “the dark valley of the soul.” For several days I would gradually have the sense of getting heavier and heavier, with metaphorical clouds gathering around me. Then, as I became conscious of what the xinxing issue was.the notion, the buried emotion, the old and negative mindset, whatever it was.when I was finally able to consciously recognize what it was, I was able to let it go, and then, whoosh! The tribulation would end, and out of the dark valley I would come, into the sunlight. Then, for the following several days, I would float like a butterfly, my heart, mind, and body would be carefree and light, meditations would be peaceful, and energy strong. Each time this pattern repeated itself, I noticed that the lows were never quite as low, and the highs became ever higher. As teacher says, “As a practitioner, your path of life will be changed from now on. My Fashen will rearrange it for you.”
Whenever I look back and reflect upon this path called cultivation, I stand in awe. My course in cultivation has been so perfectly arranged. One tribulation prepares me for the next. The height of each hurdle is ever so slightly increased. Each one asking me to upgrade the realm of my mind, raise my level, to lose so as to gain. Like a cosmic psychotherapist, teacher guides us along, each on our own unique path, one baby step at a time, on our return to our true selves. Teacher has truly provided us with a Great Way, clearly not a small way, no, a Great Way, and the Great Law of the universe.
READING THE BOOK
Teacher says, “If you want to practice cultivation toward higher levels, you will not succeed in cultivation without the guidance of the high level Fa.” Though I had read Zhuan Falun once through and watched the nine-day seminar once, I still did not understand the concept of continuing to read the book. Occasionally, I would venture over the language and cultural barrier and ask a Chinese practitioner a cultivation question, all too often the response was, “Read the Book.” Boy, was this irritating. I did not understand why I needed to keep reading a book, which, just weeks ago I had finished. Annoyed, but determined, I set my mind to reading the book again. Pessimism rang through my mind. Thoughts like, “I read this already,” or, “I already know about this,” or “why am I wasting my time,” kept filling my head. I finished reading it for the second time, having seemingly not understood anything more than I had after the first time through. Still, my occasional questions to Chinese practitioners met with similar responses, “Have you been reading the book,” or, “Keep reading,” or “All the answers are in the book.” Ugh. This was truly bothersome. Recognizing that magical things were happening to me, and, that this group of practitioners seemed to be the most peaceful and radiantly healthy group I had ever been around. I decided to read Zhuan Falun again. Finishing it for the third time, I still didn’t get it. Why am I to continue to read? The issue plagued me.
Several weeks later, a Chinese practitioner, one with whom I had never spoken, came up to me after a practice. Quickly recognizing my frustration on this issue she began telling me about Master Li’s other works and conference transcripts, of which I knew nothing about. She lent me copies of Zhuan Falun Vol. 2, and transcripts to the Frankfurt conference and one of teacher’s lectures in New York. Wide-eyed and eager, I raced home and began devouring the words. Finally it clicked. I was shown a glimpse of the bigger picture. Now I had a bit of perspective of what this was. My heart lightened and the clouds lifted. Soon thereafter I opened up Zhuan Falun and began reading again. This time the words jumped out at me. Each sentence had a depth that was previously unbeknownst to me. Oh yes, finally, I got it, the true power of Falun Dafa, this most simple practice, the true power lies in the book.
Teacher says, “What I am teaching has very profound implications, and it incorporates something of high levels. You are practicing cultivation at different levels. In the future after you make progress, you will continue to improve when you again listen to it. You will always gain new understanding and new results. It is more so reading this book. This teaching of mine is taught by incorporating something very profound at the high levels.”
THE SITTING MEDITATION
Teacher says, “The sitting meditation requires putting up both legs on top of each other for a long period of time. The legs will be painful and numb after assuming the posture. As time passes by, one will begin to feel quite uneasy and then become rather restless. Suffering physically and mentally can make both the body and mind quite uncomfortable. Some people cannot bear the pain in sitting with the legs like that, and they want to give up by putting the legs down. Some people cannot bear it anymore after sitting a little longer. Once the legs are put down, one’s practice is in vain.”
As I mentioned earlier, the sitting mediation began as the single most painful self-imposed activity of my life. Actually, nothing’s changed in that respect. The first months were sheer torture — a racing mind and sharp, intense pain. Early on I noticed an interesting phenomena, though, which I touched upon earlier. The ease or relative difficulty of maintaining the seated meditation were directly correlated to the state or phase of a xinxing tribulation. Being in the midst of tribulation, oh my, the meditation would be exceptionally uncomfortable, both mentally and physically. If I was in a post tribulation phase, there was relative ease.
August of last year marked the first time I sat in the full lotus for a meditation. Having just broken through on a xinxing issue, my mind was calm, and body light. That day I sat practically discomfort free, with spine perfectly erect, for the full thirty-minute meditation. An utterly glorious experience. Over the course of the next 2-3 weeks, though, full lotus sitting became more and more uncomfortable, and back less and less erect. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore, and reverted back to the half lotus. This same cycle repeated itself three more times over the next year. Each time, the pain and discomfort in the full lotus reached a level that I could no longer tolerate, then I’d slide back to the half lotus, or a mix of the two.
Attending my first experience-sharing conference in Chicago in June of this year marked a turning point in my determination. Realizing it was a hurdle waiting for me to jump over I set my mind to working only in the full lotus. Still, the magical one hour mark eluded me, seeming to be a unreachably distant goal, and I hovered in the 45 minute range for the summer.
I’ve come to recognize conferences and their related Hongfa activities as prime opportunities for breakthroughs and new understandings. Sure enough, New York, last month, for the United Nations Millenium Peace Summit, presented itself as just such an opportunity to move into a new realm in this aspect of the practice. Thursday morning of that week I found myself in a very open and sincere conversation with another practitioner. As teacher would have it, we ended up on the topic of the sitting meditation, and of making it to the one-hour mark. She related to me stories of her experience and others in the Boston area, who had set their minds to attaining this goal, no matter the level of suffering, and had made it. Each story filled me with ever greater levels of motivation and inspiration. We took turns reading to each other two articles from Essentials:
What is Ren?
“Forbearance is the key to improving one’s xinxing. To endure with anger, grievance, or tears is the forbearance of an everyday person who is attached to his concerns. To endure completely without anger or grievance is a cultivator’s forbearance.”
“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 discontent or hatred, he takes hardship as joy.
An enlightened being has no attachment at all. He quietly observes the everyday people blinded by delusion.”
I realized through our interaction that I had been grieving and complaining about the amount of pain I was being asked to endure. I had been waiting for the discomfort level to fade before increasing the sitting time. How wrong I was. I realized, in fact, that I had been attached to the pain, and the fear of this pain was prohibiting me from raising myself up, and actually had been the cause of my repeatedly cowering back to the half lotus position.
Walking back to our sectioned off area across from the Waldorf Hotel, I found uncontrollable tears falling from my eyes. I knew the time had come to break into the next realm, no matter how great the pain. Approaching our street corner I prepared my mind to immediately begin the sitting meditation.
Upon our return, though, I was faced with a choice. Another practitioner, who had been holding up a banner for a long time, was seeking relief. I recognized the situation as an opportunity to practice selfishness or benevolence. I could have declined this person’s request to face my own test, or, put this person first. Somewhat begrudgingly, I took over holding the banner. Immediately, though, I enlightened to the fact that a cultivator’s forbearance applies to all situations, not just the sitting meditation. Thus, my mind now recognized this as an opportunity to practice a cultivator’s forbearance while holding a banner. I set my mind to holding the banner high above my head for as long as possible. I moved through wall after wall of pain, not by fighting or struggling through it, but rather, by calmly detaching from it. I listened as best as I could to a fellow practitioner who was reading Essentials for Further Advancement out loud. My thoughts turned to the practitioners in China, that little bit of pain in my arm paled to the tortures they’ve been enduring. So I continued. I reached the point where I lost muscle control in my arm, and then began holding up my right arm with my left, which until this point had not been used. By propping up the right arm in such a manner, feeling and a semblance of control returned to my right arm. I alternated for some time using the right arm alone helping out using the left. With time, my left arm began losing control, too. I forced myself to continue through sheer will power. Up and down they wavered.
Then, a practitioner appeared next to me, telling me that I had been holding the banner long enough, and that I should give another person this opportunity. I contemplated this for just a moment, then, realizing I had proven the point to myself, I handed, or shall I say flopped, the banner over to the practitioner. As the teacher would have it, practitioners were, just then, situating themselves to begin a sitting meditation. It was time. With arms tingling and wobbly, I prepared myself to face the next challenge. Sure enough, I made it the full hour. Not because it was comfortable or relatively painless; in fact it was quite the opposite. The same piercing pain in the right knee which, repeatedly over the previous year been the instigator of fear and the hurdle which I had been unable to cross, kicked in at just ten minutes into the meditation and thus began an intensely painful sit. No, there were two reasons why I made it through the full hour. Number one, for the first time I believed I could. Number two, I was not attached to the pain. It was no longer connected to me, it was separate, and I saw it for what it was, karma, and something to be dissolved.
Of course, teacher puts this all into perspective, “I would say that the physical pains are the easiest thing to endure, as they can be overcome by biting the teeth tightly.”
Just a few short weeks after I had obtained Dafa, what’s come to be known as the event at Zhongnanhai took place, the gathering of 10,000 practitioners around a government compound in Beijing. This event brought instant world-wide media attention to the previously “unknown” practice of Falun Dafa. As a brand new western practitioner, I saw it as a curiosity. Its significance bounced off me like a rubber ball against a brick wall. It became simply a novelty to me, a badge, something I could chuckle at and tell others, “I practice that Chinese qigong system that made international news in April.”
The official banning of the practice by the Chinese government in July of 1999 hit me only slightly deeper. I was too lost in the maze and caught up in my own self-delusion to take a clear-headed step back and truly see what was happening right in front of my eyes. Chinese practitioners would here and there ask me to sign this or that petition or letter, which I always trustingly did, but actually I watched all their actions from outside the fence, not having any sense of what and why this was all happening. I only knew the basics, Falun Dafa is good…it was restoring my health and fundamentally changing the level of goodness within me. Surely, I thought, this must be some kind of mistake, and surely, this will soon pass. I returned to Seattle from a visit to Montana at the beginning of August to find that many of the Chinese practitioners had flown to Washington DC to rally international support and bring awareness to the real story of Dafa. Wanting to be supportive, I scheduled a flight to DC. The day before I was to leave a large group of practitioners returned. I was informed that the major activities were over, and that there was no need to go anymore.
Sadly, that day, I canceled my ticket. I didn’t know why, but, I sensed I had missed something very important. Several weeks later I came to learn from a practitioner who had stayed in DC for all of August, that, in fact, the activities had continued. And, yes, I had truly missed a special time and opportunity. Feeling hollow inside, but not knowing why, my limited understanding of the cosmic situation kept me in delusion.
Returning from Hawaii the beginning of December, after shrugging off the Seattle experience sharing conference to participate in a family wedding and enjoy a leisurely vacation, I was awoken to a new phase in cultivation. Walking into my apartment from the airport the internal message struck me, I was done here. The next day, a long conversation with a fellow practitioner gave me necessary guidance and understanding of this message. It was time for me to return to Montana and begin sharing the practice. Knowing that Falun Dafa is good and with the wish to share it, I left just before the New Year.
Still, any greater perspective of the happenings in China and the cosmos eluded me.Though this phase in my cultivation turned out to be rather short, just three months, and the time of actually publicly sharing the practice even shorter, about six weeks, I must say, it was more challenging, more fulfilling, and most distinctly, more heart warming than anything I had ever done in my life.
It was finally this past summer, attending conferences in Chicago in June, Washington DC in July, and New York in September and reading Teacher’s new articles, that I began to see what had been staring me in the face for well over a year, words I had reading over and over again in Zhuan Falun and in Essentials for Further Advancement. They had been waiting for me to finally grasp the truth of the matter.
Teacher writes, “Dafa has boundless inner meaning and has created everything at each level of the cosmos, including, of course, everything in the human world.” Of course, he says. Truth-compassion-forbearance are not just some principles for self-cultivation and refinement as I had been taking them, no, this is the Great Law upon which the whole universe was founded, it is the very essence of the existence of the universe. Teacher says, “All microscopic particles of matter embody this characteristic-even the extremely microscopic particles have this property.” Oh my, his words were finally hitting home.
This Great Law, as I understand it, has been brought out by our teacher to rectify and correct a deviation that occurred throughout the whole universe, even up to very high levels. This Great Law is the highest, the greatest, and the purest. Now the China situation was beginning to make some sense. In order to rectify and correct the deviation in this realm, the Law would of course be tested and resisted by that force which is the most opposite and most deviant, that being the atheistic, and oppressive Chinese regime. Like a lotus flower, which sinks its roots into the muck of the murkiest water, Dafa quietly sunk its roots deep into the hearts of millions of Chinese citizens. Now it is working its way up through the most wicked and cruel tribulations brought upon it by the most dark and evil force in existence. Just like a lotus flower growing up though murky water, Dafa and Dafa disciples are moving through layer after layer of malicious tests. Once Dafa breaks fully through, it will be, as teacher writes “…the manifestation of the Fa whose power know no bounds — the reappearance of the mighty Buddha Fa in the human world!”
We are witnesses to, and participants in, an immensely historical cosmic battle, the great clash between the light and the dark forces, the righteous and the evil. Our human realm is the final battlefield for the entire universe, and the whole universe is our audience. Beings in all the higher realms are watching. The battle is being fought both within each of us, and all around us. We assist teacher as soldiers, our weapon, Zhen-Shan-Ren, the Great Law, which has no peer.
“The Buddha Fa is most profound; among all the theories in the world, it is the most metaphysical and extraordinary science.”