Chang, Li-Hsiang 2013-09-20
In response to the frequent occurrence of natural calamities and man-made misfortunes in the near past, I told my fourth graders a story in a disaster prevention course. When the 911 attacks happened in the U.S., my shifu, Dr. Hong Tao-Tze, and a group of Tai Ji Men dizi happened to be in New York to attend the Annual UN DPI/NGO Conference. At the time, people felt very fearful and insecure. My shifu chose to stay in New York and held a ceremony of ringing the "Bell of World Peace and Love" to calm and comfort people's hearts through the power of love and peace, hoping that the living could feel secure and the dead rest peacefully forever. After I told my students the story, I led them to do a one-minute meditation to think compassionate thoughts and pray for the victims and their families.
After the class was over, a girl came to me. She looked up at me and said with a worried look on her face, "Ms. Chang, I'm very afraid of death. What should I do?" I looked at her and asked her, "Why are you afraid?" She shook her head and could not answer my question. Suddenly, I thought of my own fear when I was a child. I remembered sometimes I would feel too afraid to fall asleep at night and would keep my eyes open in order to see my family's faces. I asked her, "Are you afraid that you will be separated from your parents when you are dead and you will stay in the dark world alone?" She replied, "Yes! I'm really afraid. I don't know when I will die."
I had never thought that I would be asked of such a question. I remembered vividly the fear and helplessness I felt as a child. I actually wanted to tell her that I was afraid as well. But I knew that I needed to comfort her. I calmed myself down first and then looked at her. Suddenly, I found the answer. I told her, "If you are afraid that someday you will die and leave your family, you can make an agreement with your family. From now on, you and your family will be good and do good things so that you and your family will meet in heaven someday and will never be separated." On hearing this, the girl suddenly beamed with satisfaction and said, "Yes, I no longer feel afraid after thinking in this way. Thank you, Ms. Chang."
I was able to calm and comfort my students because I had followed my shifu to practice qigong at Tai Ji Men. Practicing qigong not only had made me healthier, but also helped calm my heart. By means of practicing even and smooth breathing and cultivating my heart and character, I had learned not to be easily frightened by the unknown. After years of qigong practice, my heart gradually became used to the state of being calm and peaceful. However, five years ago I faced a big challenge in my life, which made me very fearful.
Five years ago, my younger sister, who had suffered severe melancholia for a long time, suddenly committed suicide, which made my family shrouded with deep sorrow. My father was so overwhelmed by the sadness that he had no idea of what to do after the loss of my sister. In contrast, my mom and I, both being Tai Ji Men dizi, were able to face the sad reality and handle all that had to be done with our relatives' assistance. One night I was awake with my eyes open, hearing the breathing of my parents in their sleep. Suddenly an indescribable fear pranced through my mind, and I could deeply feel my parents' agony of losing a child. If I also died before my parents, how could they stand the pain? From that night on, I became anxious about my physical condition. I would often suspect there was something wrong with my body and was not feeling well at all during that period of time.
I knew that I could not continue to live my life this way. It was useless to hide my fear from the world. What I had to do was to face the fear bravely. And that was one of the things that my Shifu had taught me. He had told me to listen to my inner voice, to face myself bravely, and to be honest with myself. One night after practicing meditation, I calmed down my heart and tried to talk to myself: I confessed to myself that I was in fact very fragile although I made everyone regard me as a very strong and positive person. I blamed myself deeply for the loss of my sister. I missed her very much. Most importantly, I was very much afraid. I would never want my parents to endure the pain of losing any other member of the family. However, with the unpredictability of life, who knew what would happen in the next minute? I perceived there was fear inside me, which I was unable to get rid of.
When I clearly identified all my real emotions one by one, I calmed down gradually. Suddenly, my shifu's words came into my mind, "Everything happens for the best." Yeah, I felt enlightened suddenly. As long as I did my best in all that I had to do and was a good person worthy of the mercy of Heaven, I would leave all other things at the disposal of Heaven. And that was just like what I had told my students to do.
I feel very blessed to have followed my shifu to learn life wisdom and learn to calm myself down and comfort those around me. Even though I dare not say that I have seen through the issue of life and death, at least I am prepared to face the future bravely. I know that I will be courageous enough to face the difficulties in life! I am not afraid!