I came to know Falun Dafa in May of 2001 in Orlando Florida. I'm originally from New York City. When I arrived in Florida it was with goals and dreams of a better life and much anxiety for change. I experienced a lot growing up in New York, both good and bad, but until I moved to Florida I never thought I'd find some real goals to achieve that would make my life take on a new meaning. It is Falun Dafa that gave my life new meaning.
Before moving to Florida I was involved in the entertainment/promotion business in New York City--my teenage dream. I was constantly seeking to make a name for myself. I often went to parties and events to "hook up" with that one person or company that would make my life the most carefree and comfortable and give me financial freedom beyond what the eye could see. Party after party I met so many people and started to realise my boyhood dream of being important was not as easy as I thought. I tried and tried, but the more I thought I was gaining a foothold on my networking, connection-based profession, the more my morals and values were slipping into the cracks of the city's pavement.
The values I based my life on were weak, and the mentally of putting a mask over my true nature by lying and taking advantage of situations and people was tearing my conscience apart. I realised at that time that it was impossible for me to be a good person as I had nothing firm to base my values on.
At one point I wanted to escape from reality by devoting myself to my art. I sold art in front of nightclubs and was in the "struggling artist" phase in life. I wanted recognition, and the more I wanted it the less obtainable it seemed. I remember once making a piece of paper with a picture of the big bronze statue on Lantau Island, Japan (the statue mentioned in Zhuan Falun by Master Li Hongzhi). Next to the picture I wrote the words, "be quiet." It wasn't my favourite art piece, but I thought it was special and never thought of selling it out of a sense of respect.
After attending an art festival one day on invitation of a friend, I decided to take a different route to my bus stop by walking through the park. That was a very good decision I made that day, and I slowly came to realise it wasn't a coincidence. As I walked through the park there were people in bright yellow suits passing out information. One young lady gave me a Falun Gong flyer as I passed. I reviewed the information as I walked slowly down the path. Then she said from a distance, "Did you know that there were people in China that are killed for practising Falun Gong?" I stopped and walked back to her to get more information. She said that there was going to be a march through the city that day for "World Falun Dafa Day," and I was invited. I thought it was a good idea, since being from New York I participated in a lot of ethnic parades as an African American.
I also thought maybe I could get a job by participating. I thought I could be part of this group and move up in position, etc. To my surprise I found more than a job at the march that I attended for Falun Dafa Day. I found that I was actually helping people. This event was done without expectations of anyone. It totally depended on what was in your heart. This was a new concept for me. I remember World Falun Dafa day as a bright day with people who were much different from the crowd I usually hung out with. They didn't offer me a drink of alcohol, ask me to smoke with them or go to a party. Instead, they looked into my eyes when talking, accepted my views and didn't judge me. It was hard to inflate my ego in this righteous environment.
When I held the banners that read, "Stop the Persecution in China," I felt like a part of something much better and bigger than me and my small problems.
Those people in China needed my help. I thought the practitioners at this event were courageous and thoughtful. I felt honoured to be part of this group of people. After the march we read Zhuan Falun and another one of Teacher's lectures. When my turn came to read I got nervous. A bead of sweat formed on my forehead because I was always told I was a slow reader and had dyslexia. I was expecting chuckles of criticism when I mispronounced a word. While reading, with a dozen people watching and listening to me, I felt time stood still. Sometimes they corrected my pronunciations, but I felt their compassion and I had to laugh at my self thinking that I should and could be more patient with myself. I was encouraged to do the exercises, which I found very peaceful. When they explained that Falun Gong was "cultivation practice," I didn't fully understand what the term meant. I only thought about how cultivation related to watering a flower. When you give it the best water, sunshine, soil, etc., it grows healthily. The principles of Truth- Compassion-Tolerance were like watering your heart, I thought. I realised that this is what I've been seeking for a long time. I formed many friendships that day.
During the ensuing weeks I attended an exercise site near my home and learnt all of the exercises. I also joined a weekly study group held at the public library. I found a lot of my negative behaviours were dissolving and I was gaining more confidence in myself. I gradually put aside my highly competitive mentally by adhering to the principles of Truth-Compassion-Tolerance. My anxiety that always led me to go out to party and network in search of success lessened. Soon my ego-based art was sold or thrown out for me to turn over a new leaf in my life. I sought a real 9-5 job in an office setting. This led me to more stability in my previously flighty life.
At first, using the Fa-principles, that is the principles taught in Falun Gong, at my job and with my family was challenging at times, but I quickly noticed my views on honestly upgraded a lot. Since my new job entailed handling accounts, there are some employees that steal accounts without other people knowing. This behaviour is even encouraged. I remember once when one of my co-workers was absent I worked on one their accounts and received a large payment for it. I had full access to transfer the account to my accounts. I could have claimed it was mine because I worked on it, and without my working on it the account would not have made money. But I thought of my co-worker first in this situation. I thought that he needed a paycheck too. Besides, the account wasn't mine, so how can I steal it? My conscience woke up in this respect. When I pointed out to my co-worker that I got money for him on an account and gave him the information and payment codes, he was surprised and said, "Thanks, because someone else would've taken the money." I replied that I practise Falun Gong and stealing isn't good. As a result he could understand me better, and we talked about Falun Gong for a while.
Now I look out for other people's feelings first, and take accountability for my own actions, whereas before I hid from my responsibilities. I learnt to take hardship as joy and I no longer want to steal or cover up mistakes. Master Li Hongzhi's teaching gave me a new life. My family life is much better since now I can be more honest with everyone. Even my father sometimes expresses that he's glad I'm doing what I do in helping the Chinese people and practising Falun Gong.
There are many examples and lessons I'm learning since moving to Florida and starting to practise Falun Dafa. Each experience is rich and priceless.
My life in Falun Dafa is like an onion peeling its outer skin layer by layer. I am exploring and sticking to the principles taught in the practice, and I'm more open to understand more about what role I should play in life.
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