PureInsight | September 28, 2009
Experience sharing at the 2009 Washington DC Fa Conference
[PureInsight.org] Greetings, Honorable Master! Greetings, fellow practitioners!
I am a Dafa disciple from the Rochester region of upstate New York. Rochester hosted two Shen Yun performances for the first time on February 21 of this year. I would like to take this opportunity to share my cultivation experience during the preparation of the Shen Yun performance. Please kindly point out any shortcomings.
1. Master Uses the Shen Yun Performance to Save Sentient Beings. Hosting the Shen Yun Performance is Assisting Master in Fa-rectification and Harmonizing What Master Wants.
We went through the following process in understanding the significance and urgency of hosting the Shen Yun performance. Back in 2007, I and a few other practitioners in our region thought of hosting Shen Yun in Rochester. However, there were a few other practitioners who were against it. They felt that we didn’t have enough manpower locally and that we could assist the nearby big cities such as Toronto or New York if we wanted to participate. The thought of hosting the performance in Rochester didn’t go anywhere that year because those of us who wanted to host it didn’t have further sharings with the rest of the group from the perspective of the Fa. The majority of practitioners were either against hosting the performance or simply didn’t express their views about it.
Following the Fa conference in Washington DC in 2008, I and another practitioner thought again about hosting a Shen Yun performance in Rochester. Since we didn’t have a deeper understanding on the significance of hosting the Shen Yun performance and lacked motivation, we never tried to organize the venue. It was not until one weekend in November 2008, a few practitioners from a nearby city joined us for a group study. We had discussions regarding a few local practitioners who appeared not so diligent in their cultivation. There were less than ten practitioners in our region and there are no big cities that are close to us. In the past few years, we either joined some project teams individually or went to other cities to participate in larger scale activities. There is not a lot of truth-clarification work achieved locally, and we usually don’t have very much to share with each other after the weekly group Fa study session. It seems that most of us have a stable income, which made it easier for us to pursue comfort and slack off.
During the sharing, we realized that our entire region seemed to be constrained. Even though it might appear obvious for a few practitioners, it was indeed the reflection of the cultivation state of our entire region because we didn’t meet Master’s requirements that we should do the “three things” well. Some practitioners proposed that we should find a project in which we could all participate and break through together as a whole body. Hosting the Shen Yun performance was then raised again. As you can see, our initial thought of hosting Shen Yun was the result of our shallow understanding because we wanted to “find a project for our group to work on.” That evening, I received an email which stated that the application of hosting the Shen Yun performance in 2009 was still being considered if the local practitioners wanted to do so. We felt that we were given another opportunity to host the Shen Yun performance.
There were only a few practitioners present in the initial sharing, and we felt that the project of hosting the Shen Yun performance would require the participation of the entire group. I was asked to gather information on how much preparation time was needed, the requirement for the initial funding and manpower. In the mean time, we thought we should call for a larger scale group Fa study over the Thanksgiving long weekend so more practitioners could participate.
When I told everyone the requirements of hosting a Shen Yun performance, there was silence. We fell short in meeting all of those requirements: lack of manpower, busy working schedule, not enough time to prepare, lack of initial funding, the cultivation state of practitioners within our area is not well, and some practitioners were still against the idea. We didn’t know what we should do. We could also understand the tremendous pressure of the negative impact if we didn’t do well. Some practitioners suggested us having a sharing with those cities that have the similar situation like ours but hosted the performance in the past.
We had several conference calls with practitioners from cities in the mid-west. They answered many of our doubts and also shared with us their valuable experiences. There was one city that had two practitioners, yet successfully hosted one Shen Yun performance in 2008. Those sharings not only gave us the opportunities to learn from their experiences but, more importantly, allowed us to further understand the fact that it was Master who is using the Shen Yun performance to save sentient beings. These sharings were a tremendous help to us.
We held a larger scale Fa study and sharing over the Thanksgiving long weekend. Everyone was open to sharing their understandings of hosting the Shen Yun performance and spoke out about any doubts that they had in their minds. We studied the Fa together and shared our understandings from the perspective of the Fa. Many of us felt that we lacked courage and held various fears inside of us: fear of losing the initial investment of tens and thousands of dollars, fear of not being able to do well, fear of not being able to take on the responsibilities, fear of the pressure, fear of lack of time due to our busy working schedules, etc. We dug out many of those human notions. We came to understand that Shen Yun is a project that Master was personally involved in. Master had shared the Fa on many occasions about the significance of how Shen Yun can save sentient beings. What was needed most then was not the improvement of the poor conditions we had, but rather our righteous thoughts. As long as we were able to jump out of selfish notions and only carry the thought of assisting Master in saving sentient beings, everything else would be done by Master. How could we fail? I remembered at the end of our sharing, one Western practitioner shared the following words, “Master has made all the arrangements for the Shen Yun performance for us. All that is needed now is for us to take action.”
Master’s Fa is like a ladder up to the highest realms. As we were climbing, our topic had inadvertently shifted from “whether we should host the performance or not” to “how we should do well in hosting the performance so that we can harmonize with what Master wants.” Hosting the Shen Yun performance is no longer a project that we choose to do, but what was to fulfill our vows from before. At that moment, everyone felt relieved. All the pressure and fear was lifted and disappeared, and what remained was the sense of urgency to save sentient beings and the glorious honor in assisting Master. Thank you Master, for giving us the opportunity to elevate ourselves and establish our mighty virtue!
2. Look Inwards to Eliminate Attachments and Be Steadfast with Righteous Thoughts
I then contacted the theatre and one of the Shen Yun coordinators on the performance dates. After several communications, we were told that the only time available was February 21, 2009, which was two and half months away including Christmas and the New Year holidays. Some practitioners began to worry. We thought we would have a minimum of three to four months to prepare ourselves. It was now our first time hosting the performance and we only had half of the time that we had expected. Should we move forward? A few practitioners who were supportive before starting now objected to the idea concerned that we were too short of time. However, there were still many other practitioners who felt that we shouldn’t back away.
I had a sharing with my husband and dug out our fear: money. The requirement for the initial investment wasn’t a small amount. Although, one practitioner had agreed to support part of the funding, where were we to come up with the rest? Then we had the thought, “what are we afraid of?” Even if we were not able to recoup the money, it would still be worth the effort if sentient beings could be saved with the amount that we contributed. Moreover, Master is personally involved in Shen Yun to save sentient beings. As long as everyone can participate, nothing is impossible. Hosting the Shen Yun performance is our obligation and our responsibility to save sentient beings. We decided to put in the rest of the funding. I added one thought at that time: the money is the advancement from us. We will not only make the money back, but also earn a profit to support Shen Yun!
We quickly created a budget proposal, compiled a setback schedule and shared with the practitioners from our local area and nearby cities. Two days before we were ready to sign the contract with the theatre, some practitioners told us that those cities who were the first few to host the performance this year were having difficulty selling tickets. Based on their situation, we were guaranteed to lose money.
During those days, I constantly received telephone calls from practitioners. Some were against the idea of hosting Shen Yun, saying that I was being irresponsible by investing so much of Dafa’s resources in the project. Some criticized that I was there to show off and prove that “it was me that brought the Shen Yun performance to Rochester.” Some were waiting and observing on the side and told me that “If the performance goes well in your city, we will have one in our city next year.” While some were supportive and told us, “Your heart shouldn’t be moved by anything. An enlightened being will walk the path if they think it is the right one.” The biggest test I had at that time came from the many different understandings from my fellow practitioners.
Although I was firm in moving forward with a steady belief in Master and the Fa, I could feel that my show off and confrontational mentalities were still very strong. I was carrying the attitude of, “We will do it even if you don’t.” For a long time in my cultivation, I always carried the show off mentality with me. When there was something good or I knew of something, I just couldn’t cultivate my speech appropriately and liked to speak with a strong desire to prove my abilities. I paid little attention to cultivating myself in this area. I realized the criticisms coming from the practitioners were not coincidental, and I decided that it was the time for me to eliminate my show off mentality. When I sent forth righteous thoughts, I started to add one thought that my show off mentality must be eliminated because that was karma and human notions that were formed in this lifetime. I could feel very quickly that Master took those things away from me. The Fa study and sharings that I had during that time offered me tremendous help. I didn’t feel any grievance over the criticism from other practitioners and was able to let it go because none of those things could affect me anymore. Since then, I was able to talk more calmly.
3. The Key to Hosting a Successful Shen Yun Performance is to Elevate with Understanding the Fa as a Group and Not Seeking Solutions from a Human Level
Our contract with the theatre was signed at the end of December. However, the theatre told us that the tickets would not be on sale until after January 12 due to the holiday season. It meant that we only had at most six weeks to sell tickets. Everyone followed the plan we had organized together and started to contact the media, post information on billboards, within schools, and distribute materials and posters. Practitioners who initially held different opinions before now laid down their differences and actively joined in the promotional effort. We took the opportunity as a Shen Yun performance host to get in contact with the wider community. We tried to negotiate deals with our local businesses through our truth-clarification efforts. A senior couple from a nearby city moved to our city so that they could participate full time.
As the preparation work progressed, our understanding of Master’s decision to use Shen Yun to save sentient beings with his boundless benevolence and wise endeavors continued to elevate. We needed to reach out to the various facets of our communities, different groups, and companies if we were to host the performance. We needed to undertake truth-clarification on the persecution against Falun Gong, the violent atrocities waged by the Chinese Communist Party, and the damage it caused to five thousand years of Chinese culture, and the hardship and effort that Shen Yun endured in order to spread and continue China’s rich cultural traditions. The attitude that sentient beings displayed in responding to the truth, whether it was in the form of offering understanding, support, sponsorship, or proclamation, had given them all an opportunity to position themselves well. When we showed the DVD and marketing materials to the people, everyone told us that the performance must certainly be a high caliber show. None of us were professionals in marketing and some practitioners’ English wasn’t good. Yet, as long as we had the heart to save people, they could feel it. They were also willing to share ideas so as to save money or provide sponsorship.
The tickets finally went on sale, but very soon we noticed that the ticket sales were moving very slow. By the end of January, just four weeks from the performance, we had sold only 300 tickets, less than 10% of the total. We started to contact three malls in our local area to set up ticket selling booths. However, when the ticket booths were set up in the mall, we were short of hands to staff them because we only had three people who could speak English and sell tickets, but all of them had full-time jobs and were only available after work or on weekends. We then began to ask for help from the Toronto practitioners. With only two weeks before the show, Toronto practitioners began to drive to Rochester to help with the ticket selling and some decided to stay until the end of the performance.
The tests were getting tense as it came closer to the end. We had sold 600 tickets two weeks prior to the performance, while 4200 tickets were left for sale. Many people told us that they had seen our advertisement about the performance, but the ticket selling was still moving very slow. Many practitioners started to worry. Some began having diarrhea everyday; some complained why we ever chose to hold this in the beginning; some suggested to present one show instead of two; some wanted to offer discounts, etc. Everyone was overloaded at that time with a lack of sleep and Fa study.
During that time, I felt a level of fatigue that I have never had before. I was almost unable to breathe under this invisible pressure, and I couldn’t do anything efficiently. When we first started to host the Shen Yun performance, I constantly experienced an uncomfortable pain in my stomach. I often woke up from the pain in the middle of the night and couldn’t fall back to sleep at all. I had to send strong righteous thoughts many times to ease the pain, but it would quickly return again. The company I worked for had just laid-off and reorganized its employees. My daytime work load became much heavier than before and I couldn’t take any time off. My husband and I needed to take care of two children after work and then head to the mall to sell tickets. At that time, practitioners had taken over my household responsibilities from me in order to give me something of a break. After everyone went to sleep at night, my husband and I still needed to work to process the tickets. Sometimes, we were not able to get any sleep in the evening. We didn’t even make the time to study the Fa and send forth righteous thoughts. Our xinxing level was thus quite poor. I remembered that one weekend we kept criticizing each other and fighting over the most trivial of things.
The arrival of Toronto practitioners not only offered us relief in manpower, but also gave us assistance in Fa understanding at the critical and most needed moments. We quickly held sharings as to why the ticket selling was not going well. We came to the understanding that the ticket selling situation was a reflection of the cultivation state of the whole group due to our loopholes. We needed to look inward to find out where we fell short so as to quickly catch up. Even though we didn’t have many practitioners in our area, every motion from within the heart and an individual’s cultivation state could have had a large impact on the overall situation. Toronto practitioners reminded us that we must calm down, increase our Fa study and send forth righteous thoughts to deny any interference.
The Fa is indeed the key with all of its mighty power. When everyone put down their regrets and those confusing thoughts, we quickly came to clearer understandings as a group. It was our human mentalities and attachments that were the key issue. Master was worried for us, but couldn’t do anything, as he not only wants us to save sentient beings, but also wants us to cultivate ourselves towards consummation. If we don’t improve, how could the situation improve? We came to the agreement that no one should think about how many tickets were sold each day. We should only have one purpose inside our hearts, and that is to save sentient beings.
Once we improved our understanding from the Fa, no one asked how many tickets were sold each day and I also stopped asking the theater as well. More practitioners arrived from out of town, and everyone used their righteous actions. Some were out visiting places everyday; some were assisting group tickets, visiting schools, businesses, and law offices. Some stayed home to cook for everyone. Practitioners from other regions kept calling us to share their experiences and offered their advice on advertising strategies. Every night, there was a small scale Fa sharing at my house. We exchanged our understandings, which helped to rectify the entire field and push our work forward. There were times that practitioners were sleeping at every corner of my house except underneath the table. Since we had limited living conditions, many practitioners endured hardships, but no one complained, as all had one thought in their minds: we must host a successful Shen Yun performance and leave no regrets. More practitioners came to help when they heard about our situation. I was joking with them saying that our family must have accumulated a lot of virtue in the past in order to have invited all of these Buddhas, Taos and Gods to my home.
On the day of the Shen Yun performance, we learned that there was a large scale rock and roll concert to be held across the street from the theater. The dregs of the evil elements were fighting against us over the sentient beings. The performance began. We were moved to tears by the sentient beings, while they were moved to tears by the performance. There were curtain calls again and again. The sentient beings displayed the joy and appreciation from their knowing sides. We have truly supported the most magnificent and glorious thing in the world. At that moment, all that we had endured wasn’t worth a mention.
The Shen Yun dancers had heard of our difficulties in selling the tickets. Prior to their departure, they sang the song “Giving You Hope” together and also wrote us a thank you card. Everyone was moved to tears by their pure singing voices. Just as what the song lyric stated, “there is nothing we seek in return,” we knew that we were there to save sentient beings and fulfill our vows.
We were not only able to earn enough to get all of our initial investment back, but we were also able to pay the performance fees. Moreover, no words can describe the benefits I have gained in my own cultivation during this process. Everything was done by Master who gave us the opportunity to benefit from our efforts. When I saw empty seats in the theater, I felt very sad because we didn’t meet the requirement and had regrets over things where we should have done well. I could only tell Master within my heart that we must do even better next year.
4. Master Did Everything – What Master Wants From Us is Righteous Thoughts
The process of preparing for the Shen Yun performance is also the process of cultivation for practitioners. Whenever there was a human notion, there would be a problem, be it in the decision to host Shen Yun, to locate the venue, contact the media, search for sponsorship, contact VIPs, get group sales, sell tickets, or even pin up posters. At that time, all we could do was to stop everything and have a Fa study and sharing to improve together. The situation would turn around once the entire cultivation state had improved. We could feel that Master was with us the whole time. As long as we made some improvements, Master would immediately take care of the rest. I am not going to give further examples as practitioners in other regions have shared on this as well.
I would also like to share about the weather conditions on the date of the performance. The performance was on February 21st. The weather was fine until February 20. All of sudden, the wind started to blow very hard. It was unusually cold that day and it also began to snow. The weather forecast said it would take four to five days before the storm passed through the area. If that was to be the case, the weather conditions would affect the performance the next day and many people wouldn’t be able to come to the performance due to the bad weather. Some might even return their tickets.
This time, unlike before, everyone was calm. We sat down and Sent Forth Righteous Thoughts. Everyone had a serious and firm look on their faces. When we had a sharing afterwards, we all felt that somehow we had such pure and firm thoughts that the weather conditions must improve the next day. Master was here to save sentient beings. Whoever created troubles in other dimensions would surely be eliminated. The weather the next day proved to be fine just like a fairy tale. It was bright, crisp and sunny. The snow storm didn’t return until after the performance was over that night. The day of the performance was like a day in another dimension. Dafa practitioners once again witnessed the power of Dafa and righteous thoughts. All of us personally experienced, “When disciples have ample righteous thoughts, Master has the power to turn back the tide” (Hong Ying II, “The Master-Disciple Bond”).
The performance in Rochester would not be possible if it wasn’t for the help from Toronto practitioners. They came to offer us full support after they had finished organizing their own performance. They approached our performance like their own and offered us unconditional assistance. Many practitioners traveled numerous times between the two cities. Some used their limited vacation time. They had no complaints under the difficult conditions. Moreover, the righteous thoughts they carried with them were a tremendous help to all of us. Thank you to the practitioners from Toronto!
Once again, thank you Master for giving us an opportunity to cultivate, improve together and save sentient beings!
Thank you Master! Thank you everyone!