Emily's Cultivation Story
“I was planning a trip to California, to visit friends, but also with a mission to visit a Buddhist temple. I sent a message out within my heart and mind asking for help to find a true temple, one with a real Shifu to teach and guide me. I did a search in a Yelp App. The first one listed was Lu Mountain Temple. I felt a deep connection to the name, so I thought to myself, “Okay, let’s go there.” When I went, I told one of the Venerables about finding them on Yelp. She told me that it was fate that brought me there as they don’t advertise on Yelp.
While there, I relayed a story about an experience I had at a friend’s banquet. It was a big celebration with much feasting. My brother passed me a huge plate full of filet mignon. Up till then I’d always enjoyed eating meat. Suddenly I saw a face of a black cow crying and mooing at me. I froze. My heart ached and I felt a lump in my throat. My brother kept calling to me, as if from a distance. I snapped out of my vision and shook my head no, I don’t want it. Venerable told me it was the Compassion Mantra towards lower beings (animals and insects) revealing itself to me. I learned from one of the lay disciples at the temple that in order to be a Buddhist I need to seek refuge.
I’d always thought I was a Buddhist. My parents and relatives were Buddhists, weren’t they? After all, we burnt incense to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas every 1st and 15th of the Lunar Calendar. We made ceremonial food offerings to the deities every Lunar Year; offerings of “dead money,” displays of fruits, even cooked meats! (Actually a Taoist belief, I later learned.)
Lu Mountain Temple brought me to the Chan Teaching of sitting in lotus. As a child, I easily sat in lotus. It was easy and fun! When a Venerable asked a group of us beginners to sit in lotus, I was still able to. But it was definitely not as comfortable or easy as when I was a child. (Here’s a little secret. When I was little, I told my parents I wanted to be a monk and asked them to send me to the Shaolin Temple in China. I was broken-hearted when my dad told me no girls were allowed.) Venerable taught us to sit in the Chan way, to endure the pain, with a goal to reach an hour, one step at a time, adding five minutes each day.
When I returned home to Chicago, I continued to sit in full lotus while reciting the mantras I’d learned. Initially, I was only able to cross my legs for 10-15 minutes before unbuckling. But with determination, I pushed further, to 30 minutes, 45 minutes, before achieving an hour. I bowed in repentance, sitting longer, increasing exponentially as time went by, while attending every Fo Qi and Chan Qi I could. The more afflicted I was, the more difficult the level of pain.
My job is very stressful, with last-minute deadlines, constant interruptions. Daily, I deal with many types of personalities, people in trouble, people riding an emotional roller coaster of problems. My patience and afflictions are constantly being tested.
In almost seven years as a Buddhist disciple practicing Chan I have noticed a huge difference in my life from before and now. Whenever I feel a cold coming on, all I have to do is sit in lotus. Minor colds are instantly dispelled when I focus on my Dan-Tian. Stronger viral flus take longer, up to three hours. The Omicron took even longer, but eventually I learned to repel even stronger strains of variants. Sitting continues to keep me safe and healthy through even the toughest of bugs threatening to invade me.
Here are some other perks from practicing Chan Buddhism.
- I am much better at letting things “go.” It gets easier and easier with time.
- I feel calmer, a sense of contentment for no reason at all.
- I’m able to function better, feel sharper, in even the most stressful situations.
- I’ve developed more patience, which has always been my biggest obstacle to overcome.
- I have learned, through my own experiences, how to sincerely ask the Buddhas for help when it is most needed.
In closing, I can only wish for you the very same gifts bestowed upon me in my continuing studies. I hope you will take the opportunity to enter into a practice of your own. The benefits are without limit.”