This was the second time I participated in the Living CH’an Workshop held at the Vancouver Dharma Drum Centre. I learned a great deal when I participated in the workshop last time.
In addition, Venerable Guo Xing Fashi was to lead the workshop, so I was quite excited to join this one. To my surprise, many people also came to the workshop despite a highly anticipated hockey game also took place on the same day.
The theme of the workshop was for us to practice mindfulness and relaxation. Fashi taught us how to be mindful and relaxed through some demonstrations and hands-up practice. For example, Fashi showed us how to relax by doing the fourth form of the Eight Form Moving Meditation (back stretching and bending) very slowly.
The key was to relax and be aware of the movement and sensation at various parts of the body, so we had to move extremely slowly. In another exercise, we were asked to look at some pictures, in which some were appealing and some were very disturbing.
Then, we were led through a sitting meditation session for about ten minutes. When the same pictures were shown again, I felt less disturbed by the pictures that I though were very disturbing before.
This exercise showed emotions were the reflections of the mind, not an intrinsic property of the object or situation we perceive. By calming the mind and being aware of the state of mind, we have the abilities to control what we experience; in other words, we experience what we choose to experience.
For example, when I greet a friend who ignores me, I can choose to see the friend as an impolite person and get angry; however, I can also choose to see the friend as simply too tired and forgive his ignorance.
A large part of the workshop was to put mindfulness and relaxations to practice. We were given a thick straw and a ping-pong ball. We then had to walk around the main hall holding the straw with the ping-pong ball on top of it. I did poorly in this exercise as my ping-pong ball kept falling off.
However, I could be mindful on my feet every time it fell off. Later in the day, Fashi geared up the exercise by asking us to place our name tags on top of our heads, which demanded more mindfulness and relaxation.
However, toward the end of the day, Fashi geared up the exercise again by asking us to hold, in addition to what we were already holding, a thin straw in another hand with a marble ball on top.
I couldn’t even stand still for one minute while holding three things, but I was not afraid nor did I ever feel frustrated. Considering that I was somehow a perfectionist and a nervous type, this was quite an accomplishment.
The last lesson was on letting go and make peace with whatever we experience. This was an important lesson because many people nowadays suffer from depression, which comes from trying hard to control things instead to letting things be the way they are.
Fashi used the word ‘king’ as a verb when he gave examples, showing how most of the time we demand to get our own ways instead of understanding the true nature of the situation or things we are facing.
The word ‘understanding’ shows real insight into things comes from 'standing'-'under' things. In other words, fully accepting and embracing things. Without clear insight, people try hard to change things they cannot change. They become frustrated, angry, and depressed.
However, depression can be avoided by being relaxed and mindful. This is because relaxed people do not waste energy on getting nervous. Instead, they are able to clearly aware their surroundings and experience, thereby obtaining insights into things. Awareness and insight developed from mindfulness calm people down and make them appreciate their experience.
When people are satisfied, they can live a peaceful and happy life. During a group discussion session, we were discussing about satisfaction, an elderly lady in our group, Emiko, stated she was very satisfied with pretty much everything in her life. Her words were not hollow. She spent a day laughing and appreciating everything we did. Her deeds were the best examples of what Fashi tried to teach us.
The day ended quickly. I was again felt quite fulfilled and satisfied. I greatly appreciate the kindness of Venerable Guo Xing Fashi and all the Dharma Drum volunteers for providing such a spiritual feast.