“Don’t be afraid of eating bitter as without rain there will be no rainbow.”
For almost 4 weeks the weather and living conditions here at the temple were rather bitter, it was constantly grey, wet and cold, a real challenge for a person who appreciates a warm and tropical climate. As a result I was struggling with different aspects that seemed to be so much more intense than usual: getting out of my warm bed, food cravings, overeating, the feeling of being constantly cold and tired, motivational issues to study and memorize things, being caught up by negative thoughts and the urge of spending time on my own away from the group. This consumed quite a lot of energy. I had to constantly remind myself to be focused and determined, however the daily qigong practice, recitation of the eight incantations and the evening meditation stopped the process of me being completely drained out of energy.
Looking back at this somewhat difficult period I am really glad that I can embrace it as a teacher, a lesson and a blessing rather than an evil external oppressor that wanted to invade my body and mind. Why? It profoundly challenged me to work on myself to overcome my inner demons and my ego that strives to stay in its comfort zone following its desires.
According to Li Shifu, a Daoist doctor is not afraid of eating bitter, a saying goes:
“The Dao is even sought in bitterness.”
The truth is whatever circumstances/demons will be knocking on my door I will have to stand tall, be compassionate, humble and sincere in order to heal my patients. Being aware of this I know that there is still a long way to go to become a Daoist doctor. Haile Selassie once stated very inspiringly that “Many discouraging hours will arise, before the rainbow of accomplished goals will appear on the horizon”. I am very positive to get through this “rainy days” by putting effort in my studies and practices, by correcting my thoughts and by striving to become a better human being every day.
Therefore I am very grateful for having experienced this kind of “bitterness”. Along with the practical tools and methods I have learned from Li Shifu, it feels like a solid preparation for something bigger to come, it feels as if I have been given a very powerful medicine that keeps me sane, focused and healthy to see eventually the colorful and magic “rainbow of accomplished goals.”
“Sleeping and meditating as foundations…”
Amongst the many experiences and learning content during this period at the Wu Xian Miao/ Five Immortals Temple on Bai Ma Shan, I remember my attempts, living with a community of people, to let go of my roles/ego, having trust, learning to meditate everyday and to integrate different practices in the daily preparation for healing. These are different forms of Qi Gong, the recitation of scriptures, the rituals in the altars and establishing a connection to the strong presence of the immortals.
For many years I have had severe insomnia. When I was younger I excused my insomnia with the idea that sleeping was boring, taking a lot of time, and I could use this time much better by studying. But these last years I came to the understanding that this unwillingness/fear of falling asleep was maybe covering up my everlasting fear of death. An irritating side effect was that I also had fear of meditating.
I have been confronting it in my everyday life, in my work accompanying patients fighting with cancer, trying again and again to sit down in meditation, and working on my sleeping issues in many different ways. But somehow even if it got better, I felt I was fighting all the time, and my fear of meditation was stronger than the knowledge that meditation is a requirement to walk on the spiritual path, on a path as a healer. In the end I was always lacking sleep and not having time and energy to meditate and doing my Qi Gong exercises as regularly as I wanted, even if I have organized my life so as to have time for both practices.
Today, after nearly two months at the temple, I recognize with wonder that I have been SLEEPING every night! In spite of the weather conditions this year, in spite of the toilet at the other end of the temple, in spite of my roommate snoring ;-), of my cold feet, and the monkey jumping around in my head, and, and, and. In the evenings I am falling asleep immediately and if I wake up during the night, it does not last for long, and more than half of the time it does not happen. The next thing is that I am also MEDITATING everyday! In the beginning it was with great difficulty and physical pain, but as the days succeed, I entered this state with less reactions, and less reluctance, and now I even look forward to do it in the evening. About my fear of death? I don’t know yet, time will show.
It seems to me as a small miracle, and I could not have accomplished it alone. The strict daily schedule, the requirements for the course, living in the temple, the presence of the altars of the immortals, the counseling of the master and teachers, the strong motivation of each member of the group and the benevolent and inspiring presence of my roommate; all have helped me breakthrough this difficult experience.
Sitting down to calm the spirit, practicing Qi Gong not only as a personal benefit but also as a necessary practice for being able to work differently with the patients, learning (very slowly) to recite the scriptures; our teachers would probably call it a small part of the foundations of Daoist Medicine.
As for the many other things we have learned, I am conscious a door has been opened, guidelines laid. Casting a glimpse, I barely imagine the profound depths of Daoist Medicine, but I can better measure the intensive and extensive daily training it requires to become a Daoist healer and that it is a life-path.
I feel very grateful to the Immortals, to Li Shifu, and the senior students who teach us with dedication and insight.