I came to the Five Immortals Temple to study Daoist medicine with very little idea of what that meant, just a wish to expand upon the small foundation in Chinese medicine I have already received and to learn from an authentic teacher. Some of the methods I could have perhaps learned elsewhere, many certainly not. To receive them all in such a short time is truly unheard of. I filled a large notebook to the brim with techniques and wisdom teachings, and know that this notebook is something I will carry with me throughout my life, and refer to again and again finding ever-deeper layers of meaning as my own training and personal practice evolves. If I never learn another form in my life, I will have a healing qi gong, yangsheng gong, and taiji form that I can refine for many years to come and share with others so that they may find benefit as well.
Beyond the medicine and the qi gong, I realized soon after arriving here that there was an intangible quality that was at the same time very ordinary and very magical that permeates this place and that revealed itself to me little by little day by day. This quality taught me about simplicity; I became aware of how wasteful I am and how little I actually need. I learned something about faith and destiny: “There are seven billion people on this planet and how many are sitting at this table?” Li Shifu often asked. I learned about human kindness, about sharing, and how to sweep the floor with a large bamboo broom. I saw my ego and my fear and my inflexible mind and body. Whenever I could quiet my mind and open my eyes, there were teachings to be received. How many I must have missed while lost in thought or personal concerns I can only imagine.
Someone recently told me that when you are on the right path, you will always meet the right people, and being at this temple and meeting Li Shi Fu has made me feel that despite all my shortcomings, somehow I must have a foot on the proper path. The first evening I arrived, Shifu said over dinner, ‘this is not a university. Nor is it a martial arts academy. We are just a big family.’ At the time I thought this was sweet but didn’t know quite what he meant, but as the time passed I started to feel nurtured by this place in a way that brought sense to his words. That same evening he also said that the only requirement of this course is to open a ‘longevity space’ and throughout the weeks he continued to refer to this space until a clear vision of it began to take shape in my mind. I had a vague plan to create such a place in my distant future already, but now feel a greater weight to that responsibility, as if somehow my mere arrival here was signing a sacred contract. I am very grateful for that contract because I know it will keep me from straying too far from the right path where I can continue to meet the right people, and do something of benefit with this short life.