Four Things I've Learned
As Thanksgiving is rounding the corner, I can’t help but think, “Wow, where did the year go?” Maybe most Americans are preparing turkeys for stuffing and thinking about what they’re thankful for. Here at Shen Yun headquarters, we’re scrambling to prepare packing lists, thinking of things we still have to do, and stuffing as many rehearsals as possible into one last month before tour. It’s a busy time of year for us—holidays? Forget about it.
Though we don’t have much time for leisurely gatherings, we do still sit down with friends over lunch or dinner and cheer each other up. It’s usually at this time of year that I realize how time has flown so quickly—again. Now, it occurs to me this is my tenth year with Shen Yun.
I remember my very first rehearsal. As a young trainee with little experience, when my percussion solo came up in the music, I immediately stopped playing since I realized everyone else had also stopped playing. Wide-eyed, I stared at the conductor, who stared back at me. I remember days when I was so frustrated I burst into tears and felt I couldn’t go on. I remember when I would go to sleep at midnight and wake up at 3:00am to practice. I remember the fears of making mistakes, of not reaching expectations, of letting myself and everyone else down.
But I also remember the nights I spent with friends laughing and talking. I remember all the support and encouragement I received. I remember the look on the faces of people in the audience when the curtain opens.
A lot can change in ten years. I’ve seen Shen Yun grow from three touring companies to seven. I’ve seen fledglings rise to elite performers. I’ve seen myself grow from a pessimistic, self-absorbed teenager to a young adult full of hope and courage.
There are many things I’m thankful for, but being able to join Shen Yun and walk an artist’s path is the first thing. Looking back on my years here, there are four main things I’ve learned.
I see willpower in everyone—dancers, musicians, choreographers, composers, production members. Willpower is a strong factor that drives many people to do the things we need to do, no matter the challenge. In fact, people with strong willpower welcome a challenge with open arms and charge through it with no hesitation.
In 2011, when I was with the company performing in South Korea, our shows were about to be cancelled due to pressure from the Chinese Communist Party. But our company manager and the local presenter never waivered. With determination and willpower, we won the day and successfully performed.
One can only sustain willpower with perseverance. Persevering through setbacks, through difficulties and hardships, sometimes nonstop day in and day out, really challenges our determination to pull through to the end.
Many Shen Yun members follow the practice of Falun Dafa, which teaches truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance. I’ve seen how this peaceful meditative practice has a strengthening effect on performers. “Mind over matter,” right? Many artists in Shen Yun go by that phrase. When one is really steadfast, miracles can occur. And from injuries that suddenly disappear to unfixable situations getting fixed, there are too many of those to recount.
3. Cooperation and Selflessness
Cooperation is what makes a performing arts company so strong. You could say, “Shen Yun has really great teamwork.” But I would say it’s more like, “Shen Yun is a big family.” Cooperation permeates every aspect of our lives and I believe that’s only possible because of people being selfless.
I learned that, by being willing to set aside my personal preferences, cooperation happens naturally and tasks are quickly and smoothly completed. Even when I was unwilling to let go of my own things, other people were willing to put down theirs just so our small disagreement wouldn’t hinder the overall task.
When I watched company and orchestra managers getting the last of everything, just to ensure all the other members get the best, I learned too how to be mindful. I believe this sense of selflessness doesn’t just reflect in our daily lives, but also in how we perform. We want to give them the best. Every time.
Most importantly, I’ve learned to really be grateful. Not just grateful for everything I have but also grateful for all the experiences and how being in Shen Yun has molded me into a new person. Not everyone can say they are proud of their successes and failures, but I’ve come to realize that although we should avoid mistakes, we also learn a lot from them.
I used to focus on my shortcomings. I’d nitpick and scrutinize all the characteristics I didn’t like about myself. But if we were to all constantly do that, how would we pick ourselves up and strive to do better? The decade I’ve spent with Shen Yun has planted endurance and strength in me and shown me, even in bleak moments, to see positivity and hope.
I know each member of Shen Yun has an amazing story to tell and I’m just one speck of the whole entity. I can’t put into words my indebtedness to Shen Yun and what everyone here has taught and helped me with. I will do my best to exhibit and share the principles I have learned. I hope to contribute more to Shen Yun’s mission and to rise up to any challenges with the same courage and dignity that everyone here has.