Wow! It’s been over a month since I’ve sent out an update and soooooo MUCH has happened, so many stories to share! …Including my parents coming to China for the very first time (YAY!!!), our time in Beijing (including a visit with Grandmaster Mingtang), our time in Zhengzhou with Dr. Zhao and his wonderful family, and our second 2-week trek in Yunnan Province! I’m working on an update for all those stories….and in the meantime, I’ve had a most amazing week in Xiamen, Fujian province. So I’m first sending out this update and will then send out the other from earlier this month to get caught up on my sharing :)….
So, as today is Thanksgiving (and I have yet to find anyone eating an roasted turkey or pumpkin pies here :)), I am feeling so grateful for the many beautiful people I’m meeting here in China, and the many beautiful friends I’ve made and continue to make each day! I am also super grateful for the amazing way the “invisible side” of life is taking care of me so sweetly, so magically, so profoundly each and every day. And I'm grateful for YOU!
The Joys of Solo Travel
This past week I’ve been staying at a cute hostel in the warm, beautiful city of Xiamen, a city directly across from Taiwan, and a city that reminds me of a cross between Hawaii, China and Santa Cruz :). Again, I am meeting so many young people and sharing much, especially with the young women. The other morning I had breakfast with Lai Yunran, a young university student who was on her first trip traveling by herself. Before she said she was so scared to travel alone. She was afraid some dangerous thing would happen; and all her friends also told her not to do it. But, …she was also curious. What would it be like to travel on her own? Maybe she would discover a new sense of freedom? Maybe she would discover… many unknowns? We were both sleeping on the top bunks of our hostel room in Xiamen, and hadn’t had a chance to talk b/c of others sleeping in the room. When waking up in the morning, we had just looked over at each other and exchanged warm, enthusiastic smiles :). The other day, however, while I was practicing qigong on the roof top, she was packing up her laundry and we started to chat. She also said, “Oh you speak Chinese!!” So we went out to breakfast together…and she shared with me her joyous discoveries of traveling on her own. So fun! She’s met so many new friends; it’s opened her heart to more trusting, and it opens her being and spirit to special encounters and gifts from the Universe…such as our meeting :). Since meeting Lai Yunran, I’ve met 4-5 other young women at this hostel who are also on their virgin solo trip! They are all loving it and so very excited!
One Woman’s Journey to “Find Herself”
My time in Xiamen has been brief, yet it has also proven to be so beautiful, special and full of meaningful conversations. I so love being here in China; I love Life and feel so much Love in my Heart! My dear friend Hai Dan is one who I’ve shared about in both my Travel Updates 4 and 5. She’s the one I’ve been visiting here in Xiamen. She’s the 22 years young woman who left her job for two months to travel, come to the mountains of Yunnan, and to “find herself.” She had just ended a 7 year relationship with her girlfriend, was tired of just working, working, working….for what, she asked herself? Her spirit started whispering…or really shouting…she needed to go! She needed to travel, to “find herself”, to find out what her Life was really for… While she had started to immerse herself in some martial arts training, again making her body strong, her spirit and heart were still restless and she needed to go. Against the advice of her parents and friends, she one day just left…. Today while she was taking me around Xiamen…to the famous Nan Pu Tuo Temple, the quaint island of Gulangyu, and while sipping tea at a beautiful outdoor tea place next to a lake and under a giant tree, we shared so much. Last time I saw her, we were in Shuhe, Yunnan, and she was leaving to continue her journeys and to go to Hangzhou. She was starting to feel more freedom in her heart then and still didn’t know what she was going to do when she got back home to Xiamen…
Power of Love, Trust & an Open Heart
Well today, she shared more with me more about why she needed to do this trip, and what happened to her as a result. She said before she went, she had no idea how many people loved her. Her mood was often bad, quick to “fa piqi”, to loose her temper. She didn’t like to be with her parents; she was frankly quite angry with them as they didn’t seem to care for her much when she was a little girl…so why should she now care about them? Also, if they ever tried to help her or give her some money, she refused, thinking it was just some trick and that they must have some ulterior motive. While she had friends, she worked so much and rarely had time to see them…. After work, she would just go home to sleep. Yet, once she started her 2-month journey, she felt a big change in her. She consciously started to do things differently; and made a conscious choice to ‘open her heart’, to meet new friends and begin trusting again in the Beauty and Magic of Life. With this choice, in came so many new friends. Whenever she felt a bit lonely, and just had a thought of desiring to be with another, it seemed the Universe brought a new friend to her. “And then I met you!” She said with a big, bright smile.
She’s made many changes in her life since her travels. She still practices the qigong I shared with her each morning; she’s started sleeping earlier and getting up earlier (she was sleeping during the day and staying up all night); she’s cut her smoking back by 2/3; she’s started visiting her parents and is genuinely interested in caring for them and their well-being; and she’s realized that she has so many people who truly LOVE her!! While everyone loved her before she left, she wasn’t open to receiving her parents or her friends’ love. Now, though, she loves herself. She’s listening to her own beautiful heart which has opened her heart to trust and more truly love others and her world around her. And this in turn is allowing her to finally fully receive all the love around her that is coming so strongly her way. Oh how happy she is!! She told me that when she got home, for 2 full weeks she didn’t cook or buy any food, as both lunch and dinner she had friends or family who were lining up to take her out to eat. They missed her so much, wanted to treat her to her favorite foods and hear all about her adventures :).
She also sees what she thought was such a bad, bad situation (mainly her girlfriend of 7 years breaking up with her), has actually opened her up to receive so much more in her life. And in coming back, she realized she couldn’t go back to her old job…well she could, but she chose not to. Her spirit felt small and cramped and starved in working that job, so she quit. Right after quitting…she was offered a job through one of her new friends from her travels. This job is in Hangzhou with better pay and much less time, and she’ll get to explore a whole new city. While she thought her parents would be upset and want her to stay in Xiamen to be close to them, they’ve both been so very supportive. Her Dad said he supported her and that this was a good opportunity for her to go, see that she can easily make many new friends and be happy in a new place. It will give her much confidence and enrich her life is ways she cannot image. Of course, she can then come back to Xiamen – but for now, this is a good opportunity. He also said, “Don’t worry. What are you worried about? If it’s money, I’ll happily lend you some; if it’s about moving your things, I’ll happily help you move,” etc. Hai Dan was so surprised and so touched by her father’s words and caring….and now she’s able to receive his love.
And oh we have shared about so very much…about the power of our dreams, our concerns for our environment, our Earth and her creatures, our joy in Obama’s victory :), our feelings about marriage, our differences in our cultures, and ways of education. We’ve also shared about dreams and ways she and I receive spiritual information and guidance. Oh being with her is so rich, and we both are blossoming in the energy of our heart and soul sharings. I’ve shared with her about some of my dreams and info received on my travels and she’s listened intently. I also shared about on my last backpacking trip I went on before coming to China (in the Goat Rocks Wilderness southeast of Mt. Rainer with my dear friend Samantha), and how I rarely see or hear hummingbirds up in high altitudes. Yet on that 4-day backpacking trip 2 weeks before coming to China, I had 11 hummingbirds come fly right up to my head. I was surprised with the first few…yet after 4-5, I knew they had a very specific message for me. I told Samantha about this as she didn’t see them; they would come when I was by myself. Yet, on our last morning, I was on the other side of the little lake we camped at. Sam was packing up, when a hummingbird flew up to her. Samantha thought, “Oh this bird is looking for Karen.” And then the humming bird proceeded to look in my direction (I was behind a big boulder on the other side of the lake) and flew over to me! This was the 11th hummingbird! I came back to the camp and immediately told Samantha about the meeting of my 11th hummingbird, and she smiled and said, “I know. It just came to me first when looking for you.”
When getting home, I did some research on the “meaning” or “medicine” of hummingbirds. What I read felt like such a beautiful, pure acknowledgement, confirmation of and blessing on my upcoming journey to China and my traveling and sharing way of Life. Basically it said those who have “Hummingbird Medicine” must share; their medicine for the world lies in their Joy and their sharing of their Joy. It is important for those with hummingbird medicine to remain “free”, to travel and to Share! Wow, I felt these beautiful hummingbirds had just bestowed a most precious blessing on my journey! Hai Dan listened and reflected on the messages she realizes she too has and does receive from Nature, and especially birds too! :)
Giant Snakes Speak in One Man’s Dreams
On the topic of dreams, she then shared about a man in her community. He had just bought a piece of land and was about to build a new home for him and his family. To do this, meant organizing the labor and equipment for first digging deep into the earth to build his foundation. The night before the digging was to begin, this man had a very vivid dream. Two huge snakes came to him and said they lived in the land under where his home was to be built. They asked him to delay his digging for 2-3 days so they could safely and discretely move away from there. Then they left, and the man woke up. He told his son about the dream and his son immediately said, “We should wait and honor these snakes’ request.” The father, though, afraid of the lost money in delaying the digging, pushed his dream aside and ordered the digging to begin. Pictures appeared in the papers of yes, 2 enormous snakes who were killed and found through the digging of this fellow’s foundation. He was horrified. And soon after this event, he came down with an illness and died. Hai Dan went on to explain that these were considered very special, special snakes…almost like dragons. Certain animals, she said, are believed to be able to cultivate themselves and spirits, just as we humans can cultivate ourselves through meditation, movement, qigong, purifying our consciousness, etc, with some people achieving enlightenment. Such snakes as these that died were believed to be very, very old, on their way to cultivating a high level of wisdom and the ability to become gods of sorts.
Meet Rolph! ~ a Most Jolly Human, & a Magical Encounter
So one day while I was doing my writing work at the hostel, I left at noon to go get some lunch. I happened to find a delightful vegetarian buffet restaurant with lots of veggies, tofu, soups and steamed sweet potatoes - Yum! Eating at a buffet is very convenient when eating by oneself in China. Otherwise it’s a challenge as you can only really order one dish before getting completely full. If you're eating with a group, on the other hand, you can order LOTS of dishes and share them :)…. So back to my story,… after I got my food, I heard a jolly voice call out to me in an English accent, “Oh, would you like to join us? Come on over here with me and these two lovely ladies." …These 2 other lovely ladies were another "waiguoren" (foreigner), a woman from Pennsylvania who is a visiting Communications professor at Xiamen University and a Chinese woman who is an English professor at the University. I immediately liked this older man – his eyes were so bright and his whole being radiated a super bright, happy, happy energy. I sat down and he proceeded to joyfully ask why/how I came to Xiamen, shared that he is a retired Naturopathic Dr. from Sweden and will be living here until the end of April. Then this jolly fellow, Rolph is his name, proceeded to tell us that he’s 86 years of age!!... and I about fell of my chair! What?!!! I guessed he was 56! OMG! Amazing!!!! He’s quite fit, strong and super, super energetic and lively. He told us that every time he goes through customs at the airport and people look at his passport, they about fall off their chairs too and immediately call over their whole cadre of coworkers to come see this amazingly “old” yet young man!
I asked him briefly about how he lives his life…and he proceeded to overflow with JOY and bubbly enthusiasm, explaining he is so happy and lives in the forest in Sweden with no car and only a bicycle to bike into town to buy his veggies. He loves to come to Asia in the winter for the warmth and often offers volunteer medical services to various communities, especially Buddhist monk communities. He used to teach natural medicine to the monks at Nan Putuo Temple in Xiamen, but now, he said with a twinkle in his eyes, he has just so many things he wants to do, like paint, plant gardens, write poetry, play guitar, and visit his many, many, many dear monk friends. So he doesn’t teach…but he is in high demand. He also has a business of making some sort of solar energy, and happened to mention in one of his bubbly sentences that he’s organizing a hospice care movement for elder women in India this winter (he’ll be leaving Xiamen during the Chinese New Year to oversee this) – Amazing! He also mentioned he has had many monks come visit him in Sweden too as it is a very good (and Joyful :)) place to meditate.
He then proceeded to ask if we'd mind if he recited a poem that he composed on the mountain behind Nan Putuo Temple that morning. He said that he didn’t have any paper so he needed to go home soon to write it down…but were we interested in hearing it? "YES," we exclaimed! :) Well then he proceeded to share a most beautiful, beautiful poem about the true nature of our Free Spirits. He said that they must roam, not be caged up, and, in that we experience the Beauty of life. Wow! This poem was sooooo beautiful, all in rhyme and cadence AND quite LONG, mind you. …And he is an 86 years young man, with no pen or paper on him and has already memorized this poem he composed in his head this morning!! Amazing! (see his picture below!)
Village Dump Shines with Red Floors, Painted Walls and Potted Plants!
He also then continued to talk in his excited way with bright wide eyes, a beaming smile on his face and had us all leaning in over our plates, sitting on the edge of our chairs to hear what he had to say and receive from his profound JOY! So he excitedly told us about his “new” old home he’s fixing up in a neighboring fishing village. While he doesn’t speak a lot of Mandarin, he not surprisingly, tends to attract lots of people and attracts many good things to him. Well, one day while taking a wandering walk, he happened upon this village (about 1 hour walk from Xiamen). He liked it very much and thought he’d like to live there. He found an old vacant house that was literally being used as the village dump…BUT, he could see the beauty in it and asked what its monthly rent would be. The owner told him and Rolph then proceeded to give him rent in cash for the whole year!! Well, this was just the first surprise for the owner and the villagers! The day after Rolph moved in, the owner came by early in the morning to see how he was doing. Well, Rolph had already been up since 5 a.m., had swept up and cleaned the floor, and unbeknownst to anyone, the floor was a beautiful deep red! Ha! :) Rolph has somehow found all different colored paints and has painted the place, found broken pots and is growing plants, etc…. His place has turned out to be quite the ‘hang out’ spot in town to see what new Rolph is up to and the new Beauty he is creating!! :)
Then while still eating, Rolph received a phone call from a friend, to whom he explained he was having lunch with 3 lovely ladies and that he would go to meet him promptly. And then with an enthusiastic farewell, Rolph stood up and left. Soon thereafter, the Chinese English professor also left, and Lu An Keller, the Communications prof and I had a lovely chat.
Young, Yet Wilted Bodies?
Upon finishing lunch, we went up street as Lu An (also a very enthusiastic, passionate and wonderful human being) was so excited about these Tibetan stores, and especially these beautiful tea cups she found and wanted to show them to me. This is her first time to China and she’s planning to be here for at least 4 years. She’s so dedicated to her students and desires to have a profound positive, opening and freeing impact on them, their lives and what they see as possible for themselves. We talked a lot about her students and how, while of course some of them are healthy and strong, she does see “many who are in young, yet, how shall I say?...wilted bodies,” she said. She sees them with such a narrow focus of study, study, study and has heard horrific stories of the dreaded “gao kao,” that most stressful exam all high school students must take that determines which college they’ll go to, and can have a huge influence on what major they’ll have and what opportunities are open to them after college. (I mentioned in one of my previous updates the many grey hairs one of my young 22 y/o friends pointed to on his head that are a direct result of this exam). Many have much pressure from their parents to just focus on studies, and as a result, many still don’t give much time to other parts of their lives. In our conversation, Lu An had an idea and asked if I’d come speak to her class the next day, share about my life and answer some of their questions about life and college life it the States. YES!! Wow, what an opportunity!! (I’ll share on this below)
Beauty in a Beginner’s Broken yet Valiant Chinese :)
So we headed to one of these nearby Tibetan shops and Lu An enthusiastically shared that the owner of this store “is so nice, so nice.” We just went in for a brief look and when we left, it was so funny and sweet! Lu An is currently learning Chinese (and is doing GREAT, by the way) and so earnestly attempted to explain to this lovely store owner in broken bits of Chinese that she really wanted to stay but that she must go now and will come back another day. Well, the owner really had no idea what she was trying to say…BUT was so touched and also quite amused by her valiant effort, as he patiently listened with his head cocked to one side, a growing smile on his lips, and a twinkle in his eyes. Rarely does one see a “foreigner” making such an earnest attempt to speak Chinese! I was giggling, and so love this wonderful new friend of mine already. What an open, pure and wonderful heart she has!
Tea Time! ~ Another Joyful Unexpected Encounter
So we walked out, and then started laughing and talking of Rolph again (as that was such an amazing encounter with him), when, just at that moment, Lu An excitedly pointed her finger saying, “Oh, there he is!” And there he was on the other side of the street!! Oh I was so happy and called out “Rolph! Rolph!” He looked over and beamed, and said, “Come on over!!” and then started running down the alley way across the street! What?! Here he is 86 and me and Lu An are running after him! He was laughing; I was laughing. This whole scene was reminding me of Alice & Wonderland and Alice running after the little rabbit who was always “late for a very important date.” :) When we finally caught up with him, he bubbled away saying, “Oh do come with me. I really must go, but you must meet my good friend here.” And before we knew what we were doing, he shuffled us in through a security gate of a building in this little side street, doing this of course in his jolly way, and smiling at the elder woman who was frankly perplexed at why he was coming in and by the way, who were we? But he just chuckled and said in his English accent in almost a sing-songy way “Waiguoren, Waiguoren” (meaning ‘foreigner, foreigner’) and hopped through the door, already bounding up the stairs while we were still trying to keep up with him!! On the top floor we met Greg, who is a Chinese man and friend of Rolph’s of over 15 years! They joked that while Rolph has watched Greg grow from a boy into a man, Rolph has stayed the same! Even Greg’s Mom had brought out a picture of Rolph when he first met the family 15 years ago and he looked the same! (Again Amazing! – I know I’m saying this word a lot!) Well since Rolph was on the run, he again said he must go, but that Greg would treat us “lovely ladies” to tea…and then turning to Greg, he told him to remember that he (Rolph) met us first (as to jokingly say not to try to flirt with us!) Ha! And then he was off and Lu An and I (all in a span of less then 4 minutes) found ourselves up high in a building having tea with a stranger…yet a new friend! :) Oh I love Life!!!!
The Chinese, a Peaceful People
We had a wonderful sharing and conversation with Greg, another really delightful human being who speaks both Chinese and great English. We talked some about the whole custom of tea drinking and how it is becoming more popular again in China, and how it is a more relaxed custom than the formal tea ceremonies in Japan. In the middle of our conversation, Greg said something like….”The Chinese are peaceful people.” Wow! This sentence opened a whole new neuropath way in my and Lu An’s consciousness. It opened a whole new view, understanding of the Chinese people. While I have so many, many dear friends of such generous, loving, wonderful nature, it somehow still never occurred to me that the Chinese are a peaceful people. I think it’s because of our history books’ focus on war and hardships. Yet, here in front of us Greg, a lovely, gracious, kind and witty young man who was pouring us tea and treating us like dear, long-time friends, was speaking for the people of China. Beautiful.
A Special Sharing with Students & Opportunity to Speak at Xiamen University
Okay, so this is another super long update (and I’ll be finishing my updates from Beijing, Zhengzhou and Yunnan too :)), but I have one more thing to share! :)
So this week, Lu An (known as Prof. Keller to her students), invited me to speak to one of her classes at Xiamen University. And I got to speak with these great students for almost 2 hours! What wonderful people they are, and I shared sooooo much with them!...About my own story and how I came to study Chinese, qigong, my own healing crisis and reclaiming of my health and how through Chinese medicine and qigong I really got my life and my Joy back. They asked so many questions and wanted to know how to live a balanced life...I shared the importance of finding one's Joy, of having time in Nature, and of movement and staying strong and vital. They also asked me all about Romance! :) Ha! And they were curious about relationships in the U.S. and what I think is the most important thing for 2 lovers to share...I said "Trust, Respect, and LOVE"! What beautiful people and what FUN to share!! I also spoke of how when we live from our own inner Joy, we naturally develop a more joyful caring for and responsibility to care for our Planet. And I encouraged them, as our youth, to jump into creating this new culture, a new pathway of health, vitality and Joy and connection with our Lands. They were very open, curious and receptive – what a wonderful exchange and meeting. I am so grateful for all these opportunities, for all these people I’m meeting, and for this great opportunity to share with you all! :)
Oh I could say so much more….and I’m quite sleepy now, and…those of you who made it this far in my update may also be ready to eat your turkey dinner (if you’re reading this in the States on Thanksgiving day :)).
I will be writing more about Beijing, Zhengzhou and Yunnan in another update :)
Happy Happy Thanksgiving to you all!
Much Great Love and Joy,