Transforming Troubled Youth:Compassion Finds Lost Hearts
Translation and Rewriting by Austin Yeh
Ru-Mai, Northern California
Assault and Paralysis
Originally from Taiwan and living in Northern California since 1985, I’ve devoted my life to the education of young people. I am a high school SDC (Special Day Class) teacher. I am also the principal of a Chinese school district where I train teachers and conduct activities promoting traditional Chinese culture.
One day in May 2009 while I was working at school, a student accidentally elbowed me in the face. The blow to my forehead was so hard that I was thrown against the column behind me and fell to the ground. I couldn’t move my neck or raise my hands. My whole body felt paralyzed. That was the start of a difficult journey.
The impact caused severe injuries to my spine to the extent that I couldn’t even clap my hands or engage in a normal handshake. For the next two and a half years, I was in such overwhelming pain that I longed to die. I suffered from blackouts, and became increasingly exhausted and depressed. I tried all kinds of therapies, but none worked. Three times a week, I underwent acupuncture treatments, during which I was stuck with so many needles that I looked like a porcupine. I visited countless doctors and spent a lot of money, but hopelessness consumed me as my condition remained dire.
A Ray of Hope
One day, a friend I hadn’t seen in ages came to visit. His appearance shocked me. He had previously been sick all the time, and at one point we had even looked for doctors together. But when he walked in the door that day, he was glowing with health.
“You look so much younger!” I couldn’t help blurting out. “What have you done to your skin?” That’s when he told me about Bodhi Meditation. After only a few days of practicing, he said, all his pain and suffering had disappeared. He was astonished by the dramatic turnaround in his health and suggested that I give Bodhi Meditation a try.
The next day my friend took me to meet Teacher Jue-Zhi, a Bodhi instructor. She immediately saw my pain and paralysis, and asked if I wanted her help. Of course I did! As she stood next to me, I noticed her hands move up and down a few times. And then, within a short time, I realized that I was able to turn my head! Teacher Jue-Zhi asked me to bend down slowly, and when I tried I was shocked to discover I had mobility. I could also move my hands freely. It was unbelievable!
Meditative Stillness, Physical Freedom
In August 2010, I attended a 10-day Bodhi Meditation Class at a local community center. Since then, I’ve managed to join the public drop-in sessions three nights a week.
Within a month of beginning my practice, I was able to raise my arms without pain during The Meditation of Greater Illumination. In addition, I had freedom of movement in my neck and the pain subsided, and I could hold a pen and write with ease.
Soon I was totally free of pain. My son was skeptical, as he was well aware of how terrible my condition had been. Carefully, he tried poking my arms to find out if there was any latent pain left. When I didn’t react he pressed a little harder, but still I felt no discomfort. He was really flabbergasted.
Bringing Dharma to School
During class, I was deeply moved by Teacher Jue-Zhi’s compassion and sincerity. She repeated many times during her teachings that the dharma she had learned from Meditation Grandmaster JinBodhi is the best there is.
Thanks to this dharma, not only has my health been restored, but I am able to impact my students in new ways. SDC education is very challenging work indeed, and the compassion and insight I have gained from Bodhi Meditation allows me to motivate and inspire the young people I work with to transcend their challenges.
I am now a more empathic listener, able to tune into how my students think and feel and facilitate constructive dialogue. Issues such as low self-esteem, fear and anger have severely marred the lives of many of these young people, but when my energy changed through practicing Bodhi Meditation, they began to change as well. Gradually, I have earned the full trust of my students, and they are willing to communicate freely with me.
One day, during a writing class, a student started calling me “Mom.” I was stunned. “Hey!” said another student, “May we call you Mama?” Long story short, by the end of the class, all of my students were calling me “Mama.” I was so touched that tears rolled down my face. They had never learned to respect parental or authority figures, so this shift was truly radical. At that moment, I felt loved and blessed with overwhelming happiness, a joy which was a hundred times more intense than when my own son calls me “Mama.”
Just prior to Christmas in 2011, a national competition was held in California: One class was chosen from each of more than 10,000 schools to serve as competitor. My class was selected to represent our school.
Since I work in SDC education and my students are not held to the standard of mainstream schools, I didn’t think that we had a good chance of winning. Being nominated to represent our school was a victory in itself. Nonetheless, I encouraged my students to embrace the challenge. “This is a great honor and a wonderful opportunity for us,” I told them. “I sincerely hope that everyone will give it your best!”
My students studied very hard, exceeding my expectations. During one-on-one interviews, the judges were impressed by their sincerity and self-confidence. As a result, my class advanced into the top 200.
What a sense of accomplishment for those special students. It didn’t stop there. Right after Christmas, to my total surprise, we were in the top five.
When our final ranking was announced, my heart nearly leapt from my mouth. What a total surprise! We were ranked the number one class in the nation. This spectacular outcome brought much-needed pride and honor to our school, and especially to my students. Gone is the low self-esteem of old, replaced by fully fledged self-confidence. This incredible honor and the pride they feel as a team will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Deepening My Practice
Bodhi Meditation has changed my life. Seeking to further my practice, I attended a Second Level Bodhi Meditation Retreat in Los Angeles taught by Grandmaster JinBodhi. Not only did this retreat improve my health even more, I also learned energy healing techniques by which I can heal and help others.
I was very impressed with Master Guan-Hai’s healing power when he conducted his energy healing session with total sincerity, faith and compassion, and I made a vow to myself to meditate and self-cultivate with discipline, and by so doing to improve people’s lives and integrate Bodhi’s concept of compassion into the existing education system in the United States.
In December 2012, my husband, Ru-shong, and I participated in a Third Level Meditation Retreat that took place in Vancouver. I could hardly control my emotions during Grandmaster JinBodhi’s dharma teachings, which were filled with compassion, love, sincerity, tolerance and selflessness. His kindness and compassion filled my heart and rid me of all negative energies, replacing them with love and tolerance. During the retreat, I came to realize that all the pain that we have suffered so far only represents a fraction of the wrongdoings we have committed purposely or non-purposely. We don’t usually think about how much pain and suffering we may have caused others.
Awakening Compassion in My Students
Back at school, during one of my classes, a muscular student came up right behind me and I didn’t know what he was up to. He raised his hand to me and I stopped him with a self-defense technique that I’d learned. He fell to the ground, but I quickly helped him up, not wanting him to feel embarrassed in front of the class. Since then, this student often follows me everywhere as if he is my bodyguard. Experience has shown me that all students are kind and good-natured deep down. Taking the time to guide them with compassion can transform a lost soul into a bright light.
Final exams coincided with me attending the Third Level Retreat. All the kids in my class were very anxious and unsettled about me being away. They are prone to resisting change, and I had to take time to calm them down one by one. One student said to me, “I’m really hungry! Would you please get me a burger?” So right then, I texted my husband to buy me a hamburger and asked him to deliver it to the class.
The students were touched. They all came and gave me a hug and wished me a safe trip! Usually, they don’t express tender emotions. It goes without saying, you won’t often hear them talking politely, but this show of tenderness came so naturally, and I felt incredibly blessed. It was a further confirmation that my compassionate approach was awakening the compassion within each student.
Some students never learned right from wrong when they were young children. As a result, they chose dark paths that included robbery, murder, arson, drug trafficking, drug abuse, and so forth. Moral values were never cultivated within them. After I completed my meditation retreat classes, I made every attempt to integrate the philosophy that I have learned into my teaching. I believe that Bodhi Meditation has the power to benefit our entire society. Young people that receive this kind of positive knowledge while they are still young will benefit for the rest of their life, generating a ripple effect that could transform the world.
Lately, I have organized and conducted a lot of Chinese cultural events and activities in California. Multiple mayors have invited me to conduct such events, which educate the public about the beauty and richness of the Chinese culture, in their cities, giving me the nickname “Culture Angel.” This mission is an extension of the mission that was awakened in me by Bodhi Meditation –– to spread life-changing compassion wherever I go.