自1988至1996七年間，我就讀於育良小學及培德中學。回首早年在校時，我體認到早晨例行公事的太極拳課，所學的遠多於單腳平衡站立 ─ 這個例行公事，是學校所設計的課程之一，要培育我成人。相形之下，在美國所設立的學校，大部分注重於學科的教導，把自我發展留給不屬校內教學的家庭及同儕們；育良小學及培德中學則在每件事上面，把發展學生完整人格視為優先。
在萬佛聖城的時期，不止是教我如何在自己的文化中生存與在校表現優異，還教我在任何文化中做個更好的人 ─ 守持堅強的道德價值，以及關懷、尊重地球眾生的自我意識。
“If you’re distracted, you’ll lose your balance,” he said through translation to our small group of seven- to twelve-year-olds standing on one foot. The taiji master looked at us with a smile, “Stop thinking!” Several of us exchanged troubled glances as we attempted to follow our teacher’s order and stop our unceasing flow of thoughts. He seemed to sense our confusion, “How do you do this? Look at those mountains.” We all looked as he pointed towards the hills nearby and my classmate translated: “Now see beyond them. Your thoughts are like the mountains. You must learn to see beyond them or you will always trip over them, always lose your balance.” I stood there gazing off into the distance, my seven-year-old mind tripping over itself, stumbling over the ever-present thoughts that had suddenly become so cumbersome. Would I ever be able to clear my mind of thoughts? Would I ever be able to see beyond the mountain?
This scene could easily have occurred in any of the parks in my current home of Beijing, China. Now, nearly 20 years later, as I ride my bike through the busy city streets to work each morning, past bicycle taxi’s, through parks, and around food vendors, I often see people balancing on one foot, staring off into the distance, trying to clear their mind just as I did so many years ago. But it wasn’t here that I learned these lessons; it wasn’t even in China—It was in Northern California at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
I attended the Instilling Goodness and Developing Virtue Girls Schools (IGDVS) for seven years between 1988 and 1996. Looking back on my early years of schooling, I realize that our morning Tai Chi routine was about much more than balancing on one foot—the routine was part of a school curriculum designed to develop me as a human being. While most schools in America exist primarily to teach academics, leaving the development of the self to outside the context of school at home and with peers, IGDVS prioritizes the development of students’ whole selves in everything it does.
Through its peaceful setting, broad curriculum and diverse student body, IGDVS developed me as a whole person with tools for a wholesome life. It taught me to eat well and never waste, to care for others and hold reverence for all life, to have humility and calm mind, and perhaps most importantly, it taught me how not just to tolerate, but to value and celebrate diversity—diversity of life, of religion, of language and of color. My time at the CTTB taught me not only how to survive in my own culture and excel in school, it taught to be a better person within any culture—to uphold strong moral values and a sense of self that related to and respected all life on Earth.
It is these values and the cultural sensitivity that led me to move to Beijing, where I now work at a Chinese environmental organization called the Global Environmental Institute. For me, respecting life on Earth has translated into helping my organization make conservation profitable and economic development ecologically sound by supporting conservation efforts with market-oriented solutions. We aim to solve environmental problems holistically, through evaluation of their economic, environmental, and social elements. Now, as I “looked beyond the mountains” of my inner secular world, I am able to take the peace I find everywhere I go.