If we do not Weaving a Dream, they will become vacant, change into an unfulfilled desire, and only remain dreams. If we follow our dreams, we will have an opportunity to realize them so that they are no longer dreams but become our goals. We must be persistent to realize these goals so that even if we have losses and failures in life, we also have attainments.

I met Andy first when one of my students in Delaware, Vicky, invited me to teach a workshop. Andy’s personality seemed somewhat boyish, and a potluck that evening deepened this impression. Every time I have gone to Delaware to teach, Vicky has arranged a potluck to let the students interact with me more. At the potluck that day, Andy said she saw a Daoist lecturing on Youtube who noted that everyone is wearing a kind of metaphorical mask hiding who they are and that if everyone could get rid of their masks, it would be much better, the world would become better and more harmonious. I said the mask is something in our genes, a kind of self-protection mechanism in our evolution, something our ancestors preserved in the earliest societies. For example, it’s difficult to catch anything in hunting if you don’t understand camouflage. Unfortunately, my English wasn’t great at that time, so I didn’t know if she understood what I said! I didn’t see her at my Delaware workshops for a long time afterward. Her boyfriend, one of my students there, said she had started a restaurant and was too busy to attend.

In 2020 the pandemic swept across the entire world, and many people wanted to look for sparsely populated places to avoid it. At that time, I had a thought, which was that I now have this center in New Hampshire with several rooms. If they are empty, they are just empty, but if I let a few city people who want to escape the pandemic and enjoy Yang Sheng cultivation and Tai Chi or Kung Fu live here as students to study, then that would be much better. So, I began to create a three-month Taiji and Kung Fu training program.

After I posted the advertising, the first person to respond, saying they wanted to register, was Andy. After receiving Andy’s letter, I had Rosie help me write a response (Rosie is my assistant at the Daoist Gate Center). Andy told Rosie that she was my student, but I had no recollection of her name because she had not studied with me for a long time. I had Rosie respond that I needed to have a video conference with her to understand her thinking and physical condition, which I will explain later, and why she wanted to come to study at the center. I need to understand every student’s particular situation to give them a training plan. As soon as we began the video conference, I recognized her. I said she needed to confer with her boyfriend, since although coming here to study for three months is not a really long time, it isn’t short either, and for couples, a separation like that might affect their feelings toward each other. She said her boyfriend was very supportive of her coming here to study and that if he didn’t have work, he would also come. Also, even though the two of them had not married, they had lived together for many years and basically could be considered husband and wife.

On the first day of study, Andy’s boyfriend brought her to the center, and on the second day, Sam, another student, also came to the center. After a week, Sam returned to Florida to coach some of his own students. So Andy was the only student for a while. In this one week, I could see that she was a little homesick and even thought of returning home. This is actually pretty common: it takes time to get used to a new environment. The second week when we were training on Wudang Mountain, a few students couldn’t handle the training and secretly ran away home. We weren’t allowed to quit the school at Wudang Mountain, so we would be grabbed and brought back if we ran away. When I was training on Wudang Mountain, there were several times when runaway students were captured and severely punished when they were brought back to the school.

Andy once dreamed of being a KungFu teacher and started training at a Shaolin KungFu school when she was very small. Unfortunately, because she practiced too hard, she hurt her knee and had an operation. After that, she shifted her focus to train in internal martial arts.

It wasn’t that Andy couldn’t handle the training. She is a very diligent student and is capable of dealing with the hardship of training. Before the opportunity to train intensively, Andy thought of her condition, which was diagnosed recently and propelled her to take action on self-healing and self-empowerment. The connective tissue disorder, she said, “can take me down, and I may have a day or two when I might not have to push hard due to inflammation and brain fog.” That she was not looking to be healed, but that she reached a point in her life where she is now, “focusing on ways to keep mobility and strength and on my health and well-being.” Indeed, she would get sick easily during training, and every time she practiced too much or started practicing after a break, she would feel very sore. Being alone during training, and then compounded by her condition, I would see why she was homesick. But even under these circumstances, she never gave up training. As she said, “since I was a child, I don’t want to give up and not keep trying to continue in martial arts even if I have some physical limitations.”

After a week, more students slowly arrived, and the atmosphere became much better. We need companions when training KungFu for it to have a better effect. In a group practice, students find common ground in rituals, support and encourage each other, energize one another toward a shared purpose. And in the process, they partake in the fellowship that bonds them for long years to come. She laughed and cried during her stay here at the center because it was tough for her to respond when she was ill. It can be very hard for people without the determination to keep going when in pain. In her three months here, she studied Bagua Zhang, Taiji 108, Taiji sword, and the five forms of XingYi Quan.

Andy is a classically trained chef that loves cooking for people. So she opened a restaurant fulfilling one of her lifelong dreams. However, after years of running a busy cafe, she came to realize that it wasn’t the life she wanted. Nevertheless, she had accomplished her goal of owning a restaurant, and Andy decided it was time to return to her childhood dream of becoming a Kung Fu or Taiji teacher. So she sold the restaurant and came to the Daoistgate center to study internal martial arts with me.

Andy is now in our teacher training program. She teaches a free Taiji course over Zoom, and students who have taken her classes have given us great feedback, saying her teaching is earnest and detailed. I am also confident that Andy will be a great teacher in the future, as she dreams of being.

Author:   Daoist Master Xuan Yun Zhou

Translator: Larson Di Fiori