Meditation & Health #6 – Bright Young Light
Bright Young Light
Translation by Sophia Lui
With her tall, slender frame and smile like sunshine, Irene Li naturally draws people toward her. At the age of 14, she arrived with her mother in Vancouver from Beijing, bravely meeting the challenges of beginning life in a new country. Graduating high school as a school representative of the local students association, Irene now studies at an American “Top 15” university.
She has always been bubbly, rarely hesitating to take on a leadership role. In the four years she spent in Vancouver, Irene managed to transcend the hardships of starting a new life in a strange land, and she credits Bodhi Meditation with helping her do it. “It is Bodhi Meditation which has helped me to realize my dreams. CYEA [Canadian Youth Elite Association] is like a family to me. Because of their continuous support and encouragement, I eventually gained the confidence to stand on a fascinating stage,” Irene said, with her typical precocious eloquence.
Once in Canada, Irene heard the old adage, “Every cloud has a silver lining,” which seemed to speak of her situation. The fact that she left behind her family and friends at the tender age of 14 to pursue her studies in a foreign land presented many challenges unimaginable to her peers. She arrived in 2008 and enrolled in a local high school and quickly went from being an outgoing, top-notch student and a youth leader to an ordinary student who could barely speak English. Faced with homesickness and culture shock, Irene was under intense pressure.
Despite her struggles, a year after arriving in Vancouver Irene made the decision to apply to an American university. That meant that aside from having to overcome the language barrier, she would also have to take university preparatory courses and get ready for the SAT. The path Irene had chosen was definitely more difficult than that of most young new immigrants. But within three years, she managed to adapt, overcome the language barrier and enter the ranks of distinguished students. Even though her schedule in her final year of high school was already jam-packed, she took on the role of the first elected chairman of CYEA at Vancouver Bodhi Meditation Center as well as that of elected school representative at the Students Association of Greater Vancouver. In the same year, her excellent school performance and her exceptional leadership abilities secured her admittance to Washington University in St. Louis, ranked 14th for undergraduate programs in the nation. Her dreams of success had become reality.
Many would imagine that such remarkable achievements within four years would have exacted their costs and that Irene’s life must be like a tightly pulled violin string – filled with tension. However, in Irene’s eyes, everything has fallen into place with natural ease.
According to Irene’s mother, CYEA has played a significant role in her daughter’s remarkable scholastic achievements and her positive attitude toward challenges. Irene is a perfectionist who expects much from herself. In the past, she would sink into a deep depression and be unable to pull herself out if she didn’t reach her desired goal.
“CYEA has been my mentor during my adolescent years and meditation has taught me not to be attached to success and failure, but to step back and reflect. A change of perspective has transformed my negative outlook into positive energy, hope and passion,” Irene mused.
CYEA offers youth a multitude of enriching activities. Apart from public speaking, stage performances and volunteer work, there are also real estate clubs, finance clubs and much more that helps young people develop skills and acquire knowledge that will guide them in the wider world. Through active participation, Irene has regained the courage to take up a leadership role that had faltered when she was first adapting to life in Canada. While her previous experience as a student leader strengthened her administrative and learning abilities, CYEA has enhanced her understanding of life, love, gratitude, the pursuit of success and the search for wisdom. This enhanced understanding of some of the most profound concepts of life has given Irene an exceptional foundation upon which to build her dreams.
In August of 2011, in front of several hundred fellow meditation practitioners, Irene was elected the first chairman of CYEA. In February of 2012, she participated as an instructor in a seven-day training camp held in South Korea for youth leaders, at which time she introduced Bodhi Meditation and CYEA to more than a hundred young people from all over the world. She encouraged them to participate in elections, organize a fabulous graduation party and in other ways contribute to positivity. For Irene, it was an unforgettable, wonderful experience.
People often ask her why, as a busy young woman with a great sense of fun, she is so captivated by meditative cultivation. Doesn’t the precept of “detachment” in meditation detract from her passion for following her dreams? Irene smiled at this, and replied, “I wondered the same thing, thinking that ‘detachment’ means no longer trying. However, I now realize that ‘detachment’ in meditation means letting go of our attachment to ego concerns, to the seduction of money, sex, fame and power, and to personal loss and gain. It’s not at odds with my passion for pursuing my dreams. And when you have really acquired wisdom, life becomes happier and more beautiful.”