Do you ever talk to the Universe? I not only talk to it but I also listen to, you know, that still, small voice that whispers in your mind’s ear. The one that teases and coaxes, hints and downright pushes me towards those “pieces of the cosmic puzzle.” The one that reassures me that everything is in Divine Order no matter how crazy things look on the surface, that “this too shall pass,” and the sun will rise in the East tomorrow.
Today, I am especially thankful that I listened as the Universe guided me in the direction of dreams – to China last year and to the completion of my book this year.
I’m grateful to all the folks who have bought my book, read it, asked amazing questions, and even reviewed it. It has been so much more than the journey to China and the process of writing and publishing; it has been a spiritual journey that I will never forget.
I look forward to what lies ahead. Shhhh . . . I think I hear the Universe calling.
Thanks to Central VA IONS Community for inviting me to share my stories and some fun meditation exercises today. What a fantastic group! If you are not familiar with the Institute of Noetic Science, you should check it out: IONS
I am reluctant no more!
In celebration, I am offering a FREE e-book of Conversations with a Hungry Ghost:Memoir of a Reluctant Medium now through Monday. Click on the photo to go directly to Amazon and then, join the conversation.
Meditation? Ghosts? Genealogy? Co-Creation? What do these topics have in common? Although they might seem disconnected, I will share how all of these became my spiritual journey at the April meeting of the Central VA IONS Community.
IONS, Institute of Noetic Science, was founded by Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man to walk on the moon, after a profound experience on his trip back home from his voyage to the moon. In that moment, he “knew that life in the universe was not just an accident based on random processes.”
There is a Chinese proverb about a red thread of fate that connects us. I felt that red thread pull me to my ancestral villages in China, and through the veil that separates most folks from the spirit world. It played such a huge part in my life even before I knew anything about anything. So, naturally, it graces the cover of my book that I just released on Amazon. I hope you’ll check it out.
Like Xuanzang, the 7th Century dynasty monk, who went West in search of knowledge from the homeland of Buddhism.
I am heading West in search of the homeland of my Chinese roots. My journey has also been one of discovery about Buddhism, Taoism and even Christianity and the roles they have played in my families’ lives. For although I was raised in the Christian faith, I am open to exploring Buddhism and Taoism and feel I have gained much by what I’ve discovered. Like Xuanzang, I have a thirst for knowledge.
Even though I do not speak, read, or write Chinese, I am moved by calligraphy paintings and slowly but surely I am learning the language. If I do not learn anything else on this journey, I have discovered the truth about my Chinese name. For many years, I thought my name was Louie/Lei Bao Lian, precious lotus blossom of the Louie/Lei (thunder) clan. However, when I showed my Roots guide the paper where Dad wrote my name, he said that it translates to “precious age.”
If that misunderstanding does not complicate the issue enough, there are the various spellings depending on which dialect you choose. Dad spelled my name Bo Line. Obviously, he did not follow the rules of transliteration, but rather created his own. I’m not sure why he told me my name had one meaning but then wrote the calligraphy for another. Maybe, he inadvertently gave me a clue about another lifetime, one as Precious Lotus Blossom. I wouldn’t be surprised because I do remember many life times in China. I believe those memories draw me back to China, and then, I wondered: did Xuanzang have a similar urge to go back to India, to read the original Buddhist texts because he remembered writing them long ago? I cannot say for Xuanzang, but for me the journey West has also been a journey within. How appropos as I explore the teachings of Buddhism. For in my search to find my father’s village, I have learned to overcome suffering, to walk the middle way, and to live my dharma. Even though I may be far from nirvana, I am happier about my journey in this lifetime.
Until my father died, I did not know where he was born. No matter how many times I had asked him when he was alive, he evaded my question. Consequently, the only think I knew about Dad’s life in China was that he was afraid of water because his father threw him into the river.
My Caucasian mother ran away from Dad when I was nine and took me, my younger brother and sister with her. We were raised in the South and the only Chinese words I remember from my childhood were多謝 duōxiè “Many thanks,” and some words that sounded like “ki doy” and “ki nui” that I thought meant “bad boy” and “bad girl.” I have not found the correct transliteration in any Chinese/English dictionary.
Even though my exposure to the Chinese culture was limited, I was drawn to all things Chinese. I look less Asian than my brother or sister, but I feel Chinese. I feel drawn to China by an inexplicable force.
After I reunited with Dad in 1969, he did not share his story – our roots. Everything changed in 1990 when Dad died, and his ghost stood at his tombstone and wondered “What happens next?” I was aware of him at his funeral but after years of blocking the ghosts I saw as a child, I could not see or hear him clearly until I learned how to meditate and studied metaphysics.
Long story short, through my conversations with my father’s ghost, I began to piece together a crazy quilt about him, about his life in China and his life in the United States. I began to understand why he was so secretive. And I discovered the name and location of his village along the Pearl River. There’s just one hitch. It took twenty-six years to draw his story out. He would be one hundred six if he were still alive. I will be lucky to find anyone in the village who remembers the 华侨 wah que, the young man who went overseas. It doesn’t matter because now Dad knows that I was sincere about wanting to know our history and that I will go back to the village to honor my ancestors, and then I will write his story, our story.
The take-away is this: if at all possible, do not wait too long to learn your family’s story. Gently pry open those shells to find the pearls of your family’s story. Sometimes the shell will be empty, but when you find a pearl, it will be precious. Like the grain of sand inside the oyster, some aspects of our lives are irritating and yet can develop into something quite beautiful.
Being a rooter is akin to an archaeologist, searching for signs about one’s history by studying the remains, looking for clues wherever they can be found. Instead of bones and artifacts excavated out of the ground, I am digging through archival files of my ancestors who traveled between China and the U.S. On one hand, the way they were treated seems inhuman. However, on the other hand, the pages of interrogations and witness’ statements paint a picture for me of what my ancestors experienced as sojourners to the Gold Mountain (the Chinese name for the U.S.)
Pouring over the files from the National Archives feels like Louis Leaky picking through bone fragments. One piece, although incomplete, sheds light on the history of mankind, or at least several generations of my ancestors. For instance, there is a phrase indicating a business established in San Francisco in 1865, the year the Civil War ended on the other side of the country.
Then, there is the witness statement from G.T. Marsh, which when you do the math meant that he knew my great-grandfather when they were both in their twenties. Further digging showed the extent both men were affected by the 1906 earthquake. Marsh & Co., housed in the Palace Hotel on Market Street, was demolished. Fung Sang Lung & Co., located on Bush Street, near Van Ness and Post, fared somewhat better than the stores in Chinatown. By 1909, the store’s name was changed to Wah Sang Lung & Co. and relocated to the corner of Dupont (now, Grant Avenue) and Sacramento Streets.
Photos of the shop on Dupont back-in-the-day show horse drawn carriages and pig-tailed men clad in pajama-looking clothes going about their business. My great-grandfather and grandfather’s photos show their shaved foreheads and hair pulled back into queues in obeisance for the Qing emperors of their times. Letter clues (TC for Tung Chee/Tongzhi, KS for Kwong Sui/Guangxu, ST for Sun Tung/Xuantong), showed me three different emperors during generations from my great-grandfather to my father, who was born during the reign of the last emperor of China.
For the Chinese, dress codes were mandatory, whether they were in a foreign country or not, and disobedience to the two-hundred-year-old rule of Manchu hairstyle and chángshān; literally: “long shirt,” could result in execution. The high-collared silk chángshāns may have looked like pajamas to San Francisco’s Caucasians, but to the Chinese they indicated merchant class sojourners “going out” to create a better life for his families back home.
When I gleaned a list of my great-grandfather’s twelve trips between the U.S. and China from the files, I discovered that he had a cabin in 1906. It was probably the last voyage of the first SS Doric, a White Star Line steel ship, which was known for carrying a large cargo of opium as well as tea. He traveled as a Merchant, which made him exempt from discrimination by the Exclusion Act of 1882. He probably traveled in second class accommodations, which may not be as luxurious as first class, but was a far cry from the steerage conditions of so many immigrant travelers. My ancestors did not consider themselves immigrants but rather sojourners.
In spite of their strong ties to the homeland, Chinese immigrants did not establish a miniature replica of traditional Chinese society in America. They lived in an abnormal society full of young males, wandering Sojourners, whose dream was to put in a few years of hard labor and to return home wealthy and respected “Gold Mountain Guests.” This “sojourner’s mentality” had deep roots in Chinese cultural tradition. Nineteenth-century China was an unsophisticated agrarian society. The great majority of the Chinese people still embraced both Confucianism and Taoism, religious systems which, to a great extent, reflected the inspirations and aspirations of peasants.
Emigration was generally looked upon as banishment, a severe punishment next only to death. Out of these beliefs grew the concept of sojourning, an idea that stressed the temporary nature of one’s absence from home.
Every answer unearths another question, or a hundred. The question that pesters me now like a burr under my saddle is this: was my great-great-grandfather (whose name I do not know yet) the first Louie in my family to venture thirty-five hundred miles across the Pacific Ocean? Were there others before him? And, if so, how and why? Back to the digs, I mean files. This “archivalologist” found another clue.