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Posted on 12-02-2016

Have you ever wished you could…

get rid of stress completely?

Well, now there’s a way… Here’s how…

By: Pho Chon

Most people believe that stress is normal ... actually, everyone I know believes that, including me, up until just some years ago. There was a time in my life when my stress and sadness were so extreme that I could not hide it from others any longer. I was moving through life like a zombie—just doing what needed to be done and masking my stress and unhappiness with smiles or trying to stay busy with something so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the turmoil brewing deep inside—until one day, my co-worker saw what was happening to me. I could no longer hide my tears; they would start to swell up in my eyes with just a simple question like, “How are you?” She kept telling me that I should look into meditation.
            At first I thought, “Meditation? Sure, I could use some relaxation and calmness but that can only do so much, and that’s just a temporary fix-it thing.” She went further to say she knew a very good meditation teacher at Universal Door Meditation Center (UDMC) who could help me transform my stress completely and by doing that I could live truly happy, forever. Even though I could see my co-worker was truly changing a lot for the better in her own life, I was very doubtful because it all sounded too good to be true. Stress happens all the time, but was she really implying that I could get rid of stress forever? But even that “forever” part didn’t matter to me. All I knew was that I needed help fast, and for me, taking medications was not an option. “It’s worth a try,” I thought.
            Upon first meeting the meditation teacher, I could feel her unlimited compassion and understanding immediately in how she greeted me and how she began to interact with me. Then there it was—the simple but dreadful question—“How are you?” The next thing I knew the volcano that had been brewing inside just exploded … emotions of all sorts began to surface. Normally, I would never reveal to anyone all the stress I was going through, but for some reason when I met her, there was a sense of trust, openness, no judgment and natural ease that allowed me to be honest and open, to take off my mask and just be myself.
            One particular part of our first meeting that I will never forget was our conversation about stress. As I shared with her about my stress in life, she said something that really surprised me. “All that sadness, worry, fear and anxieties that you are experiencing are not normal. Did you know that there is a way for you to live life without any of that ever happening again? Did you know that stress is not normal?” I just looked at her with a blank stare as if I had heard her wrong. I could see my mind internally repeating what she had just said, to make sure I heard her right. She saw the look on my face and smiled. Dead silence. I didn’t exactly know what to say or even ask.
            She continued, “What is normal is to be Awake; that is your original, before it was covered over and lost. Living Awake and being truly happy is normal. If you are stressed, that is a signal that something is not right and you need to look inside to find out what is causing your stress so you can return to your original as soon as possible.” That little conversation was a wake-up call and created an intense curiosity in me because I really wanted to see if it was true, and this is what began my meditation journey at Universal Door.
            I came to find out very soon she was no ordinary teacher. In fact, she was a Zen Master. I didn’t know it at the time, but Zen means “Awake” and a true Zen Master is the person who has realized and broken the whole system of habits and suffering and only lives with the original Awake, which is unconditionally happy and free. And never could I have imagined how much my life would transform after meeting her. She became not only my teacher but also my guide, my coach, my mentor, my lifesaver. Step by step, she taught me what meditation was really about. She teaches no ordinary method; what she teaches is called Zen Meditation, which is to “Wake Up” and transform our everyday stress, struggles and conflicts so that we can live truly happy and free no matter what situations are happening around us, no matter who we are around.
            Through her interactive guiding and practical lessons, it wasn’t long before I saw that my stress did not only happen less, it started to permanently dissolve because for the first time ever, someone was able to show me that stress has a core root, and until we “Wake Up” from the core system that is running constantly, we cannot live stress-free. Without waking up from the core, we just continue to manage the symptoms of stress, endlessly. Imagine trimming tree branches; they always keep growing back because the root is alive. She was the first person ever that could help me see from my very own experience that stress is not normal. That in fact what is normal is to live truly happy. If we are not truly happy in our everyday life, then something is off-track or missing. I love her examples and stories that she shares because I can easily relate to what she is saying.
            The example of the sun and clouds is one of my favorites. She reminds us that our original Awake is like the sun, always shining, always bright, always having the capacity to see things clearly, to be open, radiant, fresh, full of energy and light. The clouds in the sky represent our everyday stress, sadness, irritation, fears, anxieties, anger or unhappiness. Sometimes these clouds are light and scattered; sometimes they are so dark and heavy that they completely cover the sun and we forget that it’s back there behind the clouds. Regardless of whether or not we can see the sun in that moment, the sun is always there, always shining and available. Like that, we are already Awake and have the capacity to be truly happy, but we don’t know it; we keep identifying with the clouds, mistaking them to be so real and solid. My Zen Master shows us how we can return back to our Awake and live truly happy with no more stress. It’s like life’s best kept hidden treasure. All a person has to do is to be open, be honest, and apply the practice into their everyday life, and then watch as their stress begins to dissolve not temporarily, but permanently.
            Back in 2003, Zen Master Thich Dieu Thien had the vision of opening a meditation center to help all people of any background, religion, age, gender or culture (hence the name Universal Door) to “Wake Up” and break free from their illusion and stress in order to live a truly happy and free life in any situation. Isn’t that amazing? And for 13 years there has been a secret hidden treasure right here in our area that very few people know about. In all my years of reading, researching, listening to CDs, watching videos, attending workshops and lectures, I have never seen anything so rare and special. What she has been teaching about meditation challenges and breaks the stereotypes of what anyone has ever thought about meditation practice.
            All the time I hear people who say, “I can’t meditate; I can’t stop my mind from thinking” or “It’s boring, what’s the point?” or “I can’t sit still in one position for five minutes; how can I do 30 minutes?” The point isn’t to control the mind or be completely still and silent. The point of meditation is to bring mind and body together in the present moment, observe whatever is happening, and return back to the Awake and discover the true happiness already within. It’s a journey of understanding oneself to see why we are stressed, struggling or unhappy. There’s so much more to it than what I had thought.  You will start to discover an inner exploration filled with many fascinating insights, and so much wisdom and clarity. Each step is very interesting as we uncover who we really are. We begin to see our mistakes and understandings, and the stress and struggles begin to disappear—relationships begin to mend, decisions are easier to make, life becomes full of meaning and purpose, compassion arises, and true happiness emerges because the inner light is finally on—and when this happens there’s no more darkness, no more confusion, no more stress.
            As more people have come to touch with the Zen meditation practice at Universal Door, there is more and more proof that what Zen Master Thich Dieu Thien teaches is real and that it actually works. Those who apply the practice see that it not only transforms their own life but also positively affects the lives of others close to them as well—it’s an automatic domino effect. As more people are able to touch with what Awake really is, they have a chance to taste a different kind of happiness that they never knew about before.
            Now the time has come for expansion because the current property at Universal Door has become overcrowded and we need a much bigger space, bigger classrooms and bigger meditation hall to continue to help more people “Wake Up”. It’s exciting to say that for our 13th anniversary this month, not only will Universal Door Meditation Center celebrate 13 years of making wishes for stress-free living come true, but we will celebrate with a ribbon-cutting and groundbreaking at our new 9 acre property located in southwest Houston. Happy 13th Birthday to Universal Door Meditation Center, and I look forward to many more birthdays with Universal Door so that I can show my appreciation, gratitude and support by sharing this message of hope to others on the journey to living a stress-free and happy life, not just sometimes, but always!

Pho Chon has been a student at UDMC for 13 years and is also a Mom and Wellness Coach. She facilitates classes, retreats and workshops with the Zen Master and nuns of Universal Door.

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