My spirit collapsed when I found out I needed heart surgery and was at risk of being bedridden for the rest of my life. Who would have thought that a man like me, who for decades has been so confident and proud of my physical strength and athletic skill, would suddenly have my health and passion taken away by disease?
I was riding high on success in my career when fate struck me a devastating blow seemingly out of nowhere.
It occurred in the early summer of 2015, when I was a lieutenant colonel and an honoured martial arts teacher at the airforce academy of my country, Vietnam.
I had been teaching martial arts at the academy since 1986, when I was 22 years old, and had trained dozens of students to win high awards in national tournaments over the years.
Little did I expect that, after 30 years, a routine health exam in preparation for the next national competition would stop me dead in my tracks, shattering my notion that athletes and fitness enthusiasts are in top shape and free of illness.
I was shocked to learn from the doctor that I had very high blood pressure. The organizers disallowed my participation in the competition and referred me to the hospital for further evaluation.
There, I received the next piece of bad news. I was diagnosed with mitral incompetence, a disorder where the mitral valve, a valve on the left side of the heart, is malfunctioning and preventing blood from flowing efficiently from the heart to the rest of the body.
As a longtime martial artist as well as a skilled tennis player, I took pride in having a strong and agile body and never thought I would ever experience anxiety and insecurity about my health. But there I was, at age 51, suddenly faced with tremendous worry and uncertainty, and a total loss of confidence in the future.
Despite receiving expert medical treatment, my situation was not optimistic. I experienced fatigue, shortness of breath, and chest pain. I was told that, due to the severity of my condition, my blood pressure could only be temporarily reduced and I would need heart surgery to repair the valve.
In addition to the risks and expense of heart surgery, this also meant I could be discharged from the academy and might have to endure a debilitating condition for the rest of my life.
That was three years ago. Today, I am in good health, and I never ended up having the surgery. I have my wife to thank for some advice she gave me that helped me regain my health naturally.
I share my story so that others may benefit from my experience. I hope that, from knowing what happened to me, others can better understand what I mean when I say “a healthy body indeed comes from a sound mind and a compassionate heart.”
In My Most Desperate Moment
I had a passion for martial arts from a young age. With good performance resulting from a great deal of hard work, my dream came true when I was hired as a martial arts teacher at the Vietnam Air and Air Defence Forces Academy.
So it was beyond devastating when disease struck. I was in a fog of despair and hopelessness, feeling as if the world was collapsing around me. Questions continued to pile up in my mind but answers were nowhere to be found.
Is my future gone? Are the glorious days of practicing martial arts and being with my students about to be over forever? How did my condition develop after so many years of healthy and active living? How could it be that after endless treatments, I’m still not cured?
But good fortune was soon to smile on me. My wife used to suffer from a myriad of health issues including arthritis, stomach ailments, balance problems, and high blood pressure. As a teacher, she had to request leave every month in order to go to the hospital for treatment and then recover at home.
Later the same summer that I learned of my heart condition, my wife began to practice a traditional Chinese discipline for improving the mind and body called Falun Dafa, or Falun Gong. Miraculously, her illnesses disappeared shortly after she started doing the Falun Dafa exercises and reading its main book of teachings, Zhuan Falun, which emphasizes elevating one’s moral character based on the three principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.
The Falun Dafa exercises are different from the martial arts training routines I was used to. They consist of four standing exercises and a sitting meditation, and involve movements that are not vigorous but rather gentle, slow, and fluid.
My wife encouraged me many times to read the book and do the exercises with her, but I never took her seriously. Then one day, seeing me in especially low spirits, she came to my side and tried again. “You don’t have to be sad or worried. We can practice Falun Gong together. It has helped many people,” she said.
I have to admit that I finally decided to give it a try only because I thought I had reached a dead end. I also thought that if Falun Dafa could not help me, at least I would have learned something new for my work.
Surprisingly, after only a few days of doing the exercises, the pain in my left chest eased up and I no longer had breathing difficulties. It was as if my bodily systems were gradually being cleansed and restored.
This miracle compelled me to carefully study the book Zhuan Falun. Its spiritual truths made a deep impression on me; it was the first time in my life to read a book focused solely on teaching people to better themselves on a path toward spiritual enlightenment by improving their moral character. Its principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance resonated with me deeply.
I persisted in reading the book and doing the exercises every day, and from then on I started to change fundamentally from the inside. What was most remarkable was having my body undergo a complete transformation as I stopped dwelling on my illness but instead started to embrace an optimistic mindset and a greater consideration of others.
In the past I had always regarded myself as a good person, particularly because I always completed assigned tasks well at work. But after I started practicing Falun Dafa, what was noticeable to many people was that my character changed for the better along with my health.
For example, there is a custom at the academy where students will give their teachers “gifts” of money to show appreciation, including during the exam period. As a practitioner of Falun Dafa, I understood that I should not take this money, so I stopped accepting it and also returned all of the money my students had given me in the past.
When my colleagues learned of this, they also recognized it as something moral and upright, and they even recommended me to the head of the academy for praise. However, I told them that I was only doing what was right and there was no need for praise.
Then three months after I started practicing Falun Dafa, a relative who was looking for employment wanted to give me 15 million Vietnam dong (about US$650) to help him find a job. I didn’t accept the money and instead I told him: “I will certainly help you, but please there is no need to give me money. I don’t need anything in return.” I then went ahead and helped him find a good job.
When my brother’s family heard what happened, they said they didn’t understand why I wouldn’t accept the money. So I shared with them stories about other Falun Dafa practitioners helping others without any thought of being rewarded or recognized for their efforts. I explained how Zhuan Falun teaches unconditional kindness toward others, giving of oneself freely, and being motivated solely by compassion. My brother’s whole family was touched and called Falun Dafa a great teaching. Later on they also began to practice Falun Dafa themselves.
My experiences indeed showed me that a pure heart full of compassion is the key to achieving a healthy body.
Due to my practice of Falun Dafa, my mind became more serene and what was right and wrong became more clear. I was able to keep calm even amid the fame and honours associated with martial arts competitions. And I was compelled to share that goodness with others around me so that more people could have the opportunity to learn about Falun Dafa as well.
However, false and misleading information stemming from the ruling Chinese regime’s persecution of Falun Dafa caused many of my friends and colleagues to misunderstand the practice.
Falun Dafa is a practice from the Buddhist school with a long history that used to be taught in private in China before it was made public by its teacher, Mr. Li Hongzhi, in 1992. Its benefits in improving people’s health and moral character quickly spread by word of mouth all across China. Unfortunately, its popularity led to it becoming a target for persecution in 1999.
While Falun Dafa adherents simply strive to be good people by following the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance, they were demonized in a nationwide propaganda campaign, and countless practitioners were taken into custody and tortured in order to force them to renounce their beliefs.
The persecution continues to this day, 19 years later, and there are investigative reports with alarming evidence that Falun Dafa prisoners of conscience are being subjected to forced organ harvesting while still alive to supply China’s lucrative transplantation industry.
The Chinese regime’s misinformation about Falun Dafa was propagated so widely that it reached Vietnam and many people believed it, my colleagues among them. Then one day my office suddenly reported me to senior management for speaking about Falun Dafa.
I felt great pressure but remained calm, as I knew I had done nothing wrong. I sincerely shared my understanding with my colleagues in hopes that they would realize the true situation of the goodness of Falun Dafa and the deceit and brutality of the persecution.
In the end, one of the colonels met with me and quietly listened to what I had to say. As a result, he came to understand that Falun Dafa is a good practice that benefits people.
I have since retired from the academy and now value the time that I have to be able to let more people know about Falun Dafa, how it has benefited me and my family, and how it is being persecuted in China.
I hope more people will come to understand the beauty of Falun Dafa and to have a chance to experience its profound benefits, just as I and my family have seen the miracles it has brought into our lives.
Nguyen Quynh Xuyen lives in Vietnam.
Falun Dafa is a cultivation practice of mind and body that teaches truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance as a way to improve health and moral character and attain spiritual wisdom. For more information about the practice, visit www.falundafa.org. All books, exercise music, resources, and instructions are available free of charge.