Chinese Spiritual Practice Gives Life Without Worries

May 15, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015


Adam Charles in 2004. (
Adam Charles in 2004. (

Adam Charles leads a life that is, on the surface, like that of most other people. He is probably happier than most because he has a strong sense of purpose: For 13 years, he has practiced a Chinese spiritual discipline called Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong.

“I was intrigued by searching for a deeper meaning in life and the idea that there is more to life and nature and people than meets the eye,” he said about how he started the discipline.

Charles is 40 years old and the founder of a marketing company in San Francisco.

He began practicing Falun Dafa in 1999, a couple of days before the Chinese communist regime initiated the persecution of Falun Dafa practitioners. He was living in San Francisco, working in advertising, and reading texts like the Taoist classic Tao Te Jing. He used to spend time with refugee monks from Tibet and Nepal.

“I had been casually studying mind-body medicine at the time. I came to understand that people and all living things have a system of energy circulating within them below the surface—a flow of ‘vital energy’ that sustains them,” he said.

The wish to “understand the human mind and body at a deeper level” and to cultivate the body and the mind led him to Falun Dafa. Charles defines cultivation as “a profound mind-body transformation, a process of personal elevation.”

This is what he found in Falun Dafa, a practice of five meditative exercises and the study of the moral precepts of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.

“This teacher, whose name was new to me, was explaining topics related to a person’s spiritual transformation, one after another. This is information that a monk might spend a lifetime to uncover,” he said.

The experience of reading the principal book of Falun Dafa, “Zhuan Falun,” is an important part of the discipline, practitioners say. “It was like having a personal conversation with an extremely gifted teacher,” Charles said. “I could recognize the purity and the power of the words, and I could recognize the significance of the teacher even creating a book like this that teaches people cultivation.”

In addition, his body experienced “subtle sensations.” Was that energy he felt circulating? “I knew something was happening to me, that it wasn’t just reading a book. I was having a much deeper experience and more profound experience than that.”

The exercises of Falun Dafa are said to open the energy channels in the human body, promoting health and well-being. Practitioners often report their body feeling lighter as a result of performing the exercises.

Forms of “cultivation practice,” as such practices are otherwise known, are the basis of the philosophical and religious traditions of Eastern cultures. The concept encompasses Buddhism, Taoism, and forms of qigong. In its primal form, tai chi is also understood as a type of cultivation.

Chinese legends depict cultivation as solitary—taught by one master to a disciple in a setting isolated from society.

“To find a teacher who was both willing and able to do this on a large scale, people who have looked into this area of study would find that remarkable, very rare, and historically significant,” Charles said.

Having found a path for his cultivation and spiritual growth, Charles said he does not worry about anything. “People talk about ‘having belief.’ The truth is that belief is subjective; you can believe anything you want.

“To have knowledge of something, to have experience, is different from having belief. When one has real knowledge and experience and understands the true meaning of life and can see divine presence within all living things, one naturally becomes free of many worries,” he said.