Interview with Master Chufei Tsai
Master Chufei Tsai is an appointed Taoist and Tibetan Buddhist Master from Taiwan and a renowned educator, healer and spiritual leader. With bright eyes and a clear vision to teach others how to empower themselves, she founded The Zen Village Educare Center, which opened its doors in the heart of Coconut Grove on Biscayne Bay in early 2005. With charm, character, grace and calming rhythm, Zen Village is a beautiful and warm place to relax and learn new ways of finding personal balance within the chaos of everyday life.
How did you arrive in South Florida?
“Sometime after I had founded an Institute in my home country, Taiwan, I decided to travel and reach out further with my efforts. In the year of 2000, I visited my parents in Miami. While visiting, I made a phone call to my teacher, a great world-renowned yogi who lives in the Himalayan mountain range. He had just gotten his new telephone and when he heard my voice he said: “Stay in America. Teach Americans.” My first response was “Oh…Are you sure?” I realized this would be a very difficult challenge. After thinking about it considerably, I decided that I was up for the challenge and I stayed in Miami.”
What organizations have you founded since arriving in the US?
“Zab Sang Institute, focused on Tibetan Buddhist practice, is a non-profit organization founded nearly four years ago. The Zen Village Educare Center was opened about three months ago, as a sister organization to Zab Sang. The Zen Village has a holistic foundation without a focused religious concern. We welcome diversity in culture, religion, social and economic status.”
What were the intentions in creating Zen Village?
“When one is practicing a spiritual path, it is important to seek out new and nurturing environments. Zen Village is a place for people to rest, rejuvenate and step outside their usual environment to contemplate life. We provide skilled teachers, an innovative curriculum, and an environment that encourages friendship, community and lifelong learning.”
What type of services and instruction do you provide?
“Our programs are designed for those who want to awaken perspectives, learn new skills, make important life changes, renew, relax and connect with people who have similar interests.
One of our main focal points is to train many teachers, managers, therapists and professionals, so they can enhance themselves and their own health and communication skills. “Executive Leadership Training for Success and Balance” is designed for the busy executive that needs effective tools to manage stress, work more productively, become a better communicator and maintain wellness. It is important for those who work with the public to have balanced minds and be unified in their own lives. I would love more teachers to come, so that they can effectively offer different services to organizations, schools, etc. — wherever help is needed within the community. Helping those who help others is my main focus with The Zen Village and the Heart for Humanity projects.
We have a course called ‘Prenatal Living Skills’, which is a workshop that helps mothers-to-be learn methods that help them to maintain balance amidst the physical, mental and emotional changes of pregnancy. This course helps to improve the health and well-being of the mother and their unborn child. I think this type of training is very important when bringing a new life into the world. Every time I meet a baby after the training, it is very healthy and well-balanced, and seems to have a strong immune system and a high capacity for learning. This is very rewarding!
We have an internal energy training course called ‘Inner Feng Shui’, which educates on how the elements in the Universe are connected to the inner elements, organs and the mind. This course is for everyone, but is a pre-requisite for ‘Mother of Pearl’, a course designed especially for women. In ‘Mother of Pearl’ we teach women how to exercise, breathe and use visualization to balance their physical system and emotional condition. They also learn how to relate with their families, husbands, children, society, and addresses women’s issues and roles in modern society.
We offer many types of yoga and meditation, as well as stress relief, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Chinese High Tea (The Art of Tea) and other spiritual retreats and workshops. Our classes are open to the public and we encourage those of all walks of life. Some classes are free, some ask for an offering, and some classes charge a fee. Many of our trainings can transform a person in a very short period of time.
The South Florida community is very new to this type of education and thinking, and may not be aware of the immense benefits that these particular practices can bring about in life. I hope to educate and share information with the public. Personal changes are very important to enhance peace and well-being. We hope that people will come to rest themselves. In life, we are constantly thinking, doing and acting all of the time. Rest and reflection are truly needed. That is why we are here.”
Can you tell us about the ‘Heart for Humanity’ program?
“Heart for Humanity provides free training programs to children, families, teachers, mental health professionals, seniors, and abused and sexually abused individuals. Students learn how to balance the intimate connection between mind, body and spirit. They learn practical, lifelong skills for self-empowerment and healing.
It appears that there are many healthy community programs already in place, yet if the managers, staff, therapists and teachers of these programs are not taking time to balance and nurture themselves, their work can become overwhelming. Heart for Humanity helps with this. The individuals that provide services to the community need to rest, rejuvenate and take care of themselves, so they can be better equipped to help others.”
Do you have other charity programs?
“We have a weekly program that provides holistic education and services to the uninsured. We integrate the best practices and healing systems from around the world and create a unified approach to health maintenance. Our services include acupuncture, massage, nutritional counseling, and various Eastern and Western integrative healing modalities and education. At present, we are offering free acupuncture on Mondays from 9am–5pm.”
Since relocating from Taiwan, what have you noticed as the largest difference between Eastern and Western perspectives?
“There are many different perspectives concerning the East and the West. One major issue, or difference, is the way Westerners focus on what can bring them more in their own lives. I notice that the focus is on what can benefit them, instead of how they can benefit those around them. It is very common.
In the East, it is very different. For example, when we eat food, we offer what we have to the elders first. Even with me as a Master teacher, if someone is older or has more need than me, I always offer my share to the other person first. It’s our way of tradition. We naturally offer whatever goodness we have to others. We don’t offer the things we don’t like! Such as, “Oh, I don’t like spinach. I will offer my spinach!” We offer the best of what we have to give.
In my lectures, I have been questioned: “How can I help others if nobody is coming to help me first?” They don’t always like the answer I have for them. I tell them not to focus on themselves or what is coming to them. I say, “When you focus on others, things will come to you naturally”. They don’t often want to accept this advice or see it as true for themselves. They want to think: “If I have extra, if I have something left over after taking my share, then I will offer.”
This is no way to live, because it can easily seem that one never has extra, that one never has enough for themselves. But truly, only in giving can we receive. It is the order of things. This is a very big difference within the Eastern and Western ways of life.”
Can you give us some advice for life in the modern Western society?
“Have patience. In Western culture, it is common to want things to be immediate. I believe that if one does 2 or 3 things in a day, they are doing a good job. In this society, there are so many conveniences, with everything constantly moving faster and faster. This does not help to cultivate patience and peace. One must have a healthy, relaxed perspective to have the strength needed when difficult situations appear in their lives. We all have difficult things arise and these situations require a peaceful mind and a lot of patience. It is best to slow down and work internally on the mind, body and the spirit, so that life is more pleasant and rewarding for yourself and those around you.
Meditation cultivates patience. To understand our health, our life, our mind — especially the mind — can be so difficult. Most good things take practice. Meditation is very helpful for supporting the mind. It can help in concentration, balance, and understanding one’s internal nature, but it takes a certain period of time to cultivate the mind. Patience is a virtue that is worth learning in depth.”
How do you feel about the Western fight for equality?
“From Christians to Buddhists, we all describe equality the same way. It seems we should be equal, yet we are all very different. For example, we can not deny that as women, we are different that men; nor that as a certain religious, cultural, educational or economic standing, we are all different. These differences make an idea of equality challenging. Many people want to go out and protest for equality; I believe this type of thinking contributes to much violence and conflict within society. If we think everyone is the same, if we think, “If I work, so should you; if you have that, so should I”, it creates conflict. How is this level of equality possible? We are all very different on a relative level and we are absolutely equal.
Problems are created because we want to fight for sameness. This shows that we don’t understand who we are and what we are. Fighting for equality can be a game that never ends. It is more important for each of us to find out who we are and what roles we play within our own lives. It is important that we reach into the space that is ours uniquely and individually, and seek to understand that. This type of realization would allow every single one of us to understand our role in society and would give us the ability to do everything that is needed, with balance, joy, and pleasure, and without the need to fight for equality.”
With all of the work you put into The Zen Village, Zab Sang Institute, and with children ages 23, 8 and 6 years old, do you ever take time off to meditate, rest and rejuvenate yourself?
“If you know how to practice peace and awareness in your actions, there is no need to take much time off. The setbacks and surprises in life are not to be taken too seriously. This life is like a dream…we can relate and have conversations, have a meeting, cook a meal, take care of things, and still be working on our internal actions and be meditating at the same time. If you are in practice all of the time, then you don’t feel the difference when taking time off. I work — and I do my practices while I work. I work everyday. It helps to have a passion for everything you do. I love what I do. I love to help people and even as we have this interview, I am practicing meditation!”
What is your goal for The Zen Village Center?
“I would like to have many retreats and classes. I would like for our center to constantly have people coming to sit for instruction on meditation. One of my main goals is to train more teachers, so they can go out and be of great benefit to their communities. I would like Zen Village Educare Center to be a place for people in the community to boost their energy, rest, and prepare to go back out into society with a clearer vision and a calmer mind. This is important and needed within all communities.”
How you can help:
You can volunteer for the many community service and holistic health care programs, or donate to support the centers programs for children, parents, and teachers by contacting the Zen Village Educare Centre at 305–567–0165 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org . Zen Village Educare Center is a 501c3 (nonprofit) organization.