Donna Quesada: I want to say thank you for your time today, and I really enjoyed getting to know your work in preparation for this interview.
Fu-Ding Cheng: Oh, what did you see, for example?
DONNA: Well, I watched your TED talk to begin with.
FU-DING: What did you think?
DONNA: I really enjoyed your Ted talk, but before I say what I enjoyed about it, we have a tradition here, and that is to explore this idea of what it means to awaken. So without any pressure at all, I would just love to get your ideas on this idea of awakening and what that really means.
FU-DING: Oh, alright! A nice juicy question. Let’s get into sacred space. Okay. So if…
DONNA: You take it wherever you want to go… we’ll have fun with this.
FU-DING: Sit comfortably… straight… and close your eyes.
DONNA: Okay. I love it.
FU-DING: Tell me when you’re ready.
DONNA: I’m ready.
FU-DING: Okay. Now keep your eyes closed. Take one deep breath with… in and then gently out. Once again, in… real slow, at the top, hold it, gently out. Once again in… slow… at the top, hold it… then gently out. Keep your eyes closed and breathe at your own pace. We surround ourselves with white light of divine protection and golden light of divine love and wisdom and we call in all our spiritual guides, including Rama, Krishna, St. Germaine, and Don Miguel Ruiz. We call in the direction south, element fire, ruler of our spiritual bodies, ruler of our powers of imagination and intuition, and of organizing and regulating all our raw life force power… our Qi.
We call in the direction west, element water, ruler of our emotional bodies, giving us the capacity to feel… and like water, to adapt to ever-changing conditions… direction of the setting sun, endings, death and the angel of death. So to all old habits, old patterns of belief that no longer serve us, we gladly feed to the angel of death.
We call in the direction north, element earth, ruler of our physical bodies, this wonderful biological machine we live in, and good health and prosperity, and financial abundance and direction of all the partners on earth, all the plants and blossoms, pets.
We call in the direction, east, element air, ruler of our mental bodies, giving us the capacity to make assessments between truth and illusion. Not judgements about good and evil… for, who are we to judge? But, assessments between truth and illusion. Direction of the word in the beginning was the word… and of literature and poetry, and art and beauty, direction of the rising sun. New beginnings every day. This very session can change our whole lives.
So to all you spirits, thank you so much for giving us this time to shine our spirit and to satisfy a big wish for both of us, of spreading the deepest wisdom to the widest number of people. So, please guide us and inspire us so we can spread the news so that we can be impeccable spiritual warriors, spreading love and wisdom and joy and creativity to everyone we come in contact with, knowing it must begin from within ourselves. Thank you. And if you agree, say “Ho.”
FU-DING: Okay. Slowly open your eyes, when you’re ready. Welcome back.
DONNA: Oh, I loved that.
FU-DING: Oh, good. Yeah, I start with it because any interesting project, any writing session, anything of importance… I always start with that kind of… to get all your pistons firing, all your spiritual allies, along with their mundane… everything, all of it together.
DONNA: Well, it’s such a beautiful way to kind of tune in, to come into presence together. I love the way, in response to the question of awakening, you didn’t intellectualize it, you just brought us here. So if I can read into that, that’s what it means to wake up! It’s to come into this moment. But I don’t want to put words in your mouth.
FU-DING: No… That’s all part of it. Yeah, no, you’re right on the button.
DONNA: It’s such a beautiful way to come into any setting with anybody because we’re so in our heads all the time.
FU-DING: Oh, isn’t that true?
DONNA: Yeah. Do you think there’s a process to awakening?
FU-DING: Oh, definitely. Although everybody will kind of make up their own combination of techniques, right? Everybody’s getting advice, techniques, guidance strategies from everywhere. Then you find one that works. But there are certain patterns that come up, regardless. So let’s say, going back to your original question, “What does it mean to awaken?” Awaken from what?
So the short answer is that, “Oh, we’re awakening to our true selves, or however you want to say God, spirit. All that is… we’re opening to the godhood part of ourselves. That’s our true nature. What, pray tell, is that nature? Oh, that’s pure being, though nothing is manifested… it’s our source of all our energy, all our Qi, all consciousness, wisdom, awareness, self-reflective wisdom, that kind of thing… and love and bliss. How cool is that? That’s our essence. Wisdom, love, energy. I mean, those are the heavies. So that’s what we’re awakening to.
By contrast, then, when one has awakened and you just… you just laugh or you cry, but let’s say you laugh. I’ve been walking in my sleep all my years, and now I finally awakened. You see things. What things are and what they are not, including yourself. So that’s what one is awakening to. So another way to say that… you’re awakening to your higher self, your godman, your atman, you’re awakening away from the dream of the planet, as we say in Shamanic terms. That would be Maya. That’s the whole cosmic illusion. The world of appearances and outcomes. We’re waking up.
DONNA: Tell me more about the world of illusion as you see it, because when I was reading some of your work, I saw that you refer to it as the grand illusion, and of course I thought of the old French film, but what is the grand illusion? We’re not literally walking around asleep, but is it just that we’re in touch with something that’s not us, the persona that we project? Or is it our ego shells? What is it?
FU-DING: It’s a little of all of that. So let’s say this world of illusion, anything we see visibly, would be part of this illusion. Maya, as you know, from eastern talk. So this is a huge illusion, and yet for most people, that’s all the reality they know or choose to know. When they dream, they’re in another reality. They may or may not remember, or they get epiphanies or the truth of who they really are. That being, what we talk about leaks through, comes through, despite ourselves. So when we’re saying the big illusion, well, there’s layers of this illusion, like the way Don Miguel, my teacher, was talking about it. Well, first of all, on the human mundane level, okay, just start there. One level is that we have self delusion. “I am really great” or “I am not as good as I should be” or whatever I’m thinking, okay? That’s one level of delusion just right off the bat and a lot of that is not our fault, either. That’s the way we’re taught. You’ll never amount to anything. Who do you think you are? You want to be an artist? You’re not going to make money in that. Why do you think you have something to say? Okay. Somebody who gets that input is going to be stunted for decades unless something changes it.
DONNA: So if I’m understanding you correctly, when we’re stuck in the world of illusion, it comes with a lot of insecurity and doubt and fear and all of that kind of yucky stuff that holds us back?
FU-DING: Oh, yeah, that’s true. That’s sort of the natural outcome. So let’s say if you fall for illusions, delusion…Lord, look how much is in the news today. Any one of these things can trigger somebody. All the anger, the hatred, and the so on and so forth. So our reaction to this illusion is another layer of illusion, right? Like, I will never let them get away with it. No, nobody’s going to do that to me. Okay, first of all, there’s an illusion that I’m so hot. So that’s one layer, and then my reaction to that, I will never let them get away with that. Okay, then you will never let them get away with that. That means that hostility… that anger, revenge, whatever you have in your head is going to stay there until something removes it.
But the container is that thought, I will never let him get away with that. That what’s happening in the Middle East, let’s say, right? There’s all that fighting and not to mention the world. Once you get fixed in that headset or whatever… then that emotional poison, that anger, hatred, stays in you and it’s not going to go away because you have that mental thought construct holding it in place. That’s like a container holding that feeling.
DONNA: So it’s no small thing to live with this poison that comes from living in an unawakened way, or in a kind of shadow land…
FU-DING: Yes, exactly. If you don’t know better, you would continue behaving that way. Look at our world, here we’ve got a beautiful miracle of a body with the operating system that’s just amazing. It can be real reasonable, all that, and intuitive to the wisdom of the whole universe. I mean, it’s miraculous. We have a beautiful planet with the abundance and the colors and the fragrance and the textures. I mean, it’s just… God never runs out of ideas. As an artist, I’m thinking, wow, damn, that’s really good! Because of the beautiful sunsets. Anyway, in spite of all that we’re given… so wonderful… we’re really screwing it up. We’re right on the verge with global warming, not to mention just killing ourselves. So what’s wrong? Okay, so that’s why we’re doing the work we’re doing.
DONNA: Yes. Not to mention those who have no voice. When I think of the world and how beautiful it is, and all of the creatures who have no voice, it hurts me so much and there’s just so much suffering in the world…
FU-DING: I know… it’s amazing. I had this one TikTok post about… let’s say you have awakened, and there’s different degrees of it, but let’s say you awakened enough from the dream of the planet. Well, it does not necessarily make you happy. Now, on a very deep level, you’re going to be profoundly happy to have woken up. Oh, I can see how life is, what really is, okay, that’s huge. So that’s the big thing. But on a surface level, on the day-to-day life, it may not make you happy because with that wisdom and insight you’ve gotten from having woken up, oh my gosh, you can see how much suffering there is in the world and so much of it is needless. Either somebody screwed up themselves, if they had a little instruction, they could have solved it, or countries go to war, let’s say. In the Vietnam War, Johnson did not want to be the first president to lose the war, right? That’s was his thinking. So he prolonged the Vietnam War, and then tens of thousands more die because of hubris, really.
He could have said, “I’m going to be a real giant of a president, and for the first time in American history, we’re going to withdraw our attention from a mistake we did.” Instead of blindly going ahead… because he was arrogant and “I don’t want to be seen as a loser.” We’re going to do a bigger wisdom and we’re going to pull back, save tens of thousands of lives and energy and resources, and stop this war. He could have done that. All this… McNamara, everybody said, “it’s not a winnable war.” So it’s the same old personal problems, and they get played out on the world stage or within us privately,
DONNA: Yet it’s really an individual affair, this business of awakening, because there’s always this question of how do we balance our individual awakening with social action? Where does it start?
FU-DING: Oh, see, this is all part of the practice, and it’s a beautiful practice. So for example, in the shamanic tradition, I came up through Don Miguel, there’s like two pillars of the training. I’m kind of simplifying it, but it makes sense. One of them, we call it the art of dreaming. Everything is a dream. This world is a dream. So we can, even though we’re playing in the dream, we can create it, so it’s a heaven on earth, or we can make it a hell on earth. It’s up to us, really. Our thoughts take form and a lot about how our attitude influences our situation. You don’t like your situation, change your attitude, that kind of thing. So anyway, I forgot where I was going with this, but…
DONNA: The two pillars.
FU-DING: Oh, yeah, okay. The two pillars. So one is the art of dreaming. So all the things that are not of the physical, visible universe, like seeing energy, seeing auras, seeing psychological dynamics, even as you’re talking or arguing with somebody… altered states of reality, different states of consciousness. There’s tons of stuff out there. Then the art of dreaming allows you to see that kind of stuff. So our training would include out of body things… we can talk about that later. It’s just some amazing stuff.
DONNA: Oh, yeah
FU-DING: If you want to get into it, just ask me.
DONNA: Fascinating. Okay.
FU-DING: Okay. So that’s the art of dreaming, okay? So that in a way tells you what you really want. Oh, I can see that a part of me is God, how can I get in touch with that? So that’s how I live, not just a wonderful idea, but let’s say to live it, okay? This is all the things I dream. The other pillar is the art of stalking, like a master hunter stalking his prey. So it’s the most efficient usage of Qi to get what you want. They balance each other, right? One tells you what you want… okay, I want to become enlightened. I want to wake up. The other one tells you the best procedure and method strategy to get there. So they kind of go together and they overlap, of course. But anyway, those are sort of the basic things. So to go back to your question, how do you do that? There are many strategies and techniques. So let’s say for example, in shamanic terms, we talk about parasites. They’re like your inner demons. So there’s all kinds of parasites. They eat your Qi, but because they’re not physical, they don’t need anything physical of you. So they eat your Qi through your emotions. Oh, wow, what a concept. So this is Jung’s idea of the shadow, right? My humiliation, my cowardliness, all the stuff I’m trying to hide, okay? These are in shamanic terms, parasites, inner demons.
So my demon, if I had an inner demon of, let’s say, unworthiness, self-worth… let’s say, okay, if that was in me, then that parasite would be eating my Qi all the time, sabotaging me from within, without even me knowing it. A lot of people don’t even know they exist, and they’re upset about something and they immediately blame the world, why is a government like this? They should have done this and this and that. Not knowing that, wait, inside the real issue is they got an overactive judge condemning this, condemning that, whatever. So once you know that though, then your level of living just jumps the level.
DONNA: So this brings me back to your TED talk, which I watched in preparing for our time together. You tell a story, and maybe you’ll tell the story about the fortune teller who helped you with a kind of breakthrough experience. This was before you met Don Miguel Ruiz. Would you mind telling that story?
FU-DING: Oh, yeah. So I guess I was 40 at that time, and it was the first time I went to a psychic. I had known in one way, is a danger because a lot of them… not all of them, of course, but a lot of them are imposters. They’ll flatter your ego and take a little of your money, that kind of thing. “Oh, I see you with a wagon load of money.” Somebody told me… it never happened. But anyway, it was nice for my ego. So after a while, you get kind of suspicious of that. On the other hand, I was reading Jane Roberts, those books of… oh wait, it’s really wonderful. I mean, the information, regardless of how she got to it.
It got really amazing. But that’s the real test. If it’s usable, positive information, oh wow, this is totally wonderful stuff. Gee, I want an experience of that for myself. Then a week later, my brother calls from San Francisco and he says, ”Hey, I just met this psychic, and I think it’s down your alley. You’re into this kind of stuff and she did a reading on our family.” We have a big family with five boys. Anyway, she just nailed my family right away, and I thought, wow, okay, that’s worth a try. I’ll do anything once and then I’m on the quest. Anyway, so I drove up to San Francisco, and then the first thing that she said to me, even before we sat down to do our formal thing, she kind of looked and she could pick up, Oh, you chose this family, but when you chose this family, you chose it because it is very artistically evolved and also it’s very close.
However, when you chose this family and you got born into it and you opened your baby eyes, you found yourself in a battlefield. This thrill ran up my spine. It was so true because our childhood was a complete dysfunctional mess. It was foster homes and beatings and all kinds of… a powerful grandfather, consultant and mayor of Canton, a real powerful guy… He was meant to be a big politician. Anyway, he would terrorize our family. He’d come to visit, and 10 days later, the whole family is broken up, and we five boys went to three foster homes just because of him, kind of thing. So anyway, the psychic was so accurate. Okay, so later I said, “I’ve had a terrible back pain. I’ve had it since I think high school when I had a wrestling accident.” So I’ve had it for 25 years. Sometimes when it acts up, you sleep in pillows and all that kind of stuff and it’s weird and everything stops when there’s that kind of pain.
So then I went to the psychic and I said, “Well, since you’re so sharp with this kind of thing, I read the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and I read how thoughts take form. So maybe my back ache is from my thinking?” So she says, “Okay, I think your backache comes because you’re angry at your father.” I said, “angry at my father? Pop, he was so funny. He was so wise. You would’ve loved him. He would’ve loved you. He was just the greatest guy, a people guy, excellent.”So in my mind, I thought, Oh, I blew that 75 bucks… my fee for her. But Oh, well, at least thorough with this whole experiment of dealing with psychics… because so many of them are impostors. But wait a moment, if you use the word imposter, that implies that there are actual authentic ones, right?
You’re an imposter, so somewhere in there, there’s real ones. This is all going on in my head, but she continues and she says, ”I think you’re mad at your father, because he never came home.” I thought, Oh my God, that’s true. I never even had a thought of how much a father should be home or not home, right? It’s all a virgin’s experience. So you don’t know. I thought fathers were only supposed to come home once a week or something, if you see him at all. Anyway, so then I thought, Well, in that case, what should I do? Because actually, there is some truth to that. “How did you know that?” I didn’t even know that. Then she says, ‘”Well, you’ve got to tell him how you feel.” I said, ”Well, thanks.”
DONNA: But he’s dead.
FU-DING: “I know he’s not going to listen very well. He’s been dead for 15 years!” She says, ”Well, then just write him a letter.” I said, ”Oh, okay. I make films, I’ll write a dialogue, like a script.” She said, ”No, not even a dialogue, a monologue. I don’t care about what he thinks. I want you to express your feelings.” Okay, so now the session was over and I’m thinking about all this and then I’m driving home and I’m thinking, What? In a Chinese family, to express anger at your parents? Like, boy, you just don’t do that. That’s like you’re trying to tell the mafia leader what’s what? You just don’t do that! Anyway, I would bring shame to the whole family. Chinese aren’t big on guilt, but shame… my gosh. So then, anyway, the next morning I was up earlier than normal and I’m facing this big piece of paper and I’m trying to figure out what I’m supposed to say.
Then so I put pen to paper, ”Dear Pop, I think I’m angry at you because you didn’t come home. I’m 40 years old and it’s time for some truth telling.” Then by the time it was page three, you saw an attack. Where the fuck were you? You goddamn… You didn’t mind the gate! If you had minded the gate, grandpa wouldn’t have come in. We wouldn’t have had to go into foster home. I mean, this whole thing just exploded. It was not like my character whatsoever. I was so enraged. I was writing with my fist, tearing the paper as I go. But anyway, by the time it was page five, I was weeping. I never cried. Not at his funeral and whenever, as an adult, never. Here I’m just sobbing like a little 10 year old boy. It was like squeezing toothpaste out of all this grief that had just been suppressed all these years. I remember getting all A’s just for him in grammar school.
Then if he just patted me on back, that would’ve been good for a year. That’s all I needed. But he didn’t even come home and I had to forge the report card and got in more trouble. But all this kind of stuff I had suppressed as a little kid and it all came out. Another thing that came out like a voice, said, ”All your problems with women have nothing to do with women. They have to do with you not trusting love because Pop never came home.” I just kind of woke up out of that reality… Am I dreaming, what happened? No, there’s my letter, all tear-soaked and then ripped and everything, so… no. So I got up to tell my girlfriend at the time, and for the first time, something was really strange.
DONNA: No backache.