"Make the world your Temple." In 2019, Sarah Tulivu had been given this clear instruction by two Taoist masters, including her direct teacher, Master Waysun Liao. At the time, Sarah, ordained as Fong Yi, was living and training full-time as a monk in a Taoist temple in Lago Atitlan, Guatemala. For six years, she had practiced meditation and the embodied consciousness practice of taiji (tai chi) in the lineage of Taiji Tao for six to seven hours a day. In the two years prior to her monastic life, Sarah had been a deep student of the Buddhist tradition across Nepal, India, and Thailand. It was now time for her to venture into the world. "Find the Teacher and the Teaching everywhere, and in everyone," said Master Liao.
While she considers herself still in training, Sarah has done just that. With her gentle presence, light-filled eyes, and a tender smile, she shares her wisdom in retreats and workshops around the world, mostly in Tuscany, Ireland, Vienna, Lebanon, and Greece. She also returned to be part of the world of humanitarian aid, which she had been doing in East Africa and the Middle East before her immersion in contemplative practice. This second time around, Sarah was called to conflict in regions -- like the border of Lebanon and Syria during the Lebanese Revolution (2019-2020), and again in 2021. Sarah also led Taiji Tao practices in support of the aid workers, addressing burnout and healing at its root. She has seen how cultivating inner stillness and harmonizing the complementary forces within can sustain the great need for compassionate service.
For her early childhood, Sarah was in Canada and Italy. Despite Catholic influences in the Italian town of her upbringing, her family didn't observe any particular spiritual or religious traditions. At 16, Sarah began to travel, and she encountered many different traditions and approaches to the spirit. She never felt herself an "-ist" of any particular doctrine, but rather, embracing the diversity of ways to find truth, love, service, freedom, and beauty. For Christianity, "it was only when I was in Kenya, in a slum of Nairobi," she reflects, "that I met the life of Jesus through different eyes, thanks to the volunteers there who lived his teachings in a very different way than what I had seen growing up. For example, I was reminded that Jesus lived with the poor and the marginalized, and spoke up to oppressive powers."
When she moved to the Tao Temple at 24 years old, it happened in a very organic way, just as the "natural consequence, the natural next step in my journey." A monastic lifestyle seemed to be the best fit for her priority of "waking up," so she followed the call. The tradition happened to be Taiji Tao. Taiji, Sarah explains, is often translated as "the unlimited, absolute, boundless..." Similar to other wisdom traditions, Taiji Tao is a path that aims to return us to our origin, to our most natural state, which means to return us to a state of harmony, balance, and union of the yin (feminine) and yang (masculine) aspects of ourselves, our communities, and the world at large.
For a taste of Sarah's presence and offerings, please explore her introductory video and a series of 10-minute meditations, for all levels.
Please join Cynthia Li and Rohit Rajgarhia for this special offering -- part conversation, part workshop on taiji and embodied consciousness practice -- as a response to the great challenges and the great flux in the world.
What makes me come alive.....Reminding people of our compassionate hearts.Supporting people in their journeys of service in the world. And exploring new and creative ways of doing that. Sharing tools with people that can bring into their lives a remembrance that we are here together, that our journeys are shared, our being is shared. I have volunteered in various NGOs over the course of my life so far, and loved being in supporting positions of other's work and gifts. At the moment I am starting to create a program/retreat for teams working in the humanitarian and environmental aid world, starting with Lebanon.There we plan to bring together elements for self-care and burn-out prevention, together with methodologies and practical solutions to improve and facilitate teamwork, communication, and decision-making. Tools to find new and creative solutions through creating the right conditions for conversations that matter to happen.
Maybe about 13 years ago, as I came down from the Himalayas, my heart opened, mind went quiet and I no longer identified with "Sarah", for about 3 days. I was absolutely, completely, unconditionally in love with every person, every breeze, every sound, every aspect of existence. There was very little thinking happening, and the little that was there was efficient, subtle, and helpful. There was no need to sleep, just rested the body sometimes. The love that moved through this body-mind called Sarah had an immense impact on those who met it, as we bathed in that energy, to one degree or another, we all remembered that we are loved, loving, love. Words came through my mouth with a natural intelligence I had never experienced before, they were at service, new, genuine. There was a knowing of the fact that "I" was in a female body, had a name, and some other definitions that helped "me" get around in human life on a daily basis, but there wasn't an identification with it in a way that would create a belief of separation. It happened seamlessly, smoothly and simply. It was truly the most natural and simple thing. As I moved into Nepal, though the heart stayed open for another couple of years, the mind started to return to how it was three days before, gifting me one of the biggest gifts I could have received: insight into my-and-others condition. After all those years of searching in all those places outside, it was inside I had to go.It was like the world gave me a glimpse of how things can be and then told me "Ok, now go and do the work yourself, find and refine tools that can be shared with others, fall the ten thousand times, and gain as much context and depth as you can to be a good friend to others along the way to awakening."If people don't change, the world won't change, and it starts with me, here, now.This is when meditation training took a central part of my life.
Hard to choose one, and to be honest, every week I am touched by people's small and big acts of care.One popped into my mind now. Once we were hitchhiking through Turkey, when I was about 19 years old, from Turkish Kurdistan to Istanbul, and when it got dark we camped on a spot on the way. There were a couple of houses in close distance, and when morning came one of the families noticed the tent, and not knowing who was in it, they prepared a full banquet of tea, coffee, cheeses, bread, and all sorts. When we got out of the tent they were all sitting around the table waiting for us to wake up.They then insisted for us to move into their house offering us their room and that they'd all (grandma, parents, kids) sleep in the kitchen. We continued on our way, humbled and grateful. This is just one of many examples.
To wake up :)
A quote from Pema Chodron has been present for me lately: "Be kinder to yourself. And then let your kindness flood the world."