TRANSCRIPT. PODCAST FEATURING HOLLIE MCKAY & DENNIS SANTIAGO. (Please excuse typos, edited for clarity)
DS: Welcome to another installment of Words that Never Leave You: 50 pearls of wisdom and reflection from survivors across the world by Hollie McKay. Today we have this quote: Meditation and deep breathing are the greatest gifts I could give myself. Hollie, tell us about this quote and why it has inspired you.
HM: this came from a lovely woman that I met by the name of Jennifer Zeng, and she's sort of the kind of person that you meet with whom you don't forget. She's very softly spoken, wide eyed and she just has this smile that obviously masks a very thorny past of pain. She was born in China and her father was a very outspoken creative and academic. And so he was very much shunned by the then very growing Chinese Communist Party.
So as Jennifer got older, she found solace in this very spiritual but outlawed faith, it was called a Falun Gong and it's a Buddhist faith where they do a lot of meditation, breathing, calmness. But because it was outlawed, this led to her arrest twice, where she spent time in horrific labor prisons.
I document what she went through in these prisons in this book, and Jennifer told me many horrible stories about other members of belonging who were actually sacrificed for organ harvesting, a very barbaric trade that many lawmakers fear still goes on in China, in which the government targets minority groups for their organs to sell both internally and to people seeking them from abroad.
So it's a really horrific practice and I can only imagine the trauma that Jennifer and others have endured in their lives experiencing this and going through this and eventually when she was released, she was able to escape and come to the United States. One thing I always ask people that have been through horrific things like this is how do you get through it? These are ordinary people that are suddenly forced to become extraordinary as I always say. And how do you want to be part of the world again? How do you function with this trauma?
And although the nightmares have not stopped and they may never stop, but Jennifer really leans on innate tools of focus and presence until whatever momentary fear fades away. She said meditation and deep breathing are the greatest gifts I could give myself.
It is those pillars of giving and self-gratitude and being in that moment and love toward all forms of life that really pull her through the darkest days, and I think Jennifer's words are a real reminder of the simple healing tools that we have, that we can use at anytime, anywhere, no matter where we are in the world.
And even though the so-called enemy, wherever we are, might be able to take away our livelihoods, our loved ones, whatever it may be, but that ability to go inward and to find that sense of self… That's something nobody can ever take away from us, and as we can do that wherever we are in our lives, however difficult that situation might be.
DS: So there's a follow-up question. When's the last time you did that for yourself?
HM: I do it all the time, all the time. Many times a day, sometimes more than others, but usually many times a day.
DS: Very good. Well, so you practice what you learn from the world.
PURCHASE YOUR COPY OF “WORDS THAT NEVER LEAVE YOU” TO READ MORE REFLECTIONS AND ANECDOTES
** Short read of meaningful lessons gleaned from the ordinary forced to become extraordinary
For speaking queries please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
I am also available for a select number of private coaching sessions for those wishing to write a book or venture into the foreign journalism space. Please contact directly for rates email@example.com
PLEASE CONSIDER A PAID SUBSCRIPTION TO THIS SUBSTACK TO KEEP INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM ALIVE.
Follow me on Instagram and Twitter for more updates