Some people have more than a life – they have a fate. Lorna Jeng has met with fortune, and misfortune, and fortune again. This summer she visited Scandinavia, where she travelled with her choir and participated in a summer course in Acem Meditation.

Refugee in own country

Lorna was born in Taiwan, but moved to Vietnam after marrying there. The end of the Vietnam war in 1975 did not bring peace to her family. The Americans withdrew, and the communists entered Saigon, where Lorna lived with her husband and three sons. Nobody knew what was going to happen. She decided the safest alternative was to bring her children to Taiwan for a period. Unfortunately, her youngest son, only three months old, was not allowed to leave, and had to stay behind with his father. Almost three years would pass before she saw them again, when her husband and youngest son also managed to flee to Taiwan.

Lorna grew up in a well-to-do family. While many of her classmates could not afford shoes, and went barefoot, she not only had nice shoes, but was even allowed to take ballet classes. In Vietnam, her husband’s family owned two factories and had seven servants. But when she fled back to Taiwan and became a refugee in her own country, the jewellery she had brought with her as startup capital was stolen at the airport. So she was forced to begin her new life without a penny.

Many would have felt embittered and felt that their lives had been ruined. But Lorna did what she had to do. She started from scratch: worked as a door-seller, sold noodles at a street stand, cooked simple dishes which she sold in the market while selling clothes from the neighbouring stand. After the family was reunited, however, a man cheated them out of almost all their money, and they had to start from scratch all over again. But they never gave up, and today they own two Vietnamese restaurants in Taipei.

Childhood memories

At the summer course, the silence of meditation provides ample room to reflecting on everything she has been through. The strange thing is that when things quiet down, it is thoughts about her life, and not so much the ups and downs of her fate, that enter her mind. Her thoughts wander to sad memories from her childhood. She is surprised at how long the memories of such experiences linger on. And she starts to reflect: How has she taken care of her sons? What burdens are they still carrying on their shoulders?

She values the opportunity to quietly reflect on her own life. No everyday duties, no noise, no people that demand her attention. She realises how easily she is loses herself in her constant attentiveness to the needs of other people. Even the group meditation becomes a challenge: “Do I disturb the others when I cough or swallow?” She discusses meta-thoughts, critical that enter into her meditation. She spends much of her time by the lakeside, in the rowboat, in the woods, and on the grass. She picks wild strawberries and raspberries, and writes page upon page in her diary. And she takes photographs.

Troublesome politicians

It is almost three years since Lorna learnt Acem Meditation in Taiwan. Last year she helped arrange an international spring course in her home country, with 27 participants from Taiwan and 45 from Europe. This year she had managed to convince the choir where she sings to visit Scandinavia. A Friday evening in July more than thirty Taiwanese women gave a song recital at the University of Oslo. The following day, the choir had travelled on to view the mountains and fjords of Norway, while Lorna left them to participate in the summer course.

“They thought it was a pity that I would miss all the sights and scenery,” she says. “But I thought it was a pity that they were unable to share my experiences at the summer course.” When she left Taiwan, her husband was a little anxious. What if China attacked Taiwan while she was away? Despite her experience from Vietnam she showed no apparent fear. “Politicians are always creating trouble,” she said. She was determined not to let that kind of trouble prevent her from travelling to Scandinavia, spending almost a week at the summer course in Acem Meditation, and deepening her awareness and gaining further insight into her life.

Acem International Newsletter 2 1999