Non-Material Gifts
--Zilong Wang
13 minute read
Jun 28, 2016


I am very grateful to have encountered "multiple forms of wealth" in the past three years. It has broadened my understanding of "capital" beyond financial resources, and has helped me to see the endless abundance in life, and to nourish the true wealth.

To deepen the appreciation for this new and ancient notion, on this pilgrimage, I have committed to reflecting on and recording a "non-material gift" every time I receive a financial gift -- and share them online.

Here are three dozens such entries from the past four months.


Date: 1/2/2016
From: Rev. Heng Sure
Gift: Words of encouragement and wisdom
Story: I was overwhelmed to receive a blog comment - a blessing - from Rev. Heng Sure, whose life planted the seed for my pilgrimage. I've only met him once, and was never in touch digitally. But he "manifested" through the ether, and sent his words of wisdom and support from Australia, when I first announced the pilgrimage online. Deep gratitude and awe.

Date: 1/26/2016
From: Brother R
Gift: His own carbon-fiber road bike
Story: A dear brother emailed me and asked if I have a bike. He offered his own bike - a nice carbon fiber road bike - for my journey. Although I already have a bike from the cross-US trip two years ago, my true "vehicle of transportation" is the blessings and care like this!

Date: 1/27/2016
From: My parents
Gift: Explaining the pilgrimage to my grandparents
Story: Yesterday, I shared on my Chinese social media account about the plans of the pilgrimage. I have been holding back from announcing it, being concerned about how my grandparents will receive the fact that their oldest and only grandson (carrier of family lineage, in traditional views) is going "off the rails". They called up my parents, worried and confused. My dad explained the decision with much compassion and skillfulness. Deep gratitude to them all. It sure is a "family trip" :)

Date: 1/27/2016
From: J, N
Gift: Deep conversations and listening
Story: As the Feb 29th departure date brings a sense of "urgency" in connecting with friends, today I got to have rich conversations with two friends. We've held intentions to connect, but was not able to make it happen, until the sense of "time is limited" compelled us to make it a priority to meet. Reminded of a mentor who asks: how to give/serve as if every day is my last day on earth?

Date: 2/3/2016
From: "Strangers" on the internet
Gift: Well wishes and encouragement from Chinese readers
Story: Over the past few weeks, as I share about the pilgrimage online in Chinese, I've been receiving the most beautiful notes of well wishes and encouragement from all corners of the country (and even the world). I don't know how they come across the articles I posted, but they all blessed the journey with their sincere attention, care, and prayers. They have gifted me the feedback and affirmation that are much appreciated at this early and tentative stage. They help me to have faith that these values and messages have strong resonance in the Chinese context. 

Date: 2/5/2016
From: "Chain reaction"
Gift: Let it flow!
Story: Today I received a generous donation, and it made the cumulative donations to date slightly exceed my cumulative expenses. The kindness of the giver - and of many others these days - have made my cup of gratitude overflow frequently. I was reminded of how we are mere trustees of our wealth and resources, and should let it flow to places of the greatest need/usefulness. So I decided to make a contribution to a beautiful project that's fueled by love, passion, and pure intentions, called "Wild Dream Walks". I am grateful to be swept up in this chain reaction of generosity. And, Gibran's words ring in my ears: "For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow? And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the over-prudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand, as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city?"

Date: 2/9/2016
From: Kindred spirits from China
Gift: Camaraderie
Story: Recent encounters with kindred spirits from China have reminded me the true meaning of the word "comrade" in Chinese -- "those who share the same intention/goal". Through serendipity, I was connected with Chinese friends living in the US, who are also dedicating their service to the ecological and spiritual awakening of our time. When we meet, it is as if we've known each other all along. We support each other's work in a pure spirit, share the sense of possibility and excitement, and can relate to one another on the common challenges we face. Blessed to be in such good company. It also reminds me of what Jesus said, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Wish to develop that kind of faith.

Date: 2/15/2016
From: Old friends
Gift: Noble friendships
Story: The past two days, I have shared via email the pilgrimage information with friends from the past few years. As I look through the names on the email list, my heart is filled with gratitude, and a slight disbelief of the good fortune to have come across these wonderful beings. They have been noble friends along each step. Hope to have the clarity in me to "earn my keep" to be able to continue to walk on this path. Reminded of a vision shared by a mentor/friend: "Two friends are climbing a mountain from two different sides. When one of the friends feels near exhaustion and is about to give up, a little bird flies by and says, 'Don't give up! Your friend is eager to see you at the top!' So this friend keeps going. When the other friend feels hopeless and wants to give up, the little bird does the same."

Date: 2/15/2016
From: Housemates
Gift: Understanding
Story: These days of preparing for the pilgrimage have removed me from participating in much of the community services in the house I live in. I feel guilty for being an "absentee-resident", but my housemates have been most gracious and accommodating. Grateful for their understanding and support!

Date: 2/16/2016
From: Time
Gift: Imminence
Story: We (or at least, I speak for myself) go about life as if it will continue forever. As a 24-year-old, aging and death seem to me as far away as achieving full enlightenment -- with seemingly the same (low) likelihood. I take for granted that I can meet up with dear friends in a month, and another. However, the set departure date of the pilgrimage have gifted me a taste of imminence - the unavoidable, impending end to the familiar. I started to notice the local museum that I've never visited. I started to realize how many friends whom I have not connected with. I started to see the blooming plum tree in the garden that I've never really noticed before. They say, live as if today is your last day on Earth. I guess, if that's hard to do, then just set a departure date. 

Date: 2/23/2016
From: Canticle Farm
Gift: Community
Story: Every Tuesday at Canticle Farm, we have a community-wide, festive dinner. Today is the last one I could participate in before I depart next Monday. A housemate asked me a few days ago what my favorite food was. I blurted out: dumplings! Well, tonight we had a table full of dumplings -- hand-made! -- for dinner :) They "schemed" at least a few days ahead, went shopping yesterday, and spend hours today making the dumplings from scratch. (Yes, I over-ate.) We went around the table, and the community members gifted me with their blessings for the journey - I don't have words to describe. Just Thank You. With each blessing, I feel more ready to embark on the journey. Looking at everyone around the table, I feel much gratitude for them, and realized that for all my life, I have been incurring "debt" that I could never repay - my parents, my teachers, friends, community members -- they have given me so much. Good news: I get to pay it forward for the rest of my life! Deep bows to my community members tonight!

Date: 2/24/2016
From: Oakland Bikery
Gift: Bike help
Story: Over the past two weeks, I have spent over a dozen hours at a local community bike co-op and educational non-profit, called the Bikery, fixing up and fine-tuning the White Dragon Horse for the next journey. The volunteer staff there -- all people of color -- are so generous with their time and skills, teaching me how to true my wheels, put on handlebar tape, install pedals, steerer extenders, adjusting brakes, etc -- all for free! They are thrilled to hear about the pilgrimage, and gave me their full support. These tune-ups and bike maintenance trainings would have cost hundreds of dollars in a commercial bike shops. These volunteers at the Bikery -- most of them young people of color from disadvantage background -- have been more than generous and warm with their gifts. 

Date: 2/29/2016
From: Stranger in a car
Gift: "Good job!"
Story: As I pedaled along, a women rolled down her car window, and shouted out with a big smile, "good job!" Maybe she saw the Earth Flag on the back of the bike :)

Date: 3/9/2016
From: Water drops
Gift: Reassurance
Story: Saw the flowers and leaves holding up a string of water drops, each so perfect, so full. In that moment, came the reassurance: the world is fine. We humans might be out of tune, but everything in nature, even the decaying leaves and unrelenting rain, is so perfect, and just fine.

Date: 3/9/2016
From: (Former) Colleagues
Gift: Home base
Story: I am now staying at the office apartment of the company that I used to work for. Even though my formal work relationship has concluded months ago, I am still retreated like family, as one of their own, and given the full use of the apartment to wait out the El Nino rain. Very grateful for this community, this home base, which I know I can always visit and lean upon. 

Date: 3/19/2016
From: City of Ten Thousand Buddhas
Gift: Instilling goodness and developing virtue
Story: 42 hours in CTTB have filled my heart with wonder and hope. The sincere cultivation, the diligent residents and volunteers, the curious and happy students -- innumerable gifts to the world.

Date: 3/19/2016
From: Wise Advisors
Gift: Wise advice :)
Story: At the most timely and auspicious moments, the Wise Advisors always come into my life to share the guidance that I need in that moment. Yesterday morning's advice: step out of the comfort zone; let the unknown does its work on you; that's where the greatest learnings would happen.

Date: 3/19/2016
From: Awakin circles
Gift: "Force Field"
Story: Last Wednesday, I logged on at 8pm to listen in on the Awakin circle in Santa Clara - the mothership :) Feeling rejuvenated to tap into the familiar and solid force field of kindness and space-holding. 

Date: 3/19/2016
From: Peace Pilgrim
Gift: Meaning of true pilgrimage
Story: Yesterday, I listened to the audiobook of Peace Pilgrim - it was a most inspiring, moving, and uplifting message from a truly enlightened saint-servant of our time. Will revisit it many times throughout the journey, especially when my faith waiver. 

Date: 4/11/2016
From: Bee
Gift: Bee consciousness
Story: A bee stung me on the forehead, injecting a good dose of bee consciousness into my head. It provided a good opportunity to practice equanimity, and be reminded of the role of a pilgrim, like a bee, take a little, leave a little. Sorry to have cost the bee's life. 

Date: 4/11/2016
From: Online readers
Gift: Encouragement and fellowship
Story: Friends and readers online have been most generous in sharing with me their thoughts from reading about the journey. Their blessings and witnessing help me know that I am not traveling by myself. 

Date: 4/11/2016
From: Backyard garden
Gift: Connection to soil
Story: Staying with a friend in LA. There is a yard in the back with vegetables growing. When I get tired of writing, I get up to pull some weeds and eat some leaves. However, in my over-enthusiasm and ignorance, I pulled out some vegetable that looked like weeds to me :)

Date: 4/11/2016
From: Host in LA
Gift: Noodles, dumplings, motherly love
Story: My host in LA has been most caring, feeding me my favorite foods: dumplings, noodles, stir fry, and many more -- and showered me with motherly care and well wishes. To receive such nourishment in a foreign land is a heart-warming blessing.

Date: 4/11/2016
From: Hosts along the way
Gift: Accommodating my vegetarian diet
Story: Hosts all along the way -- most of whom are strangers I've never met before -- have been 100% accommodating when it comes to my vow to not eat meat. They go out of their way to prepare lentil soup, tofu dishes, etc, to make sure I can join them for dinner and have enough nutrition.

Date: 4/11/2016
From: Group of friends interested in ecological civilization
Gift: Hope and friendship
Story: Met a group of friends in the Claremont area who have devoted their life to creating an "ecological civilization" in China. They have been most generous with their time in sharing their thinking and work with me. They have gladly taken much sacrifice in worldly gains in order to do the work they believe in. It gives me much hope and inspiration.

Date: 4/11/2016
From: Parents
Gift: Full trust
Story: My parents have gifted me their full trust, and said that they no longer worry about me, knowing that I am on a good path, and in good hands :) What else could a son wish for :)

Date: 4/11/2016
From: Lynn
Gift: Benediction
Story: A dear sister held a powerful poem in her heart for over a month, and made her way across LA traffic for an hour, to share her blessing. She prayerfully read the poem, as I held her hand. "Hope that your journey is a long one." ("Ithaka" by Cavafy.)

Date: 4/12/2016
From: Journalists
Gift: Sincere efforts
Story: A journalist friend I met recently took it upon herself to write a piece in Chinese about the mission of the pilgrimage. She and her colleagues took such great care in making sure the article reflects and spirit and reality, that she stayed up till midnight to edit with the team in China. Very grateful and humbled for such a gift, and I understand it is not about "me" at all :)

Date: 4/25/2016
From: Circle of friends
Gift: Circle of sharing
Story: A group of journalist colleagues in the LA area circled up today to share stories and questions from the Journey to the East. We started with a minute of silence, and going around the circle to share "what question we are holding this moment in life". It led to a deeper place of sharing, and the conversation continued for three hours. A deep blessing.

Date: 5/16/2016
From: Strangers
Gift: Hands that feed
Story: So far on this journey, I have been invited to join dinner/breakfast by each of the new family I stay with. These "complete strangers" have invited me to join the sacred and intimate occasions of family meals, every single time. It nourishes my body and soul, and fills me with endless gratitude and hope.

Date: 5/16/2016
From: Animal friends
Gift: Songs
Story: Over the past few days, I have been mostly sleeping outside. Being close to nature, I hear animals howling and singing every night and dawn. Coyotes, peacocks, frogs, etc. A symphony of the wild!

Date: 5/16/2016
From: Rocks and stones
Gift: Awe
Story: The red rocks of Sedona fill me with awe and inspiration. They've been here for billions of years, teaching their silence wisdom to generations after generations.

Date: 5/16/2016
From: Artistic minds
Gift: Art and beauty
Story: In Arcosanti, and in the current home I am staying in, art is everywhere, even in the small details such as tiles on the floor. When everything around us is infused with intention and beauty, it uplifts the human spirit, and encourages us to imagine.

Date: 5/19/2016
From: Diné friend
Gift: Navajo wisdom
Story: A new friend, D, generously and patiently shared her deep Navajo traditions. It filled me with gratitude for the people who preserved this wisdom through much difficulties, and with much hope for the future. 

Date: 5/30/2016
From: Family tradition
Gift: Home for 4 days
Story: A family here in Monticello offered me the full use of their first floor house for four days, as I prepare for the upcoming vision quest nearby. I originally approached the family to ask to camp in their yard for one night. The father remembered how his grandma would always invite anyone in need to come into the house and stay, so he invited me to stay inside, with my own bed, bathroom, and kitchen. 

Date: 6/13/2016
From: Abajo Mountains
Gift: Mystery and Soul
Story: Twelve days in the wilderness of the Abajo Mountains in Southern Utah; a "soul bath"; full of dreams and animals and imageries and wonders. Mother of all gifts. 


In short, this seems to be the pattern of the non-material gifts:

Date: Every day
From: Every corner
Gift: Everything
Story: Every breath

These, are the true sustenance of a pilgrimage :)


Posted by Zilong Wang on Jun 28, 2016

3 Past Reflections