10 questions for Edward Bunker (interview)

The name might not ring a bell but it does for me and in a big way.

It was during my days in Hong Kong, I was going to this fitness center on a daily basis. One day, I noticed a man walking around who I'd never seen before but he was hard to go unnoticed as he had half of his body paralyzed. In despite of his handicap, he was going hard on the machines and getting up a good sweat.

In that moment, I was just astonished by this person and I was aware of a strong feeling of being inspired arising in me...but it was just the tip of the iceberg. As I was about to leave the changing room, I bumped into him and without thinking twice, I engaged conversation. I had to tell him what I had on my mind... seize the opportunity.

As I started conversation with him and thanked him for being such an inspiration, I discovered one of the warmest, happiest and kindest people that I've met in my life. He was carrying this huge smile and speaking with great excitement and humility.. What a man! Edward became a friend and stills remains to this day a great source of inspiration.

I'm absolutely delighted to have him as my first guest for an interview and I'm sure that he'll generously contribute to the platform in the future!

Edward, tell us more about you: who are you & what are you doing?

Hello, my name is Edward Bunker I am originally from the UK but moved to Hong Kong with my family when I was very young and have been here now for 40 years, with a four year break at university in London.

I was born with a form of cerebral palsy, called right handed hemiplegia although it affects the whole of my right side; basically I had a stroke when I was born due to lack of oxygen. I am apparently the third oldest person on record in the UK with my particular condition. The condition limits the use of my right side and I walk with a limp, but I certainly have not let these limitations hold me back from living life as fully as possible.

After graduating from university with a degree in Mandarin and French, I returned to Hong Kong where, with varying amounts of success held various office jobs. I am slower at performing some tasks and I find it difficult to work in a disorganized environment. At interviews, I brought this potential issue up and was reassured on numerous occasions not to worry and that, if needed help it would be offered by the other staff. However well-intentioned this was, the day to day reality of working in an office where everyone is already more than busy enough working on their own tasks, the last thing they wanted is for me to show up and ask for help.

This was the reason why I eventually left the office life and took up the role of support worker at an English Speaking Special Needs Centre for adults. I greatly enjoyed the work. Growing up here, I already knew many of the people who were at the centre, as I was able enough to be in mainstream classes at school, yet needed the extra support around the edges which was provided by the special needs department. It took several years to establish the right levels of assistance and in what circumstances. The fact that I succeeded in obtaining A –Level secondary school qualifications is a testament to this and to the support and assistance I received from staff and friends alike. Because of being able to identify myself and understand through my own experiences, I would like to think I was able to help those I worked with at the centre in an altogether different way from other support workers, they certainly were a great group of people to work with!

I come from an active family, always doing something physical, hiking, swimming, etc. Only when it was really necessary, was I ever granted allowances for my limitations and was expected to do what everybody else was doing. Although tough at times, this allowed me to develop in me a sense of independence and self-sufficiency which has helped me greatly to “get on” over the years.

At a point, I decided to join a gym as a way to maintain my fitness and stay in shape. As anybody who has ever been to a gym knows, there are times when you can overdo things a bit and suffer the resultant aches and pains for a few days afterwards. It was after such an instance that I happened to meet in passing someone I knew only vaguely who said she was a Reiki practitioner and that it would be good for that as well as for my physical condition in general.

After much persuasion and coaxing on her part, Rosina gave me a Reiki session. That was the spark that lit the path ahead for me to do the work I do today. From that first experience, I soon went on to learn and move up through the levels of Reiki to the point where today I am a Reiki Master and teaching students. Something which, even five years ago, I wouId never believed I would do!

Could you explain a bit more about Reiki?

Reiki is a healing modality which originated in Japan, it was “discovered” by a Japanese monk in 1922 after many days of meditation after which he acquired the ability to use and teach other people about it.

Reiki asserts that there is an unseen energy that exists all around us in the air. A Reiki practitioner uses their body as a conduit to focus this energy through their hands into the body of the client. It serves to release blockages, as in my case alleviate aches and pains and promote general well-being through all the systems of the body. It is non-religious and it is not something the client has to “believe” in for it to work, it can be used on animals as well as on humans. There are 4 levels of Reiki that you can learn in the particular system that I use. As the levels get higher you learn more applications and uses for Reiki and you.

There are no barriers to learning Reiki, literally everyone can, and I am proof of that, even with a right hand that I cannot use, there is no hindrance to the flow of the energy to where it needs to go. It is also in no way draining for the person giving the Reiki energy since you are a “transmitter” of the Reiki energy and in fact benefit from it as much as your client. I find giving Reiki sessions particularly rewarding as I have had so many people help and assist me over the years, that it is great to be able to be in a position where I can now help others.

What is the biggest challenge that you faced?

I think the biggest challenge that I have had to face, and overcome, is the acceptance of myself of who I am and equally for others not to make assumptions or have preconceived ideas about me based on my physical appearance.

I am plenty intelligent enough to know that because of the way I walk and my right arm that I do look different from the average person. When I was younger I was very self-conscious about it, but over the years have come to realize there is not much I can do about it, other than to make the most of what I do have and what I can do.

My policy about my disability has never been to tell people about it unless they ask me; I never wish to seek sympathy from others, or for them to feel sorry for me, as that casts you into the role of “victim” which I definitely am not. I have found that a lot of people equate physical disability with mental incapacity.

I always see the funny side of situations and have experienced my fair share as a result of this attitude. One time, someone took it upon themselves to take me by the hand and lead me across the road. The fact that they did not bother to ask me whether or not I wanted to cross the road in the first place was beside the point!

I do like interacting with children as well, as they do not have any filters. Several times I’ve heard “Mummy, Mummy, what’s wrong with that man’s hand?” The mother tries to hush the child and is invariably embarrassed about the situation, but I just am open with him / her and say “Yes, I do have a problem, this is what it is” and show them, after which they are quite happy.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

This is a hard one to put my finger on, but I think there are two accomplishments that I’ve achieved in my life so far that really stand out.

The first is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro when I was 20. As I mentioned above, I was always physically active growing up so I thought it would be something to aim for. I did not set myself the goal of reaching the summit, but just to climb as high as I could, altitude sickness is no respecter of health or fitness and can strike anyone down. Needless to say, of the 25 or so team that started from the base, only 6, myself included, reached the summit. This was a great thrill for me, more so in hindsight than at the time, since it was freezing cold and I just wanted my warm bed.

The second is obtaining my Advanced PADI scuba certification. As you can well imagine, I was never too much of a swimmer to begin with! I lived with my cousin in Taiwan for a few months after leaving secondary school; he is a diving instructor and took me out to give it a try. It wasn’t easy getting the kit on etc, if it had been, it wouldn’t have been an accomplishment. I persevered and had to complete both levels twice before I was issued with the certificate, something of which I am rightly proud.

Who or what inspires you?

I derive inspiration from people with a love of life and strength of character who, in spite of the odds have worked towards, overcome and surpassed their own expectations, in any field, whether it be sport, writing, science or any other discipline. Tied very closely in with this is the capacity within all of us to have a positive effect on any situation, no matter how big or small it might seem.

Have you always been a positive person, or what made you become like this?

No, a positive nature was not something I was born with, but something that developed gradually over time. Growing up I experienced the feeling of “life not being fair”, and of feeling very alone in the world and feeling sorry for myself.

At a point I took stock and thought “I have two choices, either I sit here miserably, thinking that this isn’t right, or that should be better, or I focus on the good things in life and all that is positive. It has been a journey to get here and I am very grateful to the people who have helped me become the person I am today.

How do you build and maintain a strong and positive mindset on a daily basis?

No matter what situation a find myself in, I always look towards the most positive outcome and do not worry about the things that I do not have any control over. Worrying is a huge waste of time and energy, as you are focusing on the possibility of a negative outcome of whatever situation it might be. You can only react to a situation once you know what it is. If it turns out to be not the outcome we desired, then take the experience as a lesson and move on. Smiling is anyway so much more infectious than any disease you can think of.

Reflecting on your handicap – how do you deal with it on a daily basis and how do you deal with judgements and expectations?

I am so used to myself that it largely does not affect me day to day. The inconveniences are few and far between. One thing I will say is that I’ve never been able to tie my shoelaces! I am better at getting people to help me if I need it, I find that one good lacing of shoes can last for up to 3 months. I live independently at home and have food processors and other gadgets that help to chop etc, I find that I can do most things with one hand. People do ask at times “Do you miss having the use of both hands?” I answer saying “No, because I’ve never been able to use both hands!” If anything my right hand gets in the way at times.

As far as judgements and expectations go, as I mentioned above, I never am one to seek sympathy, but I am no fool and do take advantage of things if they are offered to me. Air travel can be great! I have had priority boarding and upgrades more times than I am willing to admit. It is interesting that because I am so strong minded and independent, other than in situations where I clearly need help such as in the tying of shoelaces, I am reluctant to ask for help because I don’t know whether I should be able to do something myself and am just not trying hard enough, or that I genuinely cannot do something. I also have developed over the years a well-honed radar that can sense whether someone is genuine or just wants “to be nice” or take advantage of me in some way. Such individuals are given very short shrift!

As you mentioned, there is an actual trend that people want to share and connect more to find a way forward – why do you think this is so important?

The world has been divided up into so many different pieces by Man. Take your pick – nations, religions, ethnicities etc etc. This has been the way the world has functioned for millennia; wars, invasions and other atrocities committed Man against Man attest to this.

These divisions and conflicts are all an illusion in our heads. We are all humans, animals in fact, as Sir David Attenborough recently said “We have no more right to be here than all the other animals on the planet”. What we are seeing currently with the global-warming situation and other crises is the increasing realization that we are all the same and all call our planet Earth home. The reason for this is greater connectivity between all of us through the social media. Negativity and untoward political dealings are far from new, but with the use of technology it is increasingly impossible for unpleasant truths to remain hidden. Because of this, all over the world, established structures in politics are crumbling. These are uncertain times but this is a short term period of pain, which once cleared out will make way for something better. Quite what or how that is going to come about remains to be seen.

Anything else you would like to share?

Enjoy and live fully the adventure of life! Know that you are just as worthy of the best of everything as the next person and keep an open heart.