As I reported at the end of last year in Thankful for Thich Nhat Hanh, Thay (teacher) as he’s known suffered a severe brain hemorrhage. Thay’s Plum Village community has announced regular health updates since then. He’s been receiving medical attention in San Francisco for the last 2 months. The very latest health update is both instructive and touching. Even with his “advanced age, the severity of the hemorrhage, as well as various complex health issues” and the fact that “recovery is extremely challenging,” Thich Nhat Hanh continues to teach.
Besides all the medical treatments and therapy, Thay has been able to enjoy the Bay Area, going to visit the beach at least twice a week, enjoying beautiful views of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge, being in touch with nature and the wonderful fresh Pacific air. Every day Thay continues to remind us to enjoy the wonders of life, often pointing at the blue sky and helping us come back to the present moment. Sometimes Thay playfully switches roles with the doctors and therapists, putting a finger on his lips and inviting them to stop. In these moments he often indicates for us to prepare tea so his doctors can have a chance to enjoy a cup of tea in mindfulness. One therapist knelt down by his side, looking out of the window and began to cry silently. She later shared with us that it was perhaps the first time in her life that she had really stopped and appreciated the blue of the sky.
How does this happen? To me, it’s a direct result of being a presence. It’s about living the truth. Such teachers are rare. Most mouth truth. Very few live it.
A very good friend of Thay’s came to visit and shared his own experience of balancing his intention to live in the present moment with the natural wish for a loved one to recover as much as they can. He said that every moment with Thay is a “bonus moment,” and that all we have to do is cherish these bonus moments. Every moment that Thay has to breathe, to smile, and to enjoy the blue sky is indeed a bonus moment, reminding us all to appreciate life fully, without expectation, peacefully accepting things as they manifest. (Read the entire update.)
I’m thankful for the being embodied as Thay! Here’s a piece of his writing that’s universally true and applicable.
There is affliction and suffering within us. Our suffering represents both our individual suffering and the suffering of our ancestors, parents, and society. Every time we practice mindful breathing and take good care of our bodies and feelings, we relieve our suffering. We get the benefit of the transformation and healing, and our ancestors and society also get the benefit. Any smile that we produce will affect society. We can touch society within ourselves. Any step we take in mindfulness that brings a little more solidity, freedom, and joy, also benefits society and our ancestors. Do not think that what you do to yourself does not affect the rest of society and the world. Peace and freedom always begin with our own practice. We know that the one contains the all. The emancipation of the individual is also the emancipation of society, of the collective element in us… If transformation takes place in us, at the same time, it takes place in the world. Even if you don’t see it, a transformation has taken place. If peace is in you, peace becomes possible everywhere in the cosmos. When you have peace inside, you look at the world, and it is different. I think many of us have had this experience.
— Thich Nhat Hanh
The emancipation of the individual is also the emancipation of society…
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