Studies with a Saint

  • I attended a mindfulness retreat for academics held at Brock University in 2013. It turned out to be the last retreat Thich Nhat Hanh ever had. He had a massive stroke in 2014 and is paralyzed and can no longer talk. But he is still alive and enjoying life. He can teach without saying a word. Wait.
  • Every morning at this retreat, we had to wake up at 6 AM. We would go outside to do exercises with bamboo sticks, designed for monks. I enjoyed the exercises. Then we would follow Thay (“Teacher” in Vietnamese) to the lecture hall. It was about a half mile away. There was dew on the grass and the sun was just rising.
  •  One day, as we were walking to the lecture hall, I found myself quite close to Thay. This was unusual since there were over a thousand people there.
  •  Thay walked to a small tree, then stopped abruptly. Everyone else did too, like a wave. A young monk spread a mat on the grass. Thay sat down. We all did, too, in the wet grass. I was very close by. The young monk poured Thay some tea. Thay held the cup up to the rising sunlight. There was a glow in the glass cup. He held it there for a while, then slowly drank the tea. Wait.
  • While this was going on a man just behind me was saying this: “What is he doing? Why are we sitting here? I want to hear him talk! My ass is getting wet!” And so on. I was laughing inside but did not tell him that we were learning the point of the entire conference, in just that one moment! And without Thay saying a word!
  •  Afterwards, we all went, with our wet asses, to hear him talk. I took notes. I still have them. What I remember most is that tea, and Thay saying, “You work all day to make money to go buy things that YOU DO NOT NEED!”
  • Wait.

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