The past two evenings I have been in the presence of one of the most spiritual people I will probably ever encounter. Thich Nhat Hanh, now 85 years old, shared his simple truths with Washington audiences.
Last night was a lecture at the Warner Theater that required a ticket purchase. Tonight was a free lecture at the Library of Congress.
Each evening began with a guided meditation, followed by a lecture periodically punctuated by the biggest bell I have ever seen.
He talks a lot about things like lotus flowers and clouds and even cups of tea. But the simple truths he imparts make so much sense. Such as,
-- If you really love someone, you will give that person your full and undivided attention when you communicate.
-- If you really love someone, you will be sympathetic to his suffering. You will be a good listener.
-- Suffering is a necessary part of life. Without suffering, there would be no happiness and no compassion.
I wish I could remember all the many things he said over the course of about 4 hours of speaking. While a few people around me were furiously writing in notebooks, I decided to just listen.
Last night the person to my left was texting. The person to my right was reading her email on her phone and noisily eating an energy bar. It was all I could do to keep my mind from dwelling on these less than mindful activities. Tonight’s audience seemed to have much better manners, although I did hear at least one cell phone go off.
Our teacher sat in the lotus position on the stage, surrounded by his entourage of monks and nuns all dressed in flowing brown robes. You could tell they highly revere him.
Perhaps it was my imagination. But I felt like I had a somewhat more positive and contented attitude toward life today. These brief encounters with Thich Nhat Hanh will long be in my memory.