Most people have never heard of Thich Nhat Hanh. But for some of us, just knowing about him became life-changing. He died about a week at his home in a temple in Vietnam at age 95. Over the course of his long life, he became a famous and influential Zen master with a devoted worldwide following.
My meditation classes—which I’ve done on and off for years—were based on his approach to Zen and living, and taught by a teacher who changed careers to dedicate her life to studying his way and becoming a leader. His lessons of “mindfulness” transformed modern thought and countless lives.
He became known for many things, including:
· His books, poems, teachings, and appearances
· His vocal resistance to the Vietnam war, and all wars
· His on-the-ground efforts to rebuild Vietnam’s villages and families after the destruction
· His decades-long exile from Vietnam for opposing war and oppression
· His nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize by his friend and follower, Martin Luther King
· His organization of dozens of monasteries and retreats, known as Plum Village, a quintessential destiny for a transformative spiritual sabbatical
If we are not fully ourselves, truly in the present moment, we miss everything.
One oft-cited example of his reach and openness was his visit to Google in 1913 at age 87—in the thick of the digital information revolution rather antithetical to his beliefs. Fearless and honest in all occasions, he offered the crowd messages of an alternative approach exemplary of why millions found solace in his presence and very existence, “We have the feeling that we are overwhelmed by information…We don’t need that much information.”
To become famous and influential was never Thich Nhat Hahn’s mission. But to help others with the challenges of human struggle, serenity of mind, and world peace all but created the paths for him. Countless people followed.
I am one. The commitment and effectiveness of internalizing his teachings comes and goes, as perhaps with all pursuits and practices of inner contentment. But my life would be much emptier—and at times lost—without the guidance of his wisdom and those who help spread his understanding.
To put it into BreakAway-speak, Thich Nhat Hahn was an original unplugger. An inspirational one-world traveler. And a courageous soul willing to embody and advocate a life beyond worry, weariness, and work.
We have lost a BreakAway hero. We know he is resting in peace.
Nonthinking is the secret to success. And that is why the time when we are not working, that time can be very productive, if we know how to focus on the moment.