A mantra, a lesson, and a prayer.
Thich Nhat Hanh passed away tomorrow or today, depending on where your earthly body resides, January 22, 2022, at the age of 95.
He was and will always be a revered soul that brought countless humans to their knees in search of the present moment. His teachings will undoubtedly carry on into each yearning generation.
My journey with the gentle Buddhist monk is decades long. As far back as my consciousness currently allows, I can remember sparring with anxiety. Childhood was riddled with stomach aches, “Mom, I don’t feel well,” moments of feeling elsewhere, all whilst also living and loving life.
As I got older and the stakes felt higher, the physical components of anxiety took a front seat. I vividly recall several key moments that were spoiled with body stiffening panic, the inability to swallow, floating off the ground while the walls were caving in and with breath unable to nurture me.
In high school, my mom suggested a book—bless her heart and her ideas. Peace is Every Step, by Thich Nhat Hanh. In a state of desperation, I dug in. I fervently read, grasping for any relief from this monster. I earmarked pages and studied hard, not in search of an A+ but in search of solace.
I kept the book in my purse for years and pulled it out anytime I needed to feel grounded, to the point where keeping the book in my bag became a compulsion. I was convinced the book in my purse was the only reason I was getting through another day and another event.
After removing it from my purse, sitting with the unease and unrest, I realized his teachings would be with me forever. Now, the book sits front and center in my mind whenever I need to come back to myself and this moment right now. Oh..wait, now, this moment.
I promised myself that I would be open with others about my struggles. I wholeheartedly have always believed one of the heaviest crosses to bear is the stigma that mental health falsely provokes. Unintentionally, I have become an alcove for many looking for a little extra love. Perhaps it’s because I choose to be so raw with my own mental and emotional conflicts. The piece of advice I always point toward is the treasured prophet.
As I write this, the times in my life that felt so bleak roll through me with tears. With an ethereal melody playing in the background, I am reminded of this moment and arriving to the realization that Thich Nhat Hanh was my first true teacher.
His being emanates a light that will continue to nourish humanity, should we only be so willing to listen closely.
So, tonight, I will light a candle, let my tears cleanse me, put a hand on my heart, and bow in awe and gratitude to the divinity of Thay.