A few years ago, I listened to Master Thich Nhat Hanh on audio tapes. I was a registered psychologist, doing counselling, in a refugee camp at Leonora, Western Australia.
Most of the refugees were waiting for their visa to enter Australian communities. If they needed English language lessons, these were offered, and I was able to work with them through interpreters.
I soon found this to be a bonus. Working with the interpreters, we would have twice as much transpersonal empathy in sessions and I was inspired by the effectiveness of our work.
In my breaks, listening to several hours of Master Hahn’s recordings, I learned he had been exiled from Vietnam and had traveled to the USA. He quickly made a name for himself as a man who devoted his life, and at that time helped Vietnam Veterans recover from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD).
His main approach was to introduce Mindfulness Mediation to the American Soldiers. He told them that, while meditating, they should send any painful memories to the garbage, in the basement of the mind. There, those memories could be composted to fertilize good feelings of gratitude, for example.
Hahn’s mindfulness approach soon helped the GIs to see composting in the ‘now’ and what was garbage, fertilizing pleasant thoughts and feelings. While suggesting that students never need to abandon their religions or beliefs, he could hint that their beliefs could aid in the composting process. It is certainly worth noting that this process does not suggest abandoning all ideas, thoughts and values.
I must say, I admire Master Hanh’s efforts to also work with the children of the Vets, allowing them to compost their thoughts of alarm about their parent’s experience. These young folk, were urged to help each other and as they developed helpful styles, some of these would be invited to his healing community in France, called Plum Village. He would be selective of children, who had sufficient understanding, so that they would be a blessing to other children around them. This has been the main strength of the Plum Village.
Hanh teaches that an idea of yourself as ‘individual’, is an illusion. There is only room to experience yourself, avoiding thoughts and actions that might be harmful, while having the capacity to love and see what might be harmful or ‘evil.’ Western Society fights against this wisdom, feeding on an idea of ego, which is a construct of the mind. Western Society, however, does have its boundaries and naturally meditating children soon find out what works.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, has observed Master Hanh’s chosen work, and workplace commenting that:
“Hanh shows us the connection between personal inner peace and peace on earth.”
As a man, who has been helped by training in transpersonal counselling, I admire Master Hanh, and apparently self-training, during years Mindfulness Meditation. His life and his work are deeply inspiring.