Although he was aged 95 and had suffered a stroke back in 2014, it still came as a shock to hear of the passing of Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk and father of mindfulness, Thich Nath Hanh. He will no doubt be eulogized many times over by people more eloquent than I, but I do feel moved to say just how much Thich Nath Hanh has influenced me, and ultimately the thinking behind The Hippocratic Institute.
I have never attended Plum Village sangha for retreat, but I do read The Mindfulness Bell with surprising regularity, and it is so very clearly a community filled with love, authentic love, for each other and the planet. My heart goes out to them in their loss. I notice their website banner today reads a beautiful quote from Thich Nath Hanh saying “I am a continuation, like the rain is a continuation of the cloud.” The hallmark of a master is perhaps that the potency of their words becomes even greater on their passing, and I fully expect Thich Nath Hanh’s legacy to take this trajectory. Because he is a man whose words are needed in these times. Painfully so.
My main connection with Thich Nath Hanh has been through his extensive writings, many of which either directly or indirectly address health, such as How to Eat, How to Relax, Mindful Movements: 10 Exercises for Well-being, and Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life. It is of course his instruction on mindfulness practice such as in The Miracle of Mindfulness which has been his most profound contribution to the West, and in my own life I have found daily mindfulness meditation to be a pivotal key to maintaining mental and emotional wellbeing, especially during the pandemic.
Following these practices, I am convinced that mindfulness meditation is essential to my own health, and in fact there can be no true recovery of health without a component of mindful awareness as an ongoing practice. In the practitioner-patient healing relationship, mindfulness forms a bedrock from which understanding, empathy and loving support can develop. This is what we mean by practicing holistic medicine “from the heart.” For that reason, mindfulness forms an essential component of our training and curriculum. Module 15 of our Naturopathic Nutrition diploma is called The Healing Relationship. It uses mindfulness exercises as a fundamental approach to working with patients, and our own health as practitioners. Mindfulness is the rootstock from which a healthy practitioner-patient relationship grows. And for that approach, we have the inspirational wisdom of Thich Nath Hanh to thank.