(Image from plumvillage.org)
When the Universe tells you something, pay attention to the message.
It only took the Universe three times to get through to me.
I’m not even sure I remember the first time I learned Thich Nhat Hahn was going to be in Toronto for a public talk. Must have been in the Spring. That was the first tap on the shoulder. At that point, I really didn’t know much about him other than a reference to his meditation advice to think “In” during the inhale and “Out” on the exhale. This became my favourite mindfulness mantra because of its beautiful simplicity. I was intrigued to know about the event but not sure if I wanted to go further.
The second hint was an email that advertised tickets for sale. I passed on the first round and they all sold out. I felt a faint twinge of regret.
The clincher was the email that announced there were a few $20 tickets left. Get them now or never. A quick call to Octopus Garden Holistic Yoga Centre secured two tickets for the lecture. It wasn’t a rash or impulsive act. This opportunity had been offered up in several ways. It was time to respond and see what it all meant.
My husband accompanied me. He really didn’t know anything about Thich Nhat Hahn and was going to be the bystander observer. I had researched more and read two of his books. Thay (as his students call him) had been a Buddhist monk since 16 years old. He was exiled from his country due to his non-violent initiatives to support his people during the Vietnam war. He was a scholar, leader, Nobel Prize nominee and Zen master.
We arrived at the Sony Centre in plenty of time, so as not to be rushed in finding our seats. The crowd seemed fairly ordinary, with a few brown-robed monks and nuns interspersed. I could identify a few yoginis with their notebooks and pens at the ready. Three nuns from Plum Village were singing, accompanied by simple acoustic music. We weren’t too sure about this part of the presentation but tried to keep an open mind.
Then the monks and nuns began to assemble on stage. Thich Nhat Hahn followed soon after, without an announcement. He spoke of living in the present moment, meditation while following the breath, feeling the body in the body, loving speech and compassion. Although I planned ahead and had my iPhone ready, I didn’t take notes. It felt better to just be in the moment, sit and listen. The nuns and monks chanted again. Thay had a quiet, peaceful presence. He was humourous in a subtle way. He was a thinker and a teacher who truly cared. Thay finished his dharma talk and one of the nuns closed with an acapella rendition of a children’s song, in French and then English. After 2 hours and without any ceremony, it was over.
Being present with someone who lives his teachings was an experience to remember. I’m glad that I listened to the signs from the Universe. There is so much more for me to learn from a master like Thich Nhat Hahn. And so the journey continues…