Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Mindful Art of Thich Nhat Hanh - in Manhattan

I learned about Thich Nhat Hanh from our son, Jason, who spent a week at the Zen master's Plum Village Mindfulness Practice Centre in France. Otherwise, I wonder whether my life and that of a Vietnamese Buddhist monk would have ever crossed paths . Perhaps I would have stumbled across an inspiring quote, discovered one of his books in the spirituality section of Barnes and Noble.

Perhaps not.

And what a loss that would have been.

When I saw the announcement in "Time Out New York" that Thich Nhat Hanh's art was exhibited at Deepak Chopra's HomeBase at ABC Carpet and Home, my eyes would have normally kept skimming. But because I had a connection, I stopped, read, cut out the brief paragraph, and stuck it on the refrigerator door.

Then I went out of town.

Six weeks later the small piece of paper was still hanging around, reminding me each time I reached for  milk or eggs, that the exhibit was there, waiting, soon to be filed under "missed opportunities."

Opportunity Requires Effort 
could have appeared on the wall alongside Thich Nhat Hanh's mindfulness meditations. Or maybe it does in a broad interpretation of. . .

So I bundled in my warmest, took the PATH train to World Trade Center, walked 3 blocks to the 5 train, got off at14th and Union, walked 3 or 4 blocks, entered ABC Carpet and Home among a swarm of holiday shoppers and a line-out-the door of parents and children awaiting a glimpse of Santa.  Not the meditative mood I was expecting.

"Up the steps, on the mezzanine," the door greeter pointed, when I asked about the Thich Nhat Hanh exhibit. I edged my way past the glitz and baubles to a wide staircase in the back, topped by a picture of the Buddhist monk, his pose an invitation to enter, quieten.

The large room had a warehouse feel about it, exposed pipes and brick.  Simple. Open. Light. Chanting softly filled in the empty spaces with sound.  I entered and was at once enveloped in solitude, the only person in the space. I consciously breathed for the first time since leaving home.


I walked to each piece of calligraphic art, stood, read.
Each message beyond a meditation. 
Almost too much to absorb.
Each life affirming.
Life changing.

Then I came to the one that reminded me of my connection, Jason to Thich Nhat Hanh to me.
The words, 
the book
 Jason gave me after his week at Plum Village.

      In gratitude, I felt that I had come 
full circle.

(The exhibit ends December 31.)

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