How to Visualize Uncle Monk

On Saturday night, I returned home from a short trip to New York to celebrate my son’s engagement and attend his last cabaret performance before he and his fiance move back to the Bay Area at the end of December. While meditating on the plane, I figured out how to visualize Uncle Monk, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.

Thay at Vulture Peak 2008

‘Uncle Monk’ at Vulture Peak 2008

It began with my usual practice of twelve deep breaths. The first six deep breaths were to calm my body and my mind. The next six breaths were to take refuge in the triple gem (the three jewels) – the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha.

Next, I withdrew myself into myself and became aware of my meditation seat. On the plane, it was not very comfortable and this is what I noticed. I accepted my discomfort and proceeded to the next step in my meditation.

The next step was to contemplate three or more events, feelings, or situations that I was grateful for so far that day. I was grateful for many things that day, including having brunch with my son, his fiance, her mother, and my daughter’s best friend from the time she was two years old. Tamzin is living and working in New York and it was wonderful to see her. Getting to the airport on time using my first Uber ride and getting through security in record time for JFK airport were a couple of other nice things that happened that day.

Then I began my loving kindness practice which consisted of mentally showering loving kindness blessings in turn on myself, my family, and people I know who are suffering from one kind of hardship or another. Of course, Uncle Monk was part of the third series.

The final phase of my meditation that day was to visualize what it may be like in the hospital room where Thich Nhat Hanh lays resting. The image was vivid and clear, just as if I had been in the room with Thay.

I had this great insight that he was just lying there, breathing in, breathing out, and accepting his life just as it is. He often tells us that, “I teach only breathing in and breathing out!” I felt that he was at peace internally, even though the only way he could communicate about it was to touch his attendant. I was so moved by this insight that I wanted to write about it then and there and share it with you.

These sorts of visualizations are special part of my meditation practice, having practiced them for more than forty years. They trace back to my Silva Mind Control training and my retreats with Father Eli. They served me well when my son had cancer in 1976 and when I had to face cancer in my body which began in 1997.

Unfortunately, the musings I had about writing this piece at the end of my meditation on the plane seemed a lot better than what is written herein. Therefore, it is very important that you ask me questions to clarify anything you don’t understand in the narrative.

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