The Monks and Me: How 40 Days in Thich Nhat Hanh’s French Monastery Guided Me Home

Mary Paterson. Hampton Roads, $16.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-57174-685-6
Trying to find “home” as embodied in the Buddhist idea of taking refuge, Paterson seeks guidance from Vietnamese Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh at his monastery in rural France. Her 40-day retreat provides a variety of learning experiences for the Canadian yoga teacher as she seeks peace after her father’s difficult death. She attends inspiring dharma (teaching) talks by Nhat Hanh, does chores, takes walks with the nuns and fellow pilgrims, and copes with difficult individuals. Seeking out her fellow guests, Paterson discovers that many, like her, are in search of healing from a painful past. Each chapter, based on topics such as patience, clarity, and nonself, is well illustrated by detailed anecdotes, discussions of Nhat Hanh’s teachings, and the author’s own insights. She is particularly affected by the master’s emphasis on interdependence. She draws inspiration from Buddhism to find strength, without adhering to that religion’s practice of taking refuge in the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha (community). While the writing is sometimes overly fulsome, Paterson’s ability to illustrate abstract Buddhist principles with concrete stories from a famous community is engaging. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/09/2012
Release date: 09/01/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 258 pages - 978-1-61283-213-5
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