I wasn’t surprised to hear of Thích Nhất Hạnh’s death over the weekend. I’d known of his increasing fraility and the fact he’d returned to his birthplace of Vietnam to die. I first read his words over a decade ago. The grieving process for first my beloved aunt A.M. in 2008 and then my Dad the following year led me to Buddhist teachings and meditation.
I found comfort and inspiration in the books of husband and wife Stephen and Martine Batchelor and I think it was through their back catalogue that I discovered Thích Nhất Hạnh’s writings. His words were easy to follow and powerfully effective on my body and mind. He wrote a book called No Death, No Fear and I wonder what his final hours were like. I hope they were calm and fearless.
Reading the Batchelors andThích Nhất Hạnh went hand in hand with exploring meditation and over time I was able to cultivate calm spaciousness in my head. I’m grateful for it. Sure, there are days, weeks, months when I spurn my early morning appointment with the meditation cushion and forget to breathe deeply when I’m out and about but I return to meditation because it works. Meditating first thing in the morning puts fear, trauma, anxiety and overexcitement into perspective. Hanh wrote: “Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.”
I’m lucky enough to be just back from a holiday in The Lake District and still feeling the freedom induced by that carefree 10 day break. Prior to the holiday I had a sketchy idea of the geography and the attractions of the area. I returned home last week feeling like I’d left a piece of my heart in glorious Grasmere. I will return to visit Wordsworth’s two homes when they are open and to see another performance at Keswick’s splendid Theatre by the Lake. I’d always wanted to visit this venue and thoroughly enjoyed the final performance of their Christmas production, Tom’s Midnight Garden. It was David Wood’s adaptation of the classic children’s book by Phillipa Pearce.
I loved everything about it so top marks to director Liz Stephenson, designer Louie Whitmore, composer and sound engineer Alexandra Faye Braithwaite, puppetry director Jimmy Grimes, lighting designer Matt Leventhall and movement director Grace Goulding. I don’t really want to single out actors so let me mention them all Rose Basista, Kemi Clarke, Tyler Dobbs, Toby Gaffney, Keiren Hamilton-Amos, Jack Humphrey, Jo Mousley and Meriel Scholfield.
See you soon Keswick, with your Alhambra Cinema, friendly pubs and those wonderful views of Derwentwater from Catbells. Calm Coniston, I will be back for an early morning meditative stroll.