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Lions Roar : January 2012
47 SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2012 Be Beautiful, Be Yourself Andrea Miller’s exclusive interview with Thich Nhat Hanh. A FTER THAY’S 2011 Vancouver retreat wrapped up, two nuns ushered me into the kitchen/living room portion of a student residence at the University of British Columbia. Through the windows I saw the radiant blue of the sky and the Georgia Strait. Inside—except for the pot of orchids on the table—it was all earthy brown: Thich Nhat Hanh, in his brown robes, sipped from a clear cup of golden- brown tea, while other brown-robed monastics gathered on the brown sofa and floor. Sister Chan Khong introduced me to Thay, then, smiling, said what a surprise I’d been for them. When I’d requested this interview, via email, they hadn’t realized that “Andrea Miller” was a woman’s name, so they’d assumed I was a man, an older one at that. In the end, I was tickled to be something of a surprise. After all, at so many points during the interview, I was the surprised party. On life after death, on the pleasures of sitting, on being, not doing—Thich Nhat Hanh gave answers I wasn’t expecting. Always fresh, always wise, here is what he had to say. —ANDREA MILLER It is very painful when someone we love has serious difficulties, such as mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, or addiction. Sometimes it feels like their problems are so big that we can’t really help them and so we may want to retreat from them and their prob- lems. At other times, we try to help, and then get consumed by the other person’s struggles. What can we do to help in these difficult situations without getting overwhelmed? WHEN YOU FEEL OVERWHELMED, you’re trying too hard. That kind of energy does not help the other person and it does not help you. You should not be too eager to help right away. There are two things: to be and to do. Don’t think too much about PHOTO BY DON FARBER