A Young Person's Experience of The Thich Nhat Hanh Retreat in Killarney

I arrived among the least initiated alongside meditators who had waited 20 years for Thay's visit. I remember initially fidgeting, questioning why I agreed to spend a weekend listening to this small man?

Then he spoke and 2 hours went gently by, the hall held in the gentle hug of an elder describing lovingly how to become better friends with yourself. He offered a step by step guide for how to heal fractured family ties, entwined with old buddhist stories that put folly to the idea that we have evolved much emotionally since the thousands of years since they were first told.

Thay talked fondly of traits like envy, conceit, pride - the tricks our mind uses to mask our suffering, tutting at them as if scolding a pet. He set a new precedent in my own life for calmness, compassion and dedication to self-improvement - but not in a non-competitive way like much modern self-help.

It was an unforgettable, fundamentally atom-changing experience that I was fortunate to witness at a young age. I still use the compassion-based conflict-management techniques that Thay talked about with such warmth. Looking back I can see now that even then as an 85-year old, he was so excited to share these insights with us - knowing how much they could help relieve our own suffering.

Patrick Stefan Groenland