Remembering Thich Nhat Hanh at Plum Village

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Midday meal at Plum Village. Photo courtesy of PVCEB.

In the 1980s, Katy Butler was a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. She was also a serious Zen student. After sharing a story she wrote about U.S. Vietnam veterans enduring post-traumatic stress with Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk asked if she’d be interested in attending a summer retreat at Plum Village in France.

There, she observed that Thich Nhat Hanh’s practices weren't separate from living in the modern world – he thought someone should be able to meditate in the subway or while cleaning the house. Hanh encouraged the idea that “meditation doesn't just occur on the cushion, it occurs in your daily life.”

Jonathan Bastian talks with Katy Butler about her time with Hahn and how it inspired her to write a number of books centered around end of the life issues, including “Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death” and “The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life.” 

“He gave me a certain courage to keep looking at things that are difficult,” Butler says. “That life has suffering and that we humans tend to make it so much worse because we try not to accept it and to turn away from it.”

Katy Butler at Plum Village. Photo courtesy of Katy Butler.



  • Katy Butler - Author, health-care journalist and essayist based in California. Founder of the “Slow Medicine” group on Facebook.


Andrea Brody