Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh

Zen Master Thich Naht Hanh Image by Geoff Livingston via Flickr

Not all events are launches, openings, award shows, parties or weddings.  Here’s a twist, a lecture event.

Yesterday, I attended a lecture that was the ultimate Zen event in a city known more for zealots than Zen.   Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh delivered the Annual Walter Capps-Bill Emerson Memorial Lecture, before a capacity crowd of members of congress, their families, congressional staff and others linked to the Washington, D.C. world of politics.  It was co-hosted by The Faith & Politics Institute and the United States Institute of Peace.   Yes, Thich Nhat Hanh is the same Zen master and peace activist who Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1967 and he was on the Hill talking about mindfulness and peace.

Closing Song Sung by Nun

From the moment I walked into the Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress and saw the 84-year-old Zen master center stage meditating with other brown-robed nuns and monks, I felt transformed to another space through the aura of calmness that permeated the place.   I knew this was not a typical Capitol Hill activity.   The room exuded an uncommon trait for a Hill event, there was an authentic warmth, a sense of peace and mindfulness, no visible stress, black and grey were replaced with soft browns and tan colors and no checking Blackberrys or cell phones.   Naturally, Thich Nhat Hanh’s presence along with his talk, “Path Toward Peace: Cultivating Clarity, Compassion and Courage in Political Life,” and his soft, unhurried voice set the tone for the relaxing Zen experience and for bringing the “miracle of mindfulness to Capitol Hill.”    By the way, the next day the Zen master was offering the practice of mindfulness with members of congress during an overnight retreat with the idea “that a community of mindfulness practitioners is very well positioned to engage in the type of quality-focused congressional outreach that we know is most influential.”

Thich Naht Hanh at Library of Congress

Calm became cool for one evening on Capitol Hill.   That’s unique.   It would be wonderful to see more mindful conversations in Congress.    That might take some courage.   But Thich Nhat Hanh did say, “courage is power” so the powerful may consider the option.

This Zen experience proved that all events don’t have to be loud to have deep impact.  Creating the right atmosphere and adhering to good intentions make all the difference in producing the outcome you want for any event.