bell hooks tells the story of the first time she met Thich Nhat Hanh

When bell hooks met Thich Nhat Hanh, all that could come out of her mouth were the words “I’m so angry.” In this video, she shares how he responded.

Lion’s Roar
21 December 2017

When bell hooks met Buddhist Teacher Thich Nhat Hanh for the first time, all that could come out of her mouth were the words “I’m so angry.” In this video, she shares how he responded.

This conversation at the Jewish Community center in Manhattan was sponsored by Lion’s Roar in partnership with the Garrison Institute and the JCC Manhattan.


bell hooks:I remember my first time meeting Thich Nhat Hanh and I had had all these series of bad racial encounters before I went to meet with him and as well as bad encounters with the ex — and he wasn’t the ex then. And then when I finally got, you know, I was looking forward with my whole heart to meeting Thich Nhat Hanh all that could come out of my mouth was “I’m so angry.”

And then it was the tremendous shame I felt that here I was in front of this wonderful teacher and all I could, all I could pull out was the ugliness and the mess of my rage and of course he met that rage with loving kindness. And I would just always remember the sweetness was which he told me “Oh, hold on to your anger and use it as compost for your garden.”

And you know, in that moment, you know I could feel that sense of shame lifting. Then it was okay that I had the anger it was okay that things had been so miserable because I could in fact — and of course I always tell people “Oh yeah in that moment I was like oh yeah, mmmm, I can do that I can use it as compost for my garden” — but then you go back into the ordinariness of your life and you see the work of creating that compost pile. But still, I think it’s the lifting one has to in some ways at some point let go shame to begin that process of self transformation.

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