More good news to report about the health of renowned Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, who emerged from a coma last November and appears to be making a steady, albeit slow, recovery. The website affiliated with his international network of youth sanghas, “Wake Up,” published an update on his status, penned by longtime collaborator Sister Chan Khong.
Since coming out of the coma, Thay has been able to keep his eyes open, is increasingly alert and able to engage throughout the day with the medical staff and attendants. Having settled in at the rehab center, we are maintaining the 24/7 rotation of attendants to give Thay constant support. Over the past few months Thay has developed clear means of communicating with the attendants as well as physicians. Before aiding Thay in any tasks, the attendants always give thorough explanation and only proceed when Thay gives consent by nodding his head. At other times when Thay did not wish to do whatever has been requested of him, he would shake his head or he’d signaled with his left arm, of which he has regained much control. Overall, Thay has been quite cooperative even though sometimes the task to be done was uncomfortable for him.
The update also describes his physical therapy:
The physical therapists have begun working with Thay to strengthen his muscles after weeks of immobility. One set of therapy includes exercises to strengthen his back so that Thay can sit upright on his own, keeping his neck and head aligned properly. With continued therapy, we are hopeful that Thay will be able to maintain a sitting position without any support.
Thay is also undergoing therapy to strengthen his legs so that he can stand on his own two feet. The 15-minutes sessions are physically challenging, but Thay is highly motivated to regain his capacities and has often continued with these exercises outside of schedule sessions. Thay is very determined to be able to stand again soon!
The physicians in Bordeaux are hopeful that as Thay is able to eat more and gain more weight, he will have the strength needed for the physical therapy. We are happy to share that last week, in addition to the profound care of the hospital’s doctors, Thay was also treated by a dear student of 20 years, who is a physician specializing in oriental acupressure and acupuncture. The treatments, focused on re-establishing Thay’s yin-yang balance and increasing the energy of his liver, pancreas, and kidneys, had enabled Thay to sleep better and have more energy.
And ends with an encouraging anecdote:
One of the recent happiest moments for Thay was when he was with the speech therapist and enjoyed a quarter cup of tea! When Thay was finally able to hold his cup of tea upright, we declared, “Now we shall have a tea meditation!” Thay agreed and raised his hand as if about to speak and motioned for one of the attendants to give the therapist a short orientation on how to drink tea mindfully. Then Thay and his speech therapist had a sip of tea. While the therapist observed that Thay was swallowing properly, Thay also looked into his tea and smiled to her. Then he put his hand on his heart and the attendant explained that Thay was encouraging us to bring our mind back to our body and to look more deeply into and really enjoy the taste of tea and people around us.
Sign up for Tricycle’s newsletters
Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, we depend on readers like you to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.