No, it’s not thank you and goodbye for me.
This Tinnitus Tuesday is a thank you to my first meditation and mindfulness teacher, my Dad, who passed away last month.
It’s thanks to my Dad that you are reading this blog right now.
It’s thanks to my Dad that I found my purpose in life as a mindfulness teacher.
It’s thanks to my Dad that I have helped relieve the suffering of so many people who were struggling with tinnitus.
In 2005, when I was fighting chronic pain, that several major operations had failed to resolve, my Dad decided it was time for me to learn mindfulness. Let’s just say it wasn’t an immediate success. You see, Dad was a Zen Buddhist, which is a pretty hard-core school of Buddhism. His instruction was “sit still and upright, keep your eyes open but unfocused, and follow your breath for 30 minutes”. 30 minutes? I was lucky if I could sit still for 5! I quickly decided mindfulness was not for me.
Undaunted, he sent me various “beginners” books on Zen Buddhism which talked about the benefits of sitting still for hours, even while your body throbbed with pain and demanded pain killers or a change of position. That didn’t work so well for me either! The books soon gathered dust on the shelf.
But Dad wasn’t one to give up easily. He took a different tack and sent me Full Catastrophe Living – a book by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a Buddhist practitioner who was also a doctor. Kabat-Zinn was the first person to secularise mindfulness, and to use it as an approach for managing chronic physical and mental conditions.
This guide was a revelation to me! It was practical, easy to understand and started me properly on my regular practice of mindfulness. The rest is history – or at least here on my blog!
In his later years Dad’s mindfulness practice helped him to cope with a huge amount of pain, plus two years of isolation during lockdown. He continued his practice even when in hospital, and one of my last memories of him was of walking into his room to find him nose-deep in a mindfulness book.
As I prepared Dad’s funeral, I thought about the legacy he had left behind. He wasn’t rich. He hadn’t invented anything or discovered the cure for a horrible disease. He hadn’t founded a school or endowed an art gallery.
I realised that I am my Dad’s legacy. Anyone who has read one of my blogs, tried a mindfulness practice I suggested, or taken my mindfulness course, is also my Dad’s legacy (that’s you, by the way, so thank you).
We honoured my Dad’s path by weaving a lot of Zen into his funeral. During the service we meditated together in silence, and that felt both peaceful and powerful. We also read some Zen poetry, including this beautiful piece by Vietnamese Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh, who also died this year:
This body is not me
This body is not me; I am not limited by this body,
I am life without boundaries.
I have never been born and I have never died.
Look at the ocean and the sky filled with stars,
manifestations from my wondrous true mind.
Since before time, I have been free.
Birth and death are only doors through which we pass,
sacred thresholds on our journey.
Birth and death are a game of hide and seek.
So laugh with me; hold my hand,
Let us say good-bye; say good-bye, to meet again soon.
We meet today.
We will meet again tomorrow.
We will meet at the source every moment.
We meet each other in all forms of life.
Goodbye Dad and thank you. xx
In memory of Mike Seishi Bristow
5th October 1932 – 20th May 2022