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The Monks and Me: How 40 Days in Thich Nhat Hanh's French Monastery Guided Me Home

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  293 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews

"Death can be a destabilizing force. And when it touches you closely, you must somehow discover a way to find and rebuild your secure home," popular yoga instructor Mary Paterson writes. With the death of her father, she felt as if she had no place to stand. She had lost her home.

Paterson's response to this life crisis, was to embark on a pilgrimage to Plum Village, the re

Paperback, 256 pages
Published September 15th 2012 by Hampton Roads Publishing Co (first published September 1st 2012)
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Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jan 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: spirituality
Mary Paterson spends forty days at Thich Nhat Hanh's monastery in France and returns home to Canada calm and peaceful. This book is a collection of reflections on the thoughts Hahn shares during her visit as well as contemplation on little day-to-day events during her time in the monastery. It's a quiet book, a thoughtful book, and reading it is a little like spending a few hours in a monastery yourself.
Mar 17, 2017 rated it liked it
This work may have been better suited to a travel magazine. The short chapters read like a travel journal and in a way that's fine because Plum Village is certainly an interesting place. There are no great insights here and I found by day 30 I had grown tired of the author's self-indulgence. The book also brought up questions for me about the privilege of spiritual tourism.
Dawn Reno Langley
Dec 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Monks and Me gave me the intimacy I wanted with the monk Thich Nhat Hanh while also giving me insight into a woman's mindset as she struggles to find herself within the construct of one of the best known monasteries in the world. I received what I wanted from the story, and then some.

Paterson's voice is a bit sardonic, a little rough around the edges, and honest. She never shies away from her own faults and offers the reader an unvarnished view inside her foibles. She is a woman searching f
Jul 09, 2014 rated it did not like it
I wanted to love this. The idea is fabulous. But it was so poorly written and her observations so trite that I couldn't finish it. Someone else write it for me, please!!
Nov 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
I chose this book because I have always respected Thich Nat Hanh and have used many of his teachings in my own practice and I was fascinated with what it would be like at his monastery in France. I also love it's name which is Plum Village. Through my prior readings I knew about some of the rituals that are used at the retreat, such as stopping every time a bell is rang and remembering to breathe, so I was also interested in how these things actually 'worked'. The book was successful in giving g ...more
Will Brown
Oct 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion, buddhism
So far it is just a lovely read. I'm only about 10 chapters in to it, but the style is friendly and the stores heartfelt. Makes me wonder if such a trip is worth it or not.

Stimulating and enjoyable so far.

The Monks and Me: How 40 Days in Thich Nhat Hanh's French Monastery Guided Me Home

Up to about day 21 now. I love it. The writing style is very nice and friendly. Can't help but think that the writer is not exactly a fairly well off person but at least she seems to be going to the monastery for
Amy Vey
Aug 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Wow! Pleasantly surprised at the content of this book. Easy to read, but most importantly easy to relate to! I have always had a hard time really wrapping my brain around a few of the Buddhist concepts for different reasons over the years, however, this book changed one of them. In the book there is one such person (you know sometimes there are people.....) who will grate on Mary in many different ways. Mary, relating her interactions with this person made me feel absolutely and completely norma ...more
Jun 12, 2014 rated it liked it
This is a simple book with simple insights and lessons learned along a woman's journey at a monastery. I can't say that I was either wowed or disappointed. Perhaps my view is neutral. Would I recommend it? Not necessarily, as nothing stands out to me as being a "must read" or "must pass along." As a spiritual person myself, I have an appreciation for the spiritual journey of another, so with that there's warmth toward the author, but the book fell a bit short in sharing the "meat" of her life, t ...more
Jan 25, 2013 rated it liked it
2.5 stars because in the end, there was a bit too much self-involved blathering on and the structure of "each day I learned x thing" format seemed forced. Maybe I just didn't get "into the journey" that much--similarly to how Eat Pray Love sort of left you feeling like you were on a fake spiritual journey during that portion, only that portion was the entire book (so no eating or loving, sadly). I could also have lived without the bits in the beginning about the noise a lobster makes as its boil ...more
Aug 27, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
Just 39 pages in and I may have to abandon this one. The way she jumps around in time is getting annoying. When she says "later that evening," she could be talking about her time at the monastery, or a flashback, or a different flashback, or sometimes a flash forward. And the whole setup of "this is what I leaned from the monks today" seems pretty forced. If you're interested in a collection of reflections on Buddhism, you might like this book, but there is no real narrative here. We know next t ...more
Feb 02, 2014 rated it liked it
I would say that this book was ok.
I read it in preparation for my own month long stay in Plum Village.
I felt rather sad about the extent of the authors ego in the novel. Perhaps she might notice it later in life.
After going there myself I think that there were many things in the book that were romanticized.
My other discomfort in reading it was the focus on how the author identified herself as a bit of a celebrity at the monastery.
If you are reading this in preparation to go to PV I would take t
Nancy Dardarian
Jan 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
Boring writer. A few good bits but the rest of the time quite a slog. Bummer.
Mar 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir-yoga, yoga
This was an interesting book. I believe that there are some real moments of inspiration scattered throughout the book, but you do have to get past the humble bragging that seems to permeate the entire book. I appreciate the vulnerability that goes into writing this kind of book - it is difficult to talk about our own spiritual epiphanies without sounding rubbish. I do wish though that Paterson had been able to leave more of her ego behind this is evidenced throughout the text. Overall, I would r ...more
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Mary Paterson annesi öldüğünde yoga İle ilgileniyor, babasını kaybettiğinde de Kanada'dan yola çıkıp Fransa'da bir manastıra geliyor, esprili bir dille bu manastırda geçirdiği kırk günü anlatan kitabı bitirince, Thich Nihat Hanh kitapları okumak istedim,
Nov 04, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ebooks, read-2015
I didn't like this book. I wanted to but it never happened. I did finish the book because there where some (very) small portions, lines or observations that I did like and I was curious where the book wood go (that why I gave it 2 stars). I found the authors voice a bit annoying (especially when the refers to her Home within) and her observations and the connections she makes/realizations uninteresting, futile and meaningless to me (although they might have been profound for her).

I wouldn't reco
Oct 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Thanks to Goodreads First Reads and Mary Paterson for an ARC of The Monks and Me: How 40 Days in Thich Nhat Hanh's French Monastery Guided Me Home.

Mary Paterson takes the reader along with her as she journeys to Plum Village, a Buddhist meditation and retreat center in the Bordeaux region of France. This monastery, founded by and home of Thich Nhat Hanh (affectionately called Thầy, or "teacher" by his followers and fellow monks), offers retreats and monastic study throughout the year. The author
Lanny Carlson
Nov 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I have read a lot of books by Thich Nhat Hanh, and a lot of things about Thich Nhat Hanh and Plum Village, but this unique book makes it all come alive in a way I've never experienced before. Dealing with her own time of loss, Mary Paterson goes on a 40-day retreat at Thay's Plum Village community (Thay is the affectionaate name for Thich Nhat Hanh, meaning "teacher"). The book is organized in 40 short chapters, roughly corresponding to the 40 days of the retreat, but is no way a simple journal ...more
Harmony Vasquez
May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book, it's one of those stories that makes you think. You also end up feeling enlightened afterwards. Almost anyone can understand and relate to the challenges the narrator faces in the story. As well as the lessons taught in the monastery, for example, "Your thoughts have power, your words have power, and your bodily actions have power. Everything you think, say, and do will produce a chain of action and reaction with infinite and unknowable consequences"(Paterson 62). Per ...more
Jan 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Realizing, as I read this book, how disconnected I am with simple day to day tasks. Breakfast for instance: I chomped on my morning toast, while half listening to the news on the radio, scrolling through my iPhone catching up on social media, distractedly rubbing my dog's ear (who, by the way, is focussed on simply enjoying his ear rub and nothing else), and half listening to my husband's update on some tennis tournament! I couldn't tell you if I enjoyed my toast, or my husband's conversation bu ...more
Kelsey Cooper
Dec 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I'm always looking for more info on Bhuddism, but sometimes the teachers are so hard to read. I just can't absorb it.Mary Paterson is an ex-catholic, yoga teacher. I found her to be entertaining and very straight forward, dealing with some very real issues (the recent death of her father). It gave me a little insight to the life of the nuns and monks, as well as the different people out on thier individuals quests. I also learned quite a bit about the monastary, which sounds b ...more
Dec 19, 2012 rated it liked it
I found this book to be somewhat of a let down; it held a lot of promise, but the author seemed a bit too self-absorbed at times. She did such a nice job of conveying the every day annoyances that followed her to Plumb Village that it erased any thoughts of me putting such a trip on my bucket list. From 8th grade type disputes to rustling jackets during meditation to the flu....reality followed her there. I did enjoy the references to Nhat Hanh's work, and have already purchased two of his books ...more
Nov 01, 2012 rated it liked it
"In the stormy ocean of life, take refuge in your wise self." --Thich Nhat Hanh

When Mary's father dies she feels that she has lost her familiar inner Home. She plans a 40 day retreat to Thich Nhat Hanh's Plum Village in France. Each chapter in the book represents one day and one lesson. Day 12 is Humility, Day 21 is Impermanence and Mary uses her daily experiences to illustrate each lesson. Each day, each lesson brings her a little closer to realizing that the Home she though she lost had been w
Mar 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016, buddhism
I found this book really disapointing. I was interested in the day to day activities in a Nunnery / Monastry and what this book was instead was a memoir. Patterson, mused over Thich Nhat Hanh's talks and related the teachings to what was going on around her. Sometimes this meant that she was going over her deeply personal feelings, othertimes she was critiquing the people around her.

From a personal level I didn't really find that I connecte to Patterson and therefore this book wasn't really for
Feb 11, 2013 rated it liked it
While I enjoyed this book, her use of a daily diary format focusing on one issue seemed forced. I didn't learn much from her personal reflections that I could apply to my own life. I was hoping I would get some sense of why she chose to go to Plum Village rather than another retreat center. And while Thich Nhat Hahn was present, he wasn't such a strong presence that I would feel drawn to spend 40 days in France. I finished the book but wasn't enthusiastic while reading it.
Sep 14, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Barely a three, but finished it hoping til the last to find some depth. Only depth available was in the quotes from T Nhat Hahn. Perhaps it is young adult literature, given there is no mention of life's adult struggles and she focuses mostly on the struggles of losing her parents. This may work as a primer for those who have not read any Nhat Hahn yet. This is not a spiritual work. It is the work of a young woman dealing with the ego. Bravo to Mary for the courage to write this book.
Nov 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed getting a peek into daily life at Plum Village, Thich Nhat Hanh's monastery/retreat in France. Mary Paterson's writing style is very accessible and the book can be breezed through. However she packs a lot of insight into each chapter so I decided to digest it slowly, mindfully. When I closed the cover for the last time I felt just a little bit wiser and hopefully better prepared for life's surprises.
Erica Crockett
Oct 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
A contemplative and personal look at the time Mary Paterson spent at Plum Village. Her work with the monks and nuns following the lineage of Thich Nhat Hanh helped her heal from trauma in her own personal life and extend this "heart perspective" to her readers. A good read for anyone that follows the dharma or is struggling with interacting with life on a deeper, more authentic level. Much enjoyed.
James Myers
May 31, 2015 rated it it was ok
I picked up this book at the recommendation of a friend, as I booked a week at Plum Village at the recommendation of another friend. I have a long standing fascination with Buddhism and its ideals. I got 14 days into the book and found the writing just pedantic. Maybe it's just that I'm a soldier with a skewed sense of what merits complaint, but I just couldn't do it. I'll experience the monastery for the first time in person.
Nancy Seaman
Feb 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Rather worshipful of Thich Nhat Hanh, but tries to show how Buddhist principles are lived out in the relationships at the monastery and tries to apply them to her life outside. I really liked the effort to show how Buddhism works as a way of life in a Western setting. (Monastery is in France. Author is Canadian.) Most casual, friendly discussion of Buddhism I have read. What other religious text would argue "no shit, no flowers."
Feb 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I really loved this book. I love that the chapters were only a few pages each and you had 40 of them. Though the chapters were short, the content was far from it. Each chapter lingered with me long after I had closed the book. I could come back to the thought in my everyday life and hope that I could be aware of what Mary Paterson was trying to bring to light. Very thought provoking and meditative coupled with great writing of an interesting story. I definitely recommend this one.
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Mary Paterson is the author of the best-selling spiritual memoir, The Monks and Me: How 40 Days in Thich Nhat Hanh’s French Monastery Guided Me Home, about her 40 day pilgrimage to the Buddhist monastery of the world-renowned Noble Peace prize nominee, Thich Nhat Hanh after the death of her father. Published in 2012 in english in the U.S. and Canada, and currently translated into 8 foreign languag ...more
More about Mary Paterson...

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