One Wednesday morning during a lengthier stay of mine at the monastery several years ago, we all gathered in the meditation hall for our weekly video-recorded Dharma talk from the monastic community’s teacher, Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, or “Thay” as his students lovingly referred to him. As the monks and nuns took their seats on their meditation cushions in front of the large video screen, I pulled up a folding chair behind the group of monastics and sat quietly, well aware that I was not in the most jovial of moods. More accurately, I was despairing.

The talk that morning was a question-and-answer session, during which a young boy walked up, sat down in the chair next to Thich Nhat Hanh, and sincerely inquired, “Thay, what is your practice?” Pessimistically expecting to hear something having to do with mindful eating or walking, one can imagine my relief when—in true Thich Nhat Hanh fashion—he paused for a few seconds, gently smiled, and responded with, “Not giving in to despair.” Well, in that instant, my demeanor completely changed, as I thought to myself, “Alright, if it’s okay for Thich Nhat Hanh—a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and man who’s been a Buddhist monk for many years—to struggle with despair, it just might be okay for me to do so as well.”