One day when he was a novice monk, Thich Nhat Hanh was asked by his teacher to get an item for him. Out of great respect for his instructor, Nhat Hanh rushed out to do it but in his excitement at assisting his teacher, he mindlessly opened and closed the door. Actually, it slammed shut, loudly.
His teacher called Nhat Hanh back: Please go out and close the door again, but this time, do better than you did before.” Nhat Hanh says that hearing this from the teacher made him realize his practice was lacking in mindfulness.”So, I bowed to my teacher and walked to the door with all of my being, every step with mindfulness. I went out and very mindfully, closed the door after me. My teacher did not have to tell me a second time. Now every time I open and close a door, I do so with mindfulness, remembering my teacher.” he says.
Years later when he was in the United States, Nhat Hanh visited with Trappist monk Thomas Merton and related that incident to him. Rev. Merton responded: “I noticed that without you telling me. I have seen the way you close the door.” A month later when Merton was teaching monastery monks, he told them Nhat Hanh’s story gently reminding Catholic monks how to mindfully open and close a door.