Remembering Patton Hyman

On January 27th, 2019, the founder of Applied Mindfulness Training, Patton Hyman, died as he lived, with gentleness, fearlessness, and keen intelligence. While he loved life, his physical condition had deteriorated such that his limitations were out-weighing his enjoyments; he knew he was dying and faced it with the steadiness, grace, and humor that characterized his presence.

The following are remembrances of Patton from AMT board members:

From Michael Carroll:

Patton and I shared many interests but foremost among them was a gentleman by the name of Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche. As his students, we counted ourselves most fortunate and, to a great degree, the joy Patton and I shared as friends and fellow Buddhists reflected what we learned from Rinpoche – that we were essentially free and remarkably awake in a never-ending surprise called our lives.

I suppose one could stop there with this discovery – that being human is so unspeakably profound. But as a student of Trungpa, Rinpoche, Patton knew he couldn’t stop there – that he had a responsibility to lend a hand to others trying to live a sane life in an all too often insane world.  

And it was from this shared inspiration that Patton and I established our friendship and launched a vision of “Applied Mindfulness”.

We could review all of Patton’s efforts: organizing Applied Mindfulness Conferences that drew physicians, diplomats, attorneys, artists, teachers, scientists, psychologists and many more to share their vision of bringing mindfulness alive in modern times; his lectures at the American University in Washington DC, Virginia Tech or the Vermont Bar Association; his efforts to help Shambhala International open out to the world and appreciate the wealth of talent and wisdom within its community.  His many kindnesses mentoring others, his practical leadership at Karme Choling – the list is long and varied.

But, most importantly, Patton’s vision of Applied Mindfulness was about what was noble and authentic.

The state arising from applying mindfulness is often called “genuineness” or “authenticity.” Through mindfulness meditation you consciously cultivate that condition, to trust yourself as a real person…..

—The Inner Advantage

Patton’s wisdom inspired me and so many others to trust ourselves – to have confidence in what makes us authentic. He not only showed us how to transform livelihood into profound and noble possibilities, he cheered us up, made us smile and celebrated our genuineness.  

In the end, what was most inspiring to me was Patton’s passion to fulfill his teacher’s vision of American Buddhism in modern times:

Only American Buddhists, who are inspired and who have their understanding together, can work with the Western world. That is necessary. There is only so long we can live on imports. There is some point where we had better manufacture for ourselves rather than borrowing from somebody else. Otherwise, we will be in enormous debt.

— Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche

Patton was profoundly inspired and deeply realized in his spiritual understanding. And because he knew “…liv(ing) on imports…” was futile, he offered Applied Mindfulness to his colleagues, friends and the world. His was a noble and inspiring vision and for that, I, and many others, will be forever grateful.        

From Bill Brauer:

Patton Hyman was best man at my wedding. And best of all, he laughed at my jokes. I miss him so much.

The years I spent collaborating with him on making Applied Mindfulness Training real were some of the most satisfying of my working years. Patton attracted plenty of smart people who contributed significantly to the formation and the many successes of AMT, but the vision was his. He saw connections where others of us often did not.

Patton was a slight outlier – a successful lawyer and an equally accomplished meditator and teacher. To him, pursuit of secular professional excellence and ever deepening personal satisfaction are essentially the same journey. Applied Mindfulness Training is the vehicle that sprung from Patton’s heart and mind that offers others the skillful means to find their own excellence.

In many ways Patton was a serious man, even scholarly, who understood so much about how human nature works. But if you ever saw him being shamelessly silly with his children, Sarah and Andrew, you knew here was a man who truly saw how all of life is a single ceremony.

Patton’s most valuable AMT colleague was always his wife, Carol. Together they refined AMT’s training and teaching methods and products and together they planned for her to continue to lead our organization into the next chapter.  I miss Patton, but his life and spirit continue to inspire Applied Mindfulness Training. Carol has gathered an amazing Board of Directors and, as we promised Patton, we are on the job.

From Reeve Lindbergh:

Patton Hyman, with his beloved wife Carol, has been a dear friend of my family for almost two decades, ever since the time my mother came to live with us in Vermont at the very end of her life. My mother was a small but extremely strong human being, yet she was fragile both in body and in mind at that time. She was very fortunate to be surrounded with and cared for by a “Circle of Care,” a group of remarkable Buddhist caregivers and friends, Carol and Patton among them.  

When I met Patton I was warmed and heartened right away by a sense that his gentleness, and gentlemanliness, would appeal to my mother, as indeed they did. His profound intelligence, his kind and genuine interest in other people, his quiet humor, his love of music and the twinkle in his eye, all of these were just right for her, and for her family. After my mother’s death Patton and Carol remained our close friends, and Patton became my lawyer, as well as my piano teacher for a delightful period of time. I came to know and love their children, Sarah and Andrew, who reflect their parents in a multitude of admirable ways though at the same time they are completely themselves.

Through Carol and Patton I began to learn about meditation practice and later about Applied Mindfulness Training. I even learned to practice a bit in the very simple ways Patton outlined in his book, The Inner Advantage. I worried at first about whether I could do this, because I am not really a Buddhist. However, according to Patton the practice did not require “being” anything but human. It was greatly reassuring to read in his preface, “Mindfulness helps people recognize something very real and basic about themselves and about other people, something that’s an actual experience and not just wishful thinking. When people access mindful presence, they may well come to believe, as I have, that human beings, for all their foibles, are a tremendous resource.”

It was an honor and a joy to be asked to serve on the Applied Mindfulness Training board a few years ago. Now, at this moment when I along with so many others miss Patton deeply, it is a real comfort to be associated with AMT in celebrating his lifelong insight and generosity of spirit, and in supporting his work as it continues.

In lieu of flowers or cards, you may honor of Patton’s life and work by making a donation to AMT.