Buddhist monk to begin classes for NHS staff

Belfast Today, 25 August 2010

Belfast, Northern Ireland (UK) -- CONTROVERSIAL "happiness classes" hosted by a Buddhist monk for local NHS staff will take place today, the News Letter can reveal.

<< Paul Haller

Ryushin Paul Haller, from the San Francisco Zen Centre, is due to run two separate workshops specifically aimed at achieving contentment and calmness for employees in the Northern Trust area.

Mr Haller, originally from Belfast, specialises in teaching mindfulness to help people deal with stress, anxiety and depression.

Earlier this month, Stormont finance minister Sammy Wilson slammed the initiative as "an appalling waste of money".

However, the trust confirmed that Mr Haller was offering the sessions free of charge to local health workers.

Urging the Northern Trust to get its priorities right, the DUP MP said: "Speaking to doctors and nurses in the health service, they do not want more monks, but they want more doctors and nurses to help relieve the pressure that they are under."

Speaking at the time, a trust spokesperson confirmed they had received "significant interest" in the classes and added: "We believe that by giving staff these skills and techniques we create a more effective and efficient workforce."

Mr Haller left Northern Ireland nearly 40 years ago to become a Buddhist monk in Thailand.

In 2003, he became the co-abbot of the San Francisco Zen Centre - the first Buddhist training monastery to be built outside Asia. He is now one of the leading Zen Buddhist teachers in the western world.