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“Be Aware…”

Richard Dick McHugh, NLP Practitioner & Gestalt Therapist/Anil’s Mentor


For anyone who ask, who Dick McHugh was to me, here’s what I would say in few words. "He was my mentor, my guide, my inspiration, my guru, my ode. But these few words are not enough to describe what he means to me. I forever am in awe of his magnetic personality, his intelligence, his calm, his composure, how he dealt with relations. I always told him I want to age as gracefully as him and, he would simply smile. He was an ocean, where one could simply pour in any amount of grief and sorrow. People having conflicts and value mismatch would come through, pour their hearts out and receive a resolution.

He led me to explore my own dark side, to know what my answers are and to accept myself the way I am. I learned to listen without judgment. I am not worth to be the dust of his feet.


Dick McHugh was around 80 years when I met him, my first encounter with Fr. Dick was at the Retreat House Bandra, Mumbai. As I was preparing myself mentally for that long session, Dick walked in. Attired in a loose blue t-shirt and white pyjama, feet cladded in sports shoes; he walked in with a book in hand. I was seated in the forth row, enthused and eager to train from my master, a subject that was completely alien to me. The tall man that Dick McHugh was, I reached but his shoulder and looked into his deep blue eyes, and they had me glued for a moment; such the aura he carried. I reckoned he could see me through form the very first gaze. Fall in love with the subject not the teacher, they say. But I am a lucky man; the love of both the teacher and the subject brings me to where I am today. I wish never to have left his side, following him like a sincere disciple. Three Basic NLP, two Advance, three Gestalt, two Tools of the Spirit and one NLP and health, was my academic journey with Dick McHugh. The countless hours in the presence of my master helped me to know more about him or may I say more about me.

In conversation with Dick McHugh, sipping on a hot cup of green tea in the simple setting of the Retreat House, we began talking about his early life. His blue eyes beaming, like light from blue crystals, his face lit, he probably visited his yonder days. He began, “Anil, I hail from Scranton, Pennsylvania. Oh! The good old days. I was born with a sweet tooth, as a kid my room stocked with oatmeal biscuits, you could call me a hoarder.” He went on to share instances form his childhood laughing and participating whole heartedly in the conversation. As he spoke the expressions on his face were worth capturing. To pursue knowing him further, I asked, “When was Earth blessed with your presence?” He laughed and said ever so humbly, “Anil, my birth month is March and date 11th, 1930.” “1930!” I exclaimed “So you are 80, Now!” “Hahaha”, he went.” Age is but a number”, replied the wise man. And the conversations continued.


“So Dick, why India”? I asked. “We were 32 fellow Deacons into the final year of priesthood. We were asked which of us would like to practice in India, 30 of us replied in positive. A fellow Deacon and I were chosen. He was from Pittsburgh and me from Scranton both from Pennsylvania.” He took a pause and kept his finger on the lip, perceived to be in thought. He continued, “I was both scared and delighted at the same time. India was foreign to me, new country, new space, new culture, and new people. I was ordained to the priesthood in Jamshedpur, India, on March 24, 1960 and this is where my journey in India began. I went on to serve as Vicar and later as pastor at St. Xavier’s Church in Chaibasa, a town in Jharkhand.”

His command over Hindi was impeccable; it tickled me to ask him how?

“The boys in the school were mischievous; but I loved working with children. I taught them Math, English and religion. We even played basketball! Oh!! What a pleasure working with those tiny souls, sheer delight.” Dick McHugh spoke about his experience with the kids; with elated spirits. Recalling an instance, he laughed, saying “Children there would say angrezi samajh nahi aati. Education stands confined to books, knowledge comes with being practical, usable and realistic. The Jesuits worked towards ensuring that hostels were well equipped with classrooms, dorm room and a basketball court.” I derive inspiration from his words and give it my utmost best to live Dick through my NLP class. Yes, Dick McHugh did master Hindi, his dialect so clear. He learnt the language in 1951 at Dhanbad, Jharkhand.


I wanted to learn what got Dick intrigued in NLP, and so I asked.

He answered, “NLP came later; I was introduced to the subject in 1980. Before which I returned to the States and served at the St. Alphonsus Rodriguez Church in Woodstock, before earning my Ph.D. in Psychology from the Union Institute of Cincinnati.” As he spoke the conviction and the love for the subject was evident in his tone. Even while in class, he was ever so full of reverence for his mentor. In all the batches of which I was a part, he would mention them with the deepest respect.

I do not clearly recollect if Dick McHugh had mentioned about being a part of the last batch conducted by Richard Bandler and John Grinder or if he was a part of a batch they conducted separately. His mentors were John Grinder, Richard Bandler, Leslie Cameron-Bandler, Judith DeLozier, Robert Dilts, David Grdon, Michael Lebeau, Scout Lee Gunn and Todd Epstein. Connirae and Steve Andreas, Linda Sommerand Charlotte Bretto were teachers with whom Dick studied NLP. Steve, John Grinder and Carol Lankton taught him hypnosis.


Between the countless hours outside the session’s room, Dick and I had conversations. I was curious to learn about the Vipassana on which the principal of awareness in NLP is based.

“I am in awe of Goenkaji and his teachings, for it is through Vipassana that I experienced the mystic, magic and gained a deeper understanding of prayer. Vipassana opened doors to an experiential level giving deeper insight and meaning to prayer.” Dick McHugh said bearing a courteous tone, his eyes filled with esteem as he spoke about Goenkaji. “BE AWARE”, he said in a deep voice aping Goenkaji.

Sipping on the green tea, that was beginning to turn cold, Dick continued, “I took a course given by Tony DeMello at the Sadhana Institute for Pastoral Counselling, founded by Tony himself. Years went by, strongly securing our friendship.” Taking a pause, he added, “Tony was a good man, a noble friend and my boss.”

The sudden demise of Fr. Anthony D’mello was deeply mourned. Fr. Anthony was an integral part both of Dick McHugh’s life and Sadhana Center. This loss changed the course of Dick’s mission and he returned to the USA where he studied and worked hard to get his PhD in Clinical Psychology. NLP became his mission and he gave seminars and taught all around the United States, Ireland and kept coming to India to conduct programs in NLP.


Coming back to NLP Dick said, “The study of NLP gave me an in-depth analysis to an approach on Mental Health. I was enabled with powerful tools, exercising which I could seek the right answers. I got a better understanding of my own background through NLP, the answers that I was seeking I found. I gained a deeper understanding of my own psychology, physical environment and most importantly religion. “As he spoke, the euphoria in his eyes and the radiance in his smile were evident. “Anil, NLP gave me clarity, it came as calm, mentally equipping me to deal with things in a healthy manner. Prayer to me was illusive up until the time NLP came in and the Ignition retreat that we Jesuits attend formed the foundation of prayer. I draw my sense of inspiration from Buddhism, Judaism and Sufi tradition, integrating these beliefs and learning made me feel at ease. It helped me align to my own personal beliefs and this I share with everybody”, Dick shared.

And Dick was right, he could connect the dots and would often say,

“Nothing is completed without the other, there is always a link that connects the dots”.

Through this understanding he was able to integrate the knowledge and experience that he carried within himself. It was around this time that Dick had the idea of what NLP was, but from the knowledge point of view. He wanted to dive deeper into the subject and decide to practice and impart the knowledge to all around. Everything I do today in the NLP classroom is imbibed from Dick.


Dick was the only Gestaltian alive; I knew. He once mentioned “Gestalt made me take the awareness approach leading me to apply better awareness to prayer. I can find solution to a problem through Gestalt. Gestalt to me is resolution.” And what he said further stays with me to this date.

“At times I could not find answers but Gestalt thought me that the resources necessary to find the answers are within one’s self.

Using this understanding I not only resolved myself, but I went ahead into my own journey of counseling therapy and everything I know of today.” Said Dick. I never knew what Dick was going to do, that was so beautiful about him. I would accompany him from one workshop to another. Yet, when you saw him work, you saw that he would work with every person from where they were. That was the beauty of it. What I carried from him is to be aware of where my client was, while on the therapy chair, this the essence of his teachings. I have seen Dick live and love, fight, practice, challenge and provide awareness for close to a decade.

Dick was so unique, he was not limited by the roles of being a therapist, trainer, physician, charismatic person, lover, a player, a bold man, artist or writer. He did not age as we usually think; instead age brought in him and increased ability to live in the present. Like wine gets better with age, so over time did he excel at the art of NLP. Dick expressed his intention to conduct a 21-day Gestalt Session; but sadly never did. I still contemplate the beauty of being with him for continuous 21 days in Gestalt. He evolved at a steady mellow pace blending teaching, therapy playing loving and writing as the need emerged.

“Life is an experience so experience it. Life is not a problem so don’t solve it. Don’t fix what is not broken.”

These words of Dick still resound in my ear.


I asked him how he opens the day before his session. To which he answered, “I begin my day early, meditate and reframe.” He asked me “Anil, are you a morning person?” I smiled sheepishly; he knew the answer. He continued, “I relax a while before starting the session to retrieve balance. Walking is a religious ritual. I walk every day.” A good friend of mine, from one of the Jamshedpur batch mentioned to having shared the basketball court with Fr. Dick. How I envy my friend. From 1981 to the last batch Dick was always searching for new exercises. This is what he had to say, between the sessions, “I am very convinced that through NLP exercises, people would come to know and realize the same experiences for themselves. Often there are questions to religion that are left unanswered. NLP is definite and gives clarity to the mystic. Knowledge shouldn’t be stagnated and should be put to use.”

What stays with me to this date as a part of my in class sessions, are the sharing. Dick was a magician when it came to relations, be it with his mother, dad, superior and batch mate; he displayed honesty to the purest level known. Humility from a man to this level, left each of us in the session’s room with the belief of him being above human. While in the session’s room, participants would come on stage and play the hit and miss exercise demonstrating Sensory Acuity. Not once in the three batches on NLP of which I was a part, did any participant succeed in hitting Dick. He even at the ripe age of 80 plus, had the senses of an eagle and the alertness of a hawk. He looked the participant in the eye catching every micro expression happening in a nano-second and never be hit.

Dick McHugh came across as sensitive in his sessions. In the presence of this majestic person even those that found taking about feelings and emotions difficult would melt at the empathy he portrayed. As he taught, counseled, he made people feel good about themselves – he made them see their value, what they were and how to look within, to find answers. I’ve heard people say that Dick McHugh saved them. I know for certain it’s true because he saved me. I could trust him and talk to him about anything. When I think of Dick the first thing that comes to mind are his deep bluish eyes, which were so empathetic. And I can remember his gesture where he would raise his hand and give a thumbs up. This just means ok, his face reassuring. An impression as a fossil with me forever. To his lotus feet I will always bow to, with respect with adoration with a sense of awe.


This article is written by Plabita Borah who has been a part of the Global Internship Research Program (GIRP). Plabita belongs from Assam and holds MSc in Clinical Psychology. She is ambitious, driven and thrives on challenge. She constantly sets goals and strives towards them. She also loves meeting people and learning about theirs lives and background.

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