Mingyur Rinpoche began by sharing his own journey of learning and practicing meditation, which started when he was 9 years old while suffering from frequent panic attacks. His father, a meditation teacher, taught him to welcome these attacks by saying “Hello, panic. Welcome,” whenever a sense of panic arose. But it is not until he genuinely embraced his panic attacks, without a hidden agenda of hoping it will “go away,” that things begin to change. He learned to meditate, with the physical symptoms of the attacks raging, without being affected. “Me and my panic became good friends,” he said. Interestingly, once he accepted and stopped fearing panic, the attacks ceased.
Rinpoche spoke in length about the essence of meditation — awareness. He described awareness as an innate quality within all of us, and it is “always free, always pure.” Just like a hurricane cannot alter the calmness of space itself, our turbulent emotions do not change the purity of our awareness. However, we are often caught up in our emotions (the hurricane) and lose touch with our awareness. Meditation can help us recognize our awareness and maintain that recognition, resulting in a calmer, more peaceful, and pliable mind.
“So, once you recognize and try to maintain awareness, you will have a lot of discovery within yourself. The awareness will open up… Once your awareness opens up, you don’t need to block emotion. It’s not necessary. Because, even if you achieve thoughtless or a more emotionless meditation, it is not [necessarily] a “good” meditation. You may become a little bit like a zombie… So, therefore, during what we call the “real” meditation… you just connect with your own awareness. Recognize awareness and maintain that recognition.”
During his talk, Rinpoche invited us to try several meditative exercises and guided meditations to connect with our awareness. Through guiding instructions, Rinpoche reiterates the importance of practicing with an attitude of open acceptance, allowing ALL mental and physical states to be present, rejecting nothing. During one of the guided meditations, he said:
“Now please relax your body… and If you cannot relax, no problem, just be aware that you cannot relax. So, you know you cannot relax, that means you are relaxing. Relax is allowed, not relaxed is allowed… pleasant sensation is allowed, not pleasant sensation is allowed… tightness is allowed and openness is also allowed, everything is allowed. Don’t worry [if] there’s [a] mistake, the mistake is in the awareness… awareness is beyond mistake. [Awareness] is always free, it’s genuine, it is pure, just like space.”
Rinpoche also acknowledged how meditation practice is repetitive and can become “boring” at times. He urged us to familiarize ourselves with different meditation techniques — like observing body sensations, listening to sounds, etc. — so we can alternate between them and keep our practice fresh.
Scroll down to listen to Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche’s talk. Happy Learning!
From the Teachers: Awareness
“Meditation and Going Beyond Mindfulness – A Secular Perspective” by
Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche*
* Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche is a Nepalese teacher and master of the Karma Kagyu and Nyingma lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. He was born in Nubri, Nepal in 1975. From an early age, he showed great aptitude in his studies, and mastered all the five main branches of learning in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. In addition to his studies, Mingyur Rinpoche has completed several long periods of personal retreat, and has continuously received teachings and instructions from many great masters, including his father, the renowned Dzogchen master Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, Tai Situ Rinpoche, Saljay Rinpoche and Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche.
In early June, 2011, Mingyur Rinpoche left his monastery in Bodhgaya, India to begin a period of extended solitary retreat. He returned in November of 2015 and is currently teaching his monastic and western students around the world, overseeing the Tergar Meditation Community — a global network of Buddhist meditation centers.
He is the author of many acclaimed titles, including The Joy of Living and Joyful Wisdom, Turning Confusion into Clarity, and more. His teachings integrate the practical and philosophical disciplines of Tibetan training with the scientific and psychological orientations of the West. His enthusiasm for explaining Buddhist philosophy and practices in an accessible style that addresses the needs of the modern world has made him a favorite among a new generation of Tibetan teachers.