…this Eastern New Year’s letter comes via our friend Peter McEwen. ~ ed.
Wanted to share Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche’s Losar letter, in case you missed it.
The letter contains one of the most concise descriptions of meditation I have recently read. Best wishes to everyone!
Happy Losar, friends, students and fellow meditators!
I am at my monastery on the outskirts of Kathmandu at the moment, where all the monks are busily preparing for Tibetan New Year (Losar), the biggest holiday of the year.
As I observe the frenzy of activity all around me, I am reminded of the time I spent with my father as a child and the gentle guidance he offered me as a beginning meditator. As I’m sure many of you already know, my father was a true meditation master and one of my most important teachers.
I was only eight years old when I went to stay with him at his hermitage, but even then I had a deep yearning to learn the art of meditation. I was troubled by overwhelming feelings of fear and anxiety that seemed to follow me like a shadow. When I timidly shared my troubles with my father, he told me that the constantly shifting thoughts and emotions we experience are only one small part of our inner world. Each and every moment, he said, we have the opportunity to connect with a timeless awareness that is not affected in any way by the changing conditions of our lives.
When he first introduced me to this timeless awareness, it seemed almost too good to be true. I respected my father tremendously, so I never really doubted what he was trying to teach me, but I was also very much caught up in the thoughts and feelings that crowded my mind. I truly believed that it was possible to make this pure awareness a living experience; I just didn’t believe it was possible for me.
Looking back, I can see that my biggest obstacle at the time was that I thought of meditation as something that would help me get rid of the parts of myself that I didn’t like. I sincerely hoped that meditation would lead me to happy, peaceful states of mind where panic and fear could not touch me. Yet what my father was leading me to was much more radical than that: He wanted me to see that the only way out of suffering is to move toward it; that the path of true awakening lies in experiencing every single moment, whether pleasant or painful, with complete and unconditional love.
Unconditional love is something we can immediately see the value of when it relates to others…but how often do we think of cultivating unconditional love for ourselves? How often do we not only accept, but even cherish our own tender spots and painful feelings? This is completely different than indulging or repressing destructive habits. What my father taught me in those early years was that when we simply let be and open ourselves to the richness of the present moment, we experience every thought, feeling, and experience as an expression of the mind’s luminous nature. From the perspective of awareness, no thought or emotion is any better or any worse than another. They are all manifestations of the mind’s infinite potential.
As you sit reading this letter, see if you can bring this attitude of complete openness and unconditional love into your life for a moment. You don’t need to sit in a specific posture or say any special prayer or mantra, nor do you have to alter your thoughts or feelings in any way. Just let be…completely natural, completely at ease with whatever arises in the present moment.
When you rest like this, you don’t have to wait for anything special to happen.
What we are doing here is profoundly ordinary. In a way, there is nothing new here. It’s the same body, the same mind that we experience all the time. The only difference is that now we are not resisting our experience. It doesn’t matter if you feel open and spacious or completely tense. You may even feel that simply relaxing and letting go is entirely impossible. If so, that’s wonderful. Just be with resistance, be with frustration…be with whatever manifests in the moment. Always remember that there is nothing in the entire world that can rob you of this timeless awareness. It’s with you all the time.
Though we often make meditation complicated and difficult, it is really quite simple. As my father taught me so many years ago, all we have to do is embrace each experience with awareness and open our hearts fully to the present moment. Once we’ve done that, we can bring this same open-hearted attitude to our interactions with others. Indeed, awareness and compassion are contagious. You don’t need to do or say anything. When you are completely at ease with your own being, the ripples of your awareness will naturally spread out in all directions, touching the life of everyone you meet.
In Tibet, Losar is considered to be a sacred occasion and a special opportunity to make an auspicious beginning for the year ahead. As you continue your spiritual journey in this new year, please make this the very heart of your practice: Bring unconditional love into your life whenever and wherever you can. Let your life unfold with confidence and grace, embracing each moment with the radiant awareness that is your true nature.
I will keep you in my heart and in my prayers.
Yours in the Dharma,