Taking notes from a Tibetan guru
Jackson Hole, WYO – While the valley often insulates us from many of life’s agitators – crime, noise, crowds, and pollution – people here are not shielded from anxiety, depression and emotional stress. During his talk this past weekend, Tibetan Buddhist lama Phakchok Rinpoche revealed methods for achieving happiness and enjoying a peaceful mind.
An honorific term meaning precious, “Rinpoche” is a title awarded to teachers who have achieved a certain level of knowledge and meditation practice, explained Dr. David Shlim, a local travel doctor who hosted the talk at Pink Garter Theatre.
Incarnated seven times and ordained by the Dalai Llama, Rinpoche, who is married with two young children, discussed four easy principles for enjoying a peaceful mind. First, Rinpoche says we must understand how important the mind is. Here in Jackson Hole, we invest plenty of time and energy training and developing our bodies, yet we often neglect our minds.
Second, and perhaps most important, we must work to make the mind functional through meditation. “When I was younger I was quiet; I had anxiety around people. With this crowd, I would be dead!” Rinpoche laughed. “But because of meditation I have transformed my mind.”
Rinpoche warned, however, that not all meditation is effective in the long-term sense. Some forms of meditation involving the use of music or imagination are actually just painkillers, like morphine or ibuprofen, he explained. “It gives you calmness for an hour but doesn’t allow you to see the peaceful mind,” Rinpoche said.
In order to enjoy a peaceful mind, Rinpoche advises simplifying meditation practice. It should involve sitting quietly for at least 10 minutes every day before breakfast and focusing solely on your breathing, he explained. The Buddhist lama acknowledged this is no easy feat, however. “Whenever you start meditating, your mind looks like a crazy monkey injected with caffeine,” he laughed. But with time and practice, Rinpoche said meditation becomes easier.
Next, we must be able to gently recognize our own faults. Then, Rinpoche says, we will have an easier time controlling and slowing down frantic thoughts, which can lead to emotions such as anger or jealousy.
Feeling fortunate is the fourth principle Rinpoche discussed. In order to experience a peaceful mind, we must be able to appreciate the good things happening in our lives, he said.
Rinpoche also warned about the overuse of two static words in American society that make it difficult to induce change: depression and addiction. “When I came to the U.S., I began hearing this word ‘depression’ all the time,” Rinpoche said. “I asked: ‘So depression is an imbalanced mind with sadness?’ And they said, ‘no, it is just depression!’”
In order to find solace, Rinpoche says we must heed the steps for finding a peaceful mind.
Rearranging our beliefs about addiction is also critical for transformation, he noted. “People say addiction means you feel like you must have something in order to survive … for me, that would be like YouTube or Netflix,” Rinpoche quipped. “But I don’t think you should use the word ‘addiction’ because it empowers your vice … when you use the word ‘habit’ it’s much easier to transform.”
Photo cutline: Tibetan Buddhist lama Phakchok Rinpoche offered lessons on attaining a peaceful mind Saturday.
Photo credit: Robyn Vincent