Changing your View

By Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche • 5 min read


The problem of the mushroom face

I once had an interview with an elderly widow in New York City. As soon as I said hello, she began to cry: “Ahh! Ahh!” I told her to take it easy and tell me what was on her mind. “Ahh,” she wailed, “I have so many wrinkles. I hate my wrinkles. But when I look in the mirror, it’s all I can see. Sometimes it makes me so unhappy I break the mirror! I just smash it to the floor!

Afterward, I regret that, so I buy a new one. But once I have it, I can’t resist looking at my reflection again.” Of course, every time this happened, she would discover that what she’d lost was only the previous mirror — the wrinkles were still right there. And then she’d feel even worse. Convinced that her appearance was repellent, she was sure that other people were avoiding her.

And she was lonely, but her suffering was so great she couldn’t face having company. She pleaded with me for advice. “Tell me what to do, because my face is becoming more and more like a dried mushroom, shrinking and withering.”

Changing your View, Learn to Overcome Difficulties

Every age has advantages

“That’s natural, that’s normal,” I told her. “You have to try to accept it. And anyway, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. For example, my grandmother is very kind, so sweet, always smiling. And like you, she has a lot of wrinkles, but to my eyes she is totally beautiful. I see her face as perfect.” Then I explained how important it is to recognize the particular enjoyments and possibilities that come with every stage of being alive.

For example, when you’re a teenager, you can’t wait to be an adult, because you don’t appreciate that there are pleasures, prospects, and qualities specific to your age. But when you do grow up, you miss being young, because you don’t value the joys and potentials that only come with being an adult.

Growing old brings different joys, new experiences, and qualities — good qualities. But again, if you don’t recognize these, if you can’t accept and appreciate them, instead remaining nostalgic for your earlier years, you won’t be able to derive any pleasure from aging. “Life is always changing,” I told this woman.

This change is natural not just for her, but for everybody. I encouraged her to try to accept that. Drying her tears, she said, “Well, that’s easy to say. But it’s hard for me to really feel it.” Then our time was up for the interview, and she left.

The true reflection

The following year, I met with her again, and she thanked me for the guidance I’d given her. “Now I don’t break mirrors anymore,” she said. “I have begun to accept my wrinkles. I’m seeing that each of them is a symbol of the variety of experiences I’ve had on earth.” She had begun to appreciate what she had gone through, and how her life had led to this moment, and that she was still alive. And she was actually pretty grateful for that.

“If you practice meditation, you can use problems as support for your practice. You can liberate your self-created suffering by recognizing the nature of suffering.”

– Mingyur Rinpoche –

Nature of mind

It’s crucial to accept your suffering and learn from it. And, if you practice meditation, you can use problems like these as support for your practice. You can liberate your self-created suffering by recognizing the nature of suffering. For that, you need emptiness meditation, nature-of-mind meditation. Those are the highest levels of wisdom.

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About the Author

By Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

In his approach to teaching meditation, Mingyur Rinpoche integrates traditional Buddhist practice and philosophy with the current scientific understanding of the mind and mental health – making the practice of meditation relevant and accessible to students around the world. Mingyur Rinpoche is the author of the best-selling book The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness, as well as Joyful Wisdom: Embracing Change and Finding Freedom, In Love with the World: A Monk’s Journey Through the Bardos of Living and Dying, and many others.

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