What is the Wind in Your Sails?

By Tim Olmsted • 4 min read

Joy of Living

As you are beginning to experience, the meditation practices that Mingyur Rinpoche offers in the Joy of Living are incredibly beautiful. They are authentic, profound, easy to understand, and utterly transformative all at the same time. 

These are the exact same teachings that he received from his father, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, when he was beginning his own meditation journey. These teachings on awareness, compassion, and wisdom form the “golden thread” that will guide us throughout our path, both on the cushion during formal meditation sessions and in daily life. 

While Mingyur Rinpoche is providing the teachings, we are invited to hold them in our lives in an engaging, uplifting, and meaningful way. We will hear the teachings, perhaps many times, but if we don’t keep them alive within some kind of inspiring and resilient narrative or vision, we will soon stop meditating. As you know, the experience of meditation goes up and down. Sometimes, it is inspiring and engaging; at other times, it is frustrating and boring. This is all part of the path. 

If we remember why we meditate and the possibilities that meditation offers us in this life, we will come back to the cushion easily and with enthusiasm. It is up to us to determine our own narrative — one that is alive and true for us.

A good narrative offers us the lift and enthusiasm to guide us along the meditation path for as long as we live. The best narrative inspires us and puts wind in our sails as we continue along the journey. 

One narrative that has been incredibly helpful to me, and which Tulku Urgyen often used, is one that has been true to my personal experience. He would often say that our basic problem is that we are “homesick”. He said that a bird flies far from its nest to do whatever birds do during the day, but they know how to return to their nest at night. He would say that we are like birds that have flown far from the nest, but we’ve lost our way home. 

We’ve lost our connection to the parts of us that are naturally relaxed, confident, and warmly connected with the world. Meditation allows us to connect deeply with ourselves and everyone else who, being homesick themselves, yearns to find exactly what we are looking for. 

From this point of view, the meditation journey doesn’t require lifetimes of exhausting training but a simple recognition of who we already are — a recognition of the awareness, compassion, and wisdom in their infinite expression that we possess naturally and spontaneously. When we begin to come home to the experience of who we are, it feels real. It feels true, and we feel like we’ve rediscovered something we seem to have lost in the far-distant past. 

This vision for the path is what the great poet T.S. Eliot was pointing to when he said, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

The possibility of returning home to something we have always known inspires me deeply. This is a simple image, but one that is enduring and resilient. Each of us is invited and encouraged to find a narrative that will accompany us along this long and beautiful journey.

May 2024

About the Author

Tim Olmsted is one of the five Tergar Instructors who teaches Tergar International’s Joy of Living and Vajrayana Online programs. He began his Buddhist studies in 1977. He moved to Nepal in 1981 to study for 12 years with Mingyur Rinpoche’s father Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. Tim is is founder and president of the Pema Chödrön Foundation and founder of the Yongey Foundation which promotes Mingyur Rinpoches’s activities in the West.

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