Attachment Parenting, From the Perspective of a Young Monk
This seven year old child’s insight that being with his dad mattered more than what he was doing with his dad is an important lesson not only for parents but for anyone who is in a relationship.
Simple things like a thunderstorm or an unexpected visitor could throw this seven year-old boy off balance. Unsure of what was happening or why, Mingyur Rinpoche asked his father to teach him to meditate. Thus began the remarkable odyssey of a young boy living with his family in a serene village on the border of Tibet and Nepal, to the United States where he became a best selling author responsible for meditation centers and students around the globe, then, leaving everything behind, back to Northern India to become a mendicant yogi. After four years of wandering Mingyur Rinpoche has returned and many of us can’t wait to hear what he has to say.
I learned about Mingyur Rinpoche through his students just before he left for his solo retreat. They impressed me with their humility, ambition and accomplishment - a trio of qualities that don’t often come in one package – and I wanted to learn more about their teacher. It was too late for me to study with him in person so I dug in and studied the substantial body of writings and videos that he had left behind.
Mingyur Rinpoche’s books are full of lessons that are meaningful to children and caregivers starting with one about his father, renowned meditation teacher Tulku Urgen Rinpoche, who used an ancient Buddhist text called the Precious Treasury to teach his seven-year old son to read and to meditate. This story, from Rinpoche’s book with Helen Tworkov Turning Confusion into Clarity, Turning Confusion into Clarity: A Guide to the Foundation Practices of Tibetan Buddhism is a clever illustration of what the development of healthy attachment – a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects parents and their children over time and space – looks like from a young boy’s perspective.
You might think that the hours I spent learning to sing the words of the Precious Treasury would eventually sink in, but I really had no idea what they meant. To me the book was just a bunch of weird terms that didn’t mean a thing, but I liked it because of the soothing melody that my father used when he sang it to me.
This seven-year old’s insight that being with his dad mattered more than what he was doing with his dad is an important lesson not only for parents but for anyone who is in a relationship. The greatest lesson in Mingyur Rinpoche’s stories about his relationship with his dad might also be the simplest one: Everything we need to be free is right here in the present moment.
"The problem isn’t that we need to get something that we don’t already have, or that we have to get rid of all the things we don’t like. . . The problem is that we don’t recognize what we’ve had all along."
Tulku Urgen Rinpoche continued:
"When we try to control the mind or hold on to an experience, we don’t see the innate perfection of the present moment.” Pointing through the window, he continued, “Look out into the blue sky. Pure awareness is like space, boundless and open. It’s always here. You don’t have to make it up. All you have to do is rest in that."
Mingyur Rinpoche writes that it took years of training in meditation before he was able to watch his panic and anxiety with curiosity rather than struggle with them. That makes sense given what we know about the brain, executive function and how they don’t fully mature until early adulthood. Yet, over time, he was able to develop a different relationship with his thoughts and emotions and he learned to watch them come and go without feeling overwhelmed by them. From the holistic perspective we develop practicing mindfulness and meditation we see that this young monk’s achievements and experiences are exceptional yet there’s nothing special about them. After all, the conditions for these achievements are here for all of us to take advantage of - we need look no further than the present moment. Mingyur Rinpoche’s brother, Tsokyni Rinpoche’s, delightful response to his brother’s return reflects this fundamental teaching:
I talked briefly with Mingyur Rinpoche. He is in good health and doing very well. My impression from talking to him is as if nothing happened at all, nothing exciting, very ordinary, like I just saw him yesterday.