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The Happiest Man in the World on Finding Your True Purpose Through Compassion

The monk regularly identified as the happiest man in the world was once plagued by panic attacks.

Mingyur Rinpoche grew up in the Himalayan mountains. “My life in general was wonderful,” he says. “I had nice parents and grandparents, and a very good environment.”

However, around the age of eight, Rinpoche started experiencing intense anxiety. “I couldn’t sleep well, it felt tight around my neck, and my heart sped up,” he remembers.

Rinpoche’s father was a well-known meditation teacher. He taught Rinpoche how to look beyond the panic, and access awareness and calm. 

Rinpoche went on to build his own meditation practice, based on his father’s lessons and other Buddhist teachings.

One of his biggest influences is a famous text called the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra, or The Way of the Bodhisattva, written around 700 A.D. by a Buddhist monk named Shantideva. “It really benefited my life,” Rinpoche says. He hopes to introduce more people to these concepts through his many best-selling books and courses.

Here’s Rinpoche’s advice on how to identify your real purpose, why meditation is like trying to touch the sky, and how to build a meditation practice.

How to Find Your Purpose

Finding your true purpose in life is a daunting quest. Rinpoche recommends looking for ways to bring three specific traits into the world. “Kindness, compassion and love are the real purpose,” he says.

You don’t have to become a Buddhist monk to make spreading kindness, compassion and love your life’s work. Rinpoche explains that this mindset can manifest in many different professions.

He gives the examples of an architect and a waiter:

  • An architect designs structures in ways that make it easier for people to live their lives, while also bringing them joy when they take in the beauty of the building. 
  • A waiter delivers the thing from which many of us derive some of our greatest joy: food! Not to mention facilitating the deep conversations and connections that happen over a good meal.

Business leaders have more opportunities than most to demonstrate these traits at work. We can implement policies that show compassion and kindness to our employees and customers, and incorporate these characteristics into business decisions.

This attitude is a win-win, Rinpoche says. Knowing that you’re using your talents to have a positive impact on others makes you feel good. When you feel good about what you’re doing, “Your work becomes like your holiday,” he says. 

Finding Your Inner Sky Through Meditation

When Rinpoche’s father was teaching his son about meditation, he told him to picture his mind as a sky: clear and blue. This is a useful metaphor for your mind’s natural state of pure awareness.

However, the sky doesn’t always appear clear and blue. Storms gather and block it out. If you’ve ever felt gloomy upon waking up to a grey sky, you know that clouds can make you forget the beauty of the blue behind them. 

But no matter what we can see above us, the sky’s fundamental nature doesn’t actually change. It’s always there somewhere, even if it’s buried in clouds.

In the same way, emotions, memories and other thoughts crowd our minds. It’s hard to access true awareness when you keep remembering that silly thing you said, or you’re thirsty, or you’re worried about something.

Even if you’re struggling to reach that pure awareness, it is still available to everyone. You just have to learn to move through these other thoughts and feelings to find it. That’s what meditation is for, Rinpoche says. “The whole practice of my traditional meditation is to get connected with the sky — our fundamental nature,” he explains.

How to Build a Meditation Practice

Meditation can seem daunting if you’ve never tried it before. Or if you have tried it before and struggled to concentrate!

Rinpoche understands this. He outlines three essentials steps to build a meditation practice:

  1. Learn how to meditate. Identify a meditation style that suits your temperament, and study how to do it.
  2. Practice. Try your chosen meditation out for yourself, so you understand what it feels like.
  3. Make it a habit. Keep meditating until it’s become a part of your routine.

Step three in particular is a hard one. Rinpoche recommends starting small. Instead of committing to a lifetime of meditation on the spot, plan to do five minutes a day for 30 days. “After that, it becomes easier, and you will build up the habit of meditation,” he says.

Try This Simple Meditation

If you’re struggling with step one, here’s a short meditation to try from Rinpoche.

  • Focus on your breathing. Feel every breath as it enters your lungs, and leaves through your mouth. Don’t try to control it, just notice it. Repeat this focus with every breath. 
  • If other thoughts crowd in — “What should I have for dinner?” “Did I remember to run the dishwasher?” — acknowledge them, then return to your breathing. 
  • If you feel uncomfortable, acknowledge that too, and then return to your breathing.

In this example, your breath is leading you to awareness. Awareness is simply knowing what is happening. It’s acknowledging without judgement. By focusing on your breath, you are anchoring yourself to something that is happening in the present, without any need to judge it or yourself.

Meditation and awareness don’t have to be overcomplicated. They’re available to anyone who is willing to seek them out.

The conversation with Mingyur Rinpoche continues on the Leading with Genuine Care podcast. We talk more about the importance of leading a compassionate life, his work with neuroscientists, and so much more. Connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn and keep up with my company imageOne. Check out my website or some of my other work here



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