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  • Writer's pictureEllen Wood

A Very Holy Man

Ageless You

I always felt drawn to the mystical. Having spent most of my life on the east coast, it felt like a blessed homecoming when I first laid foot in a remote community at the base of the sacred Sangre de Christo Mountains of northern New Mexico. I felt at home even before my 8-pointed star house was finished being built in 2002. I had barely moved in when I heard about a retreat happening the following week at the Tibetan Buddhist Temple half a mile from my home.


ellen wood law of attraction journalist
Ellen Wood - Law of Attraction Journalist

It was a five-day meditation retreat taught by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, a rising star of Buddhism who was only 26 years old at the time. Today this brilliant, witty Buddhist teacher shares his sacred wisdom in cities all over the world and is the author of three bestsellers, Joy of Living, Joyful Wisdom and In Love with the World, A Monk’s Journey Through the Bardos of Living and Dying. He has a monastery in India and heads Tergar, an international organization based in the United States with branches worldwide.  But this is not a man hungry for the spotlight, basking in the adoration of his millions of fans. In 2011 he secretly left his monastery and spent four and a half years living primitively in the Himalayan caves, cooking his own food, praying, meditating.

            I had never seen a live Buddhist Master before that meditation retreat hosted in my neighborhood. Although I had attended three ten-day Vipassana meditation retreats led by S.N. Goenka in the Buddhist tradition, those teachings were through audio tapes. So each time Mingyur Rinpoche entered and left the temple I awkwardly stood still as the other 50 or so attendees did prostrations. I figured I wasn’t a Buddhist and it didn’t feel authentic to me, so I didn’t do the prostrations.     

            The first day Rinpoche asked that anyone who had not taken refuge come to the front of the room so he could perform the refuge ceremony for them. I didn’t get in line because I figured I’d already taken refuge at the Vipassana retreat when we all said, I take refuge in the Buddha. I take refuge in the Dharma. I take refuge in the Sangha. I watched as Rinpoche prayed briefly over each person and then cut off a snip of their hair, and couldn’t help but feel like I might be missing out.

            It was a silent retreat so if there was information attendees needed to know, signs were put in the kitchen, a short walk from the temple. And that’s where I saw the sign that said if you hadn’t taken refuge, you could not attend the feast on the last evening of the retreat. I shared my situation with one of the interpreters and arrangements were made for me to meet Rinpoche privately at his cottage the evening before the feast.

            I walked in sheepishly to where Rinpoche was sitting in lotus position on a couch. He said, Do three prostrations and I did them. After watching the other attendees all week, I knew how! Next he told me to sit on a cushion in front of his couch while he prayed a long time over me. Then he snipped a bit of my hair and continued praying again. Finally at one point he showed me a picture and said, Look at picture of Buddha. My mind said, Wish I’d brought my glasses. I can’t see a damn thing. Then – POW! – I started laughing hysterically. Out of the blue! I tried to say I’m sorry because I was embarrassed but it was hard to get words out, I was laughing so hard.  Rinpoche calmly said, ‘s all right, ‘s all right.

            I don’t know how long I continued like that in an altered state. Never in my life had I felt like this. The whole world looked different. It was as though love was oozing out of my pores, lifting me up. Rinpoche continued praying while I was absorbed in holy euphoria and happiness. When the ceremony was finished, I swear I floated home.

            Rinpoche has continued to be very special to me. Like an angel, he seems other-worldly, yet I don’t know of any holy man who is so down to earth and witty. The first year he needed an interpreter for his teachings but his English has steadily improved. He blessed my house and came for tea several times.

            I believe it was August when Rinpoche and his retinue first toured my house. Everyone was in bare feet, having left their sandals at the front door. From my meditation room at the top of the house there’s a door to the flat black roof, which was so hot it seemed to have melted. Rinpoche walked out and stood there for a few minutes enjoying the views – then the others followed him. With shrieks like Aow! or Yiy, as soon as their feet hit the hot roof, one by one they ran back inside. Rinpoche continued to stand there smiling. I love that holy man! To learn more about Ellen, follow the link to here about page here:


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