Your Happy Place for Good News
Matthieu Ricard, the French-Tibetan monk and molecular geneticist has been called the happiest man on earth.
Richard has joined with other monks and longtime meditators in the research on the effects of meditation and mind-training on the brain. Additionally, this research has been done in conjunction with beginning meditators who committed to as little as 30 minutes a day.
In studies regular meditation produces changes in the structure and function of the meditators brain. For those in the field of neuroplasticity this is an encouraging finding.
What makes Matthieu Ricard’s case so “remarkable is that when researchers attached 256 sensors to Ricard’s skull while he engaged in compassion meditation, a higher level of gamma waves – associated with attention, learning and memory, and consciousness – was demonstrated than had ever been recorded before.”
Not only that but additional MRI scans showed that the French-Tibetan monk showed almost no negative emotions while experiencing “extremely high levels of positive emotions.”
Psychcentral.com believes that it might be worth listening to what Ricard has to say on the subject of happiness and I would have to concur.
I have included them in their entirety because these are truly the 5 secrets to happiness!
Without further ado here’s the wisdom Matthieu Ricard, a man who was first trained as a cell biologist and then moved to Tibet to study Buddhism, on the subject of Happiness.
1. Happiness is an inside job. According to Ricard, “Happiness is a state of inner fulfillment, not the gratification of inexhaustible desires for outward things.” In other words, it’s not the house, the car, or the perfect relationship that produces true happiness. Even if such situations produce momentary pleasure, at any moment things could change, making this a precarious predicament indeed. As Ricard explains, “If you allow exterior circumstances to determine your state of mind, then of course you will suffer; you become like a sponge, or like a chameleon.”
2. Happiness can also encompass other emotions we commonly associate with discomfort. Ricard believes that true happiness depends largely on the development of inner peace, inner strength, altruistic love, and forbearance. As a result, we will become more in tune with other people’s plights. “Sadness is not incompatible with happiness because happiness is not just a pleasant sensation. Sadness can help you feel compassion. Even when you are sad, you can continue to do wonderful things.”
3. Happiness can be nurtured by not becoming entangled with our emotions. Ricard states, “Anger is a destructive emotion, which reduces us to puppets.” Instead of identifying with the anger, we recognize that we are not the anger, just as we know that clouds are not the sky. “You don’t just want to suppress it [anger] or you’ll be like a time bomb. Instead, you look at your anger and let it vanish. When you cease to fuel a fire, it slowly dies out.”
4. Happiness can be developed through meditation and mind-training. Along with many other researchers in the field of neuroplasticity (the study of one’s brain having the ability to change throughout one’s life, based on one’s experiences and behavior), Ricard believes that anyone can train themselves toward greater happiness through meditation: “Meditation is not just blissing out under a mango tree. It completely changes your brain”. However, says Ricard, “Happiness is a skill and it requires time and effort”. Ricard recommends various ways of training the mind, such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, an eight-week course developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn and now taught throughout the world.
5. Happiness is found through helping others. Ricard acknowledges that our happiness is not immune to external happenings, but genuine happiness enables us to respond effectively. “Unlike pleasure, genuine happiness may be influenced by circumstance, but it isn’t dependent on it. It actually gives us the inner resources to deal better with those circumstances.” We aren’t off meditating on some mountain (or in our living room), removed from the world’s events. Instead, deeply-rooted, enduring happiness moves us to take appropriate action. Says Ricard, “The ultimate reason for meditating is to transform ourselves in order to be better able to transform the world.” Read the more here.
Ricard sees happiness as not self-interest, but rather as a compassionate way of understanding the world. If we are truly happy, he writes, we can change the world because of our compassion for others and our desire to end hatred and bring happiness even to those we don’t like.
For Ricard, happiness is a state of well-being and wisdom that flourishes in each moment of life and despite the inevitability of suffering, individuals can learn to minimize suffering in this life by practicing moderation in all things, and by practicing meditation.
The “Habit of Happiness” a video on TED is talk Matthieu Ricard gave on happiness in 2008, but is still relevant today. I’m including it here for anyone who has not had the opportunity to hear the “world’s happiest man,” speak. It also showcases his other talent, which is photography.
Recommended by LH&B
If you wish to go deeper and learn more about happiness from the world’s happiest man then this book is the key.
If we are truly happy, writes Ricard, we can change the world because of our compassion for others and our desire to end hatred and bring happiness even to those we don’t like. For Ricard, happiness is a deep state of well-being and wisdom that flourishes in every moment of life, despite the inevitability of suffering.
Individuals can, however, learn to minimize suffering in life by practicing moderation in all things, as well as meditation.
His book includes meditation practices that you can use and are included in each chapter.