"Anger, hatred, jealousy, arrogance, and strong grasping--the more they invade our mind, they don't leave us in such a good state--and they are detrimental to others' happiness". -Matthieu Ricard-
As usual I was looking for something else on the internet when I happened upon a video of Matthieu Ricard, a French-born Buddhist monk with a PhD in Molecular Genetics.
I first heard of Ricard exactly 3 years ago when I read about the experiments on the brain and meditation he participated in at the University of Wisconsin. At the time, he had over 30 years of serious meditating under his belt, and the researchers put him in a noisy magnet-whirling MRI while he began meditating on compassion.
Ricard's MRIs showed "off the chart-activity" in the part of the brain linked to joy, enthusiasm and compassion, while the 150 control subjects showed a "middle of the road" mix of positive and negative emotional brain activity. In another test, out of the MRI, but hooked up to electrodes, Ricard was shown a film clip of severe burn victims having dead skin painfully stripped from their bodies. It's a clip used in psychology labs to trigger disgust. Ricard reported a sense of "caring and concern, mixed up with a not unpleasant strong, poignant sadness."
Ricard says he has no great ability, and he believes that for anyone who practices meditation enough, compassion becomes second nature. For an excellent explanation of how meditation actually impacts our abilities to act with compassion and kindness, read this excerpt from Joseph Goldstein of the Insight Meditation Society.
In Ricard's video, which I've linked to at end of this post, he so wisely says:
It's wonderful to live longer, healthier, to have access to information, education, to travel, to have freedom. But it's not enough. Those are only auxiliary conditions...It makes (much more) sense to train to be a better person and to get rid of self-importance--then you're able to be genuinely helpful to everyone with no strings attached.
Dr. Richard Davidson, the neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin who first tested Ricard, contends "the wiring in our brain is not static, not irrevocably fixed. Our brains are adaptable". We can change, and Dr. Davidson and his group have shown that meditation can effect real change in the positive emotional centers of the brain. In fact, last year Daniel Levison, one of Davidson's staff researchers, learned to meditate as part of a study. At the end of 3 months, he said: "I'm a much better listener. I don't get lost in my own personal reaction to what people are saying." We could all use some of that--at least I know I could.
Personally, I've experienced for myself the profound calming, heart opening benefits of meditation at a number of week-long meditation retreats. I was very skeptical before that first retreat about 5 years ago, and I couldn't imagine how I would ever sit still for a week, meditating and keeping silent. I only wish I could muster the discipline at home to carve out 30 minutes a day to practice. I have to admit, after watching Ricard's video, and writing this post, I'm motivated to try to make the time.
Without further ado, here is Matthieu Ricard speaking on The Habits of Happiness.
You have 2 choices. The first is a link to the entire video, & you can click the little symbol in the upper right-hand corner to enlarge the video to fit the entire computer screen. It's 20 minutes long, so you'll really have to set some time aside, get relaxed and listen carefully. He's French, after all.
2nd choice is to just click on the YouTube videos below. Each one is 10 minutes long.
Here's the full link:
Here's Part I:
Here's Part II: