According to researchers, Matthieu Ricard is the happiest man in the world, despite the fact that his profession makes him unusual person to hold this title.
He is a French, but at certain point of his life decided to turn his back to Parisian intellectual life and move to India in order to study Buddhism. He is now a close associate of Dalai Lama and appreciated western scholar of Buddhism.
Richard Davidson, an eminent neuroscientist, wired up Ricard`s skull with 256 sensors at the University of Wisconsin as part of a study of many practitioners of meditation. It was shown that when meditating on compassion his brain produces a level of gamma waves which are associated with learning, memory, attention, and consciousness. Interestingly, turns out that the monk`s secret to happiness lies in compassion. Researchers also believe that his left prefrontal cortex is more active than the right one, which gives him capacity for happiness and reduced tendency towards negativity.
‘We have been looking for 12 years at the effect of short and long-term mind-training through meditation on attention, on compassion, on emotional balance,’ Davidson said.
‘We’ve found remarkable results with long-term practitioners who did 50,000 rounds of meditation, but also with three weeks of 20 minutes a day, which of course is more applicable to our modern times.’
Matthieu Ricard’s Tips for Learning and Practising Meditation
1. A healthy mind is supposed to act like a mirror (faces reflect in a mirror but none of them actually sticks). The same method should be used with thoughts, let them pass through your mind, but bother with them too much.
2. It is not possible to stop thoughts from coming, but it is possible to calm the mind by deep breathing as it allows you to focus on a particular thing- your breath. Controlling or directing the mind is pretty much refusing to be slave to your thoughts.
3. Be mindful: This refers to focusing on the breathing and paying attention to the sensations of your breath. You don’t necessarily have to focus on breathing in order to practice mindfulness. You can focus on sounds, heat, or cold instead.
4. Once you get used to this technique, you can use it to cultivate positive qualities. According to Ricard, all-consuming love lasts for as little as fifteen seconds. Luckily, meditation and focusing on it can help it last longer or revive it.
5. Humans need regular practice as plants need watering. Just like with any other activity, practicing meditation for twenty minutes has greater impact than a couple of seconds.
6. You can use meditation to get rid of negative emotions. As Ricard says, ‘You can look at your experience like a fire that burns. If you are aware of anger you are not angry you are aware. Being aware of anxiety is not being anxious it is being aware.’ Being aware of negative emotions helps you burn them down.
7. People who say that they cannot find the time to meditate should consider its benefits. If it helps you deal with everything during the rest of the day, it is worth spending twenty minutes of your time.