Matthiew Ricard The Independent, a UK paper, recently published an article about Matthieu Ricard. Here’s an excerpt:

To scientists, he is the world’s happiest man. His level of mind control is astonishing and the upbeat impulses in his brain are off the scale.

Now Matthieu Ricard, 60, a French academic-turned-Buddhist monk, is to share his secrets to make the world a happier place. The trick, he reckons, is to put some effort into it. In essence, happiness is a “skill” to be learned.

[…]

…Ricard, who is the French interpreter for Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, took part in trials to show that brain training in the form of meditation can cause an overwhelming change in levels of happiness.

MRI scans showed that he and other long-term meditators – who had completed more than 10,000 hours each – experienced a huge level of “positive emotions” in the left pre-frontal cortex of the brain, which is associated with happiness. The right-hand side, which handles negative thoughts, is suppressed.

I’d love to quote more but I don’t want to step on any copyright toes, so just read the article. It’s short. Science is only now beginning to confirm what Buddhists (and some other meditation-based groups) have known for millennia: happiness is achievable by anyone who is willing to work for it. While there may be many routes to achieve such things, meditation is the most proven.

I do take one issue with this article in that it refers to meditation as teaching “mind control” and “suppression.” This is wrong. I’m unaware of any Buddhist tradition (or non-Buddhist tradition) that attempts to control the mind or suppress negative feelings. In fact, meditation is exactly the opposite. Meditation is a method of allowing negative feelings to enter the mind without judgment. We don’t solve problems during meditation, we just see them so clearly that we let go of them. We allow them to dry up and disappear.

Many people misunderstand meditation as mind control. Meditation is not mind control. Mind control is impossible. Meditation is simply a way to train the mind to see through all of our bull. It allows us to see how we treat ourselves and others without entering into an internal dialogue as to justify our actions. It’s a way of looking at ourselves to discover the painful truths which we consistently hide from, and, eventually it’s a way to discover that true happiness comes in the revelation that all of life is transient and is to be cherished while it’s here. It teaches us to live right here, right now, in this very moment, because it will soon be gone.

This is something we can all achieve. It is not magical, mystical, or reserved for hermits who sit in caves for years on end. This is something you can do on your own, just as you would exercise every day if you wanted to lose weight. And there’s the caveat: it requires diligence, practice, and persistence even when it feels like a waste of time. In this respect, it is very similar to physical exercise: we have to be willing to do it on a regular basis and suspend our desire for immediate results. If you’d like to learn more on meditation or Buddhism, check out my list of recommended books. Two in particular: Breath by Breath by Larry Rosenberg, and Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana. These two books have taught me more about meditation, life, and happiness than anything else I’ve ever read.

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