When neuroscientists wired up Matthieu Ricard’s skull with 256 sensors at the University of Wisconsin as part of a research on hundreds of advanced practitioners of meditation, they found something they had never seen before. The scans revealed that when Ricard was meditating on compassion, his brain produced gamma waves that are linked to consciousness, learning, attention, and memory.
According to Richard Davidson, the neuroscientist who was conducting the study, “The scans also showed excessive activity in his brain’s left prefrontal cortex compared to its right counterpart, allowing him an abnormally large capacity for happiness and a reduced propensity towards negativity.” This find essentially led to Matthieu Ricard being labeled as the happiest man on earth.
Matthieu Ricard, who was a French molecular geneticist with a Ph.D. degree, gave up life as he knew it to become a Tibetan Buddhist Monk. Today he is a huge advocate of the fact that you turn happiness into habit just like brushing your teeth or going jogging. Here are his tips on meditating your way to happiness.
Matthieu Ricard’s 7 Tips To Meditate
1. A Healthy Mind Should Act Like A Mirror
A mirror always reflects everything but never lets anything stick to it. One of the main reasons why you feel sad or unhappy is because you hold on to experiences that have gone by. These experiences are nothing but thoughts and the more you learn to let them go, the clearer your mind will be. A mirror also reflects only that which is in front of it without distortion. When you look at every situation the way it is, without judgment or bias, you’re in the best position to take the right decision.
2. Focus On Your Breath
Many people think that meditation is all about controlling your thoughts but the wise monks learned a long time ago that controlling thoughts is a futile exercise. That’s why meditation lays so much emphasis on breath focus. Rather than trying to control thoughts, focus on your breath or a particular sound. The mind then automatically calms down allowing you greater clarity. The idea is not to inhibit thoughts but to focus on thoughts that actually matter. You should be in a position to choose which thoughts you engage with.
3. Be Mindful
When you meditate, your breath is your only guide. Your breath is a representation of your present state, and the only thing that matters during that moment is the coming and going of your breath. Your mind is bound to wander but you need to bring it back to focusing on your breath. This exercise helps you to become mindful of the present. As you practice, you will be able to focus your attention on the task at hand, whether it’s making a meal or a client presentation.
4. Hold On To Your Joy
According to Ricard, everyone feels an all-consuming love once in a while but most people are not able to hold on to this feeling for more than 15 minutes. The mindfulness you develop during meditation helps you to hold on to this feeling of joy consciously. It is also helpful to develop qualities like kindness and compassion because true joy comes more from giving rather than receiving.
5. Practice Is The Key
Meditation is not an activity; it is a state of being. Just like learning to play an instrument is a process in itself, meditativeness is also built over time. You may not feel an immediate change in your life but it’s important to be patient and persistent. The more regularly you practice, the more you will begin to see small changes in the way you deal with situations that life throws at you.
6. Use Awareness To Create Distance
Ricard says, “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.” Awareness is key to not being swayed by emotions that are generated by your thoughts. Most people react without being consciously aware of what they say or do. Once you are in a state of awareness, you are in control of your actions.
7. Think Of Meditation As An Investment
If you meditate regularly, you will begin to experience positive changes in your life. Within a month, you will find that your stress levels have gone down and there is a feeling of general well-being. These are benefits that can bring a positive change in your life. If you’re still finding it hard to take the time to meditate every day, think of it as an investment with big returns. By investing just 30 minutes a day, you are able to gain the resources to deal with everything else that is happening in the next 23 and a half hours. Seems like a good deal, right?
Matthieu Ricard had to forsake his life as a scientist and practice meditation for over 40 years to reach a state of perpetual happiness. Not everyone can take such a drastic step, however, what you can do is set aside 30 minutes a day to focus on your meditation. And if you follow these simple tips suggested by Ricard, you most certainly will be able to bring some level of positive change in your own life.