Matthieu Ricard, a French genetic scientist is the happiest man on earth, according to researchers, quoted by Daily Mail. Matthieu Ricard grew up among the personalities of French intellectual circles. In 1972, he received a Ph.D. degree in molecular genetics from the Pasteur Institute. He then decided to change his life and he left Paris for India, where he started studying Buddhism, living mainly in the Himalayas. The scientists discovered that now, at 66 years old, Matthieu Ricard lives the most peaceful life which makes him extremely happy. The key seems to be the daily meditation, which “programs” his brain to feel joy.
Neuroscientist Richard Davidson studied the impact of meditation on Ricards’ brain, wiring up his skull with 256 sensors at the University of Wisconsin. According to the results of the scans, while meditating on compassion, Ricard’s brain produces a level of gamma waves (those linked to consciousness, attention, learning and memory) that was ‘never reported before in the neuroscience literature’, as Davidson said. 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. The study revealed that meditation can alter the brain and improve people’s happiness in the same way that lifting weights works on muscle. ‘It’s a wonderful area of research because it shows that meditation is not just blissing out under a mango tree but it completely changes your brain and therefore changes what you are’, Davidson explained.
Mattieu Ricard is a respected author and speaker. In a video hosted by the charity RSA he has spoken about The Art of Meditation. You will find below some of his tips:
- ‘That’s what Buddhism has been trying to unravel – the mechanism of happiness and suffering. It is a science of the mind.’
- You can use meditation to gain some space from negative emotions. 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.’ By being aware of these emotions you are no longer adding fuel to their fire and they will burn down.
- A healthy mind should act like a mirror – faces can be reflected in a glass but none of them stick. Use the same technique with thoughts – let them pass through your mind but don’t dwell.
- It’s impossible to stop thoughts from coming but focusing on a particular sound or the breath going in and out calms the mind, giving greater clarity. Controlling the mind is about not being a slave to your thoughts.
- Be mindful – pay attention to the sensations of your breath going in and out. If you notice your mind wandering simply bring it back to focusing on your breath. This is known as mindfulness. You can apply it to other sensations to bring you into the ‘now’ rather than dwelling on the past or future. You could focus instead on heat, cold and sounds that you hear.
- Like when playing the piano, practicing meditation for 20 minutes has a far greater impact over time than a few seconds. Regular practice is also needed like watering a plant.
- You will see benefits in stress levels and general wellbeing as well as brain changes with regular practice in a month. ‘If it gives you the resources to deal with everything else during the other 23 hours and 30 minutes, it seems a worthy way of sending 20 minutes,’ Ricard says.