The Pursuit of Happyness – A powerful lesson by the happiest man alive.
Take a minute and retrospect into your younger self. How was happiness defined to you? I bet for most of us, it was working hard and being successful, wasn’t it? Even the movies you saw, said the same thing. But think about the great monks that have lived through this world. Everything that we work hard for, is immaterial to them. Then what makes them happy? Let’s see what the happiest man in the world, Matthieu Ricard, has to say about happiness.
Happiness is one of the most pursued state of mind but the least achieved one. , Matthieu Ricard says that if you can learn how to ride a bike, you can learn how to be happy. He was not happy since Adam, he was a molecular biologist but he transformed his life through meditation.
Matthieu Ricard is not called the happiest man in the world only because of his contagious smile; he actually participated in a 12 year old brain study on meditation and compassion headed by Richard Davidson. Ricard was hooked up with 256 sensors and his brain was examined during his meditation. Davidson found that everytime Ricard meditated on compassion, his mind was unusually light. The scans showed excessive activity in his brain’s left prefrontal cortex compared to its right counterpart, allowing him a large capacity for happiness and reduced capacity for negativity. He is a generous man who wants everyone to learn about his secrets and be happy.
Happiness is not the pursuit of an endless succession of experiences.
That’s a recipe for exhaustion more than happiness. Happiness is a way of being. The challenge is to let that way of being overtake all other emotional states.
Unlike pleasure, which exhausts itself as you experience it, happiness is a cultivated skill.
We are all capable of being happy. It is just about finding the right root to flourishing our life with happiness.
Being happy is about raising your “baseline”. It’s not about seeking sudden fireworks or euphoric experiences.
At first, its about realizing that you want to be happy. Then, it is to realize that everyday, you want to be happier than the previous day.
To be truly happy we have to get rid of mental toxins such as hatred, obsession, arrogance, envy, greed and pride.
You know it already, its just a reliable source for you to push yourself to be happier.
Stop thinking “me, me, me”
Ricard believes that thinking about yourself every time can be exhausting because you are bound to think about what your desires are and this process will lead to unhappiness. For him, it all boils down to altruism. He believes that helping others out of their misery will make us feel better about ourselves and eventually make us happy.
“If your mind is filled with benevolence, you know -the passion and solidarity … this is a very healthy state of mind that is conducive to flourishing.”
The way the mind interprets the world is a crucial element in determining the quality of every instant that goes by
And yet we pay so little attention to our inner condition. We must learn to recognize that there are mental states or emotions that are conducive to flourishing and some that are destructive. Ricard calls it antidote training.
Everyone would be helped by meditating for half-an-hour a day.
Meditation is a very vague term and there’s a lot of cliché – like emptying your mind and relaxing and all that stuff. But it’s really a medium to cultivate or be familiar with a better understanding of the way the mind works. Studies have shown that meditation combined with cognitive therapy can help people who suffer from severe depression and reduce the risk of relapse by up to 40%
Start training your mind like you’d train to run a marathon
Ricard believes that everyone can be happy and have a lighter mind but for that to happen, we need to train our brains like a marathon runner does for a race. And Ricard’s preferred way is meditation.
Just spend 15 continuous minutes per day thinking happy thoughts
Ricard believes that we feel happiness and love but suddenly we tend to get distracted by other thoughts. We can tackle this by spending 15-20 minutes in just thinking of the happy thoughts. You will start seeing results just after 2 weeks and if you do it for 50 years like Ricard did, you will become a happiness pro too.
Do you still believe that in order to be happy, you need to be successful? I believe its the other way around.
Avinash Somjani is an intern at utobo and he is pursuing his MBA at SIBM Bengaluru. He is passionate about sports, science fiction, history and the ever changing colour of his pen.