You may remember how Ruby Wax was told this by friends when she’d suffered a breakdown.
As Matthieu Ricard says, nobody wakes up and vows to spend the day in suffering. Apparently we’re all searching for happiness, but do we know what we’re really looking for?
Ricard is a French academic- turned Buddhist monk who is often described as the happiest man in the world. In his TED talk, he defines happiness as a ‘deep sense of serenity and fulfilment’. Happiness in this sense is different from pleasure, which comes and goes. Think back to the time your favourite team won a cup- You may have been filled with elation at first, later followed by the normal sports viewer’s dip. This is similar in ways to how an alcoholic craves the good times in the pub, the sense of confidence they had when drinking.
These are examples of the times when we look to outside sources for happiness. Buddhism teaches that we must look inside ourselves, as ultimately it is the mind which is a source of happiness. The very nature of consciousness is that it can change, as emotions in themselves are fleeting. This possibility for change is at the basis of mind training; humans cannot experience two contrasting emotions at the same time. Finding an antidote to a ‘bad’ emotion, such as hatred, can ultimately dispel that feeling.
Mind training may seem like a drastic measure, yet Ricard reminds us how much time we spend training our body and brain. He describes the results of various studies of happiness using CT brain imaging, in which those experiencing strongly positive symptoms showed increased activity in the left side of their premotor cortex, while depressed individuals had more response on the right side. Meditators who meditated on compassion had a strong sense of well- being in all.
The comments that follow this talk indicate how many people watched it for the obvious; to learn HOW to be happy. Ricard doesn’t give any specific answers, although he is the author of five books which should give more detail. He obtains plenty of laughs during this talk, which is informative and inspiring.
P.S: should you wish to see a humorous talk proving that money doesn’t buy happiness, I’d recommend this.