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MEI: Hello, good morning, my friends.
For those who don't know me, my name is [? Mei. ?]
For those who know me, my name is still Mei.
I'm the jolly good fellow which nobody can deny.
It's my honor today to introduce fellow jolly good
fellow, Matthieu Ricard.
Now Matthieu is a very gifted scientist who became a
Buddhist monk.
He was regarded as one of the most promising scientists of
his generation.
Sorry, biologist. I took it from the web.
He completed his PhD thesis in 1972, before
most of you were born.
And unfortunately, he wasn't able to join
Google at that time.
So he went to Nepal instead, and became a biologist. No,
just kidding, he became a monk.
And he has lived and studied in the Himalayas for the past
35 years, where he has been doing humanitarian projects.
Matthieu is also a bestselling author.
He's a translator, and he's a photographer.
And all these pictures, they are taken by him.
He's also an active participant in current
scientific research on meditation and the brain.
And in many of those studies, he is the brain
that they're studying.
When you were in high school, did they ever
call you the brain?
OK.
If they did, they'd be right.
So, Matthieu is a very happy man.
He's so happy he wrote an entire book on happiness.
And he autographed my book, so I'm very happy.
Thank you.
Matthieu is one of the most fascinating men I've ever met
in my life, and--
MATTHIEU RICARD: You only met me once, so.
Yeah.
And I meet a lot of famous people, you guys know that.
It is an honor and pleasure for me to welcome Matthieu
Ricard to our presence.
AUDIENCE: [APPLAUSE]
MATTHIEU RICARD: You know, just to go on about, for those
who don't know him and those who know him, there is also an
interesting story of a Middle East wise man
called Mulla Nasreddin.
Many of you could know him.
And once he came into a coffee shop, and went straight to the
owner and asked him, did you see me enter?
And the guy said yes.
And then he asked, but, do you know me?
And the guy said no.
Then how do you know it's me?
So, thank you so much.
It's a pleasure to visit this wonderful enjoyable place,
where usually people in swimming trunks moving into
the alleys, going to the swimming pool.
Occasionally [INAUDIBLE]
as he leaves his master chef to go off to his office.
So I definitely would like to work there, it seems better
than being at home.
So probably I have nothing to teach you about happiness.
And someone told me actually I should never have written this
book because I never suffered very much in my life, so, the
last person to write a book on happiness and suffering.
So anyway, I thought to just share a few ideas because they
were very dear to me, and they brought a lot of sense of
fulfillment and joy to be alive, and a sense of
direction in life.
And this came through reading beings of great wisdom.
It sort of started like that.
We speak of leadership, leadership has to be someone
who somehow inspires you by showing you the kind of
potential that you could actualize.
Showing you what you could become, and giving you a sense
of direction and inspiration.
It's not very frequent in life.
And I was quite lucky in my teens to be born in a family
in France where my father was a well-known philosopher, so
we had all these great thinkers and poets at home.
My mother was an artist, so we had all these surrealist
painters and all that coming.
Because of musical connections when I was 16 years old, I had
lunch with Stravinsky himself, just for two hours with three
people all together.
And I had an uncle who was an explorer, he went around the
world on a sailboat without the engine after the
second world war.
And the uncle had all kinds of eccentric friends, such as one
when we went to see in Paris and there was a small note on
his door saying, I left on foot for Timbuktu,
and things like that.
So a lot of wonderful people.
And in science of course, the lab I was working with, with
three Nobel Prize of medicine, [? Jakov, ?]
[? Mono, ?]
and [? Wolf, ?]
at [UNINTELLIGIBLE] institute.
So it was very exciting.
There was definitely a lot of people to look at, as what
could I do, where could I be inspired?
At the same time, definitely I would have wished to play the
piano, you know, like [INAUDIBLE], or the chess like
Bobby Fischer.
But I don't know if you remember about Bobby Fischer,
but who wants to become Bobby Fischer?
So there was a kind of discrepancy.
You could take 100 governors, you would have a number of
wonderful people, and some governor with a quite short
temper and not so nice to deal with.
But same thing with philosopher, same thing with
scientist, same thing with artist. No matter what their
particular skill or genius was, there was no correlation
as such, between their human qualities and
their particular genius.
So you could try to pick up all the things and make your
own salad and try to--
but that somehow didn't seem a bit artificial.
Like making a [INAUDIBLE] of all that and
thinking is going to work.
So then, I was lucky enough to travel to the Himalayas, and
then I met something quite different.
Men of wisdom.
Men and women of wisdom.
And what was special about them--
they are all the great Tibetan teachers who have fled the
invasion of Tibet towards India and other places--
is I didn't really care so much what they knew in terms
of poetry, in terms of drama, and even Buddhist philosophy
in the beginning.
That was not my interest at all.
But what they were, that was inspiring.
The quality, the human quality.
And then I though, I want to become like them, not just
know what they know.
And so because there was a kind of--
the first trigger was seeing a documentary movie on those
great teachers, that a friend of mine made for the French
television.
And at the end of the documentary, there was a five
minute silence [INAUDIBLE]
of those meditators, and hermits, and spiritual
teachers, and the Dalai Lama.
One after the other, just silent.
It was so powerful.
It was like 20 Socrates or 20 St. Francis of Assisi, whoever
you feel like is represent the wisdom of humanity.
Just there, alive, in our time.
So I said, well, I should go to see.
And then that was very interesting, because, somehow,
someone like that-- and I'm going to show some images--
show you what you could become.
It's a source of inspiration.
Give you--
that this is possible, somebody made it somehow.
Then of course we get interested in how, but first
we have to see that it makes sense.
And so also, in the course of living in the Himalayas, I
know, after awhile traveling back and forth, some other
things became quite clear about what brings freedom or
fulfillment in life.
And it seems that we so much put our hopes and fears in the
outer conditions.
So now, let's be clear from the beginning, we want outer
conditions to be optimal.
Compared to 150 years ago when the life expectancy even in
Europe was like 30 years.
And who doesn't want to live long, to be healthy, to have
access to education, to have a wonderful working place,
harmonious human relations in one's family, with friends,
with people?
Even in country where there is peace, where there is not an
oppressive regime?
So all that we really deeply support yearn for that, and
that's right.
And we ought to develop that to the maximum we can.
And especially in the world where this is far from being
granted for many, many places of the world.
Where 3,000 children still die every day of malaria, and all
that you know.
And there's so much to do just to bring those
minimum outer condition.
Yet it's quite clear too, that if we only put our hopes and
fears in the outer world, it's not going to work in our
search for direction, for meaning, for genuine sense of
fulfillment and accomplishment, what do we
call genuine happiness.
Genuine happiness doesn't mean pleasant feelings one after
the other, each one more and more intense, piling them up,
renewing them, seeking them, and then collapsing of
exhaustion at the end.
That's not going to work.
So it's more like a cluster of qualities as we can develop as
skills, like openness, genuine altruistic love, compassion,
inner strength, some kind of inner peace.
And then that gives you a sense of confidence that's not
just like the false confidence of arrogance, but confidence
that you are less vulnerable and therefore more ready also
to be of service to others, and contribute to a more
compassionate and society that gives you a better way of
flourishing yourself and others.
And because more confidence means less feeling of
insecurity or fears, then more readiness to
be there for others.
So it's quite clear that the outer conditions themselves
are not enough, however necessary or
useful they might be.
Not enough because we also can clearly see that our state of
mind, the way we interpret and translate those outer
condition in our inner experience, are what really
determines states of well being and/or misery.
And the state of mind can easily override those outer
conditions.
We can feel terrible in a little paradise, and we can
feel still very strong and joyful and wish to go about
one's life, and contribute to the happiness of others, even
in the face of adversity.
So as the Dalai Lama once gave this striking example, if you
move in a very luxurious flat at the hundredth floor of a
high-tech skyscraper, for the first time, you just bought
it, and then you are totally ruined within, destroyed in
your heart, in your mind, all you are going to look for is a
window from which to jump.
On the other hand, you could have this great joy to be
alive, empathy, whatever, all those human qualities, even
when other conditions doesn't seem nice at all.
But because your state of mind is stronger.
And that's such fortunate situation.
Because imagine that to find happiness, the world would
have to be the image of you desire, your fancies, the
universe could be a vast catalog in which you could
order all the ingredients for happiness, forget it.
It's never going to happen like that.
There still should be 6 billion catalogs, and everyone
would choose different items, and they would never work.
This is not just it seems obvious, but great thinkers
thought otherwise.
Emmanuel Kant wrote that complete happiness will be the
compete fulfillment of all our desires, in quantity, quality,
and duration.
The whole idea of happiness goes to the drain.
This would never happen, never.
How could that be?
But anyway, impermanence is there, even you had for a
fraction of a second, everything to be happy.
Then one piece was going to be missing the next day.
So again, collapse.
It doesn't work.
And we know in real life, I remember, when I was going to
Tahiti, with the younger [INAUDIBLE] of my ministry.
I was the first two Buddhist monk in
Tahiti, it was big news.
So in the evening news there was big items. They found a
snake in the forest, there's no snake in Tahiti, and second
item, two Buddhist monk arrive in Tahiti.
So the next day we were at this wonderful
postcard-looking sunset in Paul Gauguin's house--
and he was not there-- but very beautifully lit swimming
pool, and sitting there and then looking at each
other, I said, oh.
If we are the owner of that it's
supposed to make us happy.
There seems to be no relation.
And then if that makes us happy, then what?
If we double the size of the swimming pool, we twice as
much happy?
So of course no relation.
It's the way you interpret things.
And we had the confirmation of that about the way of
interpreting the world the next morning, because Tahiti
looks great on postcards, but it's pretty hot and damp and
wet when you are there.
So we were sitting on a beautiful tree, and there was,
imagine, there was this kind of soft, mist, refreshing mist
falling from the tree.
We were sitting there.
Complete bliss, thinking, this is real paradise.
Even the trees are air-conditioned.
But then someone came and said, you know, those are
pissing flies.
So our perception of the world changed right away.
So let's assume that the inner conditions for well being are
really what will determine the quality of
everything that goes by.
And that's a fair assumption.
But then, that we're a much better position, because
that's our mind, the final experiencer of that.
At least we are not having to modify the whole
world to our taste.
But we can change our mind.
If we change our mind we change our world, that's the
world we experience.
So that's the idea.
So for that we need to identify which conditions in
our mind are leading to sense of fulfillment and fruition,
accomplishment.
And sense that if we look 20 years ahead, if we look back,
we see that somehow that's the best we could do with our
capacities, and we chose the right direction, something
that's really truly meaningful in our life.
So what are those conditions which will
nurture that quality?
Also the quality of every moment that passes.
Because after all, life is not just remembering the past and
projecting the future.
That's the quality of the present moment.
That's what today is made of.
Someone says, take care of the minutes, the hours will take
care of themselves.
So of all the minutes are unhappy, how could the hours
and day somehow be fulfilled?
So we need that quality.
So that has to do with states of mind.
And then there are states of mind which are totally
detrimental to the quality of that life.
Hatred, resentment, grudge, nagging jealousy, obsessive
desire, arrogance.
All those are just makes you feel miserable, and of course
they also induce you to act and speak in ways that also
cause suffering around you.
So it's a lose-lose situation, that comes to very
self-centered, excessive feeling of self-importance,
bringing everything to oneself, and trying to build
up a so-called selfish happiness, sometime at the
detriment of others' well being.
That's absolutely not going to work.
If a selfish happiness is the goal of your life, then that
life is soon going to be without any goal.
Because that simple cannot work.
The reason it cannot work is that excessive preoccupation
with oneself is a constant source of torment and being
vulnerable to everything.
Criticism, praise, failure, and success.
All those will take disproportionate importance,
will be like a storm in a glass of water.
And each of those will be like small balls bouncing in that
small, tiny bubble of the ego, and then
hurting you every time.
So we need to explode that self-centeredness bubble, and
let those bullets get lost in the vast space of open-minded,
so that we not just simply obsess, what's going to happen
to me, how do I feel.
I know this thing that is just way off is
buying trouble for ourself.
So now there are other type of emotions and mental state.
We definitely feel as something that is nourishing
the sense of well-being, like, say, loving kindness,
unconditional love, wanting to an act of generosity with no
strings attached, just mere wish of bringing some
happiness or relief some suffering to others.
And some sense of inner peace, inner strength, an inner
contentment.
So all of those together makes it a way of being.
And that's what genuine happiness is.
It's not just pleasant feelings and trying to
accumulate them endlessly.
Because pleasant feelings are so much fleeting, even you try
to renew them, they depend upon circumstances, upon time.
The changing nature from one moment to the other, something
that is very pleasant, like a chocolate cake, once serving
is great, two--
see, you become nauseous to the same thing
as change of nature.
The most beautiful music you can dream of, you might, if
you are really hooked onto it, listen three or four times at
the row, but imagine 24 hours nonstop.
What a fatigue.
It doesn't work.
And also it is something that somehow is so
centered upon oneself.
You can experience intense sensation of pleasure if
everyone is suffering even at the cost of
other making suffer.
It's not something that is inspiring necessarily.
And is so vulnerable to change.
Now, happiness as a way of being, as a optimal way of the
mind to be, will remain throughout the ups and downs,
to all the different emotional states.
And give you the resources to deal with whatever comes.
So rather than being dependent on the fluctuating changes of
ups and downs of life, that's what gives you the resources
to deal with those changing conditions.
It's like the depth of the ocean, it's always there,
compared to the change on the surface where there's
sometimes storms, sometimes beautiful weather, but if you
are not [INAUDIBLE] the depth, then you are in the midst of
that weather change on the surface with
nothing to refer to.
So it is a way of being.
Or a manner of being.
But manners need to be learned.
It is not [INAUDIBLE], yet it is true that we are more or
less born with the kind of traits, we are more or less
happy and extrovert kids, or kids which are a little bit
more violent, and some others are very sweet, and will give
their toys to others.
So we have traits, but no, those are just blueprints.
This is not the time to elaborate on that, but
epigenesis means that even you have these set of genes, at
any time there is something that could regulate their
expression.
There are wonderful studies now done showing that almost
any kind of gene that determines traits can be
modified by the environment, by receiving and giving love
and tenderness.
The gene can be for stress, for instance, can be blocked
for life, if there's a strong component of tenderness in
very early life.
And so those are just potential that we are more or
less gifted in the beginning, but the hard work and the
interaction can change that.
So there is this flexibility in everything.
In the genes, in the way we experience the world, so there
is margin to change.
And not only that, but by which kind of mystery our mind
and the way we experience things, would just change to
us happiness just because we wish to be happy?
Everything else in life we need to learn.
When we're born, this unidentified crying object
cannot speak, cannot walk, can do nothing, would die in few
days if the mother wasn't there with great love and care
to make that newborn baby be alive and learn, and learn
experience of life.
And so forth.
And then everything in our life, like going to school,
learning a profession, building human relationship.
All of that comes with learning, with emotional
skills, learned by experience.
So how come that the [INAUDIBLE] for fundamental
thing that determines the quality of our life would just
come just like that?
So we have to understand that we usually underestimate the
power or transformation of mind.
We think this is just life, we are like that.
This is the human nature to be this mixture of light and
shadows, quality and defect.
And actually that's desirable.
It would be terribly boring not to have jealousy, or
strong passions even that tear us apart.
That's exciting.
And good rule that three days of uninterrupted happiness
would be so boring, it's always the same.
My suffering is so vibrant, it always
changes, it's so exciting.
But you know, is this true?
I was just saying that to justify the fact that we are
not quite sure how to change that.
And then we try to make a philosophy to fit with that
state of affairs.
Because in truth, when you are sitting in a beautiful garden
or somewhere by a lake, with someone you love, or just
enjoying the beauty of nature, and feeling in harmony with
the world, with others, with yourself, with less inner
conflict, working [INAUDIBLE]
stars or something I that.
I feel really at peace.
Are you going to regret the tense atmosphere of the
emergency room of a hospital or something?
Or I come now when you're sitting peacefully and say,
please get angry right now.
You say, why should I?
I'm fine.
Or would you like to spend a whole afternoon
being terribly jealous?
You say no, why, it doesn't sound such a nice prospect.
But if I say, would you like to spend the next two, three
hours having compassion or loving kindness as the main
state of mind presently in your self?
You say, well, that seems pretty neat.
So we feel instinctively that even though we can't escape
for the time being those different kinds of mental
toxins, we'd rather be well off without them.
But now is it possible to change that?
Because we might say it's so deeply intrinsic to human
nature, and we can't do anything.
So yes, in a way, it is in human nature we all have those
positive and negative emotions.
So in that sense it is part of human nature.
But to be part of something there are different ways of
being part of something.
You could be part of something like the
whiteness of the screen.
That's all over the texture of the screen, and to remove that
you would have to destroy the screen.
But this is also somehow part of the screen.
It's there on the screen but doesn't penetrate the screen,
doesn't belong to the screen, doesn't remain to the screen,
and the screen allows it to appear, yet it is
not modified as such.
But it allows it to appear.
So that's the key.
So in order for all the mental states, mental construct you
arise in our mind, whether positive emotions or negative
ones, no matter.
There has to be some kind of basic
screen, or like the light.
If I show a torch light to shine on you, the light can
show in the garden, beautiful flowers, or
maybe a pile of garbage.
So you might say, this is beautiful, this is ugly.
The light allows you to see that, but the light doesn't
become beautiful or ugly.
The light is what makes that perceptible, visible.
Likewise, at the fundamental aspect of cognition, of the
mind, we call that the bay of
consciousness, or the pure awareness.
It's a kind of basic cognitive factor, and I think meditators
can introspectively experience that, behind
the screen of thought.
This kind of pure, aware presence.
Because at the luminous aspect of mind in
Buddhist terms, luminous--
not that it glows in the dark or like those [INAUDIBLE]
things shooting from the earth--
but that it is luminous compared to a dark object like
this stool who has no cognitive quality whatsoever.
So it is luminous, it's cognizant.
So now, that is not tainted by hatred,
jealousy, and so forth.
It allows that to occur, but it cannot be.
If hatred was so intrinsically [? part, ?]
then it would shine on everything.
Like if the light was beautiful in itself,
everything would be beautiful when you shine the light on
something ugly, whatever.
That's not the case.
So that [INAUDIBLE]
because those mental constructs are a result of
causes and conditions.
You can modify those present conditions and that's the
principle of mind training.
And that's what meditation is about.
Meditation has many meanings, but the root, the actual
literal meaning in Sanskrit, bhavana, means to cultivate.
And Tibetan, gom means to be familiar with something, to
become familiar with a new way of being, with new qualities,
with a perception of the world that is more
attuned with reality.
Not seeing the world as solid, autonomous, permanent objects,
but as a dynamic, flux, interdependent of ceaselessly
changing course and condition even our consciousness is a
stream, a dynamic stream, constantly changing.
And so it's also to develop qualities like compassion and
loving kindness, so meditation is ready
to cultivate something.
It can be to cultivate enough calm to begin with, like led
through mindful breathing, to let the thoughts subside a
little bit, and thought not being caught in that constant
whirlpool, then from that state we can develop those
qualities like compassion and loving kindness.
So it is something that need to be trained, and everything
has to be learned.
Otherwise the spoiled brat of our mind is going to continue
to run over the place, and then we have this mixture of
constant joy and torment, and we can do much better.
We say that's normal, but normal
state is just a pandemic.
We are all so much like that that we think it's normal.
But optimal is something else.
And this is possible.
So we can use all kinds of methods, techniques, that's
what the methodology, or the science, the contemplative
science is about.
Using antidotes, for instance.
Antidote means there are things one to one that are
mutually exclusive.
You can't in the same gesture stretch your hand friendly way
and give a blow.
You cannot in the same moment of thought, want to harm
someone and want to do good.
It is very simple, but if you think of that, the more you
bring, say, altruistic thoughts, thoughts of
benevolence in your mind, the less, at those moments, there
will be space for malevolence, harmful
thoughts, and so forth.
So you can imagine that, yes, we do feel moments of love and
moments of resentment, but we don't cultivate them.
We don't try to generate loving kindness and just keep
it flowing in our mind, and remaining in, and feeding it,
and preserving it for like five, ten minutes.
It's not something we do.
But that's what we need to do if we want to become that more
part of our mind, if we want to change our minute to minute
emotions, and moods, and then finally traits,
that's how we learn.
You don't learn skiing by doing it 15
seconds every week.
You have to do it a second time.
It won't happen without a minimum of dedication.
And to dedicate oneself to something and find the time
for it, we need to see the advantages of doing so.
And in case of changing one's mind,
advantages are quite obvious.
There are many other ways, but just to
give you a quick example.
[INAUDIBLE] finds his anger, and by anger I
mean malevolent anger.
Not indignation in the face of injustice
or massacre or something.
But anger that really has a component of wishing to harm.
And also, when we are invaded by this we are one with anger.
We cannot see anything else.
We see the other person or object of our anger as 100%
despicable.
We can't see an equality in that person.
And we completely associate with this anger, even though a
few hours later we might say, I was out of myself, I was no
more myself.
We know it as something that was like having the flu.
You are not the flu, but the flu grips you.
But then we could do something else, instead of being
obsessed by the trigger.
We could try to dissociate, and look at anger.
Gaze at it.
The role, sensation, and feeling, and emotion of anger.
Not the causes and circumstances that creates it.
Because that's the fuel.
That's the wood that you have constantly on the fire.
But look at the fire itself, forget about the wood.
If you do so, the fire cannot maintain itself very long.
Anger cannot sustain itself on its own.
It's just bound to vanish.
It melts away like the morning frost under the rising sun.
And that's a very skillful way of dealing, because it avoids
two extremes that do not work.
One is venting anger, that people say you should break
pianos and all these kind of things to feel better when
you're angry.
It doesn't work, it makes you more and more angry.
You get angry easily and more often.
Or keeping it as a time bomb somewhere in the back of your
mind, and then, again it doesn't work.
So now here you have, for the time
being, solved the problem.
You dealt with it, it vanished away, there's no trace for the
time being.
It might come back, but you start again.
So instead of venting it, or keeping it, which will
reinforce the tendency for anger, here, each time you
deal with it, with these very powerful intelligence of
dialogue with the emotions, you're
actually eroding the tendency.
And at some point you will be less likely to become angry,
it will be more difficult to make you angry, and you can
imagine some time where at least hatred, the wish to
willingly harm terribly someone else, could be
completely gone from your mind.
And that could be a result of my training.
Definitely we can enhance our compassion and so forth.
So it is something that's highly desirable in our life.
It's not just a luxury.
It's not just a supplementary diet or vitamin of the soul.
It's something that's really at the heart of every moment
that will go by.
It's something that also, with time, we can see in ourself.
And it really brings some change.
And it really brings some more openness so that we have a
more fruitful life, and we can [INAUDIBLE]
the service of others.
Instead of the lose/lose situation of these seeking
this selfish happiness and dis-considering others, when
we feel miserable we make others miserable.
Here we have a win/win situation.
Loving kindness and compassion are among the most positive of
all positive emotion.
And that's what we're going to show you just now.
And also of course, others will perceive it
in a positive way.
So I just want to show you very briefly since we speak of
changing your mind, changing your brain, since some years
now, we have been collaborating with
neuroscientists.
This is an endeavor that was started by [INAUDIBLE]
Dalai Lama, inspired by him into studying the influence on
the brain of a sustained mind training.
And the idea was, people who have been [INAUDIBLE]
as a concert violinist has been at least
10,000 hours of violin.
And there is some areas in the brain which have changed.
The area that deals with the fingers, with the motor
coordination and all kinds of things.
It has vastly increased in activity, even in size.
So what happens, not if you learn the piano, but if you
learn compassion?
If you're training vigilance and attention, will that
change the brain too?
If that does, it means that mediation is not just blissing
out for a few moments under a mango tree and try to empty
your mind unsuccessfully, but it is really a deep change
that comes through mind training.
So that was a very interesting approach.
So we needed to start with experienced meditators,
because if there's a noticeable difference in them,
then we can know, [INAUDIBLE]
how did you reach there?
And start with novices.
If there was no difference in those experts, then don't
expect to find one after one week.
So here's the place where they came from, and well, it's
almost as nice in the Google campus, but it's still easier
to meditate there than in the subway.
But we can soon have a Google campus in Tibet or somewhere,
and I'm sure [INAUDIBLE] would be very happy to be standing
on top of Everest without oxygen.
And so those are the beautiful places where they come from.
And, oh, this was in Eastern Tibet August 1st, the hottest
day of the year.
And the night before we were camping, with Tibetan friends,
and we have a quite large tent, and it was snowing at
dusk, and they said, we are going to sleep outside.
I said, why, we have a big tent?
They said yes, it's summertime.
So they slept outside, and in the morning there was 10
centimeters snow on their clothes.
So this is what I'm fortunate to see from the window of my
small hermitage in the
Himalayas, so I can't complain.
And this is the example of spiritual teachers here.
You can see that it's some kind of beyond word, a kind of
human quality that we can't miss.
And in reality it was certainly very strong.
It's almost like human goodness becoming palpable.
That's what Paul Ekman, I think you're
going to receive soon.
One of the [INAUDIBLE] expressions of emotions,
that's how he described an encounter with the Dalai Lama.
There's something that you almost physically, none of
this weird vibes, but something that's so natural
and simple, and yet something that you can really feel.
A kind of strength, mixed with goodness, and solidity but at
the same time sensitivity.
I mean, it's very hard to describe, but it's really what
makes an extraordinarily good human being.
And this cat is certainly one of the fortunate ones.
And here's my first teacher, [UNINTELLIGIBLE].
This is a hermit who comes out of six years of meditation in
the hermitage.
So the question is, is he so happy because finally he's
coming out, or because he did six years of meditation?
And knowing him well, I would favor the second hypothesis
that it's something that he acquired through his training.
In Madison, Wisconsin, now the meditators have 256
electrodes, and there are two ways of measuring brain
activities.
One is to electroencephalogram, that has
a very good time resolution, thousands of a second change
can be recorded on the scalp, but not so clear exactly where
it happens in the brain.
So we have to combine that with FMRI, which is magnetic
resonance scanner, which gives us a very good three
dimensional analysis of where things happening in the brain,
brain imaging, but not so good in time-wise.
The resolution is one or two seconds.
So it's like a camera in the first case that is very fast
shutter speed but not so very focused.
Second case is very well focused but
slow shutter speed.
But if you combine both, you get both spatial and time,
temporal resolution.
So that's coming out of two and a half
hours in the scanner.
Huge relief from that mini-retreat.
This is Richard Davidson, the lead
scientist in Madison, Wisconsin.
Although there are other labs doing this study, in
Princeton, and Harvard, and Berkeley, not so far from
here, and more and more interest.
So there are many states that you can study, because
mediation is very varied.
So that you can study focused attention, mental imagery or
visualization, you can study compassion, and that's one of
the ones we have studied most. And each of these has a
different brain signature.
So compassion here--
I'll spare you all the reading that-- but it's the
unconditional feeling of love that begins with an object but
then becomes more and more universal to
all sentient beings.
And it's a very powerful and strong
feeling of loving kindness.
So this is the first paper we published in the PNAS.
And another, the actual first results.
So now what we need is to compare things.
We need to compare a meditator at rest and in meditation.
[INAUDIBLE] it compared meditators with control group,
those who are novice in meditation, and see if there's
a difference.
So we give the instructions off to them, same instructions
that meditator use for many years, and ask them to do it
for a week and come back to the lab.
And then, in the lab, what we do, is a minute of rest, 10
minutes of intense getting in the state of compassion, or
focused attention, whatever the subject is.
And then doing that again and again, 30, 40 times.
In out, in out, and measuring changes.
We did it with the experimenters, we did it with
the controls.
In case of the control, the green line
is the resting state.
The blue line is also the meditation state.
They try to feel something but it is not strong enough to
elicit a strong response in the brain.
Here you see with the meditators that the rest line
is the same, but now, when they engage in compassion
meditation there's a huge increase, 1200% of the brain
waves, particularly in the gamma range, which is
connected with the connections in the brain and so forth.
And it does happen also, interestingly enough, mostly
in the area of the brain which the left prefrontal cortex,
which has to do with positive emotions.
So compassion is among the most
powerful positive emotion.
And just to give you an idea, this is a huge increase.
Maybe there's something big happening in the brain if
you're about to be run over by an elephant.
But to go from a resting state and 15 seconds voluntarily
bring a powerful mental state, that's never been recorded
like that in neuroscience.
So everyone's starting to doubt.
Is it an artifact or something?
So it took almost a year to make sure that this was really
the result of meditation and not just something else.
This is just a different way of showing or displaying the
same result.
Another way, here are the controls, here the meditators,
it's very, very different.
And we also did real time monitoring.
When the compassion meditation takes off, increases, then the
meditator will just have a small keyboard with the right
and left arrows, he will come up.
One, two, three, four, five.
Then if you prolong that, after some minutes, he might
start losing it a little bit.
So he will go down.
He's not going to look at the numbers if not to be
influenced, but he is just changing the keys.
And then he will come down, maybe four, three, two.
And then he brings it back strongly again
so he will go up.
So these ups and downs turns out to be very closely related
to what is actually measured in the brain.
This 0.69 correlation, if some of you are statisticians.
There's a chance of one in 40 million times that this is
just random due to chance.
And this is now the brain imaging.
And here, when they [INAUDIBLE] compassion, the
area that is vastly activated is this left prefrontal
cortex, which has to do with positive emotion, joy, sense
of enthusiasm.
So compassion is, in itself, a most powerful emotion.
Now interestingly enough too, the blue signifies a decrease
of activity.
And that area on the right prefrontal cortex is normally
associated with depression, rumination, excessive
self-concern, negative affect.
So here it seemed that compassion is almost an
antidote to depression, which is of course a fascinating
avenue of research.
And also this aspiration to relieve suffering that comes
with compassion strongly reduces the activity in the
amygdala, which is known to be connected with fear and anger.
So again, compassion reduces that.
It also increases activity in the motor area of the brain.
That means compassion comes with a readiness to act, of
course, for the benefit of others.
So now attention.
Normally, if you have to maintain your attention very
sharply, you start losing it out of fatigue.
That's the problem of air traffic
controllers, for instance.
And if you task where you see flashing numbers very fast and
each time there's a zero you have to press a button, after
five, ten minutes you start making more and more and more
mistakes, and your score goes down, which is happening here.
But with meditators, after 10 minutes there's no change and
now we did that for 60 minutes, absolutely no change.
Two errors in 1,000 trials.
And they don't report to be tired, just like [INAUDIBLE]
flow.
This is precisely what the skill is about.
You do it naturally, perfectly,
without being tired.
But you know, these fly in the face of so much assumptions.
William James, the founder of modern psychology, said that
no one can maintain their attention more than a few
seconds on a given object.
So that seems to be quite different here.
And this is array of the brain which is activated in the
meditators when they perform this attention task, and
compared to the controls that just cannot do it that much.
So now, what about short term training?
You say, well, it's great for you to be in the Himalayas for
20 years, what about us?
We can go to the swimming pool, yes.
There's a coffee shop around the street, yes.
That's quite good.
But what about meditation, which our dear friend is
trying to bring to you as a boon, an extra boon in Google?
What if we do 30 minutes a day for a few months?
Well, that's exactly what was done in a very highly stressed
employees' office by a company in Madison.
They volunteered to do 30 minutes a
day for three months.
And there was a control group we said, we'll give you the
training after, but please come to the lab every week.
So then the measurement was done before and after, so on
trait of anxiety, there's a bunch of questions and an
analyzers that determine your level of anxiety.