Christian Long

Matthieu Ricard: The Habits of Happiness

In TED Talks on April 4, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Reflection by DARCY S.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Matthieu Ricard: The Habits of Happiness

“Pleasure” is a topic unknowingly disregarded in current society. The human unconsciously spends unthinkable amounts of time trying to be happier, but all this time amounts to perceivably nothing. People chase after material goods that they believe will bring happiness to them. What goes unrealized is that the search for happiness from the outside is helping no one become ultimately happy; in fact quite the opposite.

Ricard says that although we try to seek happiness, we unconsciously turn our backs toward it. In doing this, one becomes face to face with emotions such as anger, jealousy and aggression because they can’t always retrieve the possessions they believe will bring happiness. It is in these moments when instead of looking towards the outside we must face inward and “sort out,” if you will, the tendencies we naturally condone. Ricard mentions that deep within the adult mind, there is a level of cognition that is unbiased. At this level, the mind intakes information and doesn’t feel a particular emotion towards it, doesn’t judge based upon personal belief and just experiences it. In it’s own pure way, it is just the mind being conscious. Within the infinitesimal nanosecond that the brain does not process information, it simply knows it. It is this level of perception which is used as the foundation for mind training.

The inner happiness, or well-being as Ricard prefers, is built upon the foundation that two conflicting emotions cannot exist towards a single object at one point in time. Now as some who experience this kind of contradicting emotion is possible, they are simply thinking on a superficial layer, unable to clearly see the true emotions they feel underneath layer upon layer of perception. We must locate the pure cognitive part of our brain and rebuild our habits of initial emotion from there, as previously mentioned. Once one achieves that, they must recognize the points in time when they feel destructive, negative emotions and look at the emotion itself. Ricard compares anger to a thunderstorm cloud; it appears, from a distance to be belligerent and forceful, but once approached from a clear perspective with no knowledge of this emotion, this cloud, it will vanish. It truly is as simple as that. If one lets go of the current anger they feel and approach it from a purely cognitive mind, they will find it is false.

In this technique is a lot of digging through the inner self to find the pure mind, meanwhile casting aside pride and self-love, things so dear to humans. Once there, though, at the heart of the mind, it becomes easier and easier to dissolve negative emotions. It becomes easier to dismiss the malicious or painful thought once a pathway to the pure mind is made, and at one point in time, Ricard says, the thought will just pass through your mind, like a bird passes through the sky without leaving a track. It may be a difficult initial process, but worth it given the promise of eternal well-being.

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  1. Your second line (“The human unconsciously spends unthinkable amounts of time trying to be happier, but all this time amounts to perceivably nothing.”) grabbed my attention immediately. And I can’t imagine many people, young or old or somewehere chasing happiness between, not feeling a bit of a kick to the gut as they think through the ironic truth within it.

    Given that you’re our first student to complete one of TED reflections — and that you did one of your “extra credit” options first — you have much of which to be proud already…and have definitely set the bar for your classmates/colleagues. A lovely reflection, Darcy.

  2. […] *if you are interested in “happiness” and how to attain it, watch this video and read my response to it, found here. […]

  3. I would like to say that this video has, just now, really motivated me to change how I perceive my anger at someone/something. “once approached from a clear perspective with no knowledge of this emotion, this cloud, it will vanish.” I really like this line because anger is something that I do not like, but I still ‘participate’ in from time to time. Yet, I have, at times, thought to myself when I was only slightly angry, that this feeling is pointless. I will not get what I want by being angry, and I should just move on.

    As beneficial as a pure mind is and how it can solve emotional problems, I would think that it would be very hard to achieve. Yet, once it is achieved, every human’s goals would change from inward to a more outward care for others. This, in turn, would make the world a more hospitable place for people everywhere. Although without negative emotions, we cannot have positive emotions because without negative we cannot have positive because it fades away with the contrast that the negative aspect of something had. Then again, if we keep in memory those negative emotions the positive ones will still stand out, so I think that initially we need to keep negative emotions, so that later we can reflect back on them to understand that they were unnecessary. Then we would pursue more of a “pure” sense of emotional life.

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