The Happiest Man Alive?

Meditation Practice and Changing the Brain

This is a beautiful video featuring Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk in the Tibetan Tradition who is French by birth. He shows us the virtue of meditation practice no matter what your culture of origin. Turning away from harmful emotions and instead devoting our energy to cultivating love, compassion, sympathetic joy and the like during our meditation practice results in subjective experiences of greater happiness.

But it’s not just about feeling better. This is about changing the physiology of the body. Dr. Ricard has been studied by neuroscientists for many years. His brain operates differently from most of us. Not surprisingly, the parts of his brain that are engaged in generating positive emotions, as well as those responsible for extinguishing anxiety, and increasing availability for attuned, loving connection, are more active than the vast majority of our brains. So, what does this mean? Based on neuroplasticity research, it means we all have the capacity to develop these strengths through regular meditation practice.

Try this simple exercise the next time you feel a little uncomfortable or anxious or agitated in some way.

1.  Sit down and quietly check in with yourself. Assign a score to your mood between 1 and 10, with 10 being most positive.

2.  Begin to focus on your heart center and the feeling that is present there as you arrive in the moment. Meditation practice has begun!

3.  Begin to breathe very evenly and rhythmically as if inhaling and exhaling like you are riding rolling ocean swells.

4.  Deepen the focus on the breath in the meditation, and combine it with your awareness of the heart center to imagine breathing through the heart.

5.  As you focus on this heart centered breath, bring to mind a loving emotional feeling toward a person or a pet or particular place.

6. As you deepen and cultivate this heart centered breathing in your meditation practice, combined with a subjective feeling of love, extend and radiate this heart centered experience to all beings, as if you are a beacon of light shining in all directions.

7. Maintain this for several minutes, and then revisit your emotional state. Did it shift? Are you feeling happier?

Enjoy playing with the cultivation of positive states in your daily meditation practice. You don’t have to be a monk to change your brain for the better. May it be of benefit to all beings!

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