Earlier this month I, together with a small group of other Mindfulness teachers from all over the world, was invited to spend 3 days on retreat with Matthieu Ricard at The Garrison Institute in the state of New York.
I felt extremely privileged to be invited on what I consider to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I have been reading Matthieu's books for the last decade, and this retreat was to be Matthieu's last one before retirement, making it even more special.
Matthieu is a truly wonderful human being: generous, approachable and a clear teacher. He started his first teaching to us by saying 'Don't follow me, I'm lost too', which set the tone for the rest of the retreat - one of humour and humility.
Matthieu gave us a series of guided meditations and teachings over the course of the three days, and here are some of the key insights. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
1. We are all born as loving creatures
Even Donald Trump.
(Matthieu didn't actually mention him, that's my own addition).
The fact is, newborn babies don't know how to hate. Hatred comes later in life, and is usually underlined by fear.
We all experience a mix of emotions through life (in fact, each day) such love, hatred, fear, jealousy and so on; and it's ok. We are a mix of light and shadow; but what we do is that we tend to project our hopes and fears onto outer conditions, including people, when they really reside in the mind.
So it is easy to blame this or that person, immigrants, or the weather for our unhappiness, when they in fact are only a reflection of an emotion that was already in us.
This is why it is critical to work with our mind to cultivate mental states that spread positive values such as solidarity, generosity and love, much needed in today's world.
It is also important to recognise that someone who is angry/hateful is being manipulated by their emotions, and therefore responding with compassion is the only way. How can we be angry at someone who is being manipulated in this way?
2. An aspiration that encompasses the wellbeing of others automatically accomplishes our own wellbeing.
The truth is that we are all connected, and that we can't survive without other people; whether they cultivate the food we eat, make the clothes we wear, drive the trains we take, and so on.
We are all connected and we are not so different from each other.
In fact, we are very similar.
We all want the same things: to be safe, loved and content. Thinking about your own happiness in isolation is a mistake. Happiness and love are exponential - it grows the more we spread it.
So including others in your own aspirations will increase your own well-being too.
What are you life aspirations? Do they include an altruistic element?
3. Training the mind in each moment is key to world peace
If we look at the root of wars, not a single one of them started without a thought of hatred in someone's mind. People don't start wars like robots; the spark of hatred in the mind is what is at the very root of it.
So every single moment is important, and an opportunity to ask ourselves - what experience do I want to have right now? And therefore, what type of thoughts do I want to entertain? Hateful, angry ones, or loving, compassionate ones?
Kindness & compassion are skills that can be trained through meditation and in every day, so don't loose courage in the power of your own transformation, to bring about a better world.
Each one of us has the power to bring about that better world, as much as our neighbour or any world leader.
And it can start right now.
I'd love to hear from you - comment, email me, send me a note. Let's connect x