In 1972, Matthieu Ricard had a promising career in biochemistry, trying to figure out the secrets of E. coli bacteria. A chance encounter with Buddhism led to an about turn, and Ricard has spent the past 40+ years living in the Himalayas, studying mindfulness and happiness. In this free-wheeling discussion at TED Global in October 2014, Ricard talked with journalist and writer Pico Iyer about some of the things they’ve learned over the years, not least the importance of being conscious about mental health and how to spend time meaningfully. An edited version of the conversation, moderated by TED Radio Hour host Guy Raz, follows. First, Pico Iyer on how he became taken with the idea of staying still:
Pico Iyer: When I was in my twenties, I had this wonderful 25th-floor office in midtown Manhattan, in Rockefeller Center — and I had a really exhilarating life, I thought, writing on world affairs for Time magazine. And it was so exhilarating, I never had a chance to find out if it was really fulfilling me, or if I was happy in a deeper sense, because I was constantly happy in the most superficial kind of way.
And so I left all that behind. I moved to a single room on the back streets of Kyoto, Japan, and now I’m probably the rare journalist who’s never used a cell phone. I live with my wife in a two-room apartment in Japan; I have no car, no bicycle, no media, no TV I can understand. Essentially, no internet. And I still have to support my loved ones as a travel writer and a journalist. It’s only by keeping a distance from the world that I can begin to see its proportions and begin to try to sift the essential from the fleeting. I feel that so many of us now have the sensation of standing about two inches away from this very crowded, noisy, constantly shifting big screen, and that screen is our lives. It’s only by stepping back that we can see what the screen is communicating.
Matthieu, in 1972 you were a molecular geneticist in France. You had just completed your PhD, and you made a life-changing decision to seek a different path. Can you describe your journey?
Matthieu Ricard: I had a fantastic adolescence. My father was a philosopher and my mother is a painter, so all these people, writers and thinkers were coming to our home. I was a musician myself — I met Stravinsky when I was 16 years old. My uncle was an explorer, and I was in the lab with two winners of the Nobel Prize of medicine. You could not wish for better potential for looking either this way or that way at life.
Then when I was 20, I saw some documentaries on all the great Tibetan masters who had fled the Communist invasion of Tibet. And when I saw those faces I thought, “Wow, here is Socrates, St. Francis of Assisi, alive now. I’m going there!” So I just went. And then at one point I thought, “Well, it’s nice to study the cell division of E. coli, but if I could have a little insight on the mechanism of happiness and suffering …” So I retired when I was 26, and I’ve done my post-doc in the Himalayas for 45 years…Follow this link to read the full article: http://ideas.ted.com/want-to-be-happy-slow-down/.
“IT SO OFTEN HAPPENS THAT SOMEBODY SAYS ‘CHANGE YOUR LIFE’ AND YOU REPAINT YOUR CAR RATHER THAN RE-WIRE THE ENGINE.” PICO IYER
Article Source: Ideas.Ted.Com
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