French-born Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard is an international best-selling author, translator and photographer who has lived in the Himalayan region for nearly 50 years. Matthieu took time out to talk to me and share his thoughts on how we can better leverage trust, cooperation and compassion to build more humane organizations and economic systems.
With 10 million views across just 2 Ted Talks it’s no surprise that the business world is waking up to his messages on happiness and altruism.
The son of prominent French intellectuals, Matthieu first encountered Buddhism in 1967. After completing his Ph.D. in cell genetics at the Pasteur Institute in 1972, he moved to the Himalayan region to pursue a spiritual life steeped in the ancient traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. He is actively involved in neuroscientific research on the effects of meditation and the founder and president of Karuna-Shechen, a humanitarian organization that has completed dozens of health, education and social services projects in India, Tibet and Nepal.
Matthieu is speaking at UNLEASH World Conference & Expo next week – I cannot recommend strongly enough getting a ticket to hear what he has to say on how we can make the world of work and the wider world we inhabit a kinder, happier place to be.
Here is just a flavour of some of the perspectives Matthieu will be expanding upon in Amsterdam at UNLEASH.
Artificial Intelligence vs. humanity
I think there are some differences that will become increasingly clearer with technology. The main one being as far as artificial intelligence is concerned is the difference between intelligence and consciousness. AI doesn’t make you one inch a better human being. It doesn’t give you more compassion and anyway, artificial intelligence is not a being. It is not experiencing, it doesn’t know if it wins or it loses at chess, it is not sad, it doesn’t have true text, all these things. It is not moved by the beauty of a landscape or the smile of a child. It doesn’t cry. I think it’s going to emphasize even more the difference between a rational intelligence that is a tool that can be much better with missions and diagnosing sickness and all that, and what is to be a human being, a second being, someone who lives a life embedded in a body, embedded in nature, embedded in society, and so that’s interesting because the difference exists already, but it will I think be more clear.
Improving workplace relationships and performance
If you look at what makes a place to be a good place to work at, it is quite clear. It is obviously having better quality human relationships. Having more people incorporate to share information where that vertical sort of separation between hierarchy is not so stringent and visible and then forbidding.
It’s about when you are happy to work and don’t feel squeezed between the boss and people below you, like a little screw that has no room for manoeuvre for creativity. If that is the case then the real issue becomes one of a sense of powerlessness within the job you have been assigned.
So, the opposite is to emphasize cooperation, team reward, all these kinds of things that try to favour quality in human relations.
I recently did a few weekend seminars with some Human Resources people from huge companies in France. They came to try this kind of mindful approach, especially based on caring mindfulness mediation, and all that, … They thought maybe it’s a waste of time, maybe that it will make people less efficient, and they found out the main benefit from doing this caring mindfulness sort of meditation, or whatever you want to call it, produced an improvement in human relations and better judgment. That was quite interesting. A friend of mine interviewed 100 CEOs all over the world who put in place those kinds of programmes and they said basically the same thing.
The science of happiness
Happiness is a way of being, not a sensation. It comes with a cluster of human qualities. You can increase the list, but the fundamental ones are some sense of inner peace, of endless freedom and inner strength, and, towards others, benevolence, compassion, altruism, and openness. Each of those are skills that can be trained. The heart of the finding of neuroplasticity is that whether you take compassion or emotional balance, how to deal with conflicting emotion, with fear, with anxiety and all that, that can be trained, and you see the change in the brain as you train. It doesn’t require you to spend 35 years in the Himalayas, or 50 years like me.
But if you do that training for 20 minutes a day, after a month you start seeing a change in the brain. After three months there’s a significant structural change in the brain. So you change! Just as if you start to juggle. Only here you are learning basic human qualities and not just to play the piano.
You can hear more from Matthieu Ricard next week in Amsterdam and you can also sign up for a video summary of the show.