Happiness by Matthieu Ricard Exercise 2

Seeking happiness outside ourselves is like waiting for sunshine in a cave facing north.

Tibetan saying

  • The tragedy of human beings: we fear misery but run to it. We want happiness but turn away from it.
  • We look for happiness outside ourselves when it is an inner state of being.
  • If it were an external condition, it would be forever beyond our reach. Our desires are boundless and our control over the world limited, temporary and more often than not, illusory.
  • We can have ‘everything we need’ to be happy and yet be most unhappy; conversely we can remain serene in adversity.
  • We spend so many years improving our external conditions yet we do so little to improve the inner condition that determines the very quality of our lives.
  • What stops us from looking within ourselves? from trying to grasp the true essence of joy and sadness, desire and hatred?

“Look within. Within is the fountain of good, and it will ever bubble up, if thou wilt ever dig. ”

Marcus Aurelius


  • in hoping that money will make us happier, we work to acquire it; once we have it , we become obsessed with making it grow and we suffer when we lose it
  • as we strive we miss the point and remain deeply unsatisfied
  • happiness is not given to us, nor is misery imposed
  • we are very much like birds that have lived too long in a cage to which we return when we get the chance to fly away


Exercise 2

Developing attention

Sit quietly in your meditation posture and focus all your attention upon a chosen object e.g. an object in your room, your breath .. inevitably as you do this, your mind will wander. Each time it does, gently bring it back to the object of concentration, like a butterfly that returns again and again to the flower it feeds on.

As you persevere, your concentration will become more clear and stable.

Sleepy? assume straighter posture and lift gaze to revive your awareness

Mind agitated? relax your posture, direct gaze slightly downward and let any inner tension dissolve

Cultivating attention and mindfulness in this way is a precious tool for all other kinds of meditation. 

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