Caring Mindfulness at the Service of Others

By Matthieu Ricard on October 08, 2019


As the world becomes increasingly busy and complex, the importance of developing and training our mind to become a better person becomes even more essential. Rushing about and striving to accomplish for the sake of “doing” does not serve the greater good or help to create a better world unless benevolent mindfulness is present. In fact, what many people refer to as accomplishments--status, wealth, and possessions--are actually the direct result of lack of wisdom. They come from striving after selfish gain at the expense of others or the planet.

I have become deeply convinced that love and compassion--the two faces of altruism--are the cardinal virtues of human existence and the heart of the spiritual path. Loving kindness is the wish that all beings experience happiness, while compassion focuses on eradicating their suffering.

The Western psychology and theories of evolution and economics that have long-dominated society assert that human nature is motivated wholly by selfishness. But science is showing us now that genuine altruism does exist. It is not something that is reserved for daydreamers and optimists, but a very real potential that exists within each of us. What’s more, optimizing our capacities to care for others is something that anyone can do through self-education. Just as we devote time and energy to learning other skills like reading and writing or playing an instrument, we can cultivate develop our qualities of benevolence and emotional balance as skills, with perseverance and patience.

The training in attentive presence, or mindfulness, allows us to actualize our innate potential and bring out the best of ourselves. By training the mind through meditation, we can increase our wisdom and fundamental qualities, such as inner peace, inner freedom, clarity, compassion and mindfulness. The more we develop these inner qualities, the more inner space we have for dealing with the ups and down of life and for being open to others.

So how do we go about it? Cultivating the basic human quality of genuine altruism and increasing our compassion can be done with the help of a spiritual path, but it can also be done in a secular way, since we all have a mind and deal with it from morning till evening. Caring mindfulness can be brought about through techniques found the form of mind-training known as meditation and can be indeed associate to the practice of yoga.

We begin by calming our turbulent “monkey” mind which, for the moment, is simultaneously confused, agitated, rebellious, and subject to innumerable conditioned and automatic patterns. The goal of meditation is not to shut down the mind or anesthetize it, but to make it free, lucid, and balanced. We deal with thoughts by not feeding them, by letting them arise and dissolve by themselves in the field of mindfulness. In this way, they do not take over our minds.

Beyond that, meditation consists of cultivating a way of being that is not subject to the patterns of habitual thinking. Establishing a daily practice--even just a 15 to 30 minutes per day--makes possible a deeper focus and awareness that allows you to change your habitual way of being.