Well-being. As humans we are united by the desire to be healthy and happy. Yet global well-being is not our reality. Change Your Mind Change The World 2013 was a discussion between His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and a panel of experts convening in Madison, Wis., to discuss how neuroscience, environments, economics, and health care can combine to make the world a healthier, happier place. According to Richard J. Davidson, co-host of the event, there are five elements in cultivating well-being.
First, well-being is a skill. It is something we can learn, practice, develop and teach. Second, it is inversely related to mind wandering. When we are focused, we are happier. Third, patterns in brain and body activity are connected meaning emotion affects the body not just the mind. Forth, well-being can be described as equanimity, balance, mindfulness. And lastly, our well being is directly related to our generosity.
Matthieu Ricard, a best-selling author and Buddhist monk, explains that the mind builds addiction which he defines as "wanting without pleasure." If we do not cultivate the skills needed to control our thoughts the mind will create wants that do not serve our well-being. By quieting our minds through physical activity, controlled breathing and meditation, we can begin to hear what we truly desire. Happiness, joy and peace.
The second element in well-being, according to Mr Davidson, is the inverse relationship between mind wandering and happiness. We all have a mind that wanders from time to time. As His Holiness explained, the mind wanders when it is not interested in something or finds it boring. If mind-wandering has a negative effect on our well-being, we must spend time doing things that hold our attention. We must spend time on what we are passionate about. If we do, we will be happier.
Human beings in their true form are happy. Negative emotion is a trick of the mind. The third component of well-being is the link between emotion and the patterns formed in the body as a result. By focusing on negative emotions such as unhappiness and anger, we are training our body to feel that way. If we focus on positive emotion we will feel it more easily. Eventually negativity will be foreign to us and we will feel comforted by what we know, happiness.
The last component of well-being is generosity. As His Holiness said, "A better world is a more compassionate world." We are a population under stress, fighting for the survival of the individual not realizing we are connected.There is constant war and violence. We can measure the destruction of our planet, the home we all share. As Mr Ricard spoke about altruism, he referenced Gandhi's teaching "There is enough for everyone's needs but not for everyone's greed." But there is fear associated with giving. There is worry that if something is given away, there won't be enough. The definition of altruism implies that if we are living for the well-being of others, others will be living for us. As His Holiness explained, living for others is actually a selfish act. "Think of others' well-being and you get maximum benefit." It may be selfish but it's "wise selfish." If we act out of generosity and care for each other we will be happy.
In his closing remarks, His Holiness said, "This initiative must start by the individual's inner peace." Global health and well-being can be achieved within this century if we cultivate it within ourselves one by one. If we live altruistically, which is our true nature, we will feel a sense of responsibility to educate others on how we can change. Global health and well-being will be achieved, one by one, eventually reaching a critical mass of people thinking about others. Change your mind. Change the world.