Matthieu is a Buddhist monk who takes wonderful photographs of Nature. When he was young, he was a scientist in France. Then, he discovered Buddhism, the religion of many people in Asia, and decided to spend his life thinking and talking about it.
He mostly lives far from people, in the mountains of Nepal, between India and China. But he’s in France just now to look after his mum (she’s very old) and he’s been talking about the Wonder exhibition, his photographs and why he takes them.
Pictures = wonder = respect
If we feel a sense of wonder – if we go “wow!” – when we see a picture of a mountain, or a tree, or a flower, then, says Matthieu, we’ll want to look after our environment.
“Showing the wonder of Nature, of our environment, leads people to want to respect it, to protect it,” says Matthieu in a video introduction to the exhibition. “That’s why I’m a photographer.”
An old man in red
WoW!‘s Catherine went to see it. There are 32 large pictures, of mountains, rivers, trees and so on. They are dotted around the beautiful gardens of the ancient ruined Villers Abbey, near Brussels. (That’s fitting because an abbey is a home for monks!)
In some photographs, you can see a little old man on the ground in the distance. He’s wearing a red and orange dress. That’s Matthieu, in his Buddhist monk’s robes, doing some wondering.
Finding “inner freedom”
As well as encouraging us to look after planet Earth, Matthieu says that admiring the natural world is a great way for us to feel calm and get over our stress and worries.
We also joined a discussion with Matthieu on Zoom. He talked about the problems we have right now because we’re not free do things we like because of COVID.
Matthieu explains that even if we lose some freedom – to and see family or play sport or go to a film, say – we can always enjoy another kind of freedom. He calls this “inner freedom”. We can’t always control what happens in the world outside us. Sometimes we don’t like it. But we can learn to be free and happy on the inside.
A glass half-full
It’s all a question of how we choose to look at the world, says Matthieu.
Maybe you’ve heard people talk about a glass that’s either half-full, or half-empty. Think about it…
Someone gives you a glass of juice. But the juice comes just to halfway up the glass. You have a choice. You can feel disappointed because the glass is half-empty and you’d rather have a full glass to enjoy. Or you can feel happy because you might not have got a glass of juice at all but instead you have a glass half-full.
Filling up with wonder
Our lives and our world can be just like that glass. We can feel sad because lots of things happen that we don’t like but that we can’t easily stop. That’s thinking about the glass half-empty.
Or we can look around us, like Matthieu with his camera, and just wonder at the beauty of our world and think of all that’s good in it. That’s our glass half-full.
To practise our inner freedom, and being happy, some experts suggest keeping a journal.
Each night before bed, write down 3 things that were good today. Maybe someone gave you a compliment. Or you heard a bird singing when you woke up.
Just thinking about the good bits of your day can give you a boost. You can also go back and read your journal later, to cheer yourself up.
We asked Matthieu Ricard if he had a message for our readers and listeners who want to help the planet and other people. He said:
The blah-blah monk!
Matthieu is a great example of inner freedom. He doesn’t own much stuff. But he is nearly always smiling or laughing.
He also shows how the best way for us to make a positive impact in the world is for us to help others by something we like. In Matthew’s case, it’s taking pictures to help protect the planet.
Photography isn’t his only passion, though. He also loves talking. That’s why, he says, his friends in the monastery call him “the blah-blah monk”!