A Review of The Power of Compassion

Matthieu Ricard
The Power of Compassion – Change Yourself and The World

Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk, author, translator, and photographer. I recently enjoyed listening to him speak about compassion at The RSA. He has a lovely disarming nature about him and his ability to weave humour into serious subjects is rare. Here are a few thoughts and notes I scribbled at the time, outlining some of the conditions in which compassion can flourish, and some of what gets in the way. Subsequent additions to my notes are in italics. A link to a video (runtime just over an hour including introduction and Q&A) of the whole talk is also included at the end of this post. I’ve intentionally left this post quite loose, on reflection it felt more helpful to put my scribbles forward as an offer to ponder and discuss a few ideas, rather than a more tightly formed review of Matthieu Ricard’s talk. I hope you find a few useful threads to grab hold of.

The banality of goodness is overlooked. Banal – adjective. Mid 18th century (originally relating to feudal service in the sense ‘compulsory’, hence ‘common to all’): from French, from ban ‘a proclamation or call to arms’.

Compassion Challenges

We have enough for everyone’s needs, not for everyone’s greed.

We are currently enslaved to economy, why be rich and unhappy? We need to deal with poverty in the midst of plenty.

Emotionally we are simply not equipped to deal with long term concerns, Ricard suggests we find it hard to see, and think about events beyond our life time. Add into the mix the short term way politics currently operates, and you begin to see why it is hard to change.

Equality. Social justice. Education. We need all these, and we need consideration for others first.

Stable climate needed. Livestock methane emissions are a significant part of the problem.

A cow farts out approximately 100kg of methane each year *shocked face*. This is equivalent to around 2,300kg of CO2, about the same emitted by a car travelling 7,800 miles. All ruminants on the planet together emit the equivalent of around 2bn of CO2 equivalents each year, and the clearing of forests etc to create more grazing and farm land is currently responsible for an additional 2.8bn metric tons of CO2 per year. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) agriculture is responsible for 18% of the total release of greenhouse gases world-wide (this is more than the whole transportation sector). Source.

Choose not to eat meat. I’m currently experimenting with a meat free diet, only a few days into this but so far no cow related cravings. Compassion not just for other humans, but for other species we co exist with too.

People don’t always want to lead…

A well known environmental conference offered a vegetarian meal option and the organisers were surprised when only 20% of guests chose it. The following year, the vegetarian choice was made the default option and 80% of guests stayed with it.

Environmental stuff in general – 20% of people see the environment as an issue and are actively engaged to limit climate change. 20% of people disagree that it’s an issue they can help solve, and 60% say they will act if/when others do. I don’t know where Matthieu Ricard sourced these figures from.

Cooperation is a source of joy. I just love this phrase.

Mindfulness needs care, a psychopath can be mindful, not caring.

Individuals recognising the need for change and taking action is good. Don’t worry that when an altruist meets a selfish person, selfish wins. When a group of altruists meet a group of selfish people, the group of altruists always win as the selfish ones inevitably turn on one other. Find your fellow altruists.

There is immense joy in practicing and noticing each moment. As someone who is 150 odd consecutive days into a meditation experiment, I’m starting to relate to this and yet I do so like to let my mind wander too. Ooh look, a squirrel!


Sorry about that – where was I…?

Compassion > any religion

Economics – it’s presented as analytical stuff yet it is practiced/done/responded to emotionally.

Trust is open minded caring.

A Review of Summer Brandcamp


Last week I flew to Dallas to attend my first Summer Brandcamp. I had an incredible time, and having reflected on my trip, here are a few things that resonated for me.

Being looked after and looking after others – this was a strong experience for me throughout the whole event.

On arrival at Dallas Fort Worth airport on Monday I was met by David, who drove me from the airport to my hotel. David is a friendly guy and we talked about sports and the weather as he drove safely to the hotel. I arrived feeling very well looked after.

As part of my contribution to the event, I ran an Art and Soul of Better Work session. The people who organise Summer Brandcamp did a fantastic job of sourcing all the materials we needed to explore work through an artistic lens, and the tech team checked and tested everything, leaving me with the time I needed to percolate nervous energy into excitement and facilitate the session. I arrived at the end of the session feeling well looked after, and feeling like I’d been able to look after the participants well too. If you are interested, there is a lovely review of the session here, written by Liz D’Aloia, and here are a few pictures I used to help illustrate the session.

Doing good, feeling good

One morning over 100 conference guests got up early for a Mexican breakfast before being bussed out to the Salvation Army in Garland, a city to the north east of Dallas, to spend a few hours helping out. We gave a playground a makeover, did some drainage work, made 1,200 sandwich lunches to be handed out, painted door frames, and more. It was a hot, sunny morning and people made sure we had plenty of cold water to drink, and sunscreen to put on. We did a good job, we were well looked after and the work we did will help the people at the Salvation Army look after others. As well as being a fantastic service project – this was a great way to get to know other people at the conference.

Summer BrandCamp Service project team


Photo by Jonathan Brewer

Conference Observations

There was a great mix of speakers – and hallelujah, plenty of women speaking too. I’m really bored of the prevalence of white, older men like me taking the stage at conferences, the line up here made for a powerful, lovely change – more please.

Sessions were short. This meant there were lots of opportunities to learn from different people, and it gave the event a good pace. People and purpose were two powerful, recurring themes.

The conference organisers made donations to No Kid Hungry in the name of each speaker, another lovely idea which helped reinforce a sense of togetherness, and a reminder that this is not just another ‘same old same old’ event. There was also a silent auction to help raise money for the charity – and over the course of the event I know that over $30,000 was raised. A kind soul even bought some of my artwork. #IAmAnArtist

There was a great sense of fun brought on by lots of people excited to see each other, and a genuine effort to make first timers like me feel really welcome.

Changers of Commerce

This was a morning of stories told by businesses and not for profit organisations making a difference, in their local communities and beyond. An inspiring extra session laid on the mornign after the close of the main event. Around 100 people came along to this, and we heard some great, sometimes funny, sometimes moving, examples of people doing good.


I began with wow – I’m ending with it too. The whole Summer BrandCamp experience has made a powerful mark on me. I caught up with old friends, made some lovely new friends too. It was a fantastic experience I hope to repeat. Here’s a short, 15 second slideshow of my trip. Wow!

#SBrandcamp 2015 with @tdn2k @dwanelay @rock_hall #flipagram made with @flipagram

A video posted by Doug Shaw (@dougshaw) on

Begin The Day With A Friendly Voice

Begin the day with a friendly voice, a companion unobtrusive. Neil Peart

I’m leaving Cleveland today, where I have spent an excellent weekend being extremely well looked after by some lovely friends, thanks Frank, Tammy, Melissa, Dan and Tim. I’m heading down the road to Columbus, Ohio, to see more friends, before going to watch Rush play live at the Nationwide Arena.

Rush TicketI am a big fan of this band, expert musicians who ooze respect for one another and the people who buy their records and turn out to see them perform. I’ve seen them play live loads of times, and with the news that this may be their last tour, I’m excited to be having this opportunity. Thanks Carole, for being so generous and helping me make time to extend this adventure.

In preparing to move on, yesterday afternoon I spent 45 minutes wandering and wondering around downtown Cleveland, looking for a mailbox. In my hand were 25 envelopes, each one containing a small piece of original artwork, a ‘kind note to self’, drawn and written by some of the 100 people who came to my Art and Soul of Work session at Summer Brandcamp. I will write more soon on my exciting, humbling, powerful time at this event in Dallas last week, but for now I just wanted to share this idea of a hand written kind note to self, both as a way of extending the experience of spending time with good people, and reminding ourselves of what’s important to us in our own unique way. I succeeding in posting the envelopes, so in a few days time, 25 people will be able to begin their day with their own friendly voice.

Kind Note to Self