Welcome to Tune Up Tuesday!
Have you ever experienced a negative thought or emotion upon hearing about someone else's success or good fortune? I know I sure have! It’s not always easy to award gold stars to others, even when they have done something to deserve one!
Sometimes we are reluctant to award a gold star to someone else because, on some level, we are envious of the other person’s success, even if it’s just a small accomplishment. Although that person did something to merit a gold star, we cannot fully participate in their joy.
We may feel a sneaking suspicion that there's not enough good to go around, and we may even feel threatened by the other person’s achievement, that maybe this person has taken our share of the proverbial pie. This is a mentality of scarcity, which I think is a fairly common experience in today's world.
Also, some people are competitive by nature or have been taught to be competitive through societal influences. So they might see another person’s “win” as their “loss.”
We might not even understand why another person is happy in the first place because whatever made him or her happy is not something that would bring us happiness.
So when we hear about someone else's happiness, we might experience many different feelings – jealousy, inadequacy, unworthiness, confusion, and plenty of others that are less than ideal.
You may now be wondering – what can we do to help us work through these thoughts and feelings that keep us from awarding gold stars to other people? One useful tool that we can turn to is the Buddhist practice of mudita. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s not surprising, because it’s a somewhat neglected aspect of Buddhism.
The word “mudita” is often translated from Pali and Sanskrit to mean “sympathetic joy.” But I find it much more helpful to think about the lesser-used interpretations of the word mudita, such as “unselfish joy” or, better yet, “shared joy” or “delight in the happiness of others.”
There is a modern Hebrew word that I believe has a similar meaning: firgun. I don't know any Hebrew, but it's my understanding that firgun means the act of sharing someone else's
pleasure or fortune, with a purely generous heart and without jealousy.
This concept does not have a one-word equivalent in English. Maybe it's time for us to invent one!
Mudita allows us to show up for others; helps us to appreciate their happiness, success, and good fortune; and assists us in working with feelings of envy and jealousy. In short, it helps us give out gold stars to others more freely!
Mudita meditation is fairly simple and straightforward. It is a practice of generosity towards others. It can be as simple as silently saying to yourself “I am happy that you are happy” whenever you notice that you are having a negative feeling about someone else’s positive experience.
Social media is an especially good place to start a mudita practice. Instagram and Facebook feeds are often filled with people’s shiniest, best lives, which can trigger feelings of jealousy and inferiority. What a fertile training ground for all of us!
You can also work with mudita in your regular meditation practice if you have one. It is easiest if you start by imagining someone you care about deeply, whether it is a family member or a friend. Pick someone that you find very easy to care about.
You can imagine a scenario or two that you think would make that person happy, like going on a vacation or getting a new car, job, or pet. Think about how happy your beloved person would be in these instances, and then repeat the following phrases or similar phrases to yourself:
I’m happy that you’re happy.
May your happiness continue.
May your level of happiness increase.
May your happiness and good fortune radiate and shine.
Once you are comfortable with this practice, you can extend it to people who you feel neutral about, like a cashier that you always see at the grocery store or your mail carrier.
With time and practice, you might find yourself easily extending mudita to everyone, even to people who have hurt you in the past or have been difficult for you to deal with.
I'll end this post by sharing a mudita-like reminder that is one of my favorites: there's enough sunshine for everyone. 🌞
Although the sun may shine on other people, that doesn't prevent the sun from shining brightly on you as well. The accomplishments of other people can't block out your sunshine! Having an abundance mindset instead of a scarcity mindset is not always simple or easy, but the joy that arises from this type of thinking is definitely worth it!
Time for the Gold Star Revolution Squad to weigh in! Had you ever heard of mudita before? It is something that you would be willing to try to practice? Any suggestions for an equivalent word in English? Let us know in the comments.