I tossed and turned that night, reeling first from my ability to recognize my reaction (I'm thinking of it as some emotional baggage i thought i had unpacked long ago) but secondly from my seeming inability to transform or release said reaction.
The next morning I awoke and felt embarrassed, how could I have reacted like that? Now, mind you, I hadn't reacted in any outward way- no scathing comments or private messages, no tirades, I didn't even make a complaint or snarky remark to my husband about it. The entirety of my reaction was contained within, it was a battle within my own heart and mind. I have to credit my yoga practice; where I once would have reacted straight away, I now allow myself the time and space to try and use that virtue of discernment we so often hear about.
It's interesting isn't it, when we are given an opportunity to grow? The next morning when I woke up, after an admittedly restless nights sleep, I felt invigorated to explore this experience on a deeper level. I really want to understand, process, and grow. I would like to come to a place of feeling genuinely happy and joyful for others who are forging their path, regardless of whether or not I agree with their logistics or building materials on a personal level.
As always, I'm so thankful for and astonished by how my yoga practice always seems to know just what it is that i need to be working on. And all of this brings me to Mudita. While doing some reading online I came across this little video excerpt of teacher Marc Holzmans class. It not only defined Mudita (which I know realize is what I need to be working with), but really encapsulates how hard it can be to cultivate it, especially in our culture.
For those of you unfamiliar with Mudita (and trust me, I was amongst your ranks just days ago, this is new territory for me too!) Mudita means sympathetic joy, in other words, feeling pleasure and delight from other people's happiness rather than begrudging it or resenting it. The opposite of Mudita would be jealousy.
Mudita is easier when we really, deeply love the person who is feeling joy- whether they are your child, a family member or a close friend-that Mudita is nearly effortless.
Where we can really feel tested is in cultivating Mudita toward those that we think of ourselves, even marginally, in competition with: work colleagues, neighbors, acquaintances and the like. In a way, that lack of Mudita exposes the areas in our lives or within ourselves that we feel "less than", or that we feel the shadow of self-doubt.
As my reading and exploring took me deeper, I came across a wonderful essay by yogi Charlotte Bell that really struck a chord with me. This passage in particular hit home:
"The Buddha said, “In a battle, the winners and losers both lose.” It is easy to understand the loss of the losers, but the winners? The winners lose because those around them envy them and become resentful of them. Eventually their position is challenged until their power is lost. The cycle of winning and losing is continuously changing and appears not to be a reflection of one’s absolute superiority or inferiority."
As someone who spent plenty of years in a highly competitive and comparative environment, the world of dance, I am aware of my own proclivity towards the habits of judgment, criticism, envy and jealousy. It's almost absolutely the definition of a vicious cycle isn't it? Since leaving that life behind, I have striven to examine and re-asses those machinations of my mind that tethered me to a view of myself only in contrast to others.
When we find ourselves in highly competitive environments, we tend to immerse ourselves in the thinking of me vs. you, and we are lead to believe that someone else's gain is actually our loss. How magical would it be, if we could shift our thinking, our reaction? What if we were able to cognize someone else's gain as a gain for all, as raising everyones happiness frequency? That is the power of Mudita.
So, though I'm still working on it, I feel like I have a template to follow- to cultivate awareness of the abundance in my own life, to appreciate the uniqueness of my path and to commit to developing a meditation practice on Mudita.
Perhaps you can try it this week - can you revel in and celebrate someone else's good fortune and happiness? That is my intention :)
Much love and namaste,