I recently read the book Lost Connections: Why You’re Depressed and How to Find Hope by Johann Hari. The author believes that we live in an individualistic culture and are raised to look outward and compete, whether we realize it or not. At Maze I often hear women compare their sex lives and family situations to those of others. We are trained to think that life is a fight for scarce resources (think about the empty shelves of toilet paper since Covid). Somehow if others have success there’s less for us and our achievements diminish if others attain them as well. Hari states: “There’s a seesaw of feeling envy and trying to make others envious”. Yes, I’m talking to you Social Media!
Often, feeling envious is a downer and makes us ashamed of our feelings. One of the antidotes is an ancient technique known as Mudita or “Sympathetic Joy”. It’s a method for feeling happy for other people and it starts with you. In Sympathetic Joy meditation, you set the intention to feel different. Here goes:
Close your eyes or soften your gaze and look inward. Imagine something good happen to you (start with something small) and let the elation from that flow through you. Next, picture someone neutral in your life and imagine something wonderful happen to them. Try to feel joy from that flow through you. Move to someone you aren’t a fan of and imagine something good happen to them and try to feel some gladness for them. Last, try to feel this gladness for someone you despise or envy. Imagine it even if you can’t stand the person and their success.
If you can try to practice this daily for 15 minutes, any feelings of envy you may have will lessen in intensity. Also, you will see the happiness experienced by others as a source of joy for yourself as well. If you can be happy for others there will always be a surplus of happiness around you. Sympathetic joy is like the flame of a candle. One candle can light many others without losing its own glow.