Last night I ran across an article in Yoga Journal about the
practice of mudita. It's a Sanskrit word that means
"to take active delight in others good fortune or deeds".
Oh, how I needed this article….we have been trying to sell our
house for, well, let's just say a long time now, and I continue to
hear stories about the "friend" that sold his house in 48 hours or
the "relative" that sold her house quickly and for above market
value. My response to these stories is usually
This is my emotional response, fueled by envy and frustration
because I am bumming that I am not having the same
experience. This is normal, just like it's normal to feel
grrrrr when your friend goes on a long kid-free vacation,
or when your best friend's baby sleeps through the night
immediately, or when you hear that all your sister's children are
academically gifted or when your neighbor was just offered the
part-time job of her dreams.
But it's simply an initial response, and it doesn't need to be
self defining. Just acknowledge the negative feeling because
denying it can be more painful than the feeling itself.
Having an initial negative response does not necessitate loads of
inner criticism (I'm a bad friend, I shouldn't feel
this way), it's actually a good reminder and an opportunity
for deeper awareness.
It's an opportunity to look more closely at your own joy, to
have gratitude for your own life, loves, and experiences. To
appreciate what is and focus on what is working for you
right now, in this moment. Maybe it's a difficult time and
you can only find a few things….that's OK, focus on the few
things. Finding personal joy is a grounding and mindful
experience and it's the first step towards sharing the joy of
For me this is actually a selfish act because it feels so much
better to be happy for the friend with great news or the neighbor
that sold the house quickly. Feeling frustrated or deciding
that it isn't fair is just a great big drag. I end up
carrying around my own frustration and the frustration that someone
else is happy. Not a very healthy or productive use of my
Of course it sometimes seems like good things happen to certain
people all the time, but take it from a therapist that has worked
with a lot of different families - everyone has challenges, no
matter who they are. There is no need to compare experiences,
pain is pain, and challenges are challenges. We are all
living the balance of light and dark, between good times and
There are people with seemingly endless challenges that choose
to focus energy on appreciating their blessings, and there are
people who seem blessed beyond measure who choose to focus on their
difficulties. We all have a choice on where we want to focus
our attention, and practicing mudita is an opportunity to
focus on the light.
And within that light we can realize that good fortune is
limitless. The universe is not a pie with only a certain
number of pieces to hand out, it's limitless, and within it is a
limitless supply of good fortune. This means that every one
of us has the potential for greatness. Or maybe we can grasp
that everything is already great and that our real work is just
Bottom line is that when a friend sells her house it doesn't
mean that I won't. It actually has the opposite effect - it
makes it even more possible. Each positive experience spreads
more positive energy, and every person that sells a house benefits
the community, the economy, and the greater good, which of course
benefits me. We are all undeniably connected and we all reap
the rewards of each other's joy.
Yes, it's a little idealistic, but I am not completely off my
rocker. I still live in this world and I know it's not easy
to see things this way. That's why mudita is
described as a practice. It's the revelation that there is
another way, a way to transcend a negative response and find the
divine good in it all.
It's the realization that we all benefit from each other's
happiness, and that it's about time we join in on the
Does this sound doable or am I indeed off my rocker?
Feel free to comment.
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.
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