The buddhist practice of MUDITA, or sympathetic joy, is finding delight in the happiness of others. Of the four brahmaviharas, the four highest qualities of the heart, mudita is said to be more difficult than the other three: loving-kindness, compassion and equanimity. As an example, let’s take the somewhat predictable furor and controversy over Adele’s recent weight loss.
For those of you abstaining from social media and are unaware of the subsequent feud over semantics, body image and “what it means to be a woman”, props to you! Ha! But here’s the backstory…
Adele posts the following message on Instagram:
“Thank you for the birthday love. I hope you’re all staying safe and sane during this crazy time. I’d like to thank all of our first responders and essential workers who are keeping us safe while risking their lives! You are truly our angels <3 2020 okay bye thanks x”
Nothing wrong here, right? Apparently there was, even though over 11 million people “liked” it. Along with her kind thoughts was the requisite pic – this one of Adele, looking beautiful and happy – and based on previous photos of her, also much thinner.
Cue the drama. Instead of practicing sympathetic joy and simply being happy for Adele’s happiness, there were those who ignored her words and pinpointed their focus on only her appearance. Many went into negative modes of comparison, envy, jealousy and contempt, which are the exact opposites of mudita. The post turned into a lightning rod for articles and arguments over body-shaming, definitions of womanhood and non-conformity. And some of the comments were predictably ugly and not very gracious.
Finding enjoyment in another’s jubilation or triumph may sound simple on the surface, but it’s not always easy. We can’t simply force ourselves to feel joy, but by letting go of the need to measure our own happiness by juxtaposing it to others, we can cultivate mudita through repeated and patient practice. Best of all, it is also something we can share and encourage in our children, as they navigate the often turbulent waters of adolescence and experience firsthand how often comparison can be the thief of joy.
A good rule of thumb when it comes to cultivating happiness, kindness and compassion is to try and “be a fountain, not a drain”. Peace and love, my friends… Cindi
#dontworrybehappy #healthykids #healthyworld #nourishyourbody #nourishyoursoul #mindbodyspirit