Joy in them all
Mudita on Memorial Day
This blog post is dedicated to the critters in my life. I will share with you just a few of those who have crossed the path of my lens in recent years. The newest addition to this montage is a lucky Chestnut-sided Warbler, who nearly bought it on one of our plate glass windows. Mary found him stunned on the deck, and held him until he/she flew up to the chair where you see him seated below. I watched the final flight of freedom to a nearby tree. We have seen these beauties around in years past. Not many this up close. And I must confess feeling alternately embarrassed, humbled and over-awed to be this personal with such a creature.
The subject of today’s post, with some of my favorite critters as the stars, is Mudita. This third of the Brahma Viharas signifies Sympathetic (Appreciative) Joy. You will remember that the Brahma Viharas, or Divine Abodes, are those human qualities that highlight Buddha Nature: Loving Kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy and Equanimity. Metta and Karuna gaze lovingly at self and another; gracious presence. Mudita is the delight that rejoices in the other, a fruit of loving presence. “I am happy with you and for you!” And, happy is not quite it…deep joy is closer.
(What about Joy? Our therapist, and I think I may have mentioned this before, has us check in with one another on a daily basis in terms of Joy, Sadness, Anger and Fear. I have replaced Joy with Happiness, as, to me, it connotes a more general state of mind and spirit. Joy is a rush, a surge of delight. Joyful, Joyful we adore Thee…Happiness stretches out on both sides of joy, sometimes in simply a quiet smile.)
Mudita, Sympathetic Joy, is focused delight in the joy, happiness, good will, good fortune, and good nature of another. I rejoice in your joy. I delight in your success. I celebrate your blessings. This movement out of self, like Metta and Karuna, is an important heart exercise. Mudita puts aside self-focused greed, aversion and delusion in order to sit, if only briefly, in the blessings of another being.
How far can Mudita stretch? Rejoicing in another’s good fortune is just part of empathy; just part of fully understanding, appreciating, and affirming another’s self. To hear what someone else is saying, thinking, feeling, believing or intuiting involves moving out of our own pre-conceptions and entering into those of another. One can do this clinically, and gain understanding. One can do this with compassion and kindness and put some feeling into the understanding. Add Mudita, Sympathetic Joy, and you are now celebrating whatever it is the other person is dealing with, whether good fortune OR a profoundly different point of view.
Here are some random bits of Mudita: I delight in your waking up and enjoying your morning cup of tea. I delight in your pleasure for the new haircut or sweater or shoes you are wearing. I delight in your joy at connecting with grandchildren. I delight in your love of chocolate (and eating it!). I delight in the relief you feel after a long bout with Sciatic pain. I delight in the joy you get from tending your flowers.
Do you get the idea? Good fortune, the focus of Mudita, comes in many forms.
I may have mentioned the book we are reading together, Getting the Love you Want, by Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt. The core work of their strategy for couples involves each member of the couple to so enter in to their partner’s mind and heart that all judgments of right, wrong, good and bad fade into the background. Moving forward in a relationship is less problem solving (so they insist) than it is deep empathy.
It seems to me that Mudita is an important aspect of this process. If I only grudgingly say I understand what my wife is feeling, that really does not move things forward a whole lot. To nurture Appreciative Joy is to relinquish thoughts and feelings of prerogative and “being right” and replace them with appreciation.
“I rejoice in your happiness and good fortune.”
"May your happiness and good fortune not leave you."
"May your good fortune continue."
"May your happiness not diminish."