Monday, January 13, 2014

Cultivating Unselfish Joy

"Gentle Skies"
-last evening just after sunset-

Our local Trader Joe's market has a policy for encouraging people to use their own bags for packing up their groceries. Customers who remember to bring a bag with them when they come to the store are given a little piece of paper on which they write their name and submit it for a monthly raffle for free groceries. 

If you happen to win the raffle, they take your picture and put it up in a little display on a wall in the store so that everyone can see the lucky winners. 

We do a lot of shopping at Trader Joe's, and we always bring our own bags. We have submitted our names on those little pieces of paper many times over the past year, but we never win. 

Instead, every time we leave the store, we come face to face with a picture of someone else's good fortune proudly displayed on the wall in the winner's circle.

Yesterday as I was leaving the store and gazing at someone else's good luck, I had a flash of insight.

I realized that over the many times I have seen those pictures of other people winning, my response has always been begrudging, "why doesn't this ever happen to me? I come in here almost every day. I must have submitted hundreds of those little scraps of paper and never once have I won."

In a flash of insight I realized that in each of those little instances in a grocery store, whenever I resented or begrudged another's good fortune, I was missing an opportunity for walking the way of peace and growing in my spiritual awareness. 

I recently came across a little-known word in the lexicon of Buddhist spirituality (at least I had never heard of this word before). The word is "mudita" - best defined as "unselfish joy." You are unselfishly joyful (you practice "mudita") whenever you take delight in another person's success, well-being or good fortune. 

I can easily see how cultivating "unselfish joy" in everyday living is a valuable spiritual discipline. 

When I observe another's good fortune, or hear about another's success and then feel some form of resentment ("Why didn't  this happen to ME?  This should have happened to ME), I am obviously acting out of my own selfish ego, disconnecting myself from relationships.

Recognizing relationships, maintaining relationships, fostering and honoring relationships- this is the essence of what it means to walk a mindful spiritual path.

Yesterday, as I walked out of a local Trader Joe's, I realized that I had been missing a daily opportunity for practicing a spiritual discipline to help me walk the way of peace- the practice of "unselfish joy." 

Every time I witness another's success, whenever I witness the joy and happiness others feel, I will intentionally try to take delight in it all, rather than begrudge it.  I will make their joy my joy. I will practice the discipline of "mudita."

From now on, whenever I leave Trader Joe's, I'm going to look at that picture on the wall and give it a "thumbs up," "Good for you," I will say.




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