Thursday, January 15, 2015

Practicing Unselfish Joy

"In My Meditation Garden"

I began today like I begin almost every day, greeting the sun as I sit quietly in my meditation garden. This morning a memory of something that happened yesterday came into my mind -another of those flashes of insight that I have come to value so much in my desert life. 

My wife and I were having dinner with some dear friends who are "world travelers." We spent a good deal of time listening to their stories and viewing their photos of a recent very adventurous trip they took to South America - the stories they told were exciting and the photographs breathtaking.

This morning when thinking about last evening, my insight was that throughout the evening I was genuinely happy that these friends were able to enjoy that experience. There may have been a time when I might have been somewhat envious - I wish I could do stuff like that. There may even have been a time when I would have  been somewhat bored with stories about other people's great adventures in life. Yesterday I was just plain happy that these good friends were able to enjoy life so wonderfully on that trip.

I recently came across a word in the lexicon of Buddhist spirituality that I had never heard used before. The word is "Mudita," roughly translated as "unselfish joy." 

Mudita: taking delight in another person's success, wellbeing or good fortune.

"Mudita" is a virtue to be cultivated and practiced on the spiritual journey, and I can clearly see why this "practice" paves the way for deeper growth along the way.  

If I hear of someone else's success, witness their happiness or listen to the exciting stories of their life adventures and resent or begrudge their good fortune, I am acting out of my own narcissism. However, If I can genuinely feel joy over the happiness of others, I honor and foster relationships - and being in relationship is what being on a spiritual journey is essentially all about. 

Although Saint Paul probably never heard the word "mudita" in his day, his celebrated "Canticle of Love" certainly gets at the heart of what "unselfish joy" is all about:

Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love isn't always 'me first.' 
Love always looks for the best.

Maybe "love" is another word for "mudita." 

So this is my insight at the beginning of this new day- I vow to be more mindfully aware of the good fortune of others and whenever I witness it, to make their joy my joy. I will practice the discipline of "unselfish joy." 

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