Mudita on My Mind
We (hopefully) teach our children not to be sore losers or to get mad when someone else accomplishes something first. We teach them to be happy for other people and celebrate their successes rather than to be anchored in jealousy. There is a word for this vicarious joy, mudita.
This practice of mudita is not always one that comes with ease. Some have a more organic aptitude to celebrate the success of others where as some of us are more inclined to be envious of others’ joys and achievements. However, it’s something that we can develop through practice. In yoga and meditation we are given ample opportunities. When we first come to these practices it may be hard to not compare ourselves to others. We may be frustrated that everyone else seems to be able to get into a complex asana or perhaps that meditation seems to come so easily.
Through our time on the mat or the meditation cushion we begin to recognize that we are not built the same, we don’t have the same life experiences. If we tap into that awareness we are able to meet ourselves where we are at. And maybe, we emerge from not only recognizing the differences but also celebrating when our friends and fellow students surpass ( for lack of better word) where we’re at with our experience.
This form of mudita was easy for me to embrace. I sometimes have students who have a physical embodiment and capabilities that I don’t. Long, thinner legs, stronger arms, smaller tummy – these attributes and developed skill sometimes allow them full expressions of asana that I just can’t reach, yet.
However, sometimes I find myself not embodying mudita as well as I would like. When I see people getting ahead by lying or abusing power I have a hard time being happy for them. Maybe that’s normal…maybe mudita isn’t warranted then.
In questioning that, I also began to recognize another side of mudita I hadn’t thought about, but have embodied (for the most part) for awhile. I get insanely excited for people when they accomplish things that I am either skilled at our have a natural aptitude for. When I see my friends getting the hang of blogging or students finding alignment in Downward dog that makes it feel easy, these things thrill me! And that’s mudita too. I’ve had great climbing teachers, great yoga teachers that have been such wonderful examples of this side of mudita. That no matter how many times they watch students summit a relatively easy climb or achieve Bakasana they beam with light and love. They remember what it’s like to be a beginner, to be growing, to be changing, to be challenging yourself. They never make someone feel like their achievement is small or lacking.
I am thankful for the challenges. I am thankful for those who have showed me what it’s like to celebrate others’ triumphs with authentic happiness. I am equally thankful for those who have showed me how to keep a fresh perspective as a teacher and friend, to always carry that vicarious joy for beginnings.
After all, we are always somewhere along the path of beginning, middle, and end. Depending on the day, the time, the activity we are always embodying a space of beginning, the experience of the middle, and the satisfaction of achievement in the end.