Mudita – Finding Joy in the Joy of others. (repost)

I’ve been thinking a lot about Mudita recently and thought it was worth a look back at this post I wrote last December.  I realized that practicing mudita has freed me from the heartache that often came when I couldn’t do what others could (that’s not to say that I don’t still feel that heartache sometimes, I do, but not like I used to).  A friend of mine is planning a trip to Italy, a place I always wanted to go, I was a little surprised that I was not the slightest bit envious of her, I’m genuinely happy that she gets to experience this, and I can’t wait to hear every detail.  I can feel her joy, and it fills my heart.

I hope you enjoy this post from the past.

flowpaper_3

“Mudita is a word from Sanskrit and Pali that has no counterpart in English. It means sympathetic or unselfish joy, or joy in the good fortune of others.” (1)

I bring up Mudita now because those of us who are sick often find it very hard not being able to participate in celebrations this time of year.  We feel we are stuck on the outside just looking in, and as we look in we are envious.  We can’t feel joy.  Mudita is the opposite of envy.  When we feel mudita we feel joy in the joy of others.  We are genuinely happy that others are having a good time, even though we can’t join them.

This feeling doesn’t happen over night.  It’s hard to overcome those feelings of envy.  We don’t want to feel this way, but we have to admit, that’s the way we often feel when things come up and we can’t join in the fun.  We don’t feel joy in the fun the others are having, we feel sadness and anger that we can’t join them.

I first read about mudita when I read How To Be Sick by Toni Bernhard.  At the time my husband was playing games with a group of friends and I used to be envious that he had this group and I didn’t have anything like it.  He’d call me from there and I’d get this knot in my stomach and feel horrible because of this envy.  Then one day I realized how much he needed this time, how much he loved this activity and how much my envy hurt him.  (even though I thought I hid it well)  I remembered what I learned from reading Toni’s book.  I remembered mudita.  It didn’t happen overnight, but in time I started feeling joy when hubby would call from his game and sound excited about how things were going.  At first I faked it.  I knew I should feel joy for him so when I talked to him I put on a smile and told myself how happy I was for him and how much joy this made me feel.  Did I feel this at first.  No.  But after a while when he called I was truly happy.  I felt joy hearing how the night was going.  I was no longer faking it.

When trying to practice mudita start small.  Start with someone you don’t know.  When you see someone win a competition feel joy in their joy.  Then when you give a gift, feel the joy the receiver feels (that’s an easy one, I think).  Take it one step at a time and you will be surprised at how much joy you can feel when others feel joy.

It may not happen this holiday season, but perhaps when you can’t participate in the next celebration you might be able to find mudita, and feel joy in the joy of others.

I recommend all of Toni Bernhard’s books:  How to be Sick, How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness, How to Wake Up.  If you are chronically ill and haven’t read it yet, be sure to read How to be Sick.  I’ve read it over and over and keep going back to it.  It helps me live the day.  It makes me feel like I can get through this and thrive.

For further reading on Mudita, of course you can check out Toni’s books, but also check out.

 

*drawing by Wendy Holcombe. Please do not use without permission.

Thanksgiving often forgets those without……

THANKFULI love the sentiment behind Thanksgiving.  Take the time to be thankful for what you have.

Then I look around.  Is that really what I see?  There is so much talk of spending time with family and friends and eating and …and…and  Well what is a person to do who has no one, or who has very little?  I have very strained family relations.  I am never invited to any family function.  This can be very hard.  Some years it hurts more than others.  This year I became very melancholy about family, I’m sure it is because I have been so sick and the steroids have been turning up my emotions a bit, but seeing all the stress on how we should be with family and how things “should be” started to make me feel even sadder about it all.  (Don’t worry, all is good with me.)  If that could happen to me imagine what it could do to someone who is really depressed?  Someone who has no one?

I remember those times.  I have spent Thanksgiving and Christmas, alone.  On occasion I was invited to friend’s for dinner, sometimes they were fun, other times they were miserable.  If you reach out to someone and invite them over for a holiday meal, please try to include them in your festivities, not just feed them.  I have never been more miserable than when I went to a holiday meal and felt I was a charity case.  Sitting in a corner alone watching people have fun is worse than sitting alone by yourself knowing people somewhere out there are having fun.   I’m not saying, don’t reach out and invite someone over….please do!  But include them in your festivities.  Do not have family gift exchange in front of someone who is alone for the holidays.  Do not do your yearly family traditional …. whatever….and not include this person.  Do something that includes this person.  Make them feel welcome and special.  Make them feel you are Thankful they are there.  If you have a special family tradition that you cannot include this person in, then invite them to come later, or have the tradition after they leave, or find a way to somehow include them.  Some people may not have a hard time with this kind of thing, but I did. It was torture to see a happy family doing things that a family does knowing my family didn’t want me with them.  That is not to say I was not grateful to everyone who had me over for a holiday meal, I was.  I have been to some homes where I didn’t want to leave I felt so welcome and included.  (little hint, if you have someone over….get them involved.  Treat them the same as you would anyone else.  I loved it when I was put to work, or was told to help with the kids, was taken aside by grandma and told story after story….when I was treated like family, that was the best.)

It’s also that time of year when I see so much food everywhere!  I hear people talking of family and friends and togetherness and FOOD!

I’m amazed at how much food is wasted in this country, yet so many people go hungry.  There is no reason for anyone in this country to go to bed hungry.  There are so many things wrong with this I just don’t know where I would begin to talk about it here.  Not today.

Today I want to just say, when you are planning your Thanksgiving meal, think about the people who don’t have one.  When you go to the grocery store and you see that box that at the entrance where you can donate to the local food bank, please put something in there.  People are using the food bank more and more these days.  The place to go when you are in dire need is overwhelmed with people in need.  Every time you go to the store, please put something in that box.  If you can donate to the food bank, even better, then they can buy fresh food to give out.  This is very important, even when the needy are getting something to eat it is often so far below nutritional standards they are so malnourished they are getting sick and often still starving.  Most of the hungry are children and elderly.  1 in 5 people in the United States are hungry.   When you are wearing your elastic pants this Thanksgiving so you can eat too much, remember there are people who don’t have enough….some who don’t have any.   Remember, they won’t have enough the next day either, so continue to give. Project Sunlight is a great place to get ideas on more ways you can help.  At Feeding America you can find more about hunger in America and you can find your local food bank and see what they are doing in your area.

Remember, after Thanksgiving people will still need food.  We often give more to make sure people have this wonderful meal on this day, but then they go hungry again a few days later.  This year won’t you say thank you for your bounty by sharing a little throughout the year.
no one poor

Now…for a few things I’m very thankful for this year….

  • I cannot say how thankful I am for my husband, without whom I do not know how I would manage to navigate this world.
  • After 15 months without a job, my husband found work.  Not just a job, but one he enjoys!
  • this moment is good.  (it has been quite a ride of ups and downs this past month, the past 2 days have been better…one moment at a time…accept and make the most of it.)
  • I had nearly 5 months of feeling so much better than I thought was possible.
  • for learning more and more about living more mindful
  • for learning to be less judgmental of myself and others.
  • for having a roof over my head, heat when it is cold, food when I am hungry, water when I am thirsty…
  • for feeling safe.
  • for having at least one friend I say anything to and know it will be OK.
  • for a very special email I received the other night that helped more than the sender could ever possibly know.
  • for learning how to forgive, and knowing that forgetting isn’t as easy.
  • for remembering again and again….I can do this….one moment at a time.

There is so much more I can’t even think right now….actually…I can’t really think right now.  Unfortunately, I’m getting a bad headache…ah the joys of weather change.