How open are we to the good qualities of others?
Twenty years ago today, I was in the middle of a four-month retreat in the mountains inland from Alicante, in Spain. This was the retreat in which I, along with 25 other men, became members of the Triratna Buddhist Order.
It was an amazing experience to be on retreat for so long, and to be studying and practicing the Dharma so intensely. We were living in a valley in simple huts, surrounded by towering limestone cliffs and rugged rock formations that jutted above the gorse-covered earth. We ate outdoors, and meditated in a simple hall which was filled with incense and the singing of nightingales. … Read more »
As I’ve pointed out before, we shouldn’t experience mudita, or joyful appreciation for happiness that arises in others through unskillful actions. If someone feels joy because they just swindled an old lady or robbed a bank, or because they’re high on cocaine, those would be forms of joy based on unskillful motivations and actions, and those therefore aren’t the kinds of things that we should, in our own turn, feel joyful about.
But here’s a trickier one. Someone asked me about joy that’s based on luck, or worldly gains: “I know too many folks (above all in the IT field) who stumbled into riches and others who worked themselves to the bone yet nonetheless are … Read more »
I’m sure you can think of days when you’ve been driven crazy by someone else’s good mood. They’re happy, and smiling, and bopping around with a spring in their step, and you’re inwardly grumbling; “What’s he so happy about!” That’s what Buddhism calls arati.
Sometimes we’re resentful of others’ good fortune. I remember to my shame being with some friends when I was in my twenties, when they won the main prize in a raffle — a flight to Paris for the weekend, plus hotel accommodation. Susie, who was one of the people who won the prize, came dancing up to me with her eyes sparkling and a huge smile on her face. “I … Read more »
The other day I suggested the practice of noticing our everyday blessings — things like having electricity, running water, shelter, a relatively law-abiding culture — and saying “thank you” for these things. I stressed the importance of actually articulating these words in our minds (although saying them out loud could be even more effective) in order to overcome the mind’s negativity bias, where we tend to pay attention to that which we think is going wrong and take for granted and ignore that which is going right.
Today I want to turn that inward, by reiterating a favorite practice of mine, which is of giving thanks to our bodies for the service they give us. … Read more »
Are you able to see your own good qualities? Many of us, apparently, have difficulty doing this.
What happens when someone offers you praise for something you’ve done, or pays you a compliment? What’s your response? Obviously this is sometimes very welcome, but lot of people find this to be a rather uncomfortable experience. They mentally or even physically squirm, and offer up self-deprecating rebuttals, saying it wasn’t such a big deal, or that someone else could have done it better, or pointing out flaws in what they did. Sometimes people feel like they need to pay a compliment back when they’ve been given one, as if a burden has been placed on them which … Read more »
The practice of mudita, or appreciative joy, is summed up in these words from the first century:
When one sees or hears that some person’s qualities are esteemed by others, and that he is at peace and is joyful, one thinks thus: “Sadhu! Sadhu! May he continue joyful for a long time!”
We’re focusing on the good qualities that people have, as well as the peace and joy that those good qualities bring. I want to focus today on those good qualities, so that we may more readily detect them in ourselves and others. We can’t rejoice in what we do not see.
Dr. David Myers, professor of psychology at Hope College and author of … Read more »
This video was recorded in a Google Plus Hangout earlier today. It’s a 50 minute guided session of the mudita bhavana, or development of joyful appreciation, which is the practice we’re focusing on in the current 25 days of our 100 Days of Lovingkindness.
This morning I was heading to work and I became aware that I wasn’t letting the world in.
Right now in New Hampshire, where I live, it’s late spring or early summer, and the trees, of which there are many on my route to work, are resplendent. Last night’s rains have left the greens and purples of the leaves rich and saturated, and the world is alive and vibrant. And yet for a few minutes it was as if I was seeing this through a filter that stripped out all the beauty. And in a way I was; the filter was my mind, clouded by preoccupations. With this filter of self in place, I saw … Read more »
Yesterday I wrote about how mudita — joyful appreciation — can help us overcome our inherited tendency to pay more attention to the negative than to the positive.
This is important because in the karuna bhavana meditation (developing compassion) we’re inherently focusing on things that are, for want of a better word, “wrong” in life. We’re focusing on pain and suffering, and the difficult side of life, and this can feed in to our negativity bias. We can, in consciously cultivating compassion, end up over-emphasizing the suffering that’s in the world. Now there’s no shortage of suffering in the world, but it’s not all that there is to existence. In any given day, much goes … Read more »
The neuropsychologist (and Wildmind contributor) Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is very good at pointing out that our brains have a negativity bias. Our brains, as he puts it, are like velcro for painful experiences and teflon for pleasant experiences. And this bias has arisen because of our evolutionary history: hominins and early humans who ignored potential threats didn’t leave many ancestors, and so we’re descended from rather “twitchy” forebears who were good at thinking about things that might go wrong.
But now that, for most of us reading this article, our basic needs are largely covered, and so we find ourselves in the situation not of struggling to live, but of trying to live happily … Read more »