Jun 17, 2013
In Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zinn writes, “As long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than there is wrong, no matter how ill or how hopeless you may feel.”
From the moment you are conceived, right up until the moment you take your last breath, there is more right with you than wrong with you.
It’s very easy to lose sight of this. When something good happens to us, we often don’t celebrate much and so don’t take it in. And when we do celebrate it’s often almost momentary. And yet we obsess about things that bother us.
Imagine a friend has said an …
Jun 14, 2013
When you practice joyful appreciation (mudita) or any of the related attitudes such as kindness (metta) or compassion (mudita), you become happier.
Your friends become measurably happier because you’re happy.
Your friends’ friends become measurably happier.
And your friends’ friends’ friends’ become measurably happier.
Happiness spreads outward into the world through your social network like a virus — although a rather beneficial one.
This may all seem rather incredible, but I stress the word “measurably” above because the evidence for this is solid, and is based on a huge study carried out by Harvard Medical School and the University of California, San Diego.
Professor of Medical Genetics James H. Fowler (he’s the San Diego …
Jun 13, 2013
Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., is the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. He’s a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, the founding editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology, and the author of Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, and so he’s written a lot about the benefits of gratitude.
Gratitude is, of course, an important aspect of joyful appreciation, or mudita, which is the practice that we’re exploring at the moment as part of our 100 Days of Lovingkindness. So here are a few ways that Dr. Emmons has shown gratitude can enhance our lives.
- Gratitude enhances positive emotions.
Jun 12, 2013
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 …
Jun 11, 2013
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 …
Jun 09, 2013
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 …
Jun 08, 2013
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 …
Jun 07, 2013
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 …
Jun 06, 2013
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 …
Jun 05, 2013
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. …