Insight Meditation Houston

Mudita adapted from Noah Levine’s Against the Stream – 6/5/2018

MUDITA or “Sympathetic Joy,” means to be favorably inclined towards others, to have appreciation for the joy and beauty in life, and to take pleasure in other people’s happiness and success. Moving beyond feelings of jealousy or envy, Mudita cultivates enough contentment to share with others.

Like Metta (loving kindness), Karuna ((compassion), and Upekkha (Equanimity), Mudita is a Brahma Vihara, one of the divine mental states of an awakened mind.

Sympathetic joy is traditionally regarded as the most difficult to cultivate of these four sublime states. It implies celebrating the happiness and achievements of others, even when we are facing hard times ourselves.

This kind of vicarious joy comes from delighting in other people’s wellbeing rather than begrudging it. A traditional example of this mind-state is the attitude of mature, loving parents who observe a growing child’s accomplishments and successes, without feeling narcissistic pride or receiving any direct benefit for themselves.

Mudita meditation is used to cultivate appreciative joy for the good fortune of others. It is used to counteract the resentment, jealousy, or envy that we may feel upon learning about someone else’s success.

When the heart and mind are free, Mudita and the other Brahma Viharas arise naturally, and comparing thoughts disappear. It’s challenging to feel happy for others if we are not content within ourselves. It helps to imagine an inner spring of infinite joy that is available to everyone at all times, regardless of circumstances. The more deeply we drink from this spring, the more secure we become in our own abundant happiness, and the easier it becomes to relish the joy of other people.

I will now guide you through a form of Mudita practice, using an adapted version from the Appendix of Noah Levine’s book, Against the Stream:

Sit comfortably with closed eyes. Settle into the present-time experience of the body. Relax any physical tension, softening the belly, jaw and eyes. Let the shoulders lower naturally.

Reflect upon your longing for happiness or freedom from suffering. With each breath, breathe into the heart’s center, acknowledging and appreciating moments of joy and happiness that you have experienced in your life.

Begin to offer yourself appreciative and encouraging phrases to uncover any gratitude that might be hidden in your heart:

May I learn to appreciate the happiness and joy that I experience.

May the joy I experience continue and grow.

May I be filled with gratitude.

Notice when the mind becomes distracted by other thoughts, and gently bring the attention back to the phrases. Feel the breath and the body’s response to each phrase. Allow the mind and body to relax into the reverberations of each phrase.

Simply repeat the phrases like a kind of mantra or statement of positive intention:

May I learn to appreciate the happiness and joy that I experience.

May the joy I experience continue and grow.

May I be filled with gratitude.

 Don’t expect to feel instantly grateful through this practice. Sometimes we notice instead our lack of appreciation and the resistance of a judging mind. Simply bow to whatever is arising and continue to repeat the phrases, being as friendly and merciful as possible. After a few minutes of sending phrases of appreciation to yourself, bring your attention back to the body and breath, again consciously relaxing the posture.

Now bring to mind someone whom you know or know of, who has inspired you or who has brought joy to your life. Recognize that just as you wish to be happy and successful in life, that benefactor shares the human desire to be met with encouragement, support, and appreciation. Repeat the phrases of Mudita, directing them towards your benefactor.

Just as I wish to learn to appreciate happiness and joy in life, may you too experience joy.

May you be full of appreciation for your happiness and success.

May your happiness and joy increase.

May you be successful and be met with appreciation.

 Whenever the mind becomes lost in a story, memory or fantasy, simply return to offering appreciation and gratitude to the benefactor. After a few minutes of this practice, let go of the image or felt sense of the benefactor, and return to directly experiencing the body and breath. Pay extra attention to your heart or emotional experience.

Then bring to mind someone whom you do not know well, someone who is neutral—someone you neither love nor hate. For this category, you might choose someone you don’t know, a person you passed on the street or in a store. With the understanding that humans share a universal wish to experience joy, start offering the neutral person appreciative phrases:

May your happiness and joy increase.

May the joy in your life continue and grow.

May you be successful and be met with appreciation.

 After a few moments of sending appreciation to the neutral person, bring your attention back to your body and breath. Now expand the practice to include family and friends towards whom you may have mixed feelings—some loving and some judgmental:

May your happiness and joy increase.

May the joy in your life continue and grow.

May you be successful and be met with appreciation.

After practicing this category for a while, shift your attention to your body and breath. Then expand the practice to include difficult people in your life and in the world—anyone you resent or are excluding from your heart.

Recall that all beings wish to be met with appreciation and to experience joy—even those who are annoying, unskillful, violent, confused, and unkind. With a clear intention to free yourself from jealousy, fear, and ill will, choose as the recipient for Mudita phrases someone who is a source of difficulty in your heart or mind. As you meet this person with the same appreciative phrases, pay close attention to your emotional responses:

May your happiness and joy increase.

May the joy in your life continue and grow.

May you be successful and be met with appreciation.

 After a few minutes of sending the phrases to a difficult person, expand the field of appreciation to include all those who are in your immediate vicinity. Gradually, expand the field to include everyone in our city and beyond, allowing the positive intention of meeting everyone with appreciation to spread out in all directions.

Imagine covering the whole world with these positive thoughts. Radiate gratitude to all beings in existence, including those being born and those who are dying. With a boundless, friendly intention, repeat the phrases of appreciative joy:

May your happiness and joy increase.

May the joy in your life continue and grow.

May you be successful and be met with appreciation.

After a few moments of sending Mudita to all beings everywhere, let go of the phrases and the imagery. As you return to sensing your body and breath, be aware of whatever sensations and emotions are now present. Whenever you are ready, let your eyes open and allow your attention to return to your surroundings.

6/5/2018

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