July 16, 2020

The Habit That Steals Our Happiness

When was the last time you felt truly happy for another being? 

With recent events exacerbating inclinations towards separation and tribalism, reduced justice, and increased fear, feeling pure happiness for others is getting a bit harder. 

If you’re experiencing this challenge, I have something that might help: a practice on sympathetic joy called mudita

Mudita is the practice of feeling pure joy for someone else’s doings, beings, and creations. 

This practice, however, is harder than it sounds. It’s not something that comes naturally to most of us — even though we naturally want to share our own good fortunes with others.

When others celebrate our happiness with pure happiness, it removes separation and creates a sense of unity. And when instead of sharing in someone else’s happiness, we respond with greed or jealousy, it creates separation. 

Too often, however, our first response to someone else’s joy — particularly in trying times — is the latter. And not only does this response create separation, but it limits our own happiness.

The Buddha taught that our happiness is tied directly to the happiness of others. This practice of mudita, therefore, helps teach us to experience the joy of others in a heartfelt way, regardless of their relationship to us and, in so doing, nurture the seeds of our own happiness.

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The practice also helps us recognize our feelings of greed or jealousy and helps us to lovingly replace it with well-wishes for that person.

You can practice mudita anytime and with anyone — the grocery clerk, a stranger on the sidewalk, someone you have a challenging relationship with, or a friend that you love dearly. All you have to do is silently say to them, “I am happy that you are happy. You deserve happiness. May your happiness continue.”

It’s really that simple. But remember that you must do this regularly to have an impact as it’s the small consistent practices that make all the difference. 

While it may be simple, shifting our focus can be difficult. 

Today’s meditation will help you overcome that hurdle, realize this sense of happiness, and build the foundation of your mudita practice by embracing a focus on the happiness of others.

Sympathetic Joy – Mudita

I am happy that you are happy. You deserve happiness. May your happiness continue. 


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