When something good happens to another person, we don’t always feel happy for them. Sometimes jealousy or envy rears its ugly head and we feel that we are more deserving of the same good fortune. These feelings are normal and even if we do love our friends or relatives, it’s not always easy to feel happy about their success.
But we can learn to slowly get rid of judgment, envy, or greed and turn these negatives into genuine happiness for other people, or what we call sympathetic joy. In Sanskrit and Pali, the term for it is mudita—real joy in the good fortune of other people.
A deeper quality to mudita is that it is extended to all, not just to people we like or love. This makes it even more difficult to do, but if we are able to cultivate sympathetic joy, we:
are able to transform our own suffering and prejudice into real gladness or unselfish joy;
are able to appreciate people and their achievements, and move away from self-importance or self-centeredness;
experience calmness and peace of mind;
become more compassionate and kind while reducing negative feelings like anger, envy, resentment, and bitterness; and
learn to let go of feelings that hold us back and so we become free, joyful, and powerful.
Here are concrete tips on how to practice mudita or sympathetic joy:
Begin with a friend. Think about someone you like or love and practice feeling happy for them and their achievements. Then, try to direct the feeling to a “neutral” person, to someone you dislike, and finally, to yourself.
Try to incorporate this exercise into your mindfulness practice. For example, practice while you are walking or washing the dishes.
Visualize that good things are happening to others, that they are receiving certain blessings that bring them joy. Imagine their faces and smiles, how happy they must feel!
Make it a practice to focus less on yourself. When we do this, we are letting go of our egotistic tendencies and training our attention on the struggles of others rather than our own.
Be patient. This is a long process so do not get discouraged if you are not able to do it immediately.