Tools for happiness
Inspired by Sri Chinmoy's acclaimed book 'The Jewels of Happiness', these articles aim to inspire you in your search for fulfilment.
A colleague makes promotion at work, while you remain unnoticed. A friend buys a beautiful house, while in your tiny apartment you are still struggling to make ends meet. Your brother has natural charisma and stunning good qualities, whereas you’re just…okay.
Feeling helpless and weak, you inflate the other person to supernatural proportions. ‘Why them? Why not me?’ you ask despondently. Slowly but surely that sibling, friend or colleague becomes your worst enemy, constantly, if not purposely, flaunting his or her superiority. Before you even noticed, the green-eyed monster of jealousy has sunk its venomous teeth into your neck.
We all have wrestled the green-eyed monster at some point(s) in our life. Every time we marvel at its superhuman strength. Entire empires and civilisations have been destroyed by it.
Despite our sincere efforts to try and live a conscious and loving life jealousy immediately brings out the worst in us. You catch yourself hoping your successful colleague will be fired, or your friend’s new house will be robbed. You know you should be happy for them, but you feel exactly the opposite…
My own spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy suffered much from jealousy. Whenever he smiled at one of his students, he ran the risk of the person sitting next to that student becoming jealous. He often said that without jealousy the world would make much faster progress.
Jealousy comes from our ego, which like to feel superior. It constantly sees mistakes and imperfections in others, while judging itself flawless and perfect. So when others’ talent or success is showing, the ego becomes nervous. Its unique position is being threatened! Jealousy rears its ugly head and we try to bring the other person down, so that our ego can at least feel equal, or, preferably, a little superior.
However, this is only an illusion. In reality we are all one. We all come from the same divine source. Sri Chinmoy compared this feeling of oneness with the fingers on a hand. “Look at your little finger and look at your thumb,” he said. “Your little finger is much weaker than your thumb, but they have established their oneness. The little finger does not feel miserable because it is weaker than the thumb. No, the little finger feels that they go together.” He added, “Jealousy can be overcome only by our constant feeling of oneness with others. If we can see and feel them inside ourselves as members of our own larger family, jealousy will disappear from our life.”
To feel oneness with others is easier said than done. It can take years of serious meditation. Sometimes we experience a glimpse of it. Such as when we’re watching a sports game. When your team scores a point, you cheer and feel happy. When they win the match, your joy can be so profound that you almost feel it is you who has won. At that time you’re not jealous of the athletes’ great capacities. On the contrary, they make you proud! In that sincere feeling of oneness, jealousy is nowhere to be found.
To be happy in others’ happiness is the perfect antidote to jealousy. Buddhists have even developed a special meditation technique for this, which is called mudita or sympathetic joy. Mudita is the twin sister of empathy, only now you’re sharing the other person’s joy and happiness, instead of his or her pain and sorrow. “Another person’s success and happiness is a very good thing,” spiritual coach Steve Pavlina writes on his blog. “When the people around me are happy and fulfilled, they’ll naturally spread those feelings to others. This is a situation to be desired, not avoided.”
When jealousy has lost its painful sting, you can even discover some good in it! Jealousy arises when someone achieves something that you yourself desired or aspired for. But instead of wallowing in self-pity you can use your envy as an incentive, a motivating force to fulfil your dreams. As spiritual author Alan Cohen writes in his book Handle with Prayer, “The fact that a particular person and his or her experience is in your field of awareness means that you are capable of creating the same for yourself, and you are probably close to it. Instead of cursing another as a detractor from your good, bless this person as a harbinger of your own miracles.”
Change jealousy to gratitude and the green-eyed monster becomes a cuddly teddybear!
What else can you do against an attack of jealousy? Below are four ways to rid yourself of jealousy’s bite. Whether you take the practical or the spiritual approach is up to you, but the next time the green-eyed monster shows its teeth you’ll be armed and ready!
1. Be happy in others’ happiness
Mudita or ‘sympathetic joy’ is one of the four brahma-viharas or ‘sublime states’ in buddhism. Often mudita is compared to the joy a mother feels about the progress of her child. But whereas it isn’t that hard for a mother to feel joy about the successes of her offspring, mudita requires quite a bit of practice in most other cases.
Sit up straight on a chair or a meditation cushion and breathe calmly and relaxed. After a minute or so picture someone in your mind who comes across as genuinely happy and who seems to be doing well. Pick someone who instantly puts a smile on your face. Then think of all the things that are working out great for him or her and silently repeat to yourself the phrase ‘May your happiness and prosperity continue, may they increase and never wane.’ Try to really mean it! Then, after another minute, think of someone about whom you have a neutral feeling, like the mailman, the bus driver or the person at the register of your local drugstore. Again repeat the phrase. Then do it for someone you actually dislike or are jealous of. Finally try to do it for the entire humanity. By practicing sympathetic joy your heart will expand, and jealousy will slowly but surely stop bothering you.
2. Meditate on oneness
Whenever there is a feeling of oneness jealousy cannot exist. According to Sri Chinmoy the best way to develop oneness is to meditate on the heart. “The heart creates oneness, and oneness is another name for spontaneous joy,” he wrote. He didn’t mean the physical heart, but the spiritual heart, also called the anahata chakra. The spiritual heart is located in the middle of your chest, right at the spot where you point to when you say ‘Me’.
Sit up straight and breathe calmly and quietly. Now every time you breathe in, feel you’re not breathing in through your nose and mouth, but through your spiritual heart and feel you are holding the breath there. Do this for about five minutes. Then out loud repeat three times, ‘I am one with all beings’. If you can do this on a daily basis, you will start living in your heart more. Simultaneously, your feeling of oneness and connectedness will grow.
3. Speak your mind
Sometimes jealousy can vanish just by mentioning it, especially to the person you’re jealous of. It needs a bit of courage, but it can work miracles. I can tell from experience. When I was in acting school, we had a boy in our class who was a natural acting talent. He had already played the main part in a big theatre production and one magazine mentioned him a as the next big thing in acting. In no time I was paralysed with jealousy. Because I actually liked the guy I felt doubly guilty. My mom gave me some golden advice: just express your feelings openly. During a dinner with our class the subject came up, and I openly confessed my jealousy. What a relief! Because of my sincere confession both my feeling of guilt and my jealousy vanished like clouds before the sun.
4. You can do much better (you just don´t feel like showing it)
If you can’t shake off the feeling of jealousy even after trying all of the above, Sri Chinmoy advises an unorthodox method. Just convince yourself of the fact that you whatever you’re jealous of in the other person, you yourself could do much better if you wanted to. It’s just that you don’t need to show it. You know you could easily land a book contract like your successful writer-friend, but as it happens you don’t really want or need to. And if you really put your mind to it, you could easily starts a successful business just like your sister did. It’s just that you’ve made other choices right now.
Trick your mind! Force yourself to believe in that self-created reality. It may sound like an absurd thought-experiment, but if you succeed it is very effective. It may not cure you permanently, but at least it momentarily releases jealousy’s painful sting.