This post is the first in an ongoing series of nuggets of knowledge and wisdom I mine in books. These little nuggets will focus on kindness, peace, joy, mercy, love, compassion, mindfulness, and personal growth. No doubt this wisdom from books will be quite eclectic (as is my reading list!), but each post will, I hope, give you food for thought...and perhaps ideas for your own reading list.
About five years ago, I read The Universe in a Single Atom by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and was fascinated by the depth and breadth of the openness this man promotes both through his actions and his words.
We need more of that.
So when I saw The Book of Joy at my local Barnes & Noble, with its face-to-face picture of the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, I bought it and immediately dove in to page after page of wisdom and inspiration from two big hearts and open minds. The book documents a week-long meeting of these two Nobel Peace Prize Laureates and faith leaders as they discuss the subject of joy in a harsh and difficult world.
As you can see, I had to start marking passages to go back to, to reflect on, to remember, but now, a year later, I'm simply re-reading the whole thing.
The nugget of inspiration I want to explore from The Book of Joy today is the word mudita. Buddhists define mudita as the joy that comes from someone else's joy. It's the opposite of schadenfreude, which is German for the pleasure that comes from someone else's suffering.
Reading the definition of mudita in The Book of Joy made me think of Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts. (Don't you love it when books cross-pollinate in your mind?) Back in 2011, I came across Voskamp's book about gratitude and immediately began my own gratitude journal. I read blogs and other books on gratitude, wrote numerous posts about gratitude, and cultivated gratitude as a habit of mind.
This intentional study stuck and is one of the most transformative habits I've ever instilled in myself.
Mudita gave a name to a powerful side-effect of practicing gratitude. I would frequently find myself, in the midst of stress or worry or conflict, smiling. At first, I was a bit confused that my joy couldn't be suppressed by whatever was bothering me, but I quickly realized that practicing gratitude had rewired my thoughts.
Often, when negative thoughts about my own situation seemed to grow big, random thoughts of gratitude welled up and pushed the negative thoughts into a more realistic perspective...and these moments of gratitude in my own pain were almost always thoughts of someone else's blessing.
Mudita. Mudita for my friend whose leadership has turned around a faltering adult literacy program and has caused ripples of joy for so many people. Mudita for a first-time grandmother who is beaming with joy. Mudita for a friend with a new job. Mudita for my son and my niece who got into their first choices for college. Mudita for another niece who is getting married. Mudita for travel photos of other people's fabulous vacations on Facebook.
You can find mudita everywhere.
But you have to be open to it, cultivate it, let it well up inside of you, and overflow in celebration with another human being.
The result: joy.
Questions for Thought
What do you think of the idea of mudita? Have you experienced mudita recently? If so, please share your experience in the comments. How might you cultivate mudita in yourself and encourage it in others?