I hope this letter finds you well and enjoying your life. The yogis and Buddhists encourage us to find joy in the successes of our fellows. One of my favorite teachings is found both in the yoga sutras and the Buddhist teachings: the Brahmavihāra. This literally means divine abodes or immeasurable qualities.
Some say that this teaching was given from the original Buddha, Shakyamuni, to his son. While the Buddha (born Siddhartha Gautama) was away becoming enlightened, he missed his son’s childhood. As an adult, this son asked his father what he had learned and the Buddha distilled it into a simple lesson, said to be all that is needed for a good life.
The yoga sutras of Patanjali offer a very similar teaching as an instructive way for aspiring yogis to meet various kinds of people: those who are happy, unhappy, those who behave in a way that is virtuous and those who do not.
Are you ready now for this lovely teaching? These are the Four Immeasurable Qualities – all you need for a happy life!
I was so delighted to see Joy on this list! I am used to working hard, honing discipline, digging deep for forgiveness, patience and compassion. How wonderful to be reminded that enjoying life is also our practice.
In the yoga sutras, the practice of joy is specific to appreciative joy, or taking delight in the achievements of others. It is easy to compare ourselves when someone else drives up in their new Tesla or introduces us to their kind, attractive partner. We can even feel jealous when our neighbor in asana class does a yoga pose. Comparison always feels bad and is said to kill joy. If comparing myself leaves me believing I am better than my neighbor it also kills joy. Kills joy! Instead, we can learn to cultivate Mudita or appreciative joy. In many ways, this has gotten easier for me as I have gotten older. I can often feel truly happy for the accomplishments of others. At other times I have to sit with my yucky feelings.
The practice I want to share with you today is an embodied experience of joy. Our minds tend to scan for danger, even when sifting through memories. In this joy practice, you’ll override that part of your mind and hone in on joy. It may get easier with more practice. You might recognize some of your samskaras (see the practice letter on karma) and find a new way to work with them.
I am delighted to direct you now to my latest offering – a recorded practice! Just go to my Practice Recordings page and find the Embodying Joy recording. [This was inspired by Teresa Johnson, one of the mindfulness teachers at Mindfulness Northwest.]
I would love your feedback if you have a moment to give it.
Meanwhile, enjoy the day!