Posted by: Michael Rickicki | 02/05/2019

The Enemies of Joy

There are many “enemies” of mudita, mental tendencies that make it very difficult for us to feel joy for others. The primary obstacles are greed and envy.

Greed is not only our desire to have more than others, but it has the added flavor of insisting on having the exclusive rights to our desirable qualities, to our achievements, and to our possessions. Greed spawns guardedness at best and suspicion at worse as we try to protect the things we have gained and prevent others from having those things. Think Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol.”

Envy is our inability to be happy for someone else’s good fortune. In fact, when envy is present, we can’t even endure others’ happiness. Envy is not only rooted in a deep scarcity mentality, but it is also fueled by not believing in ourselves. It also causes us to dwell endlessly on all the things we don’t have, which further erodes our happiness and could lead to very unskillful behaviors that cause harm.

In her book “Lovingkindness,” Sharon Salzberg highlights a few more tendencies that move us further away from one another including: being judgmental, demeaning others, endlessly comparing ourselves to others, and prejudice.

Many of these tendencies are reinforced by our culture. Not only do we sow our own seeds of discontent when we indulge in these mental impulses, but those around us, especially those in our “tribes,” tend to water those seeds by piling on and reinforcing our views. We see this all over social media. The result is that no matter how much we dig into our camps, we never seem to feel any better. There is always an enemy to fight against, and we never feel secure in ourselves.

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Shillelagh Studies

A hub for the music, culture, knowledge, and practice of Irish stick-fighting, past and present.