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Elizabeth Namgyel

Transforming Jealousy into Joy

Jealousy is a painful emotion, in part, because when we get jealous we lose our self-respect. It is deeply embarrassing to watch ourselves feel displeasure at the happiness and good fortune of others, whether it be their wealth, physical attributes, money...whatever.

I suppose, if we look at it in one way, it is good news that we feel disturbed when we feel jealous. This shows that we have a conscience – that in truth we really do want others to be happy and don’t want to feel uncomfortable about their good fortune. And yet we experience this inner-conflict.

Jealousy comes from feeling impoverished in our own minds. We wish we possessed the attributes that belong to someone else…therefore we feel we “lack” something in some way. So jealousy comes from being totally self-focused. Herein lies the problem.

 

When we feel jealous we hold the belief or misunderstanding that focusing on ourselves will bring happiness, whereas, in truth, when we extend love and care toward others we experience a much greater sense of joy and inner richness. It is not that we need to ignore our own needs, but just to understand that focusing solely on ourselves causes pain.

Traditionally (in Buddhist practice), the remedy for jealousy is rejoicing in the happiness of others. Rejoicing means feeling happy when something beneficial happens to someone else, or by the fact that someone possesses something we see as positive. Rejoicing can also simply describe our ability to look around at the world and appreciate its goodness. It can be something simple. We may hear of something courageous someone did on the radio, or it could be that we look at a beautiful sunset and rejoice that such a thing is possible in this world, or learn that a friend got a new job. It is challenging to not have a job. We can just take a moment to reflect and be happy for them. If we genuinely do this we will see a shift in the atmosphere of our mind.

As we focus our mind in this way it starts to become habitual…we start to see opportunities to rejoice everywhere. And we will notice that we no longer feel impoverished – we feel the wealth of life that surrounds us and the richness and positivity of our own minds. When this happens we can see that fulfillment comes from within: from our own attitude towards life and our ability to appreciate it.

In his book, “Light Comes Through” my teacher Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche gives an example of rejoicing practice: 

Imagine going to a football match. Everyone cheers for their team. If someone makes a goal, the whole team jumps up and down and hugs each other. Sometimes they carry the player that scored on their shoulders. Even the most macho guy on the team has tears in his eyes. Everyone in the stand rises up yelling and waving flags – elated, rejoicing because of this player’s accomplishment. This person’s accomplishment has become their accomplishment too.”

 

Rejoicing practice is not conventional or habitual. We ordinarily operate under the misconception that looking out for ourselves brings happiness. But to appreciate others doesn’t mean we should ignore our own happiness, it just means that we can make ourselves big enough to include others in the realm of our care…as if they were part of us – like our own family or limbs. In this way, their happiness will become our happiness, our feeling of impoverishment will dissolve, our relationships will improve and we will move about life with integrity and a lighter mind.