Mudita: A Meditation for Joy, Abundance, and Others

Jumping in joy in the sunset

Monday, November 7, 2022

Madeline Wiseman

The meditation practice of mudita focuses on the heart, joy, and happiness. You can practice mudita through guided meditations, a variation on metta/lovingkindness, or through informal practices throughout your day.

What is Mudita?

Mudita, a Sanskrit and Pali word, lacks a direct translation into English. It means altruistic, empathetic, and appreciative joy and pleasure. It is the joy one feels for another's good fortune, accomplishments, or luck. Mudita is selfless and might be considered the feeling of pride when someone we care about does well. Meditation teacher Jack Kornfield explains, "Mudita is the joy and happiness experienced for oneself and others."i

Mudita is among the Buddhist tradition's four sublime attitudes or heart practices (brahma viharas). These include lovingkindness/metta, compassion, and equanimity. Opposites of mudita include envy, resentment, and greed. Schadenfreude, the German word, is like Mudita's opposites. Schadenfreude means joy in others' failures, pain, or discomfort.

Practicing Mudita: Intention
Setting an intention or sankalpa is one way to practice mudita. Sankalpa, the Sanskrit word used in asana, guides a yoga class by establishing a vow, resolve, or intention for practice. Yoga and meditation teacher Kelly McGonigal explains that sankalpas help you to "focus your mind, connect to your most heartfelt desires, and channel the divine energy within."ii By setting mudita as your practice, you can welcome appreciative joy to your yoga mat, meditation cushion, or mindful movements. Mudita can be the guiding intention for daily interaction with yourself and others.

Mudita lets us practice rejoicing. Meditation teacher Christiane Wolf advises that we can begin by rejoicing in ourselves, our life, and our good qualities, then widening the circle.iii This can include rejoicing in loved ones, friends, and teachers, then move outward. Wolf calls this an "expanding circle of joy."iv As a heart practice, our joy for others grows each time they win.

Practicing Mudita: Present Awareness
Once we set an intention for mudita, we can look for it. In Awakening Joy, mediation teachers James Baraz and Shoshana Alexander write that mudita lets us "get our comparing mind out of the way" so we can find the free joy ride of others.v

Focusing on this sympathetic joy that resonates with the happiness of others, they write that mudita practices help us develop "positive images in our mind" that cheer and celebration "when others thrive"vi They suggest looking for and remembering our delights in others – enjoying the sound of a baby's squeal, watching a delirious football stadium crowd at the winning touchdown, snuggling on a snowy day with family to enjoy mugs of cocoa.vii Each day, we can actively invite moments of pause that celebrate others.

Practicing Mudita: Guided by Teachers
Our formal meditation practice is a great place to cultivate mudita. You can listen to talks and guided meditations on sympathetic joy on Dharma Seed by meditation teachers such as James Baraz,viii Oren Jay Sofer,ix and George Mumford.x Other meditation teachers share their mudita guided practices and talks across channels, such as:
• Insight Timer: Nathan Glydexi and Zohar Laviexii, both on Mudita
• Jack Kornfield: Joy (Mudita) Meditationxiii
• Joseph Goldstein: Guided Mudita Meditationxiv

Practicing Mudita: Self-Guided
You can also develop your own guided mudita practice. Once you've grounded in your breath and body, call to mind individuals and offer them statements of lovingkindness.
First, imagine a good friend or loved one who recently shared a win or success with you. Call to mind their face, such as how they looked or spoke when sharing the news. See how they smiled and held their body as they shared the story. Let yourself feel their joy and sink into the sensations. Notice where joy and happiness reside in the body, savoring how it feels. Then offer this friend statements of well wishes, such as:
• May you continue to be happy and well.
• May your joys increase and flourish.
• May your good fortunes grow.
Then let this friend go and call to mind a neutral person, such as a neighbor, a co-worker you know only a little, or someone you see from time to time in your daily routine – fellow commuters, delivery truck drivers, students on their way to classes. Call this person to mind and imagine the joy they likely have in their day, such as catching a glimpse of a full moon on the walk to the office, the delightful sips of coffee in a travel mug between package stops, or the burble and beat of favorite songs pacing the steps of a sidewalk's journey. Let yourself feel their joy, welcoming it to grow within you. Then offer them the same well-wishes of happiness, joy, and good fortune.

From the neutral person, call to mind a challenging person. Someone in your life that has caused you a small difficulty recently. Despite the challenging moment, consider the joys they have in their life, large and small, and offer them well-wishes that welcome a growing abundance and joy.

From the challenging person, you can turn towards larger circles, sending mudita outward. Let yourself offer well wishes to everyone in your home, office, or community. Then offer mudita even further—your state, country, and even the world.

Practicing Mudita to Cultivate a Joyful Abundance
When we practice mudita, it helps us see the world as abundant. It's a yoga practice, too, often expressed among the yamas and niyamas. Aparigrapha means non-greed, non-attachment, and no-possessiveness. When we practice santosha (contentment) with apapigrapha, we practice seeing the world as robust and overflowing. We cultivate a sense of gratitude because we have joy in what we have and joy in the haves of others.

(i)Kornfield, J. (2022). Heart Wisdom – Ep. 13 – Joy and Its Causes. Jack Kornfield.
(ii)McGonigal, K. (2020) How to Create a Sankalpa. Yoga International.
(iii)Wolf, C. (2020, Jan. 17). How to Practice Sympathetic Joy. Lions Roar.
(iv)Wolf, C. (2020, Jan. 17). How to Practice Sympathetic Joy. Lions Roar.
(v)Baraz, J. and Alexander, S. (2010) Awakening Joy: 10 Steps that will put you on the Road to Real Happiness. Random House.
(vi)Baraz, J. and Alexander, S. (2010) Awakening Joy: 10 Steps that will put you on the Road to Real Happiness. Random House.
(vii)Baraz, J. and Alexander, S. (2010) Awakening Joy: 10 Steps that will put you on the Road to Real Happiness. Random House.
(viii)Baraz, J. (2011, July 19). Mudita. Dharma Seed.
(ix)Sofer, O. J. (2022, Apr. 7). Guided Meditation: Joy. Dharma Seed.
(x)Mumford, G. (2022, Aug. 3). Mudita: Sympathetic Joy. Dharma Seed.
(xi)Glyde, N. (n.d.). Mudita Meditation: Appreciation as a Path to Joy: Insight Timer.
(xii)Lavie, Z. (n.d.). Mudita: Cultivating Unselfish Joy. Insight Timer.
(xiii)Kornfield, J. (2021, Apr. 12). Joy (Mudita) Meditation. Jack Kornfield.
(xiv)Goldenstein, J. (2020, Nov. 20). Guided Mudita Meditation. YouTube.


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