"I am happy that you are happy." WOOF! Those words sound simple but sometimes can be a mouthful to say and even harder to swallow.
Feelings of inadequacy happen from time to time. Hey human, yes you, human. It's ok. Me too! Sometimes it pops up unexpectedly, but when faced with inadequacy your power can be zapped in an instant.
In JK Rowling's Harry Potter series, Professor Lupin introduces the class to a mysterious creature called a Boggart. It is an shape-shifting creature that has the ability to transfigure itself to resemble the fears of anyone who looks upon it - like a giant spider or a teacher delivering an 'F' grade. The Boggart is not fear itself. Instead it is like a funhouse mirror providing an overgrown message that makes the onlooker feel exposed.
Sure, that is fantasy book for children, but we all have Boggarts in our lives. Shapeless things that take form only when we see them and stop us in our tracks. Often the Boggart in our life is called Envy. The root of envy is fear. At one point in the human life perhaps this deep fear was actually a protection: preservation of stock when there was not enough to go around, guarded territory to ensure ground was not lost to an enemy, staying alert to alarm to prevent loss of life to a predator. Forms of these alarms still exist and often for very good reason. It is just to feel defensive in scenarios of true inequity. That is not the same thing as every day envy and, truly, it is less common.
More often in your daily life, alert bells go off for smaller offenses that make you just feel annoyed, prickly, defensive, and jealous! You may even know your reaction is disproportionate (which can be even more annoying!) but nevertheless the feeling is there. Rotten, stinky envy. You want what they have, or you don't understand why life served them such a sweet deal while you've been working hard with less to show for it.
No one knows that envy looks like until they see it. Consider a time when you weren't where you wanted to be with your fitness goals... or career goals... or even relationship goals, and then, bam! A fabulous gal unrolls her mat next to yours and pops up into handstand (or perhaps she sits down at the desk next to yours in a perfect hip-hugging pencil skirt or you get a perfumed invitation to a friend's perfect wedding and you are wayyyy single) - damn it - all that hard work, meditating, finding oneness, goes right out the window. Your brain starts to stir and spin and before you know it you're in full blown envy mode!
But, as always, Jo provides a solution to the students of Hogwarts. The spell 'Riddikulus' creates needed relief by reshaping the Boggart into something funny or tame. In the book the lesson is clear. A moment of vulnerability in the presence of the Boggart is witness enough to the fear underneath and from there the students' can start to deal with it. The same can be said for envy. When we're dealing with everyday envy is 'riddikulus' to assume that someone else's good fortune is a threat to your own and deep down we know it. Modern life is very rarely the zero-sum life and death scenarios that your primal side wants you to believe. The mere presence of jealousy provides information. In the presence of envy you are face-to-face with a fear. But, don't kill the messenger. Instead, use the information for your best use! Like the wizards you could try shouting, "Ridiculous!"
- Or -
you could try this meditation (in the recording at the top of this post) for cultivating empathetic joy.
Empathetic Joy is a tool that reveals envy for what it is, like the Boggart, a funhouse mirror, a funky version of what's going on inside that has nothing to do with the person or thing you encounter. Empathetic joy can also be seen as an agreement with yourself that another person's good fortune is not a threat. Another person's good fortune is not an indication of anything you lack, it is not an omen that you may never achieve your dreams simply because they have, and it is not receipt indicating that they received a larger slice of a limited pie. Empathetic joy is the first step in truly believing that there is enough to go around - including - enough for you. Empathetic joy is being truly happy for another even while holding space for yourself to feel what you feel on your journey.
When you are honest about your feelings of envy you can move closer towards joy for another person's experience and take the sting out of practicing with compassion your feelings of inadequacy, scarcity, and competition. You can be GRATEFUL for the Boggart's message and start to work with it. You can feel excited for everyone in your life AND excited for yourself as you are, where you are. You can be grateful for all you have in your life without comparison. You can experience extreme pleasure witnessing the success of those around you without making any negative assumptions about your own progress.
You can be powerful and compassionate.
Sweet places my writing has been featured ...
Bend Into Shape
For people who love dogs, yoga, good food and/or great parties ... that covers everyone right?