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Jazz It Up with Joy: Cultivating Genuine Compassion, Part 4

Water Lily

Envy twists your mind into complex and uncomfortable convolutions.  I bet you find that comparing yourself to others who are magnetic, successful or prosperous only diminishes your own self-esteem.  It’s bound to leave you dissatisfied and at odds.  But, what to do?

There’s a simple solution if you want to knock jealousy on its head.  It’s called sympathetic joy, the ability to rejoice at the happiness and good fortune of others.

This is the fourth and last article in our once-a-month series on the Four Boundless Attitudes, which together form genuine compassion: Love, Compassion, Joy and Impartiality. You can read the first three articles here:

In the previous articles we’ve proposed that:

  • All beings are equally deserving of your love, compassion and joy – the essence of impartiality.
  • Love is the wish for others to have happiness and the causes of happiness.
  • Genuine compassion goes beyond empathy.  It’s the wish for all beings to be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.

Now, we’ll move on to sympathetic joy, the last of the Four Boundless Attitudes

What is sympathetic joy?  It’s the heartfelt wish that all beings will never ever be separated from happiness.  Just imagine what the world would be like if, instead of responding with competition and rivalry, everyone rejoiced at the happiness of others instead.

How to Practice Sympathetic Joy

This is how to make your mind bigger and fill it with sympathetic joy.

1.  Sit quietly for a few moments and allow your thoughts and emotions to settle.

2. Then, begin by bringing to mind someone close to you who, at least for the moment, has found happiness and success.  Perhaps they have material wealth, good looks, a fantastic partner or a sense of contentment and peace.  Now practice feeling joyful for them and try to magnify this sense of joy as much as you can.  Wish them continuous success, prosperity, and unending happiness.  Wish them even more!

3. Once you have established a deep sense of joy for this person, think of another close relative or friend and celebrate their particular good fortune in the same way, without even a tinge of jealousy.

4. Then – after you are in the groove of rejoicing for the accomplishments of those you love –  gradually begin to expand the circle to include people you feel neutral toward and eventually those whom you dislike or even consider to be enemies.  Celebrate their attainments with a genuine heart of joy.

5. Finally, reflect on how wonderful it would be if all beings could have unlimited goodness in every possible form.  Wish it to be so!

As you go about your day, rejoice for the achievements of every single person you meet.  Whatever qualities you observe in their being or positives in their life, wish for their good circumstances to multiply many times more.

By cultivating sympathetic joy, you will develop a mind that is free of jealousy.  Moreover, when you feel happiness for others, doesn’t it fill you with happiness too?

The Four Boundless Attitudes – love, compassion, joy, and impartiality – are indispensable if you want to find true happiness and bring others to this state too.  They can be encapsulated by one phrase:  “a good heart.”

Does envy infiltrate your life from time to time?  How do you diminish its toxic effects?

I’m so glad you’re here! If you liked this article, please consider subscribing for free updates by email. And, if you have an extra moment, please share – it makes a huge difference.  With love, Sandra


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  1. Consciousness is a wonderful thing Sandra. For the past three weeks I’ve been practicing looking for joy every single day. Amazingly enough…it shows up everywhere…in all manner of ways and things, big and small.

    And now I find it in your post. You, dear one, are my little joy bringer today and I thank you.

    • Isn’t it, Elle! Once we realize that we are this pure consciousness like transforms radically. What a great practice of joy! It’s once we could all benefit from. Thanks for telling us about it.

  2. I don’t know why I hadn’t felt envy or jealousy; I love when people live their heart whispers and delight in life, have abundance in all realms, are beautiful…it reminds me that “all truly is well in world” and inspires me to continue to live/celebrate/trust fully in my own life. My daughter is 13 and I hear her friends ask her “aren’t you jealous” and she says no and she means it (for which I am glad!) – maybe it’s because we practice being present to infinite possibility, so we know and feel there isn’t a “cap” on abundance.

    Of course “jazz it up with joy” drew me in to read this article. Joy a wonderful manifesting energy, a peace-amplifier and a connector, when we allow it to be!

    • Dear Joy,

      I’m so happy for you and your daughter! What a relief not to be plagued by envy or jealousy. Of course, writing and seeing that title makes me automatically think of you! And that’s so joyful. 🙂

  3. jean sampson

    What a wonderful exercise, Sandra! As an artist, I find that there are people whose success I celebrate and those who I am jealous of! The difference lies in how I feel about the person—– this exercise, step-by-step, addresses that so beautifully! I do try to feel compassion for all people, but, really, some people are easier to like and feel compassion for than others. When I really don’t like someone (usually based on how warm they are to me 🙂 I always call up their child spirit and try to see them as children. Who can’t love a child, even one who is having a bad day? I figure that who we are in the world today is based, at least partially, on how we were treated as children. It always helps me to feel compassion for someone if I can imagine them as innocent little children who sometimes got hurt badly. And wouldn’t we always celebrate the success of a child? I know that I would!
    Thanks for a really practical post 🙂

    • So true, Jean! Some people are easier to feel compassion for than others. It really takes practice to equalize our feeling of love and compassion for all. I love your approach of evoking a person’s child spirit. What a wonderful idea! Thanks for sharing it with us.

  4. What a wonderful exercise
    I was surprised by who I thought of as I did this as a meditation. I was surprised that envy didn’t arise another.
    Thank you
    Love the title

  5. Enjoyed reading this article Sandra about jazzing it up with joy and wishing others well. There really is enough in the world for us not to act from a place of lack, competition or jealousy.

    I may have been envious in other parts of my life but it was when I was living a scarcity mentality. Now, I’m just happy when others do well, succeed and find happiness. The better they do, the better the world will be for it. When others win, we all win. I do need to do the practice you mentioned more consciously though to wish others well regularly and rejoice in their accomplishments.

    This is a practice that allows us to celebrate and be grateful for achievements others have in their lives. Another way to have more gratefulness in our lives is to be more grateful for things others have in their lives:) Thanks Sandra!

    • It’s so inspiring to see how you have changed, Vishnu. It shows us all how possibility it is to move from a scarcity mentality into one of gratitude and joy. This is such a good point: that there’s enough in the world so it’s not really necessary and actually even foolish to act from competition or jealousy because it just brings suffering. Thanks for your thoughts!

  6. Hi, Sandra, I just jazzed up the joy in my life by sitting down with a cup of tea and catching up on your recent blog posts. I’m easing my way back into blogworld after a break for the summer. As always, I loved your end of the month reflections–that’s always a good way to catch up with you. And like everyone else, I caught the contagion of your smile in that gorgeous photo in the last post. Happy to be reconnecting.

    • I’m so happy to “see” you, Galen! I look forward to seeing what unfolds on your blog after your summer’s ease. Sending you love and good wishes.

  7. I have found joy, and go back to it a lot. I find that my joy does not need conscious thoughts. Joy is a state that lives on its own and doesn’t have much to do with the external world. The best way to access it is meditation, including walking meditation. 🙂

    • Wonderful! I’m so happy you have found joy and have specific methods that bring you there. Thanks for sharing your approach with us.

  8. I sometimes struggle with being happy for others, even close friends. But it’s such an embarrassing part of my character that I would really like to remove it. Calming myself first, and not going into with a negative mindset really helped.

    As I write this last part, I actually have a beaming smile on my face. Interesting concept indeed. Thanks!

    • Hello Ragnar,

      I think almost all of us have this tendency! You are not alone. That’s why it’s a practice and one we have to work with again and again to eradicate it. Recognizing it is a big step and I’m happy you are moving forward with this. Thanks for your honesty.

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