Perfect... with Room for Improvement
Empathetic Joy is the act of taking delight in the good fortune of others. On the surface we can all agree that this sounds lovely, but in actual life it can join the ranks of other behaviors we know are good for us, but don’t always get accomplished as much as we’d like: eating 5 vegetables a day, reading instead of watching TV and, yes, meditating.
We often talk about the benefits of including both mind-focusing practices (like mindfulness) and heart-opening practices (like Empathetic Joy) in one’s meditation practice. The heart-opening practices help us to be our most connected selves, while the mind-focusing practices help us understand what gets in our way when we try to be our most connected selves.
Take Empathetic Joy, for example. When we see someone experiencing some form of good fortune that resonates with us – let’s say a home life that appears idyllic – even though we want to feel happy for them, we may notice a tinge of envy, or resentment. In that moment, rather than beating ourselves up for not being the magnanimous person we want to be, we can pause for a moment and use our mindfulness training – our present moment curiosity – to notice, “Hey, this is hard for me right now. What is going on?” In that moment of kindness and compassion for ourselves, we may notice that when we see this person with what looks like an idyllic home life, there is a subtle undercurrent of self-judgment, of thinking that we have failed through some fault of our own to generate that sort of home life for ourselves. We can note, “Well, here is Judging Mind.” Or, if we notice that we believe our home life should look like that, but doesn't, we can note, “Well, here is Comparing Mind.” Giving ourselves a little distance from the thoughts and emotions that arise can help us to stretch a bit, and see the filters we use in each moment, rather than just seeing through the filters.
Sometimes just that act of self-compassion (“Hey this is harder for me than I’d like it to be”) and distance from our thoughts (“Wow, hello to the tag-team of Judging and Comparing Minds!”), and even a little bit of humor (maybe reminding ourselves of Suzuki Roshi’s quote, “You are perfect, with room for improvement” ) can help to lower our defenses enough that Empathetic Joy can flow unfettered. And if not? We are still perfect, with room for improvement, and there will be many more moments to work toward becoming our best selves.
Hoping that you will join us this week as we hone our ability to take delight in the good fortune of others.
May all beings have a deep sense of their own perfection, not just their room for improvement,
Your friends at CMP
This Week's Session Schedule
We hope you can join us at one of our community sits this week. All sessions are free and open to the public, suitable for new meditators and people with an established practice. There is no need to bring or wear anything special, and all sessions offered in libraries are done in chairs unless you prefer to bring your own yoga mat or meditation cushion.
Monday 12:00 PM - Trumbull Library, 33 Quality Street, Trumbull
Monday 7:30 PM - Sama Yoga, 45 Grove Street, New Canaan
Tuesday 1:00 PM - Ferguson Library, 1 Public Library Plaza, Stamford
Wednesday 12:00 PM - New Canaan Library, 151 Main Street, New Canaan
Thursday 12:00 PM - Waveny Park, 677 South Avenue, New Canaan
Saturday October 5th 9AM - 4PM: Fall Silent Retreat at St. Paul's on the Green in Norwalk. More info to follow. Visit www.CommunityMindfulnessProject.org for information and to register.
Visit the CMP website www.CommunityMindfulnessProject.org for guided meditations. You'll find them on the Audio Library page under the Resources tab.
CMP thrives on donations. All of our weekly sessions are free and open to the public, but donations are essential to our sustainability. CMP is a licensed charity in the state of CT as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Checks, cash and credit cards are accepted and donations are tax deductible. Visit our website (www.CommunityMindfulnessProject.org) to donate by credit card. Checks can be given to facilitators at our weekly sits or mailed to Community Mindfulness Project, P.O. Box 1713, New Canaan, CT 06840.