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Mindful : August 2016
CONTEMPLATION A Practice to Quiet Envy Instead of seething inside, and hating yourself for it, try a little compassion. Another possible antidote for debilitating envy might be found in wishing for the hap- piness of those you envy. 1 Close your eyes, take a few anchoring breaths, and let yourself see and feel strong awareness of the object of your envious thoughts. If you are willing, silently say to yourself, “May the object of my envy be happy; (pause) may the object of my envy be healthy; (pause) may the object of my envy be peaceful.” that the researchers called “the distress of social exclusion.” The study also made the point that the pain of envy is all about “me” versus “you.” And in a way, it makes sense. Humans are social crea- tures, so a significant amount of our self-worth comes from comparing ourselves to others in our peer group: Are we better off or worse off than “them?” However, once these env ying comparisons start to churn, they are often accompanied by an offshoot known as schadenfreude, the plea- sure derived by another’s misfortune. This is the shadow we lurk behind when envy turns our minds to wanting bad things to come your way— sometimes just because you experience happiness. If we could notice the ways we begrudge oth- ers’ success, we might then be able to pause and ask ourselves: Is this really who I want to be? But, There’s An Upside In its grossest form, envy can drive us to unhappiness, dissatisfaction, self-loathing, and feeling just plain mean. In a more enlightened viewing, however, envy can be an important key to awareness because it illuminates our deepest longings. Sure, it could be our longing for a hybrid car, our neighbor’s tidy backyard or a winning lottery ticket, but when we look underneath these transient hungers we might notice the roots of our greatest aspirations. Maybe we think an eco-friendly car will make us seem more hip, but if we could recognize that “env y is here,” we might be curious enough to be 2 Say these phrases several times, or use your own words. Take time to pause between each wish for the other’s well-being. What do you notice? in touch with a yearning for a new sense of iden- tity, a desire to trade in the old, practical you for an upgrade to something that shows your partic- ipation as a proud member of planet Earth—now that’s cool! Maybe it’s even a case where envy inspires action: not merely our desire to finally clean up the brush pile in the backyard, but letting it help nudge us toward our higher selves. Is there any reason why we can’t use envy to help us discover and act upon our own path to joy and purpose? Mindfulness makes the claim that we can use anything to help us see more clearly. Your envy over a colleague’s rise in the company might wake you up to how you’ve been simply gliding in your job, and inspire you to go back and brave school to finally finish your master’s degree, or even to look for another career. Of course, getting to this awareness requires tolerating the potentially unpleasant expe- rience of feeling envious. But when we look deeper at envy we may see that underneath is the longing for what might be an unfulfilled → August 2016 mindful 63