I sometimes think of it as opening a box of sunshine--once the lid is off, it no longer fits snugly. In fact, the lid just begins to dissolve.
Sympathetic Joy refers to our capacity to feel bright, untainted happiness for the happiness of others, uncluttered of envy or jealousy, or even the pleasure of novelty. Happiness for the happiness of others.
The example most often provided to demonstrate this state, is the joy one feels for ones own child's joy--those of us who love a child unconditionally know well the overwhelming joy we experience when we experience their joy. And this is certainly an unconscious, natural state for a parent, but the true practice comes in extending Mudita to others, even those who may have beaten us in the marathon, won the office lottery or found a real diamond ring in the bottom of the CrackerJacks box we refused!
The state of Mudita is simple, unadorned, heart centered. Here, there is no room for feelings of envy or jealousy, because the heart is full to the brim with a little golden sun.
This afternoon, my son and daughter-in-law and I practiced yoga with my teacher--it was a first for W & N in this particular yoga studio, and I had been trying for months to get them there because I thought they might enjoy my teacher's style.
All the way to the studio I felt a buzz of excitement--how would it go? Would they keep up? Would my son stretch just a little too much (scenes of pulled groin muscles)? Would my energetic daughter-in-law relax into the slow groove?
We practiced together for an hour, and after awhile, I could feel their energy beside me, even though we were all sprinkled around the room. I could feel their intention following the instructor, and feel their best effort. I could feel their joy at discovering a new way to move in the body and mind, and their joy filled me with joy.
I was filled with the feeling of being completely connected to not only their energy, but to everyone's in the studio.
When we finished, I didn't even have to ask how W & N felt, I could see it in their faces. They were relaxed, alert, calm. And again, I felt such joy in their relaxed, alert, calm state...it was, I knew, not something they always managed to share in their busy lives together.
This feeling is still with me, and even though our weekend together has ended, and they have gone back to New York, I feel connected to them in love, and hope too that our shared joy will sustain their complex weeks ahead.
Namu Amida Butsu!