Cultivating & Supporting a Resilient Heart-Mind
A reflection on practice by Marcia Rose
“Resilience: recovering strength, spirits, good humor, buoyancy, flexibility”
JOY FOR/JOY WITH
Explore the teachings of MUDITA…
Joy is wired into our genes, brain circuits & biology. It’s an integral part of our health equation. And in times like these, it matters more than ever.
This past spring at Lenox Hill Hospital in NYC, the Beatles song “Here Comes the Sun” started up every time a coronavirus patient was discharged or recovered enough to breath without the help of a ventilator. A doctor at the hospital shared, “For those on the front lines of critical care, it’s like a war zone. The work is relentless. To hear this song on the loud-speaker is brilliant. It’s just what people need, a reminder that patients are recovering. You feel good for a moment.”
Mudita, the practice of sympathetic, empathetic, contagious joy & happiness, matters more during dark times. These qualities of heart/mind give us the resilience to get through these challenging times… through the physical, emotional, environmental & cultural crises that are occurring daily. We need to focus on joy & happiness more now, not less.
We begin Mudita practice reflecting on good things we’ve done, just a few moments ago or some years ago… the wise choices we’ve made, ways that we’ve helped others & times that we’ve acted out of a true feeling of generosity. We’re cultivating self-respect & love through acknowledging & honoring the goodness in our nature, our healthy humanbeingness. This nurtures our capacity to feel joy, happiness & delight in relationship to another’s happiness, success, health, brilliance & beauty, as well as delight in the magnificence of this planet & all the sentient beings who share it with us.
Mudita is a response from the heart. It’s a warm sense of connection rooted in kindheartedness & empathetic understanding. And of the four Divine Abidings – unconditional loving-kindness, compassion, Mudita & Equanimity – it can be the most difficult to cultivate. Mudita practice can bring to the surface many of the conditioned beliefs & reactive habit patterns that we identify as ‘ourself’… such as the learned belief that we are inadequate in some way or the learned attitude that we are better than. These learned self-identities create a constant underlying sense of uncertainty, tension & stress within our heart/mind & body. This ‘conceit of self’ usurps the vitality that comes with being fully present, blocking our potential to experience the shared contagious joy of simply being present with ‘what is’ in relationship to other beings & in relationship to our ourselves.
Joy opens us physically, mentally & emotionally – it’s an experience of expansion. Whereas fear, resistance & judgement are experiences of deep contraction. Cultivating joy is an important component of resilience, as it increases our capacity to face difficulties. Every time we stretch our capacity to experience Mudita, we increase our capacity to ‘stretch’ more without breaking. Joy energizes us. It makes the heart/mind light, pliable, open, generous & relaxed. In these moments we often feel unbound, healed.
Take a moment now to experiment with the feeling of joy in a very simple way with the words “I am here”. The emphasis isn’t on the sense of “I” or “am” but on “here.” Joy moves us into presence & breaks down our patterns of grasping at experience to validate our sense of who we are. Within this immediate experience of presence, we are free to pour our energies into the activity of life itself… no comparing or competing. We’re free to purely rejoice in/with another being’s delight, success, health, brilliance & beauty.
Summer morning Finches
singing their heart out
and into mine.
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