Mudita is the Sanskrit and Pali word for Joy. Specifically, it implies a sympathetic or vicarious joy or the joy that comes from delighting in the well being of others. This is perhaps one of my favorite spiritual practices.
Let me share a recent picture my father sent me of a black capped chickadee:
Perhaps one of my favorite birds is the Chickadee. Full of life, you will often see it flitting around in all types of weather. One can even put bird seed in their hand and have the Chickadee eat the seed out of the person’s hand. For me, the Chickadee embodies joy.
The spiritual practice of joy enhances happiness and counters feelings of sadness and sorrow. As a mental health therapist, I hear a lot of bad things, and to focus on what makes me happy, even a funny thing a client says and reflecting back to the client lightens the sometimes heaviness of a session.
Mary Ann and Frederic Brussat offer that “joy is an essential spiritual practice growing out of faith, grace, gratitude, hope and love. It is the pure and simple delight in being alive. Joy is our elated response to feelings of happiness, experiences of pleasure, and awareness of abundance”(Brussat, 2023). The Brussat’s also allude to Mudita in their explanation of joy.
Thich Nhat Han reminds us that every twenty four hours we are blessed with a new opportunity to see the joy in all that is around us.
In this morning’s devotions by Mathew Fox, he writes of Joy as experienced by Thomas Aquinas. Fox offers that Aquinas “proposed that “Sheer Joy is God’s and this demands companionship.” The purpose of the universe is Joy”. (Fox, 2023). If one understands that God is Love and all that God creates is done out of love, then it is not a huge leap to understand the notion of the universe being Joy.
While things may seem dire right now, look beyond what you are told to see. There is a world beyond what your phone wants you to see. I have found in my practice of joy and along with it, gratitude, a smile towards a stranger and words of compassion can brighten the mood of any person. There is much pleasure in making others happy and it is such an easy practice, just smile and offer an assuring word. Look for the beauty, the random dandelion growing through the crack in the sidewalk, the song of red wing blackbird signalling warmer days, the coo of a baby learning from her environment.
We are all beings of unexhaustable joy. We have unfortunately had much of this extinguished by being told we are too emotional, too full of energy or some other well meaning words meant to shape us into a model of humanity that does not truly capture who we really are: sons and daughters of the awakened ones, the Buddhas and bohdisattvas or Christ bearers and saints.
May you find joy in your steps today, may peace and joy brighten your paths.