Mudita - Ordinary Joy in Simple Pleasures

There are many different kinds of joy. This week, I focused on "mudita," the third of the brahmaviharas in my yoga classes. There are other words for joy in Sanskrit, but this a special kind of joy.

One of my students lit up when she heard me use and describe the meaning of this word. She kept repeating it - and said she would share it with her own children...

As I researched the word, I found many others that were used to explain it - and of course I came across so many different translations of Sutra 1.33 by Patanjali. One of these described mudita as "honor for those who embody noble qualities." My own personal interpretation is "joy in service to others." It is the kind of feeling that we feel when we celebrate the accomplishments and successes of others.

When I think of embodying mudita, I think of unveiling what is extraordinary at the heart of ordinary experiences - and I also think of those ordinary individuals who manage to make a difference, something one of my own yoga teachers discussed this week in her own class.

We can derive profound enjoyment and truly experience the extraordinary presence of the Divine in the mundane and in all our tasks and undertakings, no matter how humble. I thought of this earlier in the week, when I stumbled across a book titled, The Gift of an Ordinary Day, by Katrina Kenison, a mother who eloquently writes of the pleasures of raising her sons and treasuring the ordinary. What a lesson for all of us who often rush through our quotidian lives. I was also reminded of Brother Lawrence, the author of The Practice of the Presence of God, whose sole work and contribution to his monastery was to simply sweep the kitchen.

One of my favorite sayings, often attributed to Mother Teresa of Calcutta - but originating in the writings of St. Jeanne de Chantal - the 17th century mystic and nun who co-founded the Visitation Order with St. Francis de Sales, goes like this:

"You cannot always do great things,
but you can always do small things
with great love."

It is a quote that exemplified my grandmother, and I chose it for her memorial card when she died.

John Friend, the founder of Anusara Yoga, once spoke of mudita as being sympathetic joy. Swami Satchidananda described it as delight in the virtuous. Frank Jude Boccio, in his article "Love in Full Bloom" for Yoga Journal had the following to say about mudita:

"True love brings joy, and mudita is the joy we take in the simple pleasures of the breath or the eyes than enable us to see a child's smile or the blueness of a clear sky, and the delight we take in watching a puppy play. When we love, joy seems to surround and pervade us."

Go out and experience, embody, and share mudita! Let it surround and pervade you and all whom you touch and come in contact with!


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