Color me green

Short of being a monastic like the guys that have little else but the robes on their backs and their begging bowls, I have been trying to find a similar mental state (I’m not cut out for the real deal) of stripped down desires and finding satisfaction in the life I have. Believe me, it’s not a hardship as I have a quite nice wardrobe, a kitchen full of multiple sets of dishes (even red ones just for the holidays), and the larder is full. аHardly monastic.а

Green - solarize

I’ve been working on developing a sort of mental monasticism. The kind that does not crave more than it needs, nor hold on too tightly to what it has. аSo far, I’m a crappy mental monastic. It’s not because I like nice things. Nothing wrong with that. But the worm really turns when, on occasion, I see what good fortune others have, and which I could not hope to match. That’s when the green-headed monster, envy, rears its head. It’s that status thing against which you measure yourself – whether it’s the kind of house you have (with Hawaii’s median price for a middle of the road home at $679K, it’s a struggle), the car you drive (OK, so I drive a Lexus, but it’s almost nine years old), the bling you wear (thank goodness, not a problem for me anymore), the school your kids (or in my case, grandkids) can afford to go to, or the places you haven’t traveled (with air rage rampant, who can afford first class?). It never seems to end.

Envy is an insidious little beast, but when it hits, you know it. Your body knows it as it curls up into a tight ball of resentment, and you start to hate the other person just a little bit. аOr a lot, depending on the degree of envy and the state of your own fragile ego.а

By the way, I would often use “jealousy” and “envy” interchangeably.а My research (Wikipedia) explained the difference.а Jealousy is the fear of losing someone or something to someone else (usually it’s a love interest), while envy is the resentment of someone having something that you don’t have and wish you did. Does that clear it up for you?

It’s amazing how a little scientific spotlight will illuminate your murky emotions for what they are.а

Carrying on -- did you know that there are two types of envy according to psychologists? There’s malicious envy and benign envy.а The bad kind (malicious) can lead to anger and aggression – by taking it out on the offending person. While the good kind (benign) can boost your brain power (I’m not making this up) and motivate you to learn from the other’s success so you can go on to achieve the same results.а That sounds like “keeping up with the Joneses” to me.

The British philosopher Bertrand Russell said that while envy is one of the most potent causes of unhappiness, he also believed that it was a driving force behind the movement towards democracy and that we have to put up with it to achieve a more just social system. Is that what we’re doing? I know there’s more to the theory, but it reminds me too much of what’s going on in our so-called democratic society today.а It seems to me that the just society is losing ground to the power of money and greed.

But back to my original point. Do you suppose there’s a 12-step program for people with bad envy?а The Buddhists have one antidote called the practice of mudita or sympathetic joy, where you work on taking joy in another’s good fortune.а They also admit that it’s the toughest of the virtues to acquire. For my own peace of mind, I’m willing to give it a try, which is why I like meditation teacher Jack Kornfield’s practice of wishing someone well, even the one you resent.аIf you prefer, you can use your own words, like “I wish you well. I wish you success. I wish you happiness.”аThis is a good place to end this little reflection on envy. Time to meditate.


May you be joyful.

May your happiness increase.

May you not be separated from great happiness.

May your good fortune and the causes of your

аjoy and happiness increase.

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(From Jack Kornfield: The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology)

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ай Maya Leland 2014