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Lions Roar : November 2013
in our lives. This is where sympathetic joy—joy in the hap- piness of others—comes in. If we’re in a competitive frame of mind, when something good happens to someone else, we think it somehow diminishes us. It doesn’t really, of course, but being consumed with jealousy and envy clouds our judg- ment. Even when we’re not in the running, extreme competi- tiveness makes us feel as if we were. However, if we approach other people’s successes with an attitude of sympathetic joy, we can genuinely and wholeheart- edly receive happiness from their good fortune. Instead of run- ning an internal monologue that goes something like, Oh no, you got that, but it was meant for me! It should be mine, and you took it away, we can accept that the prize was never ours and rejoice in the other person’s success. If we approach life from a place of scarcity, a mind-set that emphasizes what we lack instead of what we have, then anyone who has something we want becomes the enemy. But when we can rejoice in other people’s happiness, we realize that joy and fulfillment are not finite quantities we have to grab while we can. They are always available because they are internal qualities that flow naturally if we allow them to. An accessible path to sympathetic joy runs through com- passion, or the movement of the heart in response to pain or suffering with the wish to relieve that suffering. Compassion is an energized and empowering quality. As Buddhist monk Nyanaponika Thera says, “It is compassion that removes the heavy bar, opens the door to freedom, makes the narrow heart as wide as the world. Compassion takes away from the heart the inert weight, the paralyzing heaviness; it gives wings to those who cling to the lowlands of self.” Looking closely at the life of someone we consider to be the competition, we are bound to see hardships that the person has endured or un- derstand how tenuous status and good fortune can be. When we can connect with a perceived enemy on the level of human suffering, winning or losing seems less important. A few years ago I led a meditation group at an elementary school in Washington, D.C. The walls of the school corridors were plastered with homilies: Treat people the way you would like to be treated. Play fair. Don’t hurt others on the inside or the outside. The message that stopped me short, however, was Everyone can play. Everyone can play is now the precept I live by. We may not agree with one another. We may argue. We may compete. But ev- erybody gets to play, no matter what. We all deserve a shot at life. Co-creating the Enemy ROBERT THURMAN Our perception of others as enemies is influenced by how we have interacted with them in the past and how they have inter- acted with us. Our view of them is seldom an objective reflection of their qualities but tends to be a projection of our own aversion. Maybe someone harmed us in the past, so now we are afraid of them. Maybe we did something a person didn’t like, so now they are angry with us. We have a mental template of what we consider harmful, injurious, and frightening, and, with or without provo- cation, we project that onto people, turning them into enemies. When someone looks unpleasant or threatening—when they fit our mental image of a frightening person—then we assume they intend to harm us, and we can’t wait to get rid of them. And if we can’t get rid of them, we feel frustrated and angry, which rein- forces our view of them as an enemy. The last thing most of us want to hear is that we might have any responsibility for creating our own enemies. After all, it wasn’t our car that drove over our newly sodded lawn. And we’re not the ones who spread that malicious gossip about a loved one, nor are we the one who seemed to take great plea- sure in stealing a colleague’s clients. But if we are ever to get rid of our enemies, or at least render them powerless over us, we will have to own up to our part in creating the enmity. Excerpted from Love Your Enemies: How to Break the Anger Habit and Be a Whole Lot Happier, by Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman. © 2013 by Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman. Published with permission of Hay House. SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2013 38