Thursday, January 9, 2014

How to Win a Climate Contest

A resting hill
     Sub-zero temperatures encouraged many Minnesota businesses and schools to close this week. This kind of week may cause people who live in warmer climates to feel extra fortunate, and blessed. While I agree that pleasant weather conditions are generally preferred, I'm also aware of the teachings and blessings that come from the cold as well.

If you have friends and relatives in year-round warm places, you may have participated in what sometimes feels like a climate contest. If you live in the mid-west, you're automatically considered the loser in this contest. I have heard shocked and disgusted reactions from those living in warmth. If it's cold or conditions are challenging in your area, you must be suffering constantly, insane, or unimaginative to be there, right? Perhaps some light can be shed on these judgments by reading this old Taoist parable, a reminder that none of us know what is 'good' or 'bad'. 

It is nice to be on a winning team, live in a winning climate, part of a winning marriage, relationship, job, etc. This sense of success, may even bring out the nasty old habit of gloating, defined as; "contemplating or dwelling on one's own success or another's misfortune with smugness or malignant pleasure." 

I've decided that the secret to surviving a climate contest, and competitive mind games of all kinds, is to create real joy. This kind of joy is highlighted in the Buddhist practice of mudita, or empathetic joy. Developing mudita, we learn to appreciate human nature and our ever changing circumstances. We recognize everyone as being complete and complex, and see the futility in making comparisons. The Buddha taught four sublime mind states, considered to be social attitudes as well. They are mudita (empathetic joy), loving-kindness, compassion, and equanimity. Mudita is a quality of joy available to everyone at all times, regardless of circumstances. This mind state is a salve for times when we feel the desire to feed off of the challenges of others (gloating). Mudita is also a remedy for resentment and envy, sometimes experienced as a response to the joy we see in another. In a state of mudita, the heart is full.

Click here for audio reflections and to read more about mudita.

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