I had a before and after monumental shift in perception in 2004, because someone told me the Hawaiian saying: “Bless that which you want,” meaning that if there is something you see in another that makes you angry or jealous, instead of giving in to scarcity and sarcasm, to bless it instead.
These five words turned my life around, but at first they also made me angry. I was angry because it felt like too much. This was too big of a shift.
In order to follow it I would have to let go of something I had invested my whole life in, like: envying and blaming others for something I did not have. And so far, that had felt good, or so I thought.
Never mind that it was leaving me empty and starved, hey! at least I felt the false dignity of self-righteousness.
But going even further and blessing it?… Oh no! That was completely out of my comfort zone at the time.
That was WAY too much.
However, in just noticing that I could perhaps bless a little of it, good things started to happen to me.
So when I noticed I envied a famous yoga teacher whose workshop I was attending, I turned it around, and blessed him. It took courage to do that because in reality I didn’t want to. So I tried it as a test, or as an experiment.
Not long after that my practice went deeper, and not much longer after that, I started the alchemic process of becoming a yoga teacher myself, starting a blog, studying the philosophy, teaching…
Here are five things that help me when dealing with the green-turning second capital sin of “envy”:
1) ENVY EXTINGUISHES GRATITUDE
Look at the example of Cinderella, whose tale has been told since long ago and because it has truth in it.
She holds on to the good she has even in spite of the terrible conditions of living in a household in which she is reduced to ashes.
She wakes up to the singing of the birds and notices it. Even sings with them in some versions.
She helps her step-sisters as they prepare for the ball by bringing a lace here, or sowing a piece of cloth there. As she is grateful for the small things she realizes there is enough good for everybody.
She holds on to the good in her from the beginning, until when the prince finds her.
And the prince is just a symbol, which can be a man, yes, but can also be the integration of all parts of us, or a new field of work, or money, or travel, or stumbling upon what feeds our spirit.
If we are angry and upset, just noticing that we have eyes to read this, or legs to walk is a beginning.
What we focus on expands and by noticing so-called little good parts in us we begin to notice the bigger and bigger ones and attracting more of the good into our lives.
2) UNDERSTANDING THE “ENVIER”
But what about when we are the target of envy?
The envier takes pleasure in reassuring her or himself that they are right in feeling their own lack of good. They are so filled with hatred and starved for good that they blame and shout and criticize to try and ease their pain. Only it never works.
They criticize and blame because this is a defense mechanism and it keeps them under the illusion of safety.
If they hate and attack the good in others they don’t need to look at it in themselves.
Maybe their mother did not love them, maybe somewhere along the line there was nurturing they did not get, I don’ know. But there is definitely something lacking and the envier does not believe he can get it.
And so it sets to destroy those who do have it. We can only be compassionate. They are suffering.
– How To Deal With The Person Who Envies Us?
Unfortunately there is no way because trying to explain things could be construed as “condescending” and keep the circle of abuse going.
Playing small, pretending to be less good just to please the person who envies us only fuels the fire (“oh now she is trying to be good… oh Gee… you are SO humble…”).
It makes for more sarcasm and further lecturing. The envier will not recognize good in us no matter what we do or do not do because they are not ready to realize that there is good for everyone.
And hiding our talents kills our creativity, our good, and all of us. It sends us into despair over the fact that we are now blocking our own good parts.
The Yoga Sutras (bible of yoga) have one phrase that deals with this whole issue in a beautiful sentence (clue: the last one addresses how to deal with envy). It says:
Cultivate friendly attitudes towards the happy,
– Compassion for the unhappy,
– Delight in the virtuous, and
– Disregard toward the wicked
One sentence! I honor the good in Patanjali’s writing.
p.s.: See what I just did there? Blessed that which I want.
In the case of the envying person, unfortunately we can only “disregard,” because they are trying to kill the good in us without noticing they are killing it in themselves, while turning into an unhealthy shade of green in the process.
3) WHAT ABOUT IF WE ARE THE ENVIERS?
When we hate someone because they have money or a big house or talent… for me it helps to notice three things:
One: Everyone suffers. People in the mansions and in the projects. NOBODY has it easy. Thinking that money solves all issues is a very limited form of perception. We are human therefore we suffer, just like the Buddha says, and just like I know because of my own life, and you probably know because of your own life.
Nobody has it easy.
Two: The yoga sutras point to delight in the virtuous…whatever “virtuous” represents, which is ‘something good’. Delight is just like what the Hawaiian saying says: bless it… Don’t take my word for it, you try it and see.
Three: Look at exactly what it is you resent. Is it their writing? Their husband? Their money? Their creativity? Their expertise?
THAT IS WHAT YOU WANT. See how big that is.
Envy is a pointer to what is lacking in us which we would like to have. @ClaudiaYoga
(Click to Tweet!)
It is a huge Aha! Moment. What we envy is what we want in ourselves.
AND we can work for it.
And what is that first step in getting it? Is it making a list of things to do and seeing whom we can call or what workshop to take?
No…It is a lot deeper than that…
The first step is to bless that which we want.
Because blessing it makes the internal shift that will allow us to make that phone call, and without it we are lost again.
4) WHO CAN HELP SOMEONE WHO ENVIES?
Only himself or herself.
The envier needs to come full circle on his or her own. And we cannot save them, especially if we are their object of envy.
Nobody can save anyone else. Otherwise we turn into Lucifer who, realizing he was not the source of good, falls from the sky in envy.
We are not saviors of the world but we can play a part in the salvation of all by shinning our own light.
We can pray that they see but we cannot make them see.
5) ACCEPTING THE GOOD IN US, AND EVERYONE, RELEASES ENVY
Let me return to Cinderella for a moment because her tale is so powerful.
The stepmother lies to her that in order to be allowed to go to the ball she has to sort a huge pile of lentils, and separate the good ones from the bad ones.
That is so mind blowing!
She needs to go through the seeds that bring nutrition and the ones that do not.
She has to find what nurtures her.
This is our task in releasing both envy and the ones that envy us.
We need to sort, on a daily basis, as a practice, in each moment (as there is no such thing as deciding now and forever) to look for the good and also accept those places where we hurt.
When the cynicism we pass for intelligence has a chance of subsiding, then we relax the shoulders a bit, let go of the tension in the jaw, breathe a little deeper, soften the heart, and notice that there is plenty of good for everybody.
Image courtesy of David Goehring.