How to be Mindful of Envy

I've always been a bit skeptical of the sister "science" of yoga -- Ayurveda. But I've begun to see its merits.

I am struggling with two really prominent issues: feelings of envy and waking up in the middle of night. Both of these are unbalanced Pitta dosha problems.

Note: Ayurveda is a mind-body system of medicine that includes the use of herbs, attention to diet, and spiritual practices. Dosha is a constitution or energetic body, based on the elements of air, fire, ether, water, and earth.

According to the principles of Ayurveda, I happen to belong in the group of crazed fire/water energy called Pitta. Regardless of how true this classification is, I am dealing with the unbalanced Pitta problems mentioned above. I've taken it upon myself to figure out how to deal with envy mindfully.

Envy and Avidya 

What is envy really about? I believe if we apply envy to the kleshas or root causes of suffering, we will see that envy is about ignorance. 

“Envy, the passionate longing for something that someone else possesses—an attribute, a quality, or even a thing—is rooted in a sense of inferiority. The Canadian philosopher Jean Vanier concluded that envy comes from people’s ignorance, or lack of belief in, their own gifts.” --Elaine Smookler, “The Upside of Envy” 

When I read that quote, I was reminded of the yogic concept of avidya, or spiritual ignorance. It tends to creep on me when I began to panic about the future... but it ceases when I remember that I simply don't know what will be.

Lately, avidya has been showing up as envy. I see people with things I don't have, that I really really want.

I experience intense emotions of resentment and hurt. I began to feel as if I am a complete loser. I spiral into self-loathing thoughts "Maybe I should just give up on my dreams. I will never have _____."

When it's really bad, I began to feel glee when the person I envy have problems. Although I've never explicitly wished ill upon somebody, I do find myself hoping their lives aren't actually as good as it seems.

It's yucky stuff.

If you're not completely turned off by me yet, I do have something useful to say.

Envy is a state of being ignorant about your own potential.

Thinking about it from this perspective helps me detach from the harmful effects of envy, while also owning up to the fact I do experience it.

When I am envious, I am not a bad person.

I'm a human being.

I'm suffering from my own ignorance.

I'm forgetting my own potential, I'm forgetting the fact that YES, I can have the things that she has. And ultimately, I can make the decision to keep pursuing my desires. I mean, if someone else can have nice things... Why not me?

Bid adieu to envy with sympathetic joy

What's next after realizing that you're ignorant of your own potential? You honor the heck out of your potential and you give thanks to whoever made you envious.

Give thanks to whoever made you see the possibilities. One way to do this is to practice mudita or sympathetic joy.

Sympathetic joy is being happy for unselfish reasons. It's being happy for someone for the sake of it, regardless of whether you gain from it.

If you're envious of somebody, it could be really difficult to find this state. But lovingkindness meditation is the way to go.

Rather than wish they didn't always get their way, wish them well. Offer these phrases to the person you envy:

May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be safe. May you live with ease. May your happiness increase. May your good fortune increase further. May you have the time of your life.

How to be Mindful of Envy (It’s quite similar to being mindful of anything else)

1. Notice what sensations are in your body. You may notice yourself feeling tense or your tummy turning.

2. Steady your breath. Don't force anything, but gradually see if you can breathe smoothly. Count the length of your inhale and exhale.

3. Remember how far you've come along. This is to honor your potential. If you need help remembering, talk to somebody who loves you. Heck, talk to me! You are sooo worthy of your dreams.

4. Practice lovingkindness meditation for mudita. Repeat phrases to spread kindness toward whoever it is you envy. After all, they showed you what's possible.