Jealousy is an emotion I feel most profoundly when I am depressed. What makes this bitterness I often feel over others’ successes and joys particularly painful is that I’m embarrassed about this evil part of me. That embarrassment, in turn, fuels more feelings of depression.
Last Sunday, I wrote about my own suffering. I vowed to change Sunday for myself, and today, I am happy to say that I did just that by going to a meditation class at the Kadampa Meditation Center in Chelsea to listen to a talk about “Freedom from Jealousy.” I was a little wary of the whole thing because I’d never been to this meditation center; before I left home I envisioned a dozen sorry people like myself sitting around in a room resembling a Church basement with dim lighting and rusty metal chairs.
When I arrived, I was shocked and grateful to see at least 100 people—lovely, smart people—sitting in a semi-circle to hear the teachings of Gen Kelsang Jampa, who delivered one of the most inspiring and thoughtful talks I’ve ever attended. What made it particularly powerful to me was to watch this enlightened monk acknowledge and explain that jealousy is, simply, “when we see something good and feel something bad.” Why would that happen? he asked.
He went on to explain how jealousy makes us “see the good fortune of others and then perceive our own inadequacies.” It wasn’t that he had some kind of silver bullet solution for this problem, but he did explain that what we need is a change of mind to change our lives (yes, very Buddhist indeed) and let go of this evil feeling within ourselves.
Instead of caving into our jealousy, he asked us, what if we rejoiced in the joys we witness in others?
He acknowledged that this transformation within ourselves was a journey and would not happen over night. For starters, we just need to allow the good fortune we see outside ourselves bring us happiness. For me, it was truly remarkable to be somewhere on a Sunday morning where everyone nodded as a teacher talked about the ways we can all torture ourselves with evil thoughts that, once acknowledged, we can begin to release.
Somewhere towards the end of his talk he asked us: “How many people would look at our lives and say, ‘If only I had that life.’” I thought about so many people suffering pain, hunger, violence. And it was impossible to not realize, in that moment, and right now, how lucky I am for my life.