The third brahma-vihara, or heart practice, in Buddhism is mudita. Mudita is a Pali word that is translated a number of ways, with my personal favorite being “appreciative joy.” Just as compassion is the quality of bringing metta to suffering, mudita is the quality of bringing metta toward joy. Whether it is our own joy or the joy of another, in mudita meditation we practice rejoicing in happiness.
There are many things that prevent us from truly appreciating joy. When we experience happiness, a number of thoughts or feelings may block us from rejoicing. Sometimes we don’t think we deserve or earned the happiness. Maybe we are worried about the happiness ending, or too focused on other things to even really notice it. Maybe we’re too busy or we feel guilty. In mudita practice we practice just being happy, and appreciating the happiness.
When others are happy, jealousy or envy may arise. Rather than appreciating the joy present in their lives we get stuck in conceit, comparing our own situation to theirs. We hold the belief somewhere that there isn’t enough happiness to go around. We may judge the person or their actions. In mudita practice, we work on rejoicing in the happiness of others. As we continue to practice, appreciation arises more easily in response to joy around us.
In mudita practice, we use phrases to cultivate this quality of appreciative joy. We bring to mind some happiness in our lives or someone else’s life. As we bring this person’s happiness to mind, we set the intention to care about their happiness and to enjoy it.