Recently, a colleague sat down with me and asked me some questions about Yoga. Yoga, as you already know, can be a very broad topic. We ended up going down a path that lead to “how one cleanses the mind”, specifically, how to “stop being jealous,” as my colleague put it.
Firstly, what is jealously? From the dictionary: a desire to have something (quality, idea, material object, etc.), which is possessed by someone else or something else. It may already be obvious to you that the root of jealousy is desire. Jealousy is considered to be one of the 5 poisons in Buddhist philosophy. However, jealousy is also a basic human emotion. Since it is a basic human emotion it should not be swept under the rug (repression only causes festering and delays a negative, usually harming, response). So, what the heck do we do then?
This is where Yogic philosophy, especially from the Buddhist teachings, comes in very handy if not downright practical. Buddhist teachings say that all things are impermanent. Emotions are a classic example. Emotions such as happiness comes and goes. This includes jealousy. Jealousy can easily give way to anger. Anger is one letter away from danger, as my Vedanta Guru likes to say. So the good news is that feeling jealous will pass! To facilitate the healthy passing of negative emotions like jealousy, Yoga practitioners follow guidances of non-attachment. The less we attach to feelings such as jealousy, the easier it is to let them go (note: at some point in your practice you will learn not to attach to all emotions - e.g. grasping onto happiness is also undesirable)
How is this done on a practical level?
1. Awareness. Be mindful of your thoughts and what your body is telling you. If one
stays present, feelings of jealousy can be avoided completely. This takes practice. The more this is practiced using proven methods such as Patanjali’s 8-limbed Yoga, the stronger this method becomes. See previous Yoga articles on the Yamas, Niyamas, Asanas, Pranayama, etc. [8 limbs of Patanajali’s Yoga system]
2. Be kind to yourself.Practice ahimsa,non-harming. Jealousy causes suffering. Remind yourself not to be harmful especially to yourself.
3. Apply antidotes (these antidotes are from Yogic philosophy).
4. The antidote to desire: appreciation. Practice appreciating at least 3 things in your
life every morning when you wake up and just before you go to sleep.
5. The antidote to jealousy: rejoicing. Rejoice and praise someone for their success,
their ideas, their possession. Be happy that they are happy.
6. The antidote to anger: loving kindness (metta). Practice metta meditation.
In summary, it is okay to be jealous. It is okay to be angry. It is okay to be happy. All emotions are natural. But it is not okay to be harmful. Yoga teaches us to treat all emotions the same. Be aware and observe these emotions. Emotions are not the true self. Emotions are impermanent. Feel each emotion. Cherish each emotion. But our emotions come from the “self,” and they should not guide or determine one’s true Self. Emotions are our platforms that can either transform us or block us from a higher plane of consciousness. With mindfulness, we can choose; instead of allowing emotions to choose for us.