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Turning Jealousy into Abundance

7 Sep

I remember sitting on the dock one morning at my parent’s house in the midst of my painful and messy divorce. It was early morning and I couldn’t sleep so I thought I’d catch the sun rise and try to calm my restless mind. During that time my self worth was shot, everything I had ever identified with was crumbling along with life as I knew it. I remember thinking to myself, “How will I ever be happy again? How will I ever even like myself again?” Up until that point, my self worth was largely derived from what others thought of me or how much better I thought I was than many people. But sitting on the dock that summer morning, I didn’t think I was better than anyone. In fact, almost everything I thought that made me ME, was gone. I felt, as my friend Alison perfectly phrased it, “like a turd in a ditch.” Can’t feel much worse than that.

Then the thought popped into my head, “How will I ever feel good about myself again if I’m not better than anyone else?” Yes, I felt like said turd, but I was also humbled through my yoga and spiritual practice into the realization that we are all One. We are all living, breathing manifestations of the Divine. All of us are sacred beings, no one better than the other. So if that is true, then my ego had been tricking me all those years into believing that in order to be happy, I had to be better than others. And better to me meant smarter, prettier, more successful, more popular, a better yogi, a better runner, and an all-around better and more fabulous person. The realization that I am no better than anyone else on this planet left me kind of stunned. So that sent me on a personal quest for self-esteem that wasn’t derived from my ego’s sense of self but from some place real and authentic.

So that might have seemed like a pointless ramble, but let me tell you that jealousy is one of the predominant characteristics I have let rule my life on and off for the last 30 years. In yoga, jealousy is something that will fall away as we practice aparigraha,  translated as “non-possessiveness” or “non-attachment”. It is on of the moral codes (Yamas) described by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras written some 2,000 years ago. This jealousy, this wanting for what is not mine and damning those who have it has made me crazy over and over again throughout my life. Because you see, what I have coveted in others is to be like them. And if I was like them (successful, beautiful, skinny, happy, radiant, flexible, blah, blah, blah) then everyone would want to be like me. And then I would feel good about myself because I was better than others.

Most of us have heard the siren song of jealousy and tried to achieve our goals and desires based on it. I know that being jealous of others has motivated me to work harder to be like them at times, but most often it just backfires. I end up trying to achieve my goals based on what other people are doing, and I only become more fearful and afraid of failing that I end up ruminating rather than acting. And just because someone has what appears to be success and happiness doesn’t necessarily mean that they really have it – you never know what’s going on in their personal life.

Ever hear good news about a friend or loved one and rather than feel excitement and joy, you feel a pang (or a punch) or jealousy? Why did they get to be so lucky and not me? This is possesivness and striving at their most potent, and this is where our practice of aparigraha comes in. Listen, just because it happened to them doesn’t mean it won’t happen to you, and the sooner you figure this out the easier life is gonna be. When we see other people getting things we want, we suddenly feel as though those things aren’t available to us anymore. So in their experience of abundance, we feel lack. The truth is, the Universe is conspiring to give you everything you need and more if you just trust that it can happen and believe that you are worthy. Abundance is all around us. Look at the sun, the sky, the ocean, the mountains. They are overflowing with abundance. As Wayne Dyer says, “Abundance is not something we acquire, it is something we tune in to.” What is it you desire? Just because someone else is doing and doing it well does not mean you are irrevocably axed from ever living your dreams. Just make sure they are your dreams.

You have what you need to accomplish everything you ever wanted. Trust that. Also know that jealousy is like a toxic acid that will erode your sense of self worth into Turd in a Ditch status. Being happy, fulfilling your dreams and desires is your birthright, but you don’t have to be better, more successful or more abundant than anyone else to feel good and love yourself. Next time you feel a tinge of jealousy when you hear about the wonderful thing that happened to someone else, as Pema Chodrom says, “Rejoice. Until I began to practice rejoicing in other’s good fortune, I had no idea how much envy I had.” If that’s not a spiritual practice, I don’t know what is. Rejoicing in other’s abundance will actually attract abundance, because it will make you aware of your jealous tendencies and inspire you to change and grow. Through this change and growth, you will find that things come your way with less striving because you are now moving from a place of love rather than fear, abundance rather than lack, and this my friends, is how you will truly begin to love yourself.

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