Sympathetic Joy: Healing through “Mudita”

March 24, 2018

Everyday I walk past a local schoolyard and hear the children laughing and calling to one another in their outside voices. It always makes me smile and I’m reminded of the Buddhist term mudita, which means sympathetic joy. Hearing a child’s laughter reminds me of this state of mind.

Three kids and a dog playing on a beach.

“Four on the Shore” by Michael Pontieri

It always melts my heart and brings me into the now moment where I experience their laughter and joy as if it were my own. As a Shaman, joy is what I want my clients to experience at the end of their sessions with me.

Buddha taught that mental and physical suffering arises out of one’s ignorance of the true nature of reality. By ignorance, he meant the misunderstanding of the constancy of change, which is the true nature of reality. Our suffering stems from a mind that resists change or demands change before it has had a chance to ripen into manifestation. In other words, we’re not in the moment but are in the past or the future, desiring or resisting what is in the now. How can healing take place in any time but the now? For a Shaman, getting the client into the now has to be the foremost task of healing.

I’ve learned that starting with the technique of “bringing the cat down from the tree” by resetting the fight-or-flight response of their nervous system gets the client into the “now”. Here is where we can begin the process of seeing what change in the client’s life they’ve not accepted or let go of. In the now is where their healing begins. Starting elsewhere doesn’t generate the same level of healing, which can be beautifully productive. Next, I focus on getting the client out of their victim, perpetrator or hero mindset so they can see without the lens of their story coloring our work. Thereafter, we can look at that story and craft choices about it rather than having them continue to be the victim of it. When the client achieves mindfulness, that offers the perfect launching pad from which to explore other modes of intervention, illumination or methods of healing that are then appropriate.

I always want to end our time together with them experiencing the joy that comes from their personal achievement. Having this intent from the outset makes it much easier to accomplish. Without exception, patients have all come to the end of a session with feelings of joy because they did it on their own with only a little nudging on my part. Being the vehicle for this kind of feeling to come to the client is one of my most cherished capacities and provides me with my own mudita.

I love being a healer!


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