I just returned from my annual 5-day silent retreat at Rolling Ridge Retreat Center in Andover, MA and like other years, this one did not disappoint! A silent retreat (in the same vein as the Tom Hanks character Forrest Gump's view of life) is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you are going to get! Something always bubbles up from the unconscious whenever we spend that much time in quiet solitude.
At this retreat, led by Steven Hickman and Beth Mulligan, I learned about "Mudita". Mudita is a Pali word that means joy; especially sympathetic or vicarious joy. I found it ironic that I learned about Mudita from Beth Mulligan. I had never met Beth, although I heard many great things about her. She held a silent retreat here in South Florida a couple of years ago, a retreat that many of my MBSR students attended. They raved about her, and I have to admit, I was envious. Then, recently, my students then told me about the book Beth had published, something I’ve been trying to do for years. Again, envy. I hate to admit that I avoided buying the book because I did not want to experience the pain of failure for not being able to write one myself.
I now see that I have a habit of avoiding reading or hearing about the successes of others (e.g. Facebook posts and newsletters) to avoid my own inner critic’s voice, “See how great they are doing?” or “You could never do that”, or “You’re not keeping up”. I see now that although this behavior was protecting me from pain, it was also stunting my growth and limiting my connections with others.
I remember an old Buddhist saying, “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the single candle will not be shortened”. Thank you, Beth, for teaching me about Mudita. I just ordered your book, and can’t wait to start reading!”