“Jealousy is the fear of comparison.” ~ Max Frisch
It eats away at the edges of our lives, sapping pleasure from innocent moments that did nothing more than try to exist with their own integrity.
It is the illusion that if things were different, all would be well, canceling out our ugliness, our poverty, our unfortunate physiology, our simple minds.
It is the refusal to accept the status quo, instead wasting time and energy considering make believe worlds that don’t exist for anyone, that will never exist no matter how hard we wish for them—not because make believe can’t become reality—but because reality is a wild, unpredictable thing, that won’t be shaped by wishing—only by acting.
For my money, jealousy is the number one way to make your life less than it could be, less than it should be (worth mentioning is the corollary, which is that gratitude is the number one way to make your life all that it should be, all it is meant to be).
Know this; jealousy is the enemy, and we should strike it down wherever it tries to sink it’s slavering fangs.
All that is fine and well, but from a practical standpoint, how should we cope with jealousy when it comes marching down our street?
I’ve tried many approaches; ignoring it (doesn’t work), indulging it (really doesn’t work), and forcibly wrestling with it (doesn’t work and is super draining).
The only major success I’ve had—and when I say “major” I mean it works every time—is reasoning with it.
Let’s say I’m jealous of someone’s nice big house with an attached greenhouse, sprawling gardens and turn of the century architecture (not that I’m thinking of some specific house—okay, I am. It’s in my village and it’s freaking beautiful.
Every time I pass this house I am blindsided by the feeling that that should be my house, and that it’s some kind of grave universal injustice that I do not actually live in it.
As soon as I feel that, I ask myself, “Would I trade every single thing that I am and that I have with the people who do get to live in that house?
In other words, would I give up everything—my kids, my husband, my dogs, my heart, my mind—and trade it for whatever it is the people who live in that magical house have, including their failing marriage (just imagining here), their child who was recently diagnosed with autism, their unrealized dream of being a writer, and their messed up relationship with their parents, who are actually homeless—not because they can’t afford someplace to live but because of an insurmountable mental illness.
As you might suspect, the answer is always no. And because I hold this rule hard and fast—I can’t be jealous of that ridiculously skinny girl’s butt in yoga unless I am willing to be jealous of every single facet of her life to the point that I would exchange my life with her at the drop of a pin—if I can’t do that, then I can’t be jealous at all.
Often we imagine that we are at the whim of our thoughts, that they hold so much sway over us we are like a trembling child before them—not so. We can out-think our thoughts if we just use a little creativity.
Of course, there is another—perhaps an easier, even more effective way to end the torment of all negative thinking, not just jealousy—and that is to sink beneath the level of thinking and come instead to a place of being.
To do that, we merely need to sit and breathe, no mind tricks or machinations. Sit and breathe and feel that you are not your thoughts. Watch them float overhead like clouds in the sky, see them, name them and then let them go.
Practice this with dedication and even the most jealous mind can find peace in any situation, no matter how large the cherished house or small your fellow yogi’s behind.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Dimitris Tsirigotis at Pixoto