I am a bleeding heart liberal. One could say that I am particularly attached to the values espoused and proposals made by Bernie Sanders. I watched the Republican debate last night.
As it began, they lined up taking pictures. Immediately I noted the sourness of my thoughts, the defendedness in response to my assumptions of what was about to be said. The ill will I felt toward the front runner. I noticed the pull to remain in this space, to deepen these attitudes as I shifted my awareness to the fact that these thoughts were just choices the mind was making in support of my attachment to the values I prefer.
I invited myself to shift my relationship to these fellow humans. Just for these few hours. What would happen if I welcomed an attitude of mudita, for example, as I watched the Republican debate?
Mudita was quite a stretch at first. And it made me laugh—the effort I was expending to welcome in a sense of “sympathetic joy” for a group of people I had pre-emptively decided were the other, them, the enemy even. I chose to focus on one person at a time as a way of shifting from imaginary conflict to a sense of alignment with these fellow people.
Beginning with Carly Fiorina, I imagined how proud and happy she might be feeling to have done so well at the previous debate that she earned a place on the main stage. It softened me immediately. My sense of connection with her deepened further in recognition of what it can be like for a woman to shine in a group of men. Mudita, sympathetic joy, was on the horizon and it shifting this experience palpably.
Then, because Donald Trump was receiving a lot of the initial attention, I turned my focus to him. I quickly noticed how negative my thoughts became as I relished in the obvious vagueness of his responses in contrast to his peers’. Then I remembered that I was practicing mudita.
Donald Trump appears to enjoy receiving attention, so I brought to mind the joy he might be feeling standing in the center of the dais, having so many of the questions relate back to him. A sense of joy arose in me in response, as I realized that he was getting something that he seems to very much like receiving.
I continued this process for around two hours. It was remarkable to spend this time in imaginary alignment with a group of fellow humans that I normally cultivate disgruntlement and tension toward. The difference in the experience was striking. I gained the opportunity to begin considering that, like me, these fellow humans hold their beliefs strongly and wish to act on them in service to the world. In that broad sense, we are not so different after all.