So here’s something surprising I learned recently– one of our daughters is polyamorous. In case you’re like me and aren’t sure exactly what polyamory is, it’s having multiple partners without nuptials and not, as I first thought, having sex in multiples. The way it manifests with our daughter is that she has one “main” partner to whom she is most committed, and with him she shares everything about all of her relationships, in real time. Polyamory seems to be growing in popularity, at least in the Western hemisphere.
One of the most important tenants of and reasons for polyamory, according to several online and in person sources, is something called compersion. From Polyamoryonline: “Compersion is the opposite of jealousy– it’s the love we feel when others feel love. It is the pleasure we feel when others feel pleasure… It is the emotional expression that what we want for our loved ones more than anything is their happiness and fulfillment.” Although the word compersion is new (you can find it in the urban dictionary here), the same idea shows up in the ancient Buddhist texts where it is termed mudita, or sympathetic joy.
“Love creates a communion with life…In any moment we can step beyond our small self and embrace each other as beloved parts of a whole.” ― Jack Kornfield, The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace
Somewhere between half a million and 12 million people are in polyamorous relationships in the U.S. according to The Atlantic, all of whom are trying to expand their ability to love. Mudita, aka compersion, benefits not only the object of mudita, but the mudita giver as well. So, I decided to experiment with loving lots of people, minus the partnering. I call this polyMudita and this is how I practice it: When I walk down the street or encounter people in various work and play situations, I look at each one while imagining I am in a loving relationship with him or her — their partner, best friend, parent, or child. Sometimes this comes easily, and sometimes not.
When I am able to imagine the person as my loved one, I feel a physiological and emotional warmth, exactly as if I am meeting someone I adore. As you can guess, this feels great, sometimes radiant. The oxytocin released when we are in love or parenting intoxicates us, even when we are only imagining it. When I pass by someone scowling or I simply have a negative reaction, it is a bit more challenging but also significant. I become aware of the habitual conditioning that leads me to reject people for superficial reasons. Seeing this conditioning, I can often transform it so I don’t keep limiting potential moments of falling in love in the future.
“Admit something: Everyone you see, you say to them, ‘Love me.’ Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise someone would call the cops. Still though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect. Why not become the one who lives with a full moon in each eye that is always saying, with that sweet moon language, What every other eye in this world is dying to hear?” –Hafiz, With That Moon Language
Oxytocin has been found to be good for both our physical and mental health. And, in my highly unscientific experiments, it’s something we can generate ourselves. So why not try polyMudita and fall in love with a dozen or more people today?
One of the greatest benefits I have discovered practicing polyMudita is an ability to see people’s innate goodness — their Buddha Nature — more easily. When I imagine someone to be my beloved, I think “Oh, how cute, he’s sporting a bow tie today”, or “She must just love that book since she is reading it while she crosses the street”, or “Look how he is speeding to get home to his loved ones.” Because most of us are under constant sabotage by our brain’s negativity habits, we forget how to see the natural goodness in other people, and usually in ourselves as well. We are more likely to judge others’ actions as negative or selfish, rather than see them for what they are — an attempt to be seen and loved by others.
“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance.” –John Lennon
Practicing polyMudita has given me so much joy. As you are also one of my beloveds, I hope it will give you joy as well.