A Mindfulness Practice for Letting Go of Jealousy

Wanting what others have. Protecting what we have from others’ grasp. These feelings are not fun. But on closer examination, we can see an underlying drive to aspire and emulate.

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Ah, where would great literature be without jealousy? Many of Shakespeare’s plays turn on jealous motives, and library-loads of novels mine the hearts of jealous lovers and envious climbers.

In the mind of jealousy, we are caught up in comparing, and in one sense we loom large and others fade into the background. Yet, in another sense, we see ourselves as small and what others have as big. We push and we pull.

Feelings of jealousy can be mixed up with love (the clingy part), and anger, the feeling of wanting to push another away, to hurt them or lessen them. At first glance, there would seem to be nothing of value within jealousy and envy. It just seems like a big bundle of I…me…mine.

But curiously, if we can let go of the self-involved part—the dark side—on the bright side of jealous feelings can be a quality of admiration that could lead to sympathetic joy (feeling good at others good fortune and well-being) and emulation (wanting to cultivate the same good qualities of another or follow in their footsteps).

Jealousy and envy stripped of their aggressiveness can become a drive to go beyond oneself. The sense of inadequacy becomes simply a phase to pass through. All the energy we put into comparing and contrasting, finding the other better and ourselves wanting, can be channelled into reaching beyond ourselves.

Practice: Letting Go

A way to practice with jealousy and envy (and also greed, which is closely related) is to do a reflective meditation on a highly desirable object that you will nevertheless never possess.

Find something beautiful and desirable—in a store, a store window, or in a museum.

Sit or stand and admire the object for five minutes or more. Let the feelings of desire increase. Feel the longing to grasp and possess it.

Now, simply let those feelings go. Abruptly let go!

Embrace the object for what it is, brilliant, without needing to be possessed or protected by you.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s emotion: fear

More in this series:
Working with anger
How to navigate sadness mindfully
Lean into your fears
Connecting with love

Getting Started: Emotions was compiled by Barry Boyce, editor-in-chief of Mindful, in consultation with:

Jeffrey Brantley, MD, director of the MBSR program at Duke University’s Center for Integrative Medicine. Author of Calming Your Angry Mind.

Vinny Ferraro, meditation teacher and senior trainer, Mindful Schools.

Stefanie Goldstein, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and co-author of the audio program: Mindful Solutions for Addiction and Relapse Prevention.

Christa Turksma, child-clinical psychologist and specialist in developing mindfulness for teachers and families.

This article also appeared in the June 2014 issue of Mindful magazine.
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