I gaze into the smiling faces of three teenagers goofing off with their parents, friends of mine on Facebook. I wish I could be happy for them, that they're having a good time with their kids... all together as a family. I see funky, creative artwork posted by an artist friend on Instagram. I wish I could find the beauty in the pieces. But mostly I feel the big gaping lack of what I don't have or can't be right now.
Envy. One of the green-eyed emotions that we’re conditioned to believe is a less than virtuous feeling. Downright stingy, even. We see someone else with something we want or that we believe should be ours, too. It feels unfair. This mixture of anger and fear can be quite fiery and often blindsides us. When it arises, we may instantly tell ourselves we shouldn’t be feeling it. (Because we should be happy for other people!) We certainly don’t want to end up bitterly lashing out with it. But repressing envy doesn’t get to the root of it either. In both instances, we throw away the valuable navigational information it holds.
It is no coincidence that what ignites my envy at the moment is witnessing joyful family connection. My family is shifting and growing and the cohesive time we used to spend together is waning. And the artist thing? It's been too long since I devoted time and energy to my creativity. There was a time when my envy flared up at the sight of a man gazing intently into his wife’s eyes as she spoke. And yet another when I spotted tight-knit circles of women.
Emotions don’t come out of nowhere. And they always have something to show us. Envy is no different. When we feel it, it is always true. We are intuiting a perceived scarcity, a threat to our place in a social group and a direct line to something we want. Want to find out what it is?
10 QUESTIONS TO UNCOVER THE MESSAGE IN ENVY
1. What part of you is having trouble witnessing this?
2. What does that part of you fear?
3. What specifically does it want?
When we experience envy, whether on social media or in real life, we are seeing a snapshot of something desirable to us. We typically aren’t wishing we had every aspect of another person’s life, appearance and personality. Determine what piece of it you are longing for.
4. What does this part of you want to create?
5. How do you imagine you’d feel if you had this thing?
Pay very close attention to this. This is what your soul is after.
6. What quality do I most want to judge? Maybe it’s something you strongly dislike about the other person or situation. Or something you greatly admire. All of us are made up of all the qualities. Find this one in yourself.
7. Ask: Can I open to compassion? For the other and for myself. It’s in this ability to identify pieces of ourselves in others that we can feel the love and abundance.
8. Where are you off track? Envy is a sure sign that we have either veered from our right path or come to a standstill in some part of our lives. Use this dharma radar to shed light on where you need to take a step.
9. What action must be taken?
10. Is there anything else you sense?
We are only able to celebrate and honor the brilliance, choices and successes of others to the extent we are honoring our own. Envy shows us what is calling for our attention. It invites us to step into our worth. To shine on our own path. And in doing so, allows us to cultivate relationships and tribes that honor our truest selves.