Our world would not be the magnificent place it is were it not for the treasured beings who give themselves to the world, ornamenting it like brilliant jewels. For years now I’ve done the practice of rejoicing in others’ goodness. I’ve heard various explanations of how to do this and why it confers immense benefit, increasing my own virtue and goodness.
I’ve thought of this as a method to open my mind to the potential for good qualities and to learn to appreciate and aspire for them. But I never quite understood how to really investigate the inner world of the people whose qualities in which I’m rejoicing. Thus, I never figured out how to use it as a means to cultivate those qualities. Just yesterday, I read this explanation by H.H. the Dalai Lama:
By reflecting on the admired person’s life, contemplating how he or she lives or lived for others, how his or her behavior is or was characterized by compassion, we familiarize ourselves with their example.
One of the aims of this type of analytic mental training is to gain a direct appreciation of a given quality. In this case, we analyze what motivates people to devote themselves to others. Having identified this quality, we then focus on it, and rest our minds on it, as a way to unite ourselves the the quality through direct, intuitive insight into the compassionate motivation that is the ultimate object of this exercise.
In other words, the idea is to train ourselves to act, in our daily lives, as the person we admire would act, so that when, for example, we become aware of others’ suffering, we feel disposed to respond as this person would respond.
Now I have a clearer idea of how to emulate the positive examples of the incredible people I admire. One of those people is Helen Keller. She said, “I do not like the world as it is; so I am trying to make it a little more as I want it.”
She also said, “I long to accomplish great and noble tasks, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble.”
We’re all familiar with her life. Today, I will try what the Dalai Lama suggested. I’ll contemplate deeply what Helen Keller’s internal motivation was that gave her the energy and courage to do what she did.
I’ll think of the lives of other great beings; great religious teachers, such as Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, and the Dalai Lama himself, as well as people who were simply motivated by a compassionate determination to help make the world better.
People like Albert Einstien, Ben Franklin, Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Amelia Earhart – their words and actions were displays of qualities like creativity, perseverance, altruism, and unrelenting integrity.
I’ll imagine these role models’ motivations and “try them on for size.” In this way, I will come to emulate them.