How can we use the qualities of our minds to achieve success in 2010?
Rejoicing in Merits is a Buddhist term which means ‘positive feedback’ or ‘saying some thing nice’.
This works on the principle that the more we think about, talk about and focus upon the good things that we do, the more aware of them we become. This is known as the Law of Increase: What we dwell on increases.
As Black people, we have often learned to dwell on the negative, to harshly criticise ourselves and each other. Perhaps we have adopted this as a survival skill in unsafe situations - "I must find fault with myself before someone else does!". But this habit is very undermining to our sense of self-worth.
The more we rejoice in other people’s achievements and good qualities, the more we become aware of our own. Sometimes, we think there is not enough appreciation to go around. If we overhear someone else being given a compliment, we think, "Why didn’t she notice the amount of time and effort I put in?", "Why didn’t he praise my report/recommendations/skills/smile/hair, etc., etc.?".
The more we rejoice in other people, the more we become aware of our own positive qualities. This is an important method of boosting our self-esteem. It’s not about comparing ourselves to others. It’s about raising our awareness of these qualities – both in others and in ourselves.
Similarly, if we undermine others, we reinforce a sense of our own inadequacy. Every time we put someone else down, we are putting ourselves down, because people are our mirrors. The qualities we see in each other reinforce our sense of ourselves, either positively or negatively.
In my classes on building self-esteem, we practise rejoicing in merits every week. We sit in a circle and each person says "three of my positive qualities are __________". Saying it out loud in front of other people means we have to own these qualities – we’ve gone public with them and they have been witnessed! Or we go around the circle, each person rejoicing in the positive qualities of the person to his/her left. Our reactions and responses to this can teach us a lot about our level of self-esteem.
At first, people often feel nervous, embarrassed or awkward, but after a short amount of time – once a week for a few weeks – it soon becomes much easier to rejoice in our merits because it feels more normal as we change the way we think about ourselves.
It will be very valuable for you to adopt this practice in work situations and within your family, to promote mutual appreciation and greater harmony. Once a week, have a time where you sit down together and praise each other’s positive qualities. If you put in the effort, you will reap the rewards.
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