I would like to reverse-engineer empathy. We generally think of empathy as an emotional, or even physical, state. It is that, but only after we silence the mind. If the mind has reasons (beliefs or opinions) not to feel, then we just don’t. We have become so entrenched in our thoughts that we have forgotten the wisdom of the heart and the body. As an act of mental mastery, we will work it from the head down.
First a few terms… Sympathy is feeling for someone. No one likes receiving sympathy (pity), and we should probably stop doing it entirely. Empathy is feeling with someone. Empathy is walking a mile is some else’s shoes, and feeling the weight of that burden. Compassion is empathy with a little emotional distance. Compassion allows you to watch someone’s journey (even your own) with a respectful distance, allowing love without codependency or judgement. Compassion is the goal, but first it requires a journey through empathy.
A hundred years ago, we could just tell our children to ‘walk a mile in another person’s shoes’, and they could just do that. The mind wasn’t cluttered and overwhelmed as it is now, so imagining another journey was easier to do. When was the last time you just imagined something? Today, we expect constant input and entertainment. If we aren’t being entertained, we need to be productive, right? All this thinking, with no imagination. Tragic, really. Who would have guessed all that daydreaming I got in trouble for in grade school would someday be a skill.
Let’s begin by imagining someone else’s life. As soon as you start, plan on watching all the mental objections that rise to the surface. Don’t fight them, just be aware. It may sound like, “but they are doing it to themselves”, “I would never do it like that”, or “that is just their lot in life”. The ego naturally wants to distance itself from any harm. It’s psychologically natural to blame the victim. No one wants to think it could happen to them. Don’t judge yourself, just be aware of what comes up.
The important part is this: Don’t stop! If the resistance becomes overwhelming, take a break, and return to this exercise when you’re ready. I promise it gets easier with practice.
Once you can quiet the mind enough to release objections and judgements, really imagine what it’s like to live that life. Try to think their thoughts. Try to understand their actions. Really walk a mile in their shoes. For some of you, this mental side of empathy will take repeated practice for it to become a natural response. For others, it will bring such a wave of emotion, you will immediately want to rebuild that mental wall. Please don’t. The emotional side subsides, and leads you to compassion.
Why should this be a practice at all? Because we are heading full speed into Unity Consciousness. This is practice, preparation, and assisting the evolution of humanity. This skill can be taught as young as 3 or 4 years of age. When teaching children, use examples to imagine: Imagine a friend runs up to you and says, “I’m so happy to see you!” does that make you feel good or bad? Imagine a friend comes to you and says, “Oh no, not you again!” does that make you feel good or bad? Then turn it around, by asking how that friend might feel if the child said those things. This gets children talking about feelings, and raising awareness of what they bring to the table. EQ.
Practice it, teach it, live it. There is only one of us here. We have taken individuality as far as it can go into separation and solitude. It’s time to come back together as One. It’s time for empathy on purpose.
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