Empathy is the experience of understanding another person's condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling. It is an acknowledgement of our shared experience as humans and recognition that we all feel grief and loss and pain and fear. If you have ever experienced real empathy from another when you have been hurting, you will know what a gift it can be. Rumi writes, "Go my friend--bestow your love, even on your foes. If you touch their hearts, what do you think will happen?" Being empathetic enables us to experience the oneness of ourselves with others, to dissolve the false appearance of separation. When we are aware that we are all one integrated being, we have reached the stage of true empathy, where no boundaries create an illusion of separation between people. Empathy is necessary to achieve emotional maturity. It is through empathy that a person achieves the highest peak and deepest reach in his/her search for-fulfillment.
How does empathy enrich our lives? We feel peace and happiness in our own lives when we have helped others evolve to greater peace. In our relationships, we feel an expanded sense of spaciousness when we treat each other with compassion. When we are non-judgmental towards others, we are able to focus on their needs. Empathy towards others is the heightened sense of awareness, partial identification with the feelings of another, and insight into his/her life that lead to their present condition. Through the eyes and heart of empathy, we begin to gain entrance into the other person's perspectives, values, beliefs, feelings and actions. We may not agree with their attitudes or like their actions, but we can at least glimpse into what life must be like, when seen and felt from their perspective.
You may wonder why empathy is more essential today than ever before. All we have to do is to watch the news. Our world is in turmoil, there seems to be no love or compassion among us humans anymore. Violence abounds in our towns, cities, our country and around the entire world. Most people seem to be in a state of transition in dealing with health, financial, relational, and spiritual challenges. Drifting in the ocean of life like ships without any harbor in sight. Almost everyone is looking for a place where they can drop anchor into the peaceful waters of love, generosity and compassion. Furthermore, embracing our present realities and achieving some sense of serenity and completeness in our lives these days, is further complicated by the fast-paced lives we are leading.
We must allow ourselves to inculcate the necessity of empathy for all others around us, in spite of whatever challenges and circumstances we are facing at any given time. We must employ the basic skills of our inherent emotions, not only for ourselves and our loved ones but also for all others. When we practice empathy, we feel enlivened and warm and have our priorities clarified. Once we clarify our priorities, we can decide how we want to serve, genuinely communicate, and facilitate compassionate connections in every area of our lives.
We can express empathy in our daily lives by living with non-judgment, taking action, listening to others, and most importantly being patient and courteous. Without empathy for others, life can be sterile and lonely. With empathy, we will feel safer, more valuable, integral and necessary beings in the ongoing evolution of humanity. Empathy enables us to intimately experience the oneness and divinity of all life. The Dalai Lama said it best, "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion; if you want to be happy practice compassion." These are just a few thoughts on enriching our lives with empathy and compassion!