Let’s talk a little bit about the expansion of individual awareness and the increasing depth in consciousness that we experience on our journey through life.
First we need to differentiate between empathy and sympathy.
Sympathy comes about from, and is developed through, suffering. We can sympathize with someone because we have experienced similar situations and can understand degrees of intensity. While we may never have been homeless we can sympathize, because we have been lonely, lost, poor or otherwise in a difficult situation and we can multiply that experience in our mind to have some approximation of what homelessness might be like.
Sympathy is also situation dependent. We may have sympathy for a homeless single mother who is trying to feed her child, but no sympathy for a homeless drunk who is trying to feed an alcohol addiction.
Through the Practice of Loving Kindness, Sympathy can develop into Empathy.
Empathy is a deeper state of connection with other living beings and while it is a natural and compassionate flowering of the practice of sympathy, it is an altogether different thing.
First of all Empathy is not limited by circumstance. Empathy doesn’t judge the circumstance of a homeless drunk, empathy simply and directly shares in the pain of hopelessness, desperation and regret. It is also possible to have empathy without sympathy, feeling the pain while simultaneously admitting the person’s own responsibility in creating or alleviating that pain. This is what the Dalai Lama is talking about when he says to avoid “idiot compassion”.
Empathy is a powerful development of our ability to take the roll of other. It is marked by the graduation from a mental calculation of the circumstance to a direct recognition of the internal state of another being. This awareness throws out the particular circumstance and is able to actually FEEL that person’s pain or joy/sadness/love/peace etc. . .
How is this possible?
Well as our consciousness expands to include deeper truths about the fundamental nature of our being, our personal borders begin to literally expand to include other people.
Almost everyone does this with members of their own family. We can feel the tension in the air when a loved one is angry.
But as our circle of care and compassion expands, as our awareness of our universal nature deepens, we begin to have the same experience with people who are not related by blood, or even by friendship. Some people eventually can empathize with other beings who are of different races and cultures, even animals and plants.
Many people who frequent places like evolve (not that there is any other place like Evolve. . .) But these types of places, tend to attract people who are beginning to empathize deeply with all people.
One of the more common and difficult parts of this awakening is the constant influx of disorienting emotions. Being open to the interior state of nearly every being you come across is a challenging and confusing state of affairs.
As much as it creates the “problem” in our lives, The Practice of Loving Kindness comes to the rescue as well.
Through the practice of Loving Kindness we can become a deep well of Love that flows outwards from us at all times. This outwards flow of Love overpowers the inward flow of chaos and disruption we experience as a result of empathy.
This kind of Love doesn’t ignore pain or suffering, nor does it dismiss it in any way. In fact this kind of love eventually allows you to fully experience the pain of others without an ounce of avoidance. The Love that flows through you, sustains you and supports you fully. As your practice of Love strengthens and flows from you, powerfully saturating the pain and suffering in the world you can finally bear to bring your full awareness to it.
The short of it is that the way out is the way through. Keep feeling and caring. Keep diving deeper and responding with Genuine Love to more and more of what you encounter each day.
As your outward flow of Love becomes habitual, the feeling of being tossed about in the emotional landscape of others will subside. You will find yourself anchored in the limitless and effortless flow of Love. You may even find the source from which that Love flows. . .
One thing is for sure though. The feeling of Love flowing through you is its own reward.
You may not have noticed this, but meditate on it a bit and you will find that it is true: There is no difference between the feeling of Love flowing out from us, and Love flowing in towards us.
We make up stories about fairness and keep score of the number of times a type of situation has occurred, and we tell ourselves that we are owed an influx of love from somewhere outside of ourselves.
But the truth is that ultimately there is no other for love to come from and no other for it to go to. The actual feeling, the life affirming grace of Love’s movement within us, which we so desperately scramble for, is no different moving ‘in’ or ‘out’.
We can feel the movement of Love within us ALWAYS, by simply allowing it to flow through us endlessly into the world.
Wishing you a deep river of eternal Love,