The Heart of Empathy
As a mystic empath, I feel. When I sit with a person during a session, I enter a sacred space within myself that allows me to interface with the consciousness field of that person. If, within the field there is something I need to experience on behalf of the person, I will begin to sense registers in my physical body that very often mirrors him or her. For instance, if you have a physical problem that is manifesting in the left side of your jaw, I will often feel an echo of it in my right jaw. The energy I feel signals a current or oncoming problem or even restoration, resulting in me experiencing temporary flashes of aches and pains, twinges, numbness, tingling, vibrations and other physical reverberations.
On a deeper level, if the person I meet with is suffering deeply, I begin to feel his/her emotional pain. I can feel other emotions like anger, resentment, or, peace, contentment and others being radiated into the field. Sometimes I even begin to cry as a wave of sorrow comes crashing over me.
This miraculous thing called 'empathy' - the ability to deeply feel an emotional connection between you and Spirit as well as fellow man and other sentient beings - is the mark of the mystic who has gone beyond his mere perceptions of Reality, but has now entered the eternal flow of It. If you truly attain, there is no getting around such feeling; if you don't want to deeply feel emotions, then you'd better get off the mystic path now.
To exercise empathy with another during times of trouble means you are suffering with him - you are present to his anguish - you are listening and heartfully witnessing the other's inner condition. It means you are not denying his suffering, you are not trying to fix or stop it, you are not doctoring it with platitudes, you are not trying to douse the flames to quickly quell the fire and make things better - you are not running from the pain.
Instead, you are sitting with his suffering, acknowledging its overwhelming power and devastating ramifications. As you empathize, the other will know for sure that you hear the extent of his pain, that he is not alone in it. He may see that you genuinely feel for him, helping him believe there are now two hearts carrying the extreme burden of a seemingly unbearable weight. You could offers prayers for strength and healing and simply say, "I am with you."
I watched a woman break down in tears at a transformational workshop and soon a stranger ran to her side to hug her and stop the crying process. While this intention was good, it is important that we be allowed to actually feel our feelings. It may have taken many years for the crying woman to feel safe enough to be vulnerable and release her feelings to be cleansed with tears and internally processed. One possible way of offering such assistance to another would be to give him or her some personal space first, and then approach with the offer, "Would you like some support or a hug?"
I realize that many people are not well equipped to handle another's suffering. I have heard some say, "I have enough problems of my own; I can't listen to someone else's anymore." The message I got was that if I had a grave personal problem, then I could not count on him or her anymore to simply listen. I realize that some people don't want to extend compassion, while others only get personally triggered when being confronted with suffering. Some are at their own personal limit and are only expressing their truth.
I get it, but when did we as a collective become immune to other people's suffering? When did compassion become an inconvenience? When did it become OK to be fair weather friends who only want the sizzle and not the steak of the relationship?
Sia's song, "Breathe Me" epitomizes the human need for empathy. Venturing out from beneath her self-inflicted wounds, she confesses and asks for one thing she knows will heal her - compassionate companionship:
"Help, I have done it again. I have been here many times before. Hurt myself again today. And the worst part is there's no one else to blame.
Be my friend.
Wrap me up.
I am small and needy.
Warm me up and breathe me."
If we are to heal and have close and real relationships and a strong community, we must be willing to enter the heart of empathy and bear witness to one another's pain. I am not saying we should continually enable chronic complainers who have unconsciously made a blood pact with their pain and unknowingly want to remain helpless, but that it aids you to explore any attitude where you find yourself hardened to other people's suffering. If you are becoming hardened, you are experiencing a certain poverty of heart.
If you are deeply suffering, you do not have to do it alone. Surely you can seek out one person or a counselor you trust to confess your trouble, one who has the capacity of heart to witness your condition without judgment, without thinking you are being a horrible, depressing drag.
Perhaps you don't want to confess because you think it would make you look weak. Perhaps the version of your life you display is fictitious, meaning if you told the truth that you are caving under the pressure of your self-inflicted wounds, your cover would be blown. Then they'd really know you are not in control of your life, and they would judge you. But at some point you must trust yourself enough to make your heart vulnerable for it to be healed.
I often ask people who come to see me, "What spiritual things are you doing to help yourself through this passage?" And almost all of them say, "Nothing - I don't have the time."
When did we become so secular, so independent of any spiritual connection, that we think we have to do everything by ourselves and without the help of a higher power?
Surely there is some small thing you can do to reconnect with and acknowledge your own spirit. Pray that you be guided through this dark and chilling night, that you are drawn to the warm beacon of your soul. Sit peacefully in nature and witness the perfect glory unfolding before you and realize that Spirit is omnipresent. Listen to sacred music, sway to create energetic movements in a swirling dance. Chant 'Om', sing Kirtan, write a poem. Read an uplifting passage in a favorite book or scripture. Don't run from your pain by self-medicating with too much wine or another substance. Instead, do something - anything simple - that you think is 'spiritual'. As Mary Oliver suggests in her poem, "Praying,"
"It doesn't have to be the blue iris,
it could be weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just patch
a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak."
I have a small number people in my tribe who are willing to listen to me when needed, to enter into the silence of the unspeakable with me, wherein there is sometimes no solution, no answer, no immediate fix to the conditions of life, where there is perhaps only acceptance of its terms, which is in itself a type of healing. I have discovered, however, that even in the most abysmal of states, there is always Grace, some eventual Mercy, a beautiful, unexpected easement that has eventually lifted me up and comforted me and even cured me.
Please don't forget that Spirit does not leave you comfortless. This amazing grace and mercy is all around you, and it is centered in the home of your mystical heart.
Paula Dianne Upton's book, "Signs of Infinity: Keys to Awaken the Soul" is slated to be released some time in 2015. Stay tuned for more info. / www.pauladianneupton.com