As I write this, I’m sitting in the Admiral’s Club of American Airlines, waiting for a flight to California. I’m flying business class today, on miles, and I’m struck by the difference between the experience I’m having right now—complimentary coffee and food and a comfortable place to sit—compared to what it’s like when I fly economy. What this brings into my awareness is how easy it could be to overlook the quality of life being lived by people who don’t have the economic privilege I do. I find myself wondering how I would cultivate a deepened empathic awareness of people in need if my everyday life were regularly as generous and comfortable as the situation I’m in at the moment.
I remember reading some recent research that suggested that the more money people have the lower their scores on tests of empathy. Sitting here this morning, I can understand how that could happen. So, the question I have deals with any and all areas of privilege, be that economic privilege, racial privilege, gender privilege, ethnic privilege, religious privilege, or any other kind of privilege that comes automatically to certain classes of people. How do we expand our awareness to include those who don’t have access to whatever kinds of privilege we may take for granted and not even recognize as privilege? Read More “713th Week: Cultivating Empathy”
Listening to an episode of On Being on NPR this morning, I was inspired and moved by Krista Tippett’s guests, two poets – one a Muslim man, Interfaith Visionary Eboo Patel, and the other, former U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, who is also a biracial woman. Read More “Week 649:Orienting to Empathy”
Here’s our November meditation. If you’d rather do this meditation with images, we’ve also included our YouTube version…
Here’s the YouTube version:
As I sit to write this week’s practice, I find myself orienting to some recent research that was brought to my attention. At a time when we need increased empathy for all life forms, for all our kin and for the earth itself, it seems that there is a new trend. The report shows that people in the United States, where the research was conducted, have shifted in their relationship to empathy. Whereas people used to feel empathy in general, it now seems that it is becoming normalized not to care about what happens to people who are outside a person’s immediate sphere of relations. It seems that anyone outside the “tribe” doesn’t deserve empathy. Instead, people tend to blame the victim instead of opening their hearts to the suffering of people who are different—be they different because of ethnicity or different because of their beliefs or lifestyle.
We can see reflected in the state of our planet’s environmental destruction, with the extinction of species caused by human activity, and with the escalating levels of conflict between so many groups of people all around the planet that we need a collective awakening to the cost of being empathically disconnected from one another.
Because of this new trend toward less empathy, it feels more important than ever to engage practices that cultivate empathy and compassion not only for the people we know, but for all life—to make empathy a true practice of the heart.Read More “751st Week: Cultivating Empathy”
Sitting in Central Park early in the morning, I notice the gift of being in the presence of the silence of trees. As I look at patterns of light and shadow playing on their trunks and branches, and on the ground around them, something in me settles even more. The silence, steadiness, and stillness of the trees Read More “Week 642: Finding Stillness”