And for those who prefer a visual, here is a video accompaniment:
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”
So many of us have been taught that the nature of nature is “survival of the fittest”, suggesting that competition is the underlying principle of evolution. Elisabet Sahtouris, an evolutionary biologist, points out that the early stages of a species development involves competition, and that the mature stage is characterized by cooperation and collaboration within and between species. Agustín Fuentes, a biological and evolutionary anthropologist also points out the many moments of collaboration and cooperation in our human species, moments that arise spontaneously and seemingly without thought countless times each day.
There’s no question that we humans can be cruel and injurious to one another, and to other species, and I don’t in any way mean for us to ignore those realities. As I listened to Elisabet recently in an interview, though, I thought about how important it is to support the movement toward maturity in our species, and also pay attention to the natural expressions of compassionate collaboration among our kind, not only to each other but to other species, as well.
I’ve mentioned many times that I start the day watching or listening to something that inspires me. That’s where I again encountered Elisabet and her wonderful wisdom. Because of this commitment to finding inspiring resources, I’m more able to live with my heart open and free of hatred and fear—well, not overwhelmed by fear or carried away by outrage, anyway—and to allow my heart to be a major source of information and understanding. I’ve written any number of times about the importance of orienting to heart intelligence, which has a different take on things than does our brain intelligence. In fact, I’ve posted as a past practice a process of shifting into heart intelligence when pondering a problem or exploring a situation, then comparing what your heart says to what your head said. It’s a very useful practice!Read More “818th Week: The Prevalence of Compassionate Action”
For those who prefer images with the audio meditation, here’s the link to the YouTube version…
In my years of teaching about trauma resolution, I’ve drawn on something one of my dear friends and teachers, Diane Heller, taught me many years ago. It was the distinction between a power model that encompasses only two options—power over or overpowered—and a mutual empowerment model that says one person’s power in no way diminishes the power of anyone else. Since learning about this, I have done my best to interact with others from a mutual empowerment model.
I’ve also spent many years helping psychotherapy clients notice how comparing themselves to others almost always leads to suffering, as does the habit of taking things personally. Read More “677th Week: Nurturing Mutual Empowerment”
Sitting in Central Park the other morning, I did my usual thing of being there from the perspective of my heart intelligence and perception. I find that whenever I shift into my heart space as the center from which I perceive and interpret my world, I inevitably experience a deeper sense of connection, relatedness, oneness, and care for whatever I may encounter along the way. I have written many times about the importance of cultivating heart awareness, and of the benefits of doing practices such as HeartMath’s Inner Balance and the Buddhist heart-centered practice of Tonglen. The older I get, and the more involved I become with these kinds of practices, the more I value the benefits of shifting from head to heart perception. Read More “679th Week: Shifting into Your Heart’s Perspective”
I’ve written many times about the importance of teaching ourselves to have access to the inherent intelligence and perception of the heart. The heart brain automatically orients to a sense of connection and it is deeply enriching to move through daily life from this perspective. That said, when one seeks to be in the world with an open heart, it is also possible to more keenly feel the pain and suffering of others, be they other humans, other species, our planet, Gaia, a living being.
I have long had, and constantly recommend, a practice of starting the day taking in something inspiring, rather than beginning the day watching or listening to the news. In the current political and social climate, I notice that my heart needs to fill up with even more inspiring stories of people helping people, people working to protect the environment, people doing acts that embody kindness, empathy, and awareness of the suffering of others. The lack of empathy in our current leadership in the United States is a powerful source of anguish, and one of the ways I’m able to keep my heart open and my awareness willing to take in what is happening to us collectively is to offer myself these daily moments of inspiration and good news. I remind myself regularly that, within a context of wholeness, there is always good happening if I will take the time to look for it. Read More “736th Week: Sources of Inspiration and Information”