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Empathy

Posted by Roberta Grimes • May 30, 2020 • 40 Comments
Book News, The Teachings of Jesus, Thomas Jefferson

The road is long, with many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where, who knows when.
But I’m strong, strong enough to carry him.
He ain’t heavy. He’s my brother.
– Bobby Scott (1937-1990) & Bob Russell (1914-1970), from “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” (1969)

If people were nothing more than different aspects of one group consciousness, then for a significant number of us to work at raising our consciousness vibrations would be pretty much all it would take for us to start to bring the kingdom of God on earth. But in fact, each of us is a complex individual who is living as a limited aspect of a much greater eternal Mind, and we are strongly influenced by the restrictions of these material bodies. While we are on earth, we have a lot going on! That being the case, there are concepts beyond the overarching goals of gratitude, forgiveness, and love that we will need to better understand if we hope to make optimum spiritual progress in this lifetime, and if we ever hope to much improve the world. This is the first of four reflections on topics that are likely at first to seem less than crucial. Please bear with me on this. We have a world to save!

We all think we know what love is. We love our life-partners. Our children. Our friends. Our pets. We imagine that just spreading those happy feelings to others beyond our personal circle must be what Jesus means when He tells us we must love our neighbors as ourselves (MT 19:19). We assume that once we have sufficiently raised our personal consciousness vibrations, we will just naturally love everyone! Sadly, though, it is not that simple.

What we refer to as love is actually many different warm emotions. In English, and also in the Aramaic that Jesus spoke, there is just one word for love; but ancient Greek is the language into which the words of Jesus were first translated, and there we find six handy words for love:

  • Philautia means love for oneself.
  • Pragma means longstanding love.
  • Eros means sexual or romantic love.
  • Philia means deep and close friendship.
  • Ludus means light and playful affinity.
  • Agape means genuine universal love.

The kind of love that Jesus wants us to cultivate is, of course, agape; and this sort of love for everyone really doesn’t just come naturally. How can we love everyone on earth when there are more than seven billion of us and we will meet no more than maybe a few thousand people in our entire lives? To love everyone, we will need to find ways to come to see all the billions of people that we will never lay eyes on as very much like the ones that we love, and also much like ourselves. If we think we can just spontaneously feel real love for strangers who look and act peculiar to us and speak an unfamiliar language, then we are kidding ourselves.

What we are being called to discover in everyone on earth is our innate shared humanity. So loving our neighbors requires that we cultivate empathy, which is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Empathy is different from compassion. We all can feel compassion for someone who is suffering, but we can feel real empathy only for those that we perceive to be pretty much like ourselves. Among other things, empathy requires that we realize and accept the fact that other people might reasonably see things differently than we do.

My husband of forty-seven years has Asperger Syndrome (we’ll refer to it here as “AS”). AS is on the autism spectrum, but many who have it are very high-functioning and even brilliant people. If you met my love, you would just find him to be a bit on the shy side. But most AS people share one confounding trait: they are unable to empathize with others. I learned this early in my marriage, when I might be crying and raging at him while he looked at me with bewildered concern. It was a turning point when I realized that if something was not important to him he was unable to imagine why it bothered me. Having AS is not the only reason why someone might find it hard to empathize, but it is a useful reminder of the fact that there are good reasons why we cannot expect people whose minds are influenced by being in material bodies to nevertheless rise above the limitations of those bodies and conceive a universal love for humankind. Another high-functioning AS person was apparently Thomas Jefferson. The trait is shed when we leave our bodies, so Thomas is not an AS person now; and in fact, he can read people’s motivations a great deal better than I can. But I think it was Jefferson’s inability to imagine living with a slave’s limitations that made him unable despite much effort to come up with a workable emancipation plan.

I have spent the past decade trying to raise my personal consciousness vibration away from fear and toward more perfect love using the Gospel teachings of Jesus. Within a few months I made three discoveries:

  • Completely forgiving is easiest if you teach yourself never to be bothered in the first place. I came to call it prevenient forgiveness. Suffering a wrong, becoming upset about it, then wrestling down our irritation and forcing ourselves to completely forgive it is much too difficult.
  • The process of learning prevenient forgiveness turns out to be surprisingly mechanical. Once you have taught your lazy mind never to see anything as a threat, you will no longer suffer any genuine anger, not even over awful life-changing events.
  • As your mind becomes more peaceful, your warmth toward others begins to rise. Within three months of my first beginning an active prevenient forgiveness practice, I realized I was developing an incipient tenderness toward strangers on the street that was easy to begin to build into a dawning universal love. Learning to love seven billion people is a whole lot easier once we have cleared our minds of the tendency to cultivate all the petty angers that we ourselves have taught our minds to breed!

 It turns out that for most of us there is a warm fellow-feeling already there, beneath all our ego-based and self-programmed annoyance triggers. When Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves, He is urging us to uncover and resume what is in fact a strong natural affinity for other people. And our need to pursue the rediscovery of that affinity is one reason why Jesus requires us to forgive the wrongs that we suffer even seventy times seven times (MT 18:22), no matter what others might do to us. As we work at closely following the teachings of Jesus, we come more and more to see the practical sense of those teachings, and how powerful they are! But we still must reckon with the eccentricities of these material bodies. And a man who can perplexedly watch the woman he loves weep with rage because what bothers her wouldn’t bother him is not someone who can naturally empathize. A man who hated the system of slavery and loved the slaves who were his family members, but who nevertheless was unable to see that the dullness and submissiveness of slaves did not reflect who they actually were had no way to imagine a path to emancipation that would not end in racial strife.

So, are we at an impasse here? If cultivating a strong sense of empathy is essential to our learning to love our neighbors as ourselves, and if for some people a lack of empathy is as disabling a trait as a missing limb, do we now need to sadly report to Jesus that His ambitions for us exceed humanity’s grasp? And even some people not born with traits on the autism spectrum might have trouble feeling an appropriate level of empathy. They might have suffered childhood abuse, or else they might be sociopathic. What now?

Our first task, of course, is to accept the fact that when it comes to our universal need to grow spiritually on an individual level, some people are going to find it harder than others. Yet this is a contest that all of us are going to have to win together, or humankind as a species will fatally fail! Of course, the fact that all our minds are part of one Mind much improves our odds because it means that even a small minority who are very good at skills like empathy can carry the rest of us a lot of the way. And apparently we can come to better understand how to be empathetic. Some are even sure that empathy is a skill that can be taught.

A few more of these complications are probably awaiting us as we work together to master and use the keys to rapid spiritual growth, which means three things:

  • We must redouble our own efforts to grow spiritually so we can help to raise humanity’s consciousness vibrations for those who find their individual growth more difficult to achieve;
  • We must keep looking for obstacles that might spiritually trip up some of us; and
  • We must never forget that there is no one who is unworthy of our love.

People with spiritual impairments that are related to their material bodies still are capable of spiritual growth. We just might need to help them a bit. And we can do that! Humanity is all one Mind, so we can carry those who need our help over their own particular rough spots. Jesus assures us that we can bring the kingdom of God on earth. He believes in us. So we can do this! And then for every one of us there will be only love, forevermore.    

It’s a long, long road, from which there is no return.
While we’re on the way to there, why not share?
And the load doesn’t weigh me down at all!
He ain’t heavy. He’s my brother.
– Bobby Scott (1937-1990) & Bob Russell (1914-1970), from “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” (1969)

Roberta Grimes

Roberta Grimes is an internationally recognized expert on death and the afterlife. Learn More

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40 thoughts on “Empathy

  1. “Once you have taught your lazy mind never to see anything as a threat..” I am curious as to what your process was to teach your lazy mind never to see anything as a threat?

    1. Dear John, I thought at first that I should just ask you to email me through this website and I would send you a copy of The Fun of Growing Forever, but I’m sure there are others who haven’t read the book or the blog posts that explain prevenient forgiveness so I’ll give you a quick summary here.

      When we come into these material bodies, we leave an estimated sixty percent or more of our eternal minds behind and strip down to just the parts designed for rapid learning. The rest is what we call our subconscious mind, although it is really a superconscious mind; but either way, our awareness cannot access it. The part of our mind that we can access is lazy – it finds the easiest path and takes it; it’s habit-bound – or you would have to re-think how to open a door every time you encounter one; and it is adaptable – so if we rearrange things, it takes any new and easier path and makes that its new habit. These three characteristics of our minds are why we can grow spiritually on earth at such a rapid rate!

      Babies are not born to be frightened or angry. Apparently their only innate fear is of loud noises, and their only needs are for comfort and sustenance. So every irritation, every anger that you ever experience is one that your ego has taught your mind is important (there is a blog post or two on what the ego is, and how you can subdue and ultimately defeat it). You can see this ego-driven rage especially while driving. I was once a lethal driver with a hair-trigger temper! It shows up in other ways, too. Any time you feel a spark of outrage, that is just your mind giving back to you the fact that you have taught it that something is a threat and that you want your mind to react to it with fear-based rage.

      To remove these negative reactions, all you have to do is begin today to make it more trouble for your mind to feel anger than it is for your mind to ignore whatever you have previously taught it should be upsetting. Whenever something happens or is about to happen that would annoy you (“That damn kid scratched the dining room table!” “My wife is making us late again!”), you simply use sweeps of your arms to gather it all up into a ball – the people, too, including yourself – and form it down tight with both hands. The more time you take to do this and the more elaborate you make the process, the quicker your mind will break the habit. Then you say aloud, “I love you! I bless you! I forgive! And I release!” and as you say it, you push that ball away with both hands. Make a fuss about doing it! If you don’t feel okay yet, then do it over again. I had to do it two or three times in the beginning. It’s easier if you can get your ego out of the way, but just doing this and never allowing anger (or even annoyance) to get the better of you again will do a lot to discipline your ego.

      It’s best if you can give yourself a month to six weeks without obvious annoyances – on vacation, during COVID – because that makes it a little easier for your mind to adapt. And you can’t omit any source of anger, no matter how justified your rage about that one thing might seem to you!

      In my case, it took about six weeks. After the first two or three, I was noticing that maybe I needed to form that ball just once or twice a day. Then finally one day I had to brake when someone cut me off on a busy highway, and while once that would have enraged me, now I braked but barely noticed it. It was as if every outside irritation had been a lever that people could fiddle with and make me insane with range, and now all those levers had been disconnected on the inside: bad things still happened, but now they had no effect on me at all!

      And John, this effect has been permanent. It has been nearly a decade since I have needed to form a forgiveness ball, or even felt any irritation whatsoever. Anger is so foreign to me now that I have trouble even recalling the emotion.

      1. I think this worked out for you, Roberta, because you became aware of it. I know people exactly like this who get angry and enraged over minor annoyances, and they never stop to think how silly it is. In fact, they feel perfectly justified in their anger over someone taking their parking space or cutting them off in traffic etc. Once you become aware of overreacting to it, you see it in a different way, but they don’t do that. They are sure that what they feel is justified. This is, of course, their ego talking.

        1. Dear Lola, you are right in saying that some people simply have no idea how much their clinging to negative emotions in their personal lives is damaging to them, to their families, and to the world.

          But please just pause and think about this! It is possible to permanently re-set your mind so you never will suffer anger again! Think about that!! A simple exercise can re-wire your mind so you always will feel peaceful, forevermore. Who before now knew that was even possible??

          1. Yes, there is no doubt that people can re-wire their minds, but they have to let go of their ego first and admit that they overreact.

        1. John, Roberta’s books come highly recommended, and the book in which she describes this one is very easy to read and very good. At the risk of sounding like a hired influencer, I still refer to that book (which, by the way, I read before I even knew Roberta personally 🙂 ).

      2. Hello. Reading your description of forgiveness reminds me of Hale Dwoskin’s Sedona Method, which I have had some success with recently. It gets marketed as a way to get ahead in business, but it was developed by Lester Levenson, who used it more as a spiritual technique. Would you consider forgiveness and releasing to be similar, or compatible?

        1. Dear Jason, this is a great question! Forgiveness and release may not be identical, but they are as close to identical as two concepts can be. You cannot forgive without releasing; and unless you can finally forgive, then actually releasing anything is impossible.

  2. Roberta
    Another excellent article and I like your explanation of various emotions. For a long time a good explanation concerning Love just didn’t seem to fit the bill; I guess because there happens to be different types of love. One explanation, for myself, that fit the bill was for many situations I equated Love with Allowing. And in accepting this explanation, for me, it redefined my role as a human being from being critical of another point of view, actions, etc to accepting we are all different and at different places on our path of life.
    Allowing made it easy to offer service and support if desired. It allowed me to be in a support role.
    Thanks Roberta….

    1. Dear Skip, it’s good that you found a way to think about agape love in terms of service and in terms of “allowing,” which I assume means not judging the personal decisions and actions of others. That’s a start! But ultimately, what drives consciousness is emotion. It is actual love, the warm feelings that all of us know and understand as love.

      It’s ironic, isn’t it, that materialists consider emotions to be just minimal artifacts of our mortal meat-brains, when instead the energy that is emotion is the literal energy that drives this universe!

  3. Thanks Roberta, what an excellent article.
    Years ago when I entered
    Nursing, the Dean told us
    the definition of empathy.
    She told us that if empathy
    did not resonate with us
    we should think about not going on in nursing.
    She was an excellent educator and I remember her fondly these many years later.

    1. Dear Carol, I’m sure it is especially true that those in the caring professions need to be able to empathize! And it’s good that empathy can be taught and can be cultivated, since it turns out to be more of a talent than a virtue. Those who find it harder to empathize still can be very good and loving people, but they simply lack the natural ability to see the world from someone else’s perspective.

  4. Dear Roberta.

    I am an empath and easily cry with total strangers all over the world, in their times of need.
    I also happily support all sorts of charities.

    But I swear at politicians and world leaders. I do have a feeling that I should not. But I cannot refrain from reading the news!
    How can I possibly love these b……..when they are ruining other people’s lives quite happily in the name of helping their own countries? I support Amnesty international and medicine sans frontiers and other organisations trying their best. But it seems so hopeless with leaders who are so selfish. Do they really enter politics to do good? Then change as the job becomes too difficult?

    Can you love politicians?

    Gerda.

    1. Dear Gerda, the only cure for what is wrong with politicians is the same cure for what is wrong with all other people: they need to raise their consciousness vibrations away from fear (which is the source of their selfishness) and toward love.

      The single biggest mistake that human beings have made throughout history has been our assumption that only knowing what is right is enough to make us do what is right. For example, I have been reading article after article of late that claims that Jesus was a socialist. When nothing could be further from the truth! He told us that once we have sufficiently raised our personal consciousness vibrations by using His teachings, we will be raising the vibrations of all of humankind enough to bring the kingdom of God on earth. When people are all vibrating at that level, we will naturally live in the peaceful and equal harmony sought by socialists! But until then, socialism gets you Venezuela. Russian gulags. Cuba. China. Every time. And until then, the only protection any of us has is leaders who are willing to protect for us a space on the planet where we can live in relative freedom from fear. It’s not good, Gerda! But it’s the truth.

  5. Dearest Roberta,
    This week’s blog is wonderful! You have shown us how important empathy is in growing spiritually. I find myself rereading this blog and letting the truth of it sink into my consciousness. I believe you when you say that it is emotion that drives our consciousness; principally love that powers the ongoing Creation that we each are part of. I thank you and Thomas for this blog entry.

    And isn’t it timely? Looking at how much the whole world could use empathy right now this topic is doubly compelling. Imagine how much would change were we to feel something of what the ‘other’ is feeling. Imagine how we would feel if the ‘other’ (those we regard as different or as opponents) tried to understand how we are feeling.

    I long for the day when ‘deep listening’ and empathy would heal the world.

    1. Oh dear Efrem, thank you for suggesting this topic! When you first said it, I thought it sounded dry as toast (Sorry!). But then within a few hours Thomas had turned me around and shown me that in fact there are a few concepts like this one that are crucial! And he had given me three more right off the bat, and then a few other topics that follow on those. Now he has filled our dance card for the next two months, and I think all of it flows from your empathy suggestion! Perhaps it was he who whispered it in your ear?

      And yes, I agree this topic is immensely timely. Over and over, we have been made to see that on a domestic level, helping people to better understand one another’s point of view is the key to building a mutually productive harmony among us all.

  6. Dear Roberta again.

    I was just thinking in regard to Aspergers husbands – there might be a great lot of them out there, as it seems very few men can stand to see women cry, as they don’t know what to do about it. They would rather run a mile!

    On the other hand I have known some who told me that their wives were nurses and made it sound like they had won the lottery!

    Is it really a matter of different brains? Women wanting to be rescued while men try to find solutions? Could be Aspergers too, of course.
    But we should not generalise too much, there are all sorts of combinations.

    Gerda.

    1. Dear Gerda, I do think there is an aspect to this of the fact that men and women are somewhat differently wired. But it’s a spectrum, isn’t it? Some men are naturally more female in their wiring, and vice-versa. Women with Asperger’s will think and behave more as men with it do.

      Actually, Asperger Syndrome and some other mild forms of autism can be shown to be quite useful to society. Maybe they aren’t very social, but these people’s usual combination of high intelligence, a tendency to obsess, and the ability to deeply concentrate for long periods has brought humankind some powerful advances! People like Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, and many others are thought to be on the spectrum. And the world would be a lot poorer without them.

  7. Dear Roberta. What you say this week makes me think of how empathy has been under attack, at least in our western civilization, for millennia by a male dominated, left brained, patriarchal system, and the feminine, the Goddess, whatever you want to call it, right along with it. From vengeful sky gods, to the torture and burning of so-called heretics, to the wars and holocausts of the 20th century, as well as the nihilistic dogmas of materialist science and religious terrorist philosophies that justify every barbarity. From childhood, we men especially have our empathy yanked and beaten down from many directions. I’ve been feeling lately that we need to get out of our heads and into our hearts, or better yet to find the proper balance between head and heart, masculine and feminine, left brain/right brain. From that place of balance we can more easily turn up our love light, as well as understand and follow the Way that Jesus came to teach. From what I can gather, Jesus had many female followers, some quite prominent, but they have been mostly erased from history. Too bad they didn’t have more of a voice.

    1. Dear Scott, this is beautifully done, and it’s such an important point! Western societies require of us a callous toughness that is the opposite of love, and it is foreign to so many; and the fact that less toughness is expected of women is not a reprieve for those of us of the female persuasion, when the husbands, sons, and friends that we love must be caught up in and judged by the standards of all this society-mandated tough-guy nonsense.

      Jesus models what a modern male should be. He is firm and strong, calm and loving, not afraid of anyone but at the same time preaching and demonstrating turning the other cheek to those who are aggressive. If every one of us followed His example, we would soon be living in a much better world!

  8. Hi Roberta,
    I love this post.
    Speaking of road rage or just road anger, I have had my share in the past. It came forward when I was feeling out of control of something in my life. I rarely have any anger now, and I have learned to just let go of such trifle inconveniences. Sometimes, I say to myself they must be having a bad day, or they didn’t make that move intentionally, and it isn’t personal.
    In light of recent events in the US, I have seen on my social media many thoughts from my friends and family. Few have real empathy for Black Americans. They see the event as one policeman and one man. I however having grew up just this side of the civil rights movement, see such hypocrisy and 50 years later, why wouldn’t many of these people just be overwhelmed with anger and outrage. The institutional racism is something that the average white American still doesn’t understand.
    Back to your blog, when you speak of heaven on earth, I know that you are speaking on vibration level here being raised to the point the separation of the earthly sphere and the spiritual sphere. Can you speak to the importance of this? I feel overwhelmed that it can ever happen with humans, and what happens if it doesn’t? Also, how would we know if it were getting closer?

    1. Hello. It is unfortunate you haven’t received a response yet, so I will say a few words. 🙂
      I do a technique called releasing taught as the Sedona Method by Hale Dwoskin, which has similarities to the forgiveness practice Roberta Grimes teaches. I work in a trauma hospital, so the ability to release stress is helpful for my job.
      There have been protests and riots both where I work and where I live. And, if anyone gets injured, they will often come to our hospital. Speaking of which, I have noticed something concerning COVID-19 at our hospital. We are not only a trauma hospital, we are a community hospital, meaning if you have no insurance, you will come to us. So we get a lot of homeless and low income people, a lot of the Hispanic and African-American population. Roberta Grimes spoke about the at-risk population in nursing homes, but I am also noticing the Hispanic and African-American communities, both at our hospital and statistically, are catching this disease at higher percentages than the rest of the population. I do x-rays for a living, and I notice the populations in our ICU. I worry that reopening our societies too soon will put these at-risk populations in harm’s way. Roberta Grimes read a Wall Street Journal article saying the overall number of deaths is lower than expected, but I am still inclined to disagree with those, in the media and elsewhere, who are pushing for immediate reopening everywhere, to the point where those areas still waiting for the medical data to support reopening are considered “fearmongerers”.
      Roberta Grimes co-authored a book about the problem of institutionalized racism, and gives a long-term but potentially successful strategy for education of African-American children. It might be worth a look.
      About the question of “heaven on earth” keep a tiny bit of skepticism on using practice to raise another person’s vibration. I also do Transcendental Meditation, and they talk about the Maharishi Effect. They did studies where a population went to a city like New York and started meditating. They noticed reduced crime rates in those cities. I say keep a grain of salt about this, because their own studies show when they left, the crime rates went right back up again.
      Hope this helps.🙂

      1. Thanks Jason. I appreciate your perspective and can see where working in the sort of field you do, that some sort of stress release would be of utmost importance. From today’s perspective, I sense perhaps the US civil unrest can evolve into something positive. Thanks again.

      2. Oh dear Jason, thank you for stepping in and answering Timothy so well when I was buried in work! Your answer is probably better than mine 😉

    2. Dear Timothy, oh my goodness, such a lot to digest in just a few lines! Let’s see if I can make some sense of answering you:

      1) My book, The Fun of Living Together, addresses why we still have racial disparities and how we might solve them in one generation. If you would like to read it, email me and I will send you a PDF.

      2) And where the raising of our consciousness vibration levels is concerned, it is indeed very important! It is also surprisingly easy to do on the individual level; and as more and more of us do it, the level of all humankind will begin to rise. Thomas tells me that it must happen if humanity is to survive; and while he was skeptical about our chances a few years ago, he now seems confident that it will happen. So that is progress!!

  9. Thanks for this entry, Roberta. As you know, I was really excited to see it as the week’s topic. I think it, or subtopics related to it, could potentially drive conversation for many entries to come. In my own life, I know people — close friends, coworkers, mere acquaintances and family members — who have Asperger’s Syndrome or Tourette’s Syndrome (as misunderstood as AS) or some other element of the experience perceived as incarnation that caused them to struggle through school, or in their jobs, or wherever. Most of them are helpful insightful people despite their “disabilities.”

    I have a coworker at the college who is director of disabilities services (for students) who likes to point out that at some point in each of our lives, we are in a situation where we are disabled compared to the circumstances. Maybe something as simple as being left handed, or wearing glasses that aren’t adequate for reading the fine print on an aspirin bottle.

    I think it might be time to change our thinking on the “spectrum.” In the great Mind of God, there is no spectrum to be on; we all ARE the spectrum.

    1. Yep! Dear Mike, you make some wonderful points. I’m left-handed, and the wife of a man with AS with whom I have two adult children with AS. I think that just about everyone has some oddity or other! And my AS family members are delightful, bright and kind, just perhaps a bit eccentric in what are actually truly delightful ways. They bring me so much joy every day!

  10. Dearest Roberta,
    Thank you for your kind response to me. I was certainly ‘nudged’ to suggest increased empathy as an important positive to emerge from Covid-19 times. Hopefully I am beginning to be as ‘connected’ as you suggest we can be. I do try to listen deeply and clearly, with some degree of inner silence, for true inspiration to emerge. ❣️

    On the subject of ‘deep listening’ I’d like to share what I was taught by those who care for people with chronic and terminal illness and/or life crisis. I’ve learned much from such heartfelt, nurturing souls.

    Deep listening is the sister of empathy, enabling empathic understanding to grow.
    When we listen one-to-one, with ‘the ear of the heart’ as the Benedictines say, we come close to the soul of the person speaking to us.

    First, there needs to be honesty and a sincere desire to really, really hear what is being said. Trust of course, has to be established before the speaker begins to open their heart to the listener. There is a kind of ‘holding space’ that the deep listener must create, involving a protected time in which the unburdening of the heart can take place. (It often takes a while and much association before someone is able to really speak of difficult things that leave them vulnerable.)

    Then the listener must meet the speaker soul-to-soul, with a sense of grounded humility, and a knowing that in the fullness of Spirit we are each equally valuable and created of the same essence. Any (more) external differences such as economic level, status, race, culture, nationality, beliefs, gender, sexuality, dis/ability or lifestyle etc… are set aside in this holding space of sacred listening.

    Once deep listening takes place, the listener puts aside all judgement and assumptions. They are receptive and ‘empty’, allowing the speaker to unburden their heart, however painful or difficult that this may be. The clearest listeners will not tell the speaker what to do, or promote their own ideas. Only the transfer of what is in the Speaker’s heart takes place. Understanding and compassion for the speaker begins to emerge. Then empathy flows and the immediate process is complete.

    Deep listening takes time and often involves regular conversation. I don’t know exactly what happens Roberta, but something on the inside changes. The speaker who opens up the unheard within, feels relieved, valued and even honored. Things that were too hard to resolve over many years start being resolved. Suffering can be let go. Unforgiveness starts to dissolve and a new phase of hope begins.

    And for the deep listener? Well they get a sense of shared humanity; a deepening understanding of what it means to be human. At a soul level, they feel love and linkage; empathy happens. This may even radically change the way they view life. They may realize what joins us is far more enduring and profound than what we believe separates us.

    What if empathy and deep listening were taught to kids, teens and adults all over the world? I wonder how this would change how we deal with the conflicts that we see today? 👍🙏🏼🌅

    1. Dear Efrem, allow me to add that I recently heard someone use the expression, “eavesdropping on the mind of God.” I don’t really know what this means, but I like the sound of it! Somehow I feel it’s relevant to what you say here.

      1. Dear Mike,
        I’m glad this kind of deep listening empathy resonates with you. Thanks for your kind words.

        I forgot to mention that it is often said by deep listeners that it begins in silence, it is held by the Great Silence and it ends in silence. You once said that silence is the language of God and anything else is poor translation.
        🕊🌅🙏🏼

        1. I still think so, Efrem! It’s not my original observation but the mystic poet Rumi. It’s true, and sitting naturally in silence is still one of the powerful ways for people to say “I love you.”

    2. Dear Efrem, your suggestions about deep listening and about our need to teach deep listening are beautiful! Even if not everyone can do it on a therapy level, for all of us to learn the value of it and learn to focus when we are spoken to and to value the fact that someone is speaking to us and give some thought to what is being said would be so valuable as we try to develop our sense of empathy with all of humankind. So well said!

  11. Efrem –
    As always – I thank you for your enlightening words. It just occurred to me that to improve our empathy skills, we need to circle back and keep our own ego in check. Something I have to do often on my spiritual journey. When we judge or criticize our self, it becomes the first barrier to being able to feel empathy for another. Thanks and Good Day.

    1. Dear Timothy,
      I reckon that you are right. I can see why self judgment and self criticism would indeed be a barrier to feeling empathy for another person. If we don’t feel okay with ourselves, if we don’t love or even like who we are, how can we reach out to another? How are we able to enact love in empathy for someone else? That’s a really important point!

      And I’ve heard one deep listener say when he enters a conversation, he imagines putting his ego on the floor next to his chair. This allows him to be ‘empty’ while listening; stopping his ego getting involved.
      Cool mind trick I think.. 😎🕊🌅

    2. Dear Timothy, we all find as we work to grow spiritually that we have to keep checking our ego. And actually the very effort of reining it in seems to make it easier to keep reining it in, and it seems to help to make our spiritual growth easier.

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