By Carol C. (An EASE Member)
I wanted to try and convey my thoughts about how mindfulness and empathy are interconnected. Empathy is the foundation of any relationship. Without empathy we could never share the planet with other humans. If there is no empathy in a relationship there can be no trust. If you have ever been in a relationship without empathy you know what it feels like to realize that the other person in the relationship does not wish to understand you. You can no longer trust that they wish the best for you.
Being empathetic will open your eyes and it will become clear to you how we are all connected to one another, it opens your eyes to the suffering of others and it makes you a compassionate person. Actively and mindfully cultivating the quality of empathy will completely change the way you relate to others.
Empathy in Practice
Rather than getting into a confrontation, think about how much better the outcome of a situation will be if you apply empathy and compassion. Imagine you are tired at the end of the day and all you want to do is sit quietly, relax and unwind, but your partner is unhappy with their day and wants to talk?
Do this: take a deep breath, relax and focus all your attention on what the other person is saying, show that you are only interested in what they are experiencing in how they feel, think of how much this person means to you, remember why you love this person. Remember that you are separate and that while you can empathize with the other person, you are emotionally centered, you do not need to take on their pain and their suffering is not your suffering. You are there to just listen and care, that’s what they want from you.
Think about what you are doing, how it makes you feel. You will notice that empathizing creates a welling up of emotions, opening your mind and truly connecting with the other person. Being able to see things through another person’s eyes is a wonderful skill to have, so many conflicts will be avoided if there is more compassion in the world.
Empathy Creates a Loving Response
If you respond with empathy to people the world suddenly becomes a gentler, kinder place. Conflict becomes mostly unnecessary because when you understand another person’s point of view, you can’t be angry. Empathizing does not mean you should in any way subvert your feelings, you can understand and still keep your integrity. It is much easier to convey your feelings to someone if you are open to their feelings.
The more emphasis you place on feeling compassion, the easier it becomes, until it becomes a default response.