My furry friend and Muse, Coco and I share a special relationship. We go for walks together, watch Master Chef Australia when in season, do Doga and play with the soft toys that she has in her basket. But more importantly, we provide each other with companionship and support nourished by mutual empathetic perception. We understand each other’s world.
A recent example of empathetic perception came up this week when my internet service provider upgraded their server last Sunday rendering connectivity near to impossible for the whole week. In a day and age where internet connectivity is as important as having a telephone connection was 30 years ago, my situation was not a happy one. The customer service kept saying “I feel your pain/situation/” but did not sound as if they did. Coco however, knew otherwise. Whenever I tried my multiple attempts to logon and get a connection, she would sit by my feet and sensing my frustration when I could not get through, bring out different toys and place them at my feet. No demands to play, just demonstrations that she was willing to share her toys to make me feel better.
She stepped into my world and demonstrated empathetic perception, which requires becoming the other person, experiencing their consciousness and the sensations that they experience. In other words, see, feel and experience the world the way they experience it.
We humans can acquire empathetic perception too using visualization – leaving our body and putting aside our experience of our Self, beliefs and our perspectives and try to feel the other person’s existence and perspectives in our Self. See and feel the world the way they experience it.
Today, I am sharing a simple exercise to develop this skill and ability to demonstrate empathetic perception. Once developed, this skill is yours forever and can be used in different situations to help and guide those whom you meet during the course of your journey through life.
An exercise to develop empathetic perception
The best way to do this exercise is to go to a garden or park; surround yourself with nature and other life forms. Select a time and quiet place where you will not be disturbed during your practice. I also suggest drinking a glass of water first to calm your emotions and then, close your eyes and take 3 deep breaths. Visualize a white cleansing smoke entering your body and with each exhalation, it is carrying out any perceptions, beliefs and conditioning that might interfere with your practice of empathetic perception.
Choose a living object to focus on. It could be a tree, a flower, bird (if still enough), squirrel, cat, dog etc. With your eyes open and gazing gently upon the life form, merge with, visualize and become this life form for 3 to 5 minutes. Allow whatever thoughts and impressions arise in your mind to come, but keep your attention on your chosen object; visualizing and becoming it. Do this daily for a week. You might want to also keep a journal to record your experiences.
The results might surprise you if you chose to this exercise with small animals. Contrary to what you might have heard or read before, animals do have thoughts; the Tibetan Buddhists have known this for a long time. Visualizing on the animal their thoughts will become apparent to you. Pet parents often say that they know exactly what their pet kid is thinking without exchanging any verbal communication. The empathetic alignment is so strong in this case, that both parties are able to communicate through thoughts!
With practice, you will be able to use this skill in understanding your fellow human being companions and enriching your relationships with them. In sensitive times, a word or sentence spoken innocently can be taken wrongly. Sometimes a hug works better than telling the person going through their pain that you understand their pain. That is a no-no.
Pain, frustration and grief are very personal, our lives are lived through our perception. Before you tell someone that you ‘feel’ their pain or know what they are going through, make sure that you are actually able to feel and understand the other person’s situation.
I invite you to try this exercise and see how it works. I also invite you to come back and share your experiences with me.
Written by: Vatsala Shukla
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