Simply pay attention!
The English word empathy originally was coined to translate a German word that described the feelings experienced whilst seriously regarding works of art.
Art is art because the artist is not only representing something (and sometimes not even that in non-representational forms of art) but is also communicating, or possibly channeling, some larger truth. When we perceive something, we feel changed in some (good) way.
Empathy has seemingly lost this original meaning and it is now more commonly associated with “being able to see the world as another sees it”, in a more practical sense.
I much prefer the original meaning that is grounded in the use of sustained attention to notice the new and the different and, if we persist and have a little luck, we suddenly get - in terms of art - what the artist is trying to communicate and we experience an internal shift, a sudden sense of knowing something that we did not know before.
When we pay attention to people in the same way (and in a very real sense we are all works of art!) we can feel a greater sense of connection and a feeling that our own being has shifted just as it might with an artwork. We have learnt something from simply being in this other person’s presence – and paying attention to them.
Yet, for so much of our day we simply engage in transactions or we look for what is familiar in people, not what is new or different, or emerging.
One of the joys of teaching is seeing another person grow – we notice that difference – and it can have a profound effect on us.
Let’s try and see all the little differences too.
It is a way to re-balance how we pay attention, a means for us to learn more deeply ourselves and a way to inspire and influence others.
John Corrigan is an expert in helping individuals to bring their whole of mind to their daily life and increase their effectiveness and the effectiveness of those around them. This expertise scales from the individual to the team to the organisation. At the core of this work is the practice of encounter. Earlier blogs can be found here.
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