Sunday, December 16, 2018

Empathy and Being Moved with Compassion

I often spend late evenings in the gym working out, alone, reflecting on life while music or youtube videos play through my headphones.  Yesterday, the following segment below played.  I don't know who it's by, I just know it is from a speech on depression, a particular demon I often find myself struggling with.  The imagery spoke loudly to me.   

Picture yourself in an open area where there are no bodies and no shelter and there is a storm above you. The storm represents the situations in your life. you don’t tell anybody what you’re going through because first of all they wouldn’t understand and second of all they can’t even help you anyways. You’re in this storm and you’re down on your knees, cold and you’re weak and you feel like this is the end.What kind of purpose do we have to live? Are you just here to live to die? I mean is there not a purpose for me? Is there not a purpose in life? 
Are you not still here?
There are some things in life that are out of your control, that you can’t change and you’ve got to live with. The choice that we have though is to either give up or keep on going.And it’s not the end until you’ve given up.You are still here. And just the fact that you’re here should persuade you that you have another chance to get back up. 
You don’t have to do this alone. Hold on to that person who you think might help you. And imagine them right now saying that they can’t stop the storm right now, but they will hold you and keep you warm until the storm passes. Because when they hold you the storm is still there, but it’s okay because there with you all the way. 
Don’t give up. There’s still hope.  
Alma 7:11-12

Today I kept seeing and hearing a particular name of God: Immanuel which means God is with us.  

Immanuel in the storm-  God is with us in the storm, holding us, keeping us warm, until that storm passes!

God is with us in our suffering, God is with us in our pleasure.  God is with us in our trials, God is with us in our triumphs. God is with us in our addictions, God is with us in our freedom. God is with us in our heartbreaks, God is with us in our joys. God is with us in our loneliness, God is always with us. Are we with Him? Immanuel! 

The name Immanuel is profound to me concerning the nature of Christ and our ability to also perform miracles and usher in God's Love on earth.   There is a word that is often mentioned in scripture before a miracle or healing would occur:

Compassion, or moved with compassion, or had compassion.  

The Latin root word for Compassion comes from compatÄ«, which means to suffer with. 

Christ is Immanuel, so He will suffer with us through the storm, He will experience with us our pain and struggle.  Compassion is a state of being Jesus was in before performing miracles.  Perhaps it is the same state of being we must be in if we are to facilitate and minister the power of God to others.

I want to dive just a little deeper into the word "Compassion".  Consider the following dialogue between an Abbot monk and seeker of Truth, Gregg Braiden.  

At one monastery, I asked the abbot, “In your tradition, what is the force that connects everything in the universe?” He answered with a single word. I thought it was a mistranslation, so I asked our translator to ask him again, and he came back with that same word: “Compassion.” 
I said, “Wait a minute. Is compassion a force of nature that connects everything in the universe—or is it an experience that we have in our hearts?” After the translator had made sure he understand exactly what I’d asked, he answered again with one word: “Yes.”

Compassion or love is a force, from the heart, that transcends material reality.  It is interconnected in everything.  It is the light of Christ that fills the immensity of space, (D&C 88:6-13)  Everything in creation is sustained and powered by that light.  This is why when people recount mystical experiences where they reach a "Nirvana" state, are translated, or are "quickened" by the spirit they will often mention a loss of self (ego) while their soul expands beyond the physical constraints of their body and they feel at-one with everything in the universe.  They attain to this state because they are tapping into the Light of Christ.  They are filled with compassion and are therefore experiencing a more transcendent reality.   It is love because they see the reflection of God in themselves and in all of creation.

When acting as physical beings we are limited by our 5 physical senses.  Throughout our lives we are trained to rely wholly upon our physical senses.  We, therefore, create for ourselves an isolated island of perceived reality in which we spend all our days walking around in.  We interact with other people, but due to ego, we find ourselves so caught up in our own little island of reality we rarely, if not ever, discover the beauty of walking in a shared reality with another being.  Yes, we may have shared experiences with fellow voyagers in this world, but how often have we actually had a shared reality with another soul?  

Sometimes we think the only way to create coherence in a disconnected world is to understand our own isolated island of reality so well so that we can go about imposing our little island upon others.   We do this in the intellectual arena through preaching, proselyting, and philosophizing.  We see others as lacking in understanding and equate their suffering to the lack of understanding which we possess.   We love to play the hero who knows best and attempt to critique and correct everything in their life.  We have sympathy for them and will often find ourselves preaching to them, trying to fix their dilemmas from the righteousness of our own little-isolated island of reality.  

That method can accomplish coherence to a degree, but it only creates unity of mind, and not of heart.  We are to be of both "one heart and one mind".  Creating unity by imposing our isolated island of reality upon one another will cause our lips to draw near unto one another, but leave our hearts far separated.

The way we can transcend the oceans that separate each of our isolated islands of reality is empathy.  

Having empathy is allowing ourselves to be in a vulnerable place where we experience the feelings and thoughts of another soul.  Instead of having sympathy for them- trying to fix their problems by imposing your ideas from your "superior" island of reality onto them- you instead enter into their island and fully experience their world with them.  You don't judge their world or try an align it to the way your world is.   You simply hold space and remain fully present with them.    You become an archetypical Eem-anu-el because you are with them- in better or worse.   You have compassion because you suffer with them.   You may not be able to stop the storm over their life but you will hold them through it.

Sympathy vs Empathy 

When in this state of compassion (empathy) you are tapping into the force that connects everything in nature together.   There you will find yourself in a place where you can be "moved with compassion"  and be a conduit to usher in God's love and perform miracles.

These are just my thoughts, conclusions I have come to so far based on personal experiences.  If you are reading this take it with a grain of salt and ponder them a bit.    Most of my experience with God have been in solitude, but there have been a couple of times in my life where I have experienced the supernatural power of God in a group setting.  During these times we were not trapped in isolated islands of reality.  We crossed the oceans dividing our souls and shared in a reality far greater.   It didn't come about through zealous and intense preaching.  It didn't come about through magic incantations of precise words.    We had our hearts open and vulnerable to one another and to God.  There was no judgment, no sympathy.  Just empathy, love, and compassion.   In that place and moment we were truly one heart and one mind.


Jonathan Chan: "Book of Mysteries"

I'm going to teach you how to speak Hebrew,” said the teacher, “or at least one sentence.”
“I’m ready.”

“The Hebrew word for with is eem. And the word for us is anu.”
“Eem . . . anu,” I said.
“And the word for God is El.”

“So how would you say ‘With us is God’?” he asked.
“Eem . . . anu . . . El.”
“Say it again.”
“Eem . . . anu . . . El. Eem anu El . . . Immanuel!”

“Yes, Immanuel. So Isaiah prophesied of Messiah, ‘A virgin shall conceive and give birth to a child and shall call Him Immanuel.’”
“The Name of Messiah.”

“And more than a name. In Hebrew, it’s a sentence. It’s a declaration, a reality. It’s the reality of Messiah. His very life on earth was this Hebrew sentence, a declaration in Hebrew—eem anu El.”

“How was His life a sentence?” I asked.
“When He was sorrowful. Who was it who was sorrowful?”

“It was Immanuel in sorrow,” said the teacher, “Eem anu El in sorrow. It forms a sentence: ‘God is with us in sorrow.’

And when He was in the boat on the Sea of Galilee in the midst of the storm, it was Immanuel in the storm. Eem anu El in the storm. It forms another sentence: ‘God is with us in the storm.’

And when He was despised and rejected of men, it was eem anu El in rejection.”
“God is with us in rejection,” I replied.

“When He hung on the cross in judgment, it was eem anu El in judgment.”
“God is with us in judgment.”

“And when He ascended to heaven, where He is, it is eem anu El forever.”
“God is with us forever.”

“Immanuel came into the world and to every circumstance of life, so that we could say, ‘At all times, in all places, in every circumstance . . . eem anu El, God is with us . . . always.’”

The Mission: Today, practice the Hebrew of His name. In every circumstance speak and fathom the reality of eem anu El—God is with you, always.

Isaiah 7:14
Matthew 1:21–25
Luke 8:22–25

Alma 7:11-12

Marriage was established at the beginning as a covenant by the word and authority of God, between the woman and God, the man and woman, and the man and God.
(Answer and Covenant)