Empathy

Mother TeresaI read somewhere recently that Mother Teresa was concerned with “seeing” the poor in Calcutta as fellow human beings, and that not “seeing” them was letting down both them and ourselves. One could read this as a holier-than-thou attitude of extreme kindness, but one could also read it as an introspective and actually quite meditative practice.

Empathy presupposes an ability to recognise how the other person resonates within your own mind. When you consciously or unconsciously ignore somebody, either because they’re poor or because you don’t like their looks or opinions or whatever, you actually fail to recognise a part of yourself. Therefore, “seeing” somebody that you used to overlook implies catching sight of your own hidden selves. Meditation goes the other way around. It first helps you to see yourself more clearly, and, on the basis of this, to develop empathy towards others.

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