I have a secret Instagram account where I follow people who I might typically (vehemently) disagree with. I don’t follow violent groups because I don’t want to ingest that imagery or vibe, but I’m interested in far left, right, up, down—all of it. This isn’t just intellectual trend tracking. It’s actually part of my spiritual practice.

It goes like so: “Might this character, who sees the world drastically differently than I do, have a useful point with regards to the state of the world and how to make it better?” As the saying goes, “Even a stopped clock is right once a day.” I want to understand people’s pain, I want to pierce the veil. I want to know how some of us get so f*cked up. I want solutions. Mostly, I’m looking for threads to tie us together into a more unified whole.

Solid conclusions only come from an inclusive point of view. The more perspectives you include, the sharper your view. More range of voices builds more wisdom. Emphasis on diversity of voices, not quantity. Getting opinions from a hundred people who think the same way isn’t nearly as valuable as hearing from ten different people with contrasting experiences and motivations.

When I was directing a future-studies think tank we had an operating philosophy: look everywhere in order to see the patterns and the outliers of change. And once you spotted the long trend or the bubbling shift, then you could figure out how to disrupt or foster it. This is the essence of healthy systems thinking. A holistic, 360-degree view that takes as many factors as possible into consideration before conclusions or plans are drawn.

I thought I was being trained on how to be a futurist. But really, I was learning a formula for empathy.

empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
synonyms: compassion, sympathy, considerateness, tender-heartedness, kindness, sensitivity, insight, fellow feeling, decency, humanitarianism.

Empathy is the only way we will navigate these acutely perilous times.
Empathy is the most critical ability for every human to develop.
Empathy is what will save the planet and all life on it.

It’s innate to the human spirit. But it can get deeply buried under trauma and separation dogma.
Lack of empathy is killing us and Mother Earth.
We have to learn to empathize like our lives depend on it. Because they do.

So, in my think tank days in Washington DC, we might have been writing a white paper on AIDS in Africa, or weapons of mass destruction, or the collapse of civil society (can you see why I mostly write about Higher Love these days?) And we’d get input from the obvious places: scientific reports, census data, public opinion polls.

But then we let ourselves get weird with it—and this is where insight could happen. We parsed through what would typically get labelled as “conspiracy theory” and connected the dots. We called on a world-renowned Remote Viewer—which is just a very specific and conservative term for a psychic. And we’d sit around thinking about how a pandemic might sweep through a country or how riots could start (keep in mind, this was fifteen years ago), and one of the geniuses I got to work with would say… Reminds me of what Socrates said. Or… We should look at the habits of migrating birds for insight into group think…

Insightfulness is often at the edge of reason.

The edge of reason is a frightening place for the Ego. Spontaneous and organic changes are too unpredictable and far too spacious for the Ego’s controlling nature.

And the Ego is not interested in inclusiveness, the Ego is invested in division. Right vs Wrong. Worthy vs Unworthy. Self vs Unity.

The Ego values its own perspective above other people’s perspectives.
It has a very narrow, fixed view. And so…
The Ego can’t empathize worth sh*t.

This works in very personal and interpersonal ways. The Ego Self doesn’t want to empathize with your full range of feelings—from why you’re really scared (don’t dissolve your fear with inquiry, stay stuck in it) to when you feel Divinely Powerful (definitely do not feel one with God, because that dissolves the Ego immediately). And the Ego doesn’t want to empathize with a full range of human beings (or animals since we’re talking about sentiency).

The Ego is not keen on inclusiveness and therefore not capable of empathy.
But the heart is. The heart space is the source of empathy.
The heart space is all-inclusive. It’s vast—everything has a place in the landscape of Love.
Empathy is Love.

You can’t have inclusive policies, or generative conversations, or intergenerational, intersectional, inter-anything without empathy.

And we desperately need inclusive policies, and generative conversations, and intergenerational, intersectional EVERYTHING now—and always. What we’re really looking at here is a revolution of LOVE. More specifically, an uprising of empathetic people. I wish we could measure that. I wish the news would report on that.

So, how to EMPATHIZE?

Revisit the definition. Empathythe ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Not to be confused with sympathy: feelings of pity or sorrow for someone else’s misfortune. Shared sorrow is a beautiful thing. Sympathizers, acting on behalf of a cause… so powerful. But pity is altogether different.

Pity… pity can have some superiority to it, a “looking down upon.” It can also vastly underestimate the potential of the person you’re pitying. And hey, sometimes pity is a divine response. How can you not pity starving children in war-torn countries? Extreme circumstances, lost hope, futility—all understandable reasons for pity.

Empathy is a feeling, not a thought-form. You hold it within your heart space. It’s more intimate, more known, more unifying, and therefore more inspiring in terms of creating change. If you feel someone else’s pain, you’re more likely to work on behalf of alleviating their pain. Same for all the good stuff. If you feel someone else’s joy, someone’s ecstatic liberation, you’re going to want to cheer on that higher state of being.

It’s easier to empathize if we feel safe in our own beings and bodies. Empathy is an extension of one’s self and you can’t extend from hollowness or disconnection. Deep empathy won’t happen if you don’t have a healthy sense of who you truly are—a Divine Human. You extend in order to empathize, you reach, you seek outwardly. You need to be rooted in order to stretch like that.

To step out of our comfort zone of beliefs and lifestyle and worldview, we need to believe that our identity and relationships won’t be demolished if we do. If I consider that you’re very right and I’ve been very wrong, I need to feel that Life, Spirit—and my nearests and dearests—are going to love the more aware edition of me. If we fear that change means loss, well, then there’s likely to be reluctance to change. And if we’re hesitating to change, we’re going to shut down to feeling, to empathizing with each other. We’ll start denying someone else’s experience so we don’t need to change our own ways of seeing and being.

Empathy has some perceived risk to it. Love is daring like that. It’s the only thing worth risking for, really. The more secure we are in our relationship to Spirit, the more empathetic we can be. If we know that we stand on the foundation of the Creator, we can hold our perspectives, pain, and power, and those of many others. If we feel fundamentally loveable in the gaze of the Divine, by our own selves and the people who love us, we’ve set ourselves up to be empathizing, unifying, champions of Higher Love—even if there’s pain involved.

It’s easier to be empathetic if you’re accustomed to feeling your own feelings. So for all the sensitive folks and the hearts-on-sleeves people, I’m telling you: This is our time to take the lead. Heart centered leadership is empathy in action.

Empathy is predicated on Unity consciousness.

I was in a small corner market in San Francisco and witnessed what looked like a grandmother yelling at her two very young grandchildren (warning, this may be upsetting). “If you don’t stop askin’ for a popsicle I’m gonna bash your f*cking head in.” She screamed it at them, as bitter as I’ve ever heard. Nothing subtle about it. I wanted to tuck those little boys in my backpack and make a run for it. I wanted to scream back at her, “You’re killing them!”

I’d been reading Ram Dass and Kerouac and was deeper in oneness awareness and decided to put it to use. “That terrible, awful woman and I are one… same Source.” And I softened towards her, immediately. And it wasn’t monumental, I didn’t rescue those kids, but it was an improvement over pounding out bitter shockwaves toward her. I softened. And I started to think about her pain, and all she must have gone through to get so far gone—a flash of empathy. And I said an active, fervent prayer for those boys. I softened.

One Source. Even the most evil amongst us. We are all from the One Source. That perspective changes everything. That’s the viewpoint that allows for healing to flow.

Empathy does not dilute the need for resolution.

We live in a dualistic dimension, cause and effect. Holy and human. There should be justice on this plane to bring things back into alignment, for protection, for rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is more likely when we empathize with the humanity of the person who’s caused harm. And, ya, not everyone can be rehab’d in this lifetime. But so many can—if we feel for their wounds and their potential.

Being empathetic is not going to disable you. It will wake you up.

There is so very very much to be sorrowful about right now. If we see that clearly, we are more equipped to create solutions. I know a lot of us are concerned that we’ll be taken under if we go about feeling other people’s intense feelings. The “it’s too much for me” empaths. I hear that. And that can be a real challenge for highly sensitive people.

But empathizing doesn’t mean you ingest and carry the feelings with you. It means seeking to understand the nature, the texture of another person’s feelings. You touch the feelings, you don’t leave with them. Let the person have their full experience, you share it when you can.

Empathy is the metaphysics of giving to receive.

So much healing can happen when we’re simply witnessed. When someone says, “I want to understand.” And do what it takes to understand.

To know and be known. That’s the purest human need.

Empathy asks:

“How do you feel, and why?”
“What do you think, and why?”
“What could be wise about this?”
“What do we have in common? What about us is the same?”
“What repels me?”
“What compels me?”
“What do I resonate with?”
“If this is true, what needs to change—for me, for them, for all of us, for Mother Earth?”

Empathy’s constant declaration: I want to understand how you feel—and why.

And when we see that web of life we can create better outcomes for each other.

Empathy is the antidote to misery. Eckhart nails it: “All the misery on the planet arises due to a personalized sense of me or us. That covers up the essence of who you are. When you are unaware of that inner essence, in the end, you always create misery. It’s as simple as that. When you don’t know who you are, you create a mind-made self as a substitute for your beautiful divinity and cling to that fearful and needy self. Protecting and enhancing that false sense of self then becomes your primary motivating force.” Ya. The ego crusade.

The heart’s mission is to be aware of your divinity and that of others. And empathy makes that happen.

empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. compassion, sympathy, considerateness, tender-heartedness, kindness, sensitivity, insight, fellow feeling, decency, humanitarianism.

EMPATHY = “I want to understand how you feel—and why.”

Try it out. On everyone, everywhere. Might that character who sees the world drastically different than you do have a useful point with regards to the state of the world and how to make it better?

Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;

I want to understand how you feel—and why.

Oh hi, conservative. Libertarian. Pro-life, pro-choice, small town, capitalist, union leader, school teacher, teenager, elder, priest, homophobic, drag queen, indigenous, meditator, landowner, roving, flat-Earth-believing, in recovery, narrow-minded, compassionate, animal rights activist, cattle rancher, guru, devotee, convicted, lottery winner, extraterrestrial, profoundly loving, monogamous, polyamorous, queer, goth, Catholic, Baptist, Muslim, Hindu, Baha’i, Tantric, spinning, prayer, preaching, lecherous, parasitic, philanthropist, dogmatic, gifted, gentle soul, child, wisdom keeper, civil servant, survivor, me too, you too, holy being of the human race on the planet right now.

I want to understand how you feel—and why.

You drive me crazy, make me angry—infuriated. You confuse me.  I adore you, like you. I respect you. I don’t understand. You feel like home to me. So refreshing. I love learning from you. You expand my horizons. You make me glad to be alive at the same time. I give thanks to Creation for this divine meeting and timing. I feel offended. Not heard. I am closing down. I am opening up and it’s so vitalizing! We are each other’s keeper. I hadn’t thought of it that way. I see your point. I will protect you. I feel defensive—it’s because of my own wounds, please understand. May I ask for compassion? I am here to serve… with joy. I am resistant, converted, compelled, curious, and deeply moved by how much we all want to love and be loved. Together. Different, but in community. I treasure you. I honour that we are sharing space. I will carry you when you need to be carried. I am frightened. I see your heart. I notice your pain. I am lost and pre-programmed, your kindness de-programs hatred. We are sharing space whether I like it or not. We come from the same star. I want to partner with you to alleviate suffering and amplify joy and to know the True Reality of Unity consciousness and Higher Love. At least, I’m trying.

I want to understand how you feel—and why.

And that’s how empathy rolls.

Pierce the veil. Find threads to tie us together into a more unified whole—even if they are just thin threads. They lead us home. And don’t most of us just want to feel at home, in our bodies, with each other, on this body of the Divine Mother that we call Earth?

I know you can empathize.

Empathy is the alchemy of Love. We go from unknown to known, miles apart to common ground. Seeking to understand changes EVERYTHING. Even more than being understood.

It’s selfless and virtuous and it’s everything we need of ourselves and each other right now. Strong Love. Or as my shrink, Michael, said to me recently, “To forget the self is to have a self strong enough to do the forgetting.” Empathizing is a realizing. It makes us stronger. It’s the inclusive view that shows us what’s really happening. And what the next right move is. For the lives we want to live.

Empathy makes you an instrument of peace.

St. Francis of Assisi knew this way back in the 13th century, I’m sure. But there’s another guy, Father Esther Bouquerel from Paris, whom scholars believe was the actual author of the Prayer of St. Francis. The way things went for women in the Dark Ages in organized religions, maybe it was a nun who actually penned this. All radiant and… oppressed, but… nevermind. Whoever wrote this knew about the metaphysics of devotion and it’s one of my favourite prayers, ever.

A prayer for empathy.

The Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Ameen, inshallah,
so be it and so it is.

Download a printable of the Prayer of St. Francis HERE.

If you want this LISTEN, and hear me riff more deeply on this… I talk through empathy on this week’s PODCAST, Episode #26



Danielle LaPorte is an invited member of Oprah’s SuperSoul 100, a group who, in Oprah Winfrey’s words, “is uniquely connecting the world together with a spiritual energy that matters.” She is author of White Hot Truth: Clarity for keeping it real on your spiritual path—from one seeker to another. The Fire Starter Sessions, and The Desire Map: A Guide To Creating Goals With Soul—the book that has been translated into 8 languages, evolved into a yearly day planner system, a top 10 iTunes app, and an international workshop program with licensed facilitators in 15 countries. Named one of the “Top 100 Websites for Women” by Forbes, millions of visitors go to DanielleLaPorte.com every month for her daily #Truthbombs and what’s been called “the best place online for kickass spirituality.” A speaker, a poet, a painter, and a former business strategist and Washington-DC think tank exec, Entrepreneur Magazine calls Danielle, “equal parts poet and entrepreneurial badass…edgy, contrarian…loving and inspired.” Her charities of choice are Eve Ensler’s VDay: a global movement to end violence against women and girls, and charity: water, setting out to bring safe drinking water to everyone in the world. She lives in Vancouver, BC with her favourite philosopher, her son. You can find her @daniellelaporte and just about everywhere on social media.