Madeleine Eames

- Psychotherapist
- Mindfulness Teacher

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The Power of Empathy over Judgement

As I started writing this blog, an ambulance went screaming by my house. Someone, in this moment, is in trouble.

We can become so focussed on all that is not right in our lives (yes… our lovely survival-focussed brains!) that we can forget what is so right. All the troubles we could have, but don’t. All that we think is terrible, then find our our neighbour is fighting a bigger battle. The truth is, we are all fighting some sort of battle whether it is inner or outer. It never fails to amaze me when I, or one of my clients, opens up to someone they trust about their struggles, that we are definitely not alone.

As I did the last of my holiday shopping today (a fire truck just went by now… makes holiday shopping seem like heaven) I made a conscious decision to approach it as fun, a privilege (which it is) and make friends with everyone I met.. at the post office, the cashiers, other shoppers in line, especially the grumpy ones. My chronic pain patients have a terrible time shopping, it is like torture to them.. can we realize this in the moment when we are behind a slow person? It sounds cliche, but it was so, so much more satisfying.

If we have to do certain tasks, what if we were fully present to them instead of resisting them with complaining and blaming?

What if we approached our lives this way, instead of the separation of judgement.. “I hate this, people are so slow, why don’t they have more cashiers, look at that guy)… on and on goes the potential dialogue.

The only question I have is: How do you want to feel?

When we can switch from judgement to empathy, the whole world changes. Everyone is fighting a battle.

When I was a teenager I worked at a Shoppers Drug Mart part time. Very frequently and more so around Christmas, a middle aged man would come in and frantically search out all the coupons for contests that hang on the shelves. “Win a free trip!” “Win a free Tv!” “Win the vacation of your dreams!” “Win a year of free groceries!”. He didn’t take just one, but ripped many off the pad which I found irritating. He would either take them away and bring them back, or stand there and fill them all out and enter on the spot.

One day I rolled my eyes at my co-worker from behind my fancy cosmetic stand and said “Aggh, here he comes again! What is his problem?” in the way that only a 16 year old girl can.

I approached him and asked him from my place of authority in my uniform beside the lipstick stand “So, do you actually, ever, like… win anything?” with an air of smugness and oh-so-slight sarcasm.

He looked up into my eyes with a look of sadness I actually can’t forget and said “It’s for my mom. She’s very sick and my hope is that I can do something for her very soon. She’s always wanted to travel.”

I don’t know what that moment did to me, but even as I write it now I well up with tears. Tears for how heartless we can be, for how we judge others without even knowing anything about them. We truly don’t know the battles that other people are fighting.

To be seen, to be heard, to be understood, is the greatest human need.

How can we bring this into our lives even more during this season. Who in your world is hurting, perhaps in silence? Empathy is what lights up the world, connects us with each other and with our own hearts. The one shared heart of humanity.

Giving truly is the greatest gift. Giving of your attention, your kindness, your time. True compassion is simply listening, whether it is listening to yourself, or others. 

Have a restful season everyone. If you want some really great mindfulness practices to take you through the holidays and those family dinners,  here are three great ways to be more present from mindful.org:

Weekly Wake-up

And remember, as Eckhart Tolle says, “If you think you are enlightened, spend a week with your family.”. Go easy.

Lots of love,

Madeleine

 

2 thoughts on “The Power of Empathy over Judgement”

  1. Thank you, Madeleine,
    and Happy, peaceful Holidays.
    Be proud and feel good that you cheer up many souls, all year long.

    With many thanks
    Helga

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