Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Empathy and Compassion

The devastating bushfires in Victoria have brought up many emotions in all of us ...

Something helpful for me is being explored in the yoga intensive classes I'm doing this week ... to find the best qualities within ourselves that could be of some benefit in this time ... such as love, compassion, hope, generosity ... and to magnify and express these as best we can.

The events have certainly activated our sense of empathy/sympathy - the core emotions of the Earth element.

A description of the difference was explained to me this way: imagine someone has fallen in a (figurative) well ... sympathy would be expressed 'oh my goodness it looks terrible in there, I am so sorry, you must be so afraid, here let me get in with you and we'll feel awful together' ... whereas empathy is acknowledging the awfulness of the situation but saying 'here, I'll throw you a rope, I'll be here for you as you pull yourself out'. It is recognising the strength in each individual.

The earth element is represented by the colour yellow and late Summer. The sound is singing, the smell is fragrant and the taste is sweet. The organs are spleen and stomach.

The main issues for people who are predominantly Earth element are based on relationships. They tend to be enormously giving to other people and may feel their own needs are not met, leading to resentment. Earth types feel other peoples emotions very strongly - making times like this very difficult, as you may feel the pain of others almost as if it were your own. You may even blame others for how you feel, since it has such a large impact on your own feelings.

This can be hard to cope with, and a common Earth response would be to try and make other people feel better. The motivation for this is if they feel better, you will feel better. It is a form of self protection. A natural human response, in imbalance, this can be a compulsive behaviour.

If you are an Earth element type, you probably tend to think and worry a lot and find it difficult to focus on yourself and your own needs. You are probably more comfortable focusing on others.

The lesson for Earth types is to learn to nourish and nurture yourself. You are then able to give to others because you want to, not because you feel you have to.

You may feel a sense of guilt thinking of putting yourself first ... many earth elements types initially find it difficult even to think about. Realise you may even find yourself able to give more when you are feeling nourished, strong and supported yourself.

When earth is in balance and we give from a place of wanting and feeling able to give, the result is amplified and clearly felt by those who receive it. They feel empowered to act and supported to do so.

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