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Mirror neurons, sympathy, and empathy

We humans have an amazing power. It is the power of sympathy. In modern terms, we might call the the power of mirror neurons.

I am using the term sympathy to refer to the power of experiencing connection and resonance with what seems to be outside of us.

Sympathy is wonderful when the dominant frequency around me is a frequency that we might term unconditional love, peace, harmony, joy, etc.

But what is the state of the world? Is the state of the world one of unconditional love, peace, harmony, joy, etc.?

Or perhaps I should rephrase that. What is the state of my world? What is the state of your world?

If your world is filled with disappointment, disapproval, unhappiness, dissatisfaction, enmity, lack, and so forth, – and if you are sympathizing with that – you are sympathizing with that frequency and can expect to see that frequency.

Is that your experience? Are you resonating with – sympathizing with – your world of discontent, lack, depression, anxiety, and so forth?

Now, here’s another amazing power that we have access to. It is the power of empathy.

I am using the term empathy to refer to the power of observing the stillness, joy, ease, and grace that is primary…and allowing that truth to shine forth.

So that you and I become beacons. Beacons of unconditional love. Beacons of grace. Beacons of fulfillment. Beacons of truth.

Please understand that I am not suggesting that you or I should strive to be righteous and good and upright and proper and kind. I am not saying that! That would be just more sympathizing with the wrong idea of separation, lack, need.

What I am suggesting is that you and I can surrender all self effort. And we can look truthfully at what remains in this surrender.

And then allow that to shine forth, uncontaminated by our worlds.

Because our worlds are unsatisfying and unhappy, let us put things right by surrendering to truth. Let that truth shine forth effortlessly.

And understand that it does not matter what the rest of the world does. It does not matter what your spouse does or your parents or your children or your neighbors or your boss or your friends or anyone.

If I become concerned with what anyone else is doing, I am sympathizing with that.

Look at your experience and see how this is true in the most mundane and commonplace of experiences. Look at your life. See how when you walk into the room with your wife or your husband or your mother or your son or your friend you habitually begin to resonate with them.

You are experiencing whatever you experience and then the moment you walk into the room you contract. You tighten. That is sympathy.

The other way around can also happen – though it is typically much more rare. We have all likely had an experience in which we were tight, contracted, self-concerned, worried, fearful, angry…and we walked into the room and someone else’s clarity – their unwavering commitment to surrender to unconditional love and freedom and grace affects us. Without effort – even if we resist – we soften.

Who can remain hateful in the face of innocence? Who among us will strike a puppy out of anger? We won’t! We cannot help but be softened by that grace shining forth.

That grace is not virtue. It is not righteousness. It is not goodness. It is not merit.

It is unconditional love. It is undeserved. It is without any reason. It is given freely.

Even in the face of my hatred, my selfishness, my greed, my fear. The innocence of the puppy softens my heart. The innocence of the flower. The innocence of the blade of grass.

That innocence is showing me something true. And because it is unwavering, I cannot help but see.

That is the power of empathy. To surrender deeply and do not waver.

Surrender uplifts my world because it shines the light of truth on my world.

It shows that all there is is innocence. Even if the face that I thought I hated, when surrendered, I see only innocence.

This is all built into the human. It is there for each of us. It is a gift that is given to us by grace. We did not earn it.

I did not earn this. It is given to all. The saints and the sinners alike.

Wherever you imagine that you fall on that spectrum of saint to sinner, I am certain that this exists in you. You have this capacity for empathy – deep surrender and an unwavering shining forth of that unconditional love that is your true nature.

I believe that this is our calling. When we experience pain, lack, disconnection, and suffering of all kinds it is calling us to surrender, to empathize, to be beacons of unconditional love.

This unconditional love washes over all that I have wrongly taken myself to be. All my habits of anger, frustration, disappointment, discouragement, depression, violence – all that does not clearly express the open, non-reactive, unconditional nature of this pure energy that shines forth in surrender – all these habits are washed over by this purity. This light purifies even that which I have found most distressing, most shameful, most unacceptable…

If I surrender it. If I surrender it freely now.

“Yes, this too I surrender. Whatever I might believe, I surrender this too because I cannot endure even a second more of pain.”

In this apparent weakness, this apparent breaking, this apparent insufficiency, this apparent failure…all that is false that I clung to is washed away and this pure light shines forth effortlessly.

This is the power of what I am calling empathy.

Now, remain truthful to this. Remained anchored in this surrender. And watch as the world begins to sympathize. Maybe slowly. Maybe quickly. But regardless, if I remain patient and true, the world cannot help but sympathize.

Thus does the world become light.

Not because I fixed anything. But because I surrender my self effort, my arrogant belief that I know better.

Because in my surrender, all that obstacles are washed away. And the inherent purity that is already present shines forth more clearly in all.

It was always there. I was just overlooking it.

Joey Lott

Joey Lott is the author of numerous books, including The Best Thing That Never Happened and The Little Book of Big Healing. He lives in southern Vermont with his wife and children.

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