One of my clients asked me recently if I believed everyone has the same capacity for empathy? I believe we do. At our core we are all loving beings with the same infinite potential of our formless nature. We may not, however, all share it in the same way. I realized he asked the question because not everybody demonstrates the same amount of empathy. In fact, even on a personal level we don’t consistently show the same amount of empathy in each situation. We all have different levels of being aware of and experiencing our true nature, but this doesn’t mean the potential is not there.
We each have the same capacity to wake up more fully to who we are, but the waking up process is not something we can speed up. It is an organic process that happens in its own timing. As our understanding unfolds inside of us, we see more clearly, and we naturally let go of limiting beliefs, judgments and misinterpretations. This allows us to experience the beauty of what is and who we are more fully.
Letting go of the illusion that I could control my awaking process was very freeing. I saw that I couldn’t work on being my best self. In fact, I recognized that the more I put pressure on myself to be the best me, the more it would back fire. If I put pressure on myself to not feel insecure, I would end up feeling more insecure. My attempts to improve myself only made me feel worse about myself.
What I didn’t realize is that my true nature is always looking for ways to express itself more fully. I don’t need to do anything to allow my true nature to come forward. It is what naturally happens when I relax and am myself. My natural state gives the most room for my essence to shine through and for me to experience the loving of who I am. This does not mean I am perfect, but it is in the not trying to be perfect that allows me to express the qualities of my loving nature most fully.
It is the opposite of what I believed. I thought if I didn’t push myself to improve I would devolve into a mess. Instead, when I took the pressure off, I experienced my natural state of loving. My best self is actually my natural self. My compassion, empathy, and loving nature are more easily accessed and expressed when I am not putting pressure on myself and trying to be anything other than who I am.
The naturalness of the human capacity for growth in consciousness and transformation was vividly demonstrated to me this weekend. I participated in a workshop with eighty other volunteers and two hundred and forty men at Valley State Prison with the Freedom to Choose Project. The Freedom to Choose Project provides experiential education to inmates in support of them becoming responsible, productive members of society. It’s name stems from the work of psychiatrist Viktor Frankel who, from his experience at the concentration camp Auschwitz, recognized that the one thing that cannot be taken from humans is their freedom to choose. In his book Man’s Search for Meaning he states: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
The men this weekend were inspiring. They shared openly about the changes in themselves and their lives as a result of participating in the program and integrating the learning into their lives. They demonstrated that not only is their internal experience of wellbeing independent from their circumstances, but they also exemplified the innate human capacity to change, heal, and grow in consciousness.
This is true for all of us. We each have the divine impetus to wake up. When we slow down, connect, allow, let go, and relax, our personal thinking settles, and we become present. When our mind is quiet it is easier for us to experience the loving, peace, and beautiful feelings of our true nature. We all have an equal capacity for this, but we don’t always look in the right direction.
We are taught to look in the direction of doing more and using our intellect to guide us. As a result, we feel more disconnected from the beautiful feelings of who we are, and keep looking outside of ourselves to find them. When we don’t find them, we use coping mechanisms to numb the suffering. The downside of our coping mechanisms give us the impression that we are moving further away from our wellbeing.
The truth, however, is that our wellbeing is there all along. We are never any further from our wellbeing one moment from the next. As Syd Banks would say, peace of mind is never more than one thought away. All that changes is what we pay attention to. Are we identifying with the content of our conceptual mind, or are we experiencing the wisdom or our heart?
Through the eyes of the heart life is neutral. It is our conceptual mind that judges it and creates suffering for ourselves. When we see this and recognize that our emotional suffering can only come from within, we get better and better at not fueling our judgments and letting them go when they arise. When we experience a shift in consciousness, we recognize the judgments aren’t true, and they drops away as the next layer of truth reveals itself.
The byproduct of this is that we experience greater and greater levels of acceptance of what is and see more and more opportunities to express our loving nature. We see the down side of maintaining the play-by-play narrative of our experience and naturally live more in the moment. This is what allows us to experience the infinite potential of our formless nature and demonstrate the qualities of our true self. It is an equal opportunity for each one of us with the same supply provided for all. We all draw from the same well, the same source, the same thought, the same love that we are each here to express in our own unique way.
Rohini Ross is a psychotherapist, a leadership consultant, and an executive coach. Rohini facilitates personalized three-day retreats for individuals, couples, and professionals to help them connect more fully with their true nature and experience greater levels of wellbeing, resiliency, and success. You can find out more about Rohini’s work on her website, rohiniross.com.