(Link to above image and story: http://kittybloger.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/her-cats-presence-brings-love-and-comfort-to-woman-dying-in-hospital/)
It’s good to be a loving presence, right? We all know that. Yet achieving a near-constant state of supreme loving presence is something that’s viewed in radically different ways, depending upon who you talk to and what their life experience may be.
My first exposure to this idea was actually Star Trek: vulcans. While the state of mind of vulcans is shown more as dispassionate logicism, the actions of many Vulcan characters are meant to show the presence of an under-ruling compassion disguised as logic – the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, for example. There is no attempt to weigh the value of one individual against another, they are merely alive and all life is valued equally.
Now that I have my nerd-moment out of the way…
As a teenager, I dated a guy who introduced me to the works of Ayn Rand. Rand’s philosophy was perfect for the teenage me, when I was so bitterly skeptical about the world. But even as a little objectivist, I couldn’t get behind these two ideas: 1. All natural resources should be exploited mercilessly because humans are superior creatures and 2. Emotion is the weakness of an inferior being.
I remember debating with my boyfriend on these issues alone for a couple of years, and it was the first time I was confronted with the message If you can’t agree with me, it’s because you aren’t smart enough to understand how right I am.
It was a doomed romance.
My next exposure was the idea of “enlightenment” which came up in the context of a conversation about Yoga. Ask 10 people what they think enlightenment is and how to get there, you’ll get 10 different answers – I think that’s really cool, and that demonstrates a fundamental truth about “enlightenment”. It’s individual.
One fellow, a naturopathic doctor, stated resolutely that it takes 1,000 incarnations / lifetimes to begin to achieve enlightenment.
Yet another Yogi would say that enlightenment can be as easy as flipping a switch in your mind.
So what is enlightenment to you? Would you have to do something different or become someone else to be enlightened? Would that affect how you relate other people, or life in general? What if the whole point of incarnation is to become “unenlightened” for a short while?
These are things I’ve asked myself.
What I said to my boyfriend when I was sixteen is still how I feel today. I’m not saying this is “how it is”, it’s merely how it is for me, on my journey, for my purpose.
I think that emotion, reaction and empathy are crucial elements of my human experience. I think that emotion can reflect a deep investment in your incarnation. I think it’s GOOD to be deeply invested in this incarnation, and that how you define this investment is going to reflect your personal spiritual needs.
For me, experiencing emotion is a vital part of my empathetic process. Occasionally allowing myself to get swept away by emotion is one of the great delights and sorrows of my life. It’s how I express myself as an incarnated being, and it’s how I charge my empathetic faculties, by experiencing extreme emotion myself. This doesn’t mean it’s out of control, it’s more like learning to surf ever-more challenging waves.
My empathy is the primary way I make a telepathic connection. (Communication techniques are employed after the connection is made.) Most people can relate to the feeling of an “empathetic” connection. Someone tells you about an experience, you understand how they feel. You know what it’s like to experience that moment of connection – it happens right when your friend sighs before she tells you about her day, or it snaps you to attention when she flashes you a conspiratorial look before telling you a dirty joke.
That click, that lock-in focus moment where you know the nature of the message before words have been spoken, that’s a telepathic connection, y’all. Take notice!
Extreme emotion can be a function of a highly sensitive person, and empathy is a driving force that changes the world. Empathy motivates. When you can relate to an experience with your own body, your own physiological reaction, it becomes personal. It’s a connection, and you *care*.
While emotion and empathy aren’t the only roads to positive change, I feel like there’s a message floating around out there that is telling people that impulses and emotions are weaknesses of inferior beings.
I think that emotion and empathy are signs of great spiritual strength. I also think it is no accident that classic maternal characteristics are lined up beside classic paternal characteristics and judged to be inferior. I think that’s just an echo of our patriarchal past.
Oh hell yes, I went all feminist on you just now!
I think the real trick about emotion is to learn how to let it fuel you. Let’s look at anger:
Scenario 1. A family member “pushes your buttons” which causes you to feel angry.
In this case, you have no power. The anger is a helpless reaction. Once the anger dies down, have a look at what caused it. Did it empower you to set boundaries, or did it just wreck your day? Are you angry about that person making you angry?
I like to talk about anger because it’s a delicious dichotomy of contradictions, and I think it’s too easy to just say, “anger is bad!” Some people get angry to feel empowered. Some people get angry to express helplessness. Some people get angry to cope with fear. Anger is often related to control – someone trying to regain control or reacting to a loss of control. Anger can certainly have a negative effect on you and those around you if it’s omnipresent in your life, which is why there are mantras, 12-step programs and powerful medications directed at anger-management.
I think this “enlightenment” movement is so popular in part because it offers people a way of gaining control, and I’ve noticed a judgment of others if they experience moments of anger – that yogi is getting annoyed, he must not really be enlightened.
I’ve continued to encounter the message, if you don’t agree with my definition of enlightenment, you are just unenlightened.
I don’t buy it. I think that a part of enlightenment is defining it for yourself.