This is part of the series on compassion, something that appears to be seriously lacking in this day and age. Today we will deal with empathy, one of the building blocks of compassion.

The Gift of the Shaman

Because my mind has bonded with my heart,
I can see the shapes and colors of anxiety.
I can read lines on faces,
the shifting positions of the body,
the movement of the eyes,
tones and emotions of voice.

I respond.

My body becomes a mirror that reflects.
My eyes become a portal to another world
that exists in the soul behind my eyes.
My beating heart says I care and understand;
I can be trusted with your deepest fears,
the sorrow behind your painful experiences,
the hopes buried within your fragile dreams.

And we begin the dance of empathy,
where our hands join and minds become one
for a moment of peace in a lifetime of turmoil.




Intuition, which we looked at last week, is a knowing whereas empathy involves going beyond knowing to sharing another’s feelings. As the heart takes over and guides our actions, empathy leads to compassion.

It is generally accepted that there are three kinds of empathy: cognitive, emotional, and compassionate. Cognitive empathy is the ability to understand what someone else might be thinking, and as such, it is more like intuition than empathy. However, cognitive empathy essentially adds the ability to respond at a deeper level. Emotional empathy is the ability to sense someone’s feelings. It helps us build a temporary emotional bond or connection. Compassionate empathy moves us to help in whatever way we can. Essentially it is the feeling that goes along with acts of compassion. However, I would like to add two more: somatic empathy and spiritual empathy. Somatic empathy is when we actually feel someone’s emotional or physical pain in our bodies and not just in our minds. We cry together and laugh together. Spiritual empathy occurs when two or more people share a common spiritual experience. There are two kinds of spiritual empathy. The first is a soul to soul connection. The second is when two or more people share that connection with the universal presence.

Everyone has the ability to be empathetic. It is just a matter of becoming conscious through the awakening of our inner being. Then when we are with others, we automatically try to connect at a deeper level by listening to and experiencing the feelings behind their words. We communicate through the heart which brings everything we do and feel under the umbrella of love for ourselves and for others. We then empathize on a soul to soul level by seeking the commonality we share as sentient spiritual beings. Eventually we share a combined spiritual moment with the source of life and love which binds us together creating synchronicity of our meaning and purpose.

As empaths, we use our experiences of bonding with our inner self to form bonds with the person who needs understanding and support. The empathy bond is a temporary one that empowers us to see and meet the needs of this person at this point in time. We do not give of ourselves emotionally or spiritually thus depleting our own energy resources. We are merely conduits for the universal presence. The act of empathy and compassion allows the life and love force to flow through us bringing a feeling of meaning, purpose, and joy. We receive and give the gift of the shaman.​

Lawrence J.W. Cooper

Poet Laureate, Comox Valley