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In our social consciousness, we have grown to place a premium on empathy, and often mention it in the same breath as compassion or loving kindness. I’ve long been reflecting on the differences, and in this last year I’ve been profoundly experiencing the subtleties through my body and energy states.

Empathy is the ability to feel and share another’s feelings. This is considered a very good thing because we want human connection and understanding to grow, since these in turn promote humanitarian and peaceful relations among otherwise different peoples and groups. We think that if I can feel what you feel, if I can identify with you, I can have a sense of our “sameness” and our differences will cease to matter.

Loving kindness (metta or maitri) is independent of the particulars of the external situation. At our highest and best, loving kindness is our innate state of being, rather than an identification with another’s feeling state. It is the warmth and light we feel in the presence of an enlightened being, who is simply emanating her Love without becoming entangled or mired in our day-to-day troubles (while lending a loving listening ear whenever necessary). Like the sun giving us warmth and light and Vitamin D by virtue of its very existence, like a tree giving us shade, fruit or oxygen by virtue of its very existence, loving kindness is the “sunshine” and “oxygen” given off naturally by an enlightened being, by virtue of her very presence and existence.

What is so significant about the difference between the two? Well, for starters, empathy is an avenue of showing caring that is predicated on identification — that sense of “sameness” I mentioned before. Loving kindness, on the other hand, is independent and free of whether I can resonate with you (in a particular situation you are facing) or not. (more…)

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Recently, a particular distinction – which may at first seem like just a nuance – has been surfacing repeatedly in my awareness. I’ve been discerning and acknowledging the difference between sharing and commiserating. And I’m seeing this distinction as really significant and powerful in all contexts – whether in business, personal life, politics, communities, or a spiritual path.

Sharing is a necessary and enriching aspect of human connection. When we share of ourselves, such self-disclosure makes us open and vulnerable to others. We can intentionally give and receive energy, which can be healing, energizing, inspiring and creative. Sharing provides the mental, emotional and spiritual connections that facilitate breakthroughs and transformations. Sharing builds. Sharing is fundamentally rooted in a belief of abundance: as they said in ancient India, knowledge and love increase with sharing. (more…)

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[Adaptated into an essay in my book Thrive! Falling in Love with Life, published Nov 1, 2011.]

A few months ago, one of my dearest friends and I were having a conversation about life, the difficulties in practicing architecture independently, the state of the economy (and the nation, and the world…), and a variety of such topics. He seemed somewhat irate, but really, genuinely disappointed, even deeply sad, that things were as they were.

Then I said it. “Breaking through some painful turns in life, I’ve discovered that – paradoxically – one can only change something by first accepting it. External change is brought about by changing oneself internally, through acceptance. If I first accept the way things are, then the foundation for change is immediately laid.”

He looked confused, and vehemently protested. “But that doesn’t make any sense! How can I accept the way things are? Isn’t that tantamount to agreeing with the status quo, to permitting mediocrity, to giving in? Isn’t acceptance essentially defeat? How can anything change by accepting defeat? Explain to me what you mean by acceptance!” He demanded. (more…)

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[Adaptated into an essay in my book Thrive! Falling in Love with Life, published Nov 1, 2011.]

After a significant hiatus from writing, perhaps the best excuse I can offer is that … “I was traveling.” Some literally, some metaphorically, for what is life but a journey?

On that note, I have observed that most people, whether on a holiday journey or life journey, adopt one of two roles: tourist or traveler. I don’t, of course, mean to suggest that only these binary states (should) exist with nothing in-between, but for the sake of exposition and discourse, let’s move with that assumption for a moment.

As a tourist, one is primarily focused on the destination, on “getting somewhere.” Milestones are mapped out: the Major Museum, the Ancient Monument, the Best Restaurant, the Famous Lake, the Tallest Mountain. The time in between getting to these wonderful places is an interval to recuperate from the last destination, (more…)

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Having experienced debilitating migraines for 19 years, the journey from surviving with them to thriving inspite of them has been long, arduous, insightful and ultimately, joyful. I have accessed science, art and spirituality to first understand my migraines, then find acceptance for them, and finally, move towards transcending them.

To share my discoveries, I have created a “lens” on the website Squidoo**. If this topic interests you, please see http://www.squidoo.com/lifebeyondmigraines

**Squidoo is a venture in which it is believed that everyone is an expert on something. Squidoo allows you to create a “lens” – a focused piece of writing along with references and resources, on a subject of your expertise. I follow the old adage – write what you know about.

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[Adaptated into an essay in my book Thrive! Falling in Love with Life, published Nov 1, 2011.]

In a previous post – Future becomes Past without being Present – I shared how the only way to move through a time of intense suffering had been to live two hours at a time – that is, be fully and uncompromisingly present.

This eventually led to an insight that my suffering was rooted in my concept of linear, sequential time – represented by the past or the future – in the form of memories and projections, which I turned into stories about myself, identified with myself, and then suffered from them. These memories, projections and stories, if unguarded and unobserved eventually add up to so much noise that it can become impossible to be present, to access the power of now.  So, once I was given this insight, the question arose: If I have observed this incessant noise-making tendency in myself, which am I? (more…)

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Early this year, I wrote a post titled Future becomes Past without being Present.

Well, I am currently reading Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. I had already read his more advanced work A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (Oprah’s Book Club, Selection 61), and I’m finding that The Power of Now is a wonderful prequel to better understand the foundation of Tolle’s message in an accessible way. Reading it is functioning as a great reminder of the concepts I am living, experiencing, and seeking to write about … it is a continuous practice!  My posts In pursuit of being (something) and Cruising on the road of life demonstrate the the power of now in practice. (more…)

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