Just Like Me – Empathy Practice
This video is part of the Mindfulness Incubator video series. (16/16)
Let’s begin by taking a moment to allow your body to settle in a comfortable position, inviting a sense of ease and relaxation throughout the body. Breathe fully, taking deep breaths with a soft belly. Feel grounded by sensing the weight of your body on the ground or your chair, and gently release any tightness in your body. Soften your shoulders, hands, face, and jaw. Finally, close your eyes or look downward to limit visual distractions.
Today, we’ll be practicing acknowledging the similarities between ourselves and others. We often focus on differences, but realizing that even people who seem very different from us in fundamental ways, just like us, can become the basis of real connection. This can include people we don’t know very well, people with whom we’re in conflict, or even people who we see as an enemy. It’s possible to develop a sense of compassion and understanding by coming to feel our shared sense of experience as human beings. This practice, called “just like me,” can help overcome that sense of difference and distrust by opening channels of compassion.
So, allow yourself to take a deep breath in and a long breath out, releasing any tension in your body. Briefly scan through your body with your awareness as you breathe, noticing any predominant sensations or emotions. Invite a sense of spaciousness and acceptance for whatever you’re experiencing without judgment.
Now, bring someone to mind who you don’t know very well, perhaps someone who seems distant or different from you or even someone you’re in minor conflict with. Notice if you experience any shift in sensations as you bring this person to mind, holding them in your awareness. Say to yourself, “This person has a body and a mind just like me. This person has feelings, emotions, and thoughts just like me. This person has, at some point in their life, been sad, disappointed, angry, hurt, or confused just like me. This person has experienced physical and emotional pain and suffering just like me. This person has also experienced moments of peace, joy, and happiness, just like me. This person wishes to have fulfilling relationships, just like me. This person wishes to be healthy and loved, just like me.”
Take a moment to sense how you’re feeling as you hold this person in your awareness. Send them good wishes, saying, “May they be well, may they be happy, may they be healthy, and may they live with ease.”
Now, shift your awareness back to your breath. Breathe in and out, reconnecting with your body, feeling present, alive, and connected in this moment.
In today’s fast-paced world, we often find ourselves wrapped up in our own lives, focused on our differences, and sometimes even harboring conflicts with those we barely know. It’s all too easy to view others as distant, foreign, or even adversarial. But there’s a practice, simple yet profound, that can help us bridge these gaps and foster a deeper sense of compassion and understanding.
It starts with a few basic steps, and it can be a powerful tool in promoting empathy and unity. It’s called the “just like me” practice.
To begin, find a comfortable position. Allow yourself to relax, breathing deeply and grounding your awareness in the present moment. Release the tensions in your body, let your shoulders and hands relax, and close your eyes to minimize distractions.
Now, we venture into the heart of the matter. We acknowledge the shared experiences that connect us all as human beings, transcending our apparent disparities. It’s a profound shift in perspective, one that allows us to recognize that even those we consider vastly different from ourselves are fundamentally similar.
Think of someone you may not know well or someone with whom you have had minor conflicts. Consider how they, like you, possess a body, a mind, feelings, emotions, and thoughts. They’ve experienced the same array of emotions you have – sadness, disappointment, anger, and joy. They’ve known both suffering and happiness, just as you have. They, too, seek fulfilling relationships, good health, and love in their lives.
As you hold this person in your thoughts, you may notice a transformation within yourself. A growing sense of connection, a shared humanity, emerges. It’s a moment where empathy transcends differences, and understanding takes root.
Extend your good wishes to them, saying, “May they be well, may they be happy, may they be healthy, and may they live with ease.”
After this practice, bring your awareness back to your breath. Inhale and exhale, reconnect with your own body, and sense the profound feeling of being present, alive, and connected to the world around you.
In today’s complex world, the “just like me” practice offers a chance to recognize our common humanity. It reminds us that beneath our varied experiences and backgrounds, we share a profound connection that can unite us all.