All things present in the manifested universe, including all living beings, are particularized expressions of a single universal consciousness, the Self. It is possible to expand awareness beyond the sense of being an "individual" and begin to experience the Self in other life forms. Becoming other life forms or objects, and experiencing the consciousness and the sensations of awareness that they experience, is empathic perception.
Empathic perception is made possible through the power of visualization—to sense and become other living things. It is, in a sense, to leave the body and experience the Self in other forms of existence, and also to feel other forms of existence in one's self. It is both of these. It is the ultimate unity of all living things that makes empathic connection, possible. Once learned and practiced, this ability will remain with you, and is not forgotten.
The exercises below will aid you in developing this ability. You will try to sense and become other living things—a leaf, an insect, an animal, etc. As you do this try to set your "human" perceptions and beliefs aside, and allow the alien nature of these different life forms emerge in your awareness. If you find yourself imposing your everyday human awareness on the experience, release the conditioned "thinking" portion of your mind, or the portion of your awareness that seeks to color the experience, and experience these other life forms as they are. Have no expectation or preconception as to what you will experience, for it may be strange to you and outside what you have previously known.
The process of refining the sense of empathy, or the ability to merge with other forms, may be begun with the leaf meditation:
Find a quiet, undisturbed place. Take a small leaf, freshly plucked from a tree or shrub, and place it in the palm of your right hand. Now, with your eyes open and gaze gently resting on the leaf, visualize, that is become, the leaf. Allow whatever thoughts or impressions arise in your mind to come, but keep your awareness on the leaf. Do this for a total of 1 to 3 minutes the first few times, and then 3 to 4 minutes thereafter.
This exercise should be repeated once per day, for 4 to 6 days. Allow yourself to "feel yourself as the leaf" when doing this exercise, and keep a simple diary of your experiences. It is a physical exercise as well as an intuitive one: keep the eyes open, gaining knowledge of the leaf and feeling yourself as it, and at the same time be open, transparent, to impression.
It may be a little uncomfortable, at first, to do this exercise, but with practice it will become easier to "let go" of your normal human identity and allow yourself to experience other particularized aspects of existence. The leaf is a fine starting point to begin honing the empathic ability—it is a universal symbol, and possesses life while remaining still. The leaf meditation is also quite soothing. Practice with the leaf until you feel that you have had a good sense of becoming and experiencing it.
The next step, after the leaf exercise, is to progress to small creatures, beginning with insects:
Choose an insect, a fly, spider, moth, butterfly, etc. that is relatively small and still enough to be easily observed for a few moments. You can contain it under a glass, while performing this exercise. Without touching or disturbing the insect, and with your eyes open and gazing gently upon the insect, merge with, visualize and become the insect. Allow whatever thoughts and impressions arise in your mind to come, but keep your attention on the insect, visualizing and becoming it as described. Do this for 3 to 4 minutes.
This exercise, with the insects, may be done once each day, for 4 to 6 days. You may have to be on guard, especially at first, in order to avoid anthropomorphism (or coloring your experience of the insect consciousness with your human perspective), perhaps even more so than with the leaf. After performing this exercise a few times, insects that are not still may be used, although it is best to use still ones at first.
After insects, proceed onward to small animals:
Choose a small animal, a cat, dog, frog, mouse, bird (if still enough), etc. With your eyes open and gazing gently upon the animal, merge with, visualize and become the animal. Allow whatever thoughts and impressions arise in your mind to come, but keep your attention on the animal, visualizing and becoming it as described. Do this for up to 5 minutes—slightly shorter, if you feel it is appropriate, but not longer.
This exercise, with small animals, may be done once each day for 4 to 6 days. It is important to understand, when attempting empathic perception with animals, that animals have thoughts, contrary to what some human beings believe. These thoughts will become apparent to you—primitive thoughts, or, in higher animals, more sophisticated ones. After becoming able to be somewhat empathic and able to sense the thoughts of animals, proceed to the following exercises for developing thought communication.
©1994 - 2011 Stephen H. Barrett