One of the core beliefs of yogis is that on the inside, we are all the same - not similar. THE SAME. It’s called vriti, and can be described as universal energy. Some people call it consciousness, some call it Light. There is something connecting every tiny piece of matter in the universe. In the foreword of Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements, he describes a man who suddenly has this profound realization. He explains his epiphany by saying that now, when he looks at any other human, it is like looking in a mirror. No you, no me. Oneness.
We all have some ability to feel this type of connection with other people. We call it empathy - and it allows us to experience and understand the emotions of those around us. I used to pride myself on being super empathetic, it felt like the secret ingredient to being a good person. But, over time, I’ve come to realize that alone empathy isn’t always the most helpful tool.
For example, being a classroom teacher, empathy has enabled me to step into a room and know how my students are feeling. When my students are anxious and stressed, I find myself anxious and stressed. I can tell when this is happening because my tone becomes angry, shrill, and short. I often can’t help but internalize their emotions, and react accordingly - but, what good is that doing? What room needs another anxious and stressed person in it?
So, when does the mirror become helpful?
Enter: compassion. If empathy is me feeling that a student is anxious, and possibly reacting with anxiety myself, compassion is recognizing the opportunity to be the person in the mirror for my student - and support them from a place of calm and control.
We can use the concept of vritti to think about with empathy and compassion in little daily occurrences. If we’re all looking at ourselves in each other, who do you want to see?