Empathy Intervention–– Kalie Oku

As a child development major, I have learned quite a bit about empathy and why it is important. I have learned different theories on how it develops, and different strategies of teaching empathy to young children. I am a student assistant teacher at the Preschool Learning Lab, and I mindfully practice empathy with the children and with as many people as I can in my daily life. I am also taking a class called The Helping Relationship, where I am learning about how to provide both basic and advanced empathy in order to help individuals hear their stories, and feel empowered to make changes. It is a very tricky and skillful process… It is so fun to learn about! It’s nice that you have this as an assignment. Empathy is a centerpiece of my education and life, but I understand it is not for many others. Of course I still find internal discrepancies–– the thoughts I have are not always congruent with my beliefs. Critical thinking and self-reflection are life-long pursuits… I may have some internal discrepancies for the rest of my life. But the goal is oneness! To always strive towards self-betterment. Anyways, most recently, I found myself judging various performers on the Saturday TedX Talk. There was a conflict going on my head between two ideas I can’t seem to escape. As a classically trained flutist, I can’t help but notice all the times anything looks off-beat, or sounds out of tune. My ears are a gift and a curse in this way, I suppose. Every little mistake seems to be accounted for, flagged, and stored in a box of judgement. I can feel the judgement in my face, as I ever so slightly narrow my eyes. However, there is another voice: as a performer I know the feelings of love, pride, happiness, and relief on stage. As I watch, I feel that with them, and it fills me with love and joy because there is nothing more beautiful than being in the presence of someone doing something that they love. They are sharing their time and efforts, in a beautiful, challenging, and artistic way. These two voices talk to each other in my mind, as I try to remain in the present to enjoy every moment. That second voice was empathy. Writing about this helps me reflect more on this–– While noticing musical blunders is something I may always do automatically, my reaction to the information can be shifted. Rather than spending mental energy evaluating people, I can notice that they’re there, and move on. Like mindfulness meditation: “you may notice sounds throughout the room, sounds in your head. Notice they’re there and gently bring your attention back to the breath.” I will notice the sounds in my head, but I can work to bring my attention back to the present.

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