A Simple Exercise to Deepen Empathy and Compassion to Others

By Fatima Ariadne

“See through the eyes of compassion! Listen with the ears of tolerance! Speak with the language of love!” (Rumi)

Photo credit : Helen Levitt

Heart is a Mirror

Heart is a mirror of Divine light. And one of Divine trait is love. The words Ar-Rahmaan and Ar-Raheem, that muslims repeated over and over again in their prayers, embodied this trait of Divine : the most compassionate, loving, and merciful. And as we are the beings coming from the Source of Love, we are here to reflect His light as well.

We are standing here not as the source, but as a small mirror that reflects the light from the Source. We love, not because we can. Our ability to love is nothing but reflection of Divine’s love being inspired to every hearts. And your heart is that mirror. Have you polished your mirror mindfully, or do you let it be dusted and rusted?


The World Through the Eyes of Stranger

If there’s something we’re often guilty of, including myself, it must be judging others before knowing them firsthand. Isn’t it a sad fact that we only see what we want to see, not the way they are. We’re so engrossed with “I think” and “I want”, and forgot to even ask for a sec, “how if I walk a mile in their shoes? Would I still think similarly about this person? How if I know what kind of heaven and hell he’d been through? Will I keep on blaming, or will I choose to release him from the blame?”.

Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was recorded in Hadith Ibn Hibban (da’eef, great message nevertheless) to say – don’t seek others’ fault because it could be that the fault you seek in them are the same fault you’ve committed yourself.

Elif Shafak inside his book “40 Rules of Love”, listed this beautiful quote of Rumi how we are connected to each other :

The universe is one being. Everything and everyone is interconnected through an invisible web of stories. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all in a silent conversation. Do no harm. Practice compassion. And do not gossip behind anyone’s back – not even a seemingly innocent remark! The words that come out of our mouths do not vanish, but are perpetually stored in infinite space, and they will come back to us in due time. One man’s pain will hurt us all. One man’s joy will make everyone smile.”


The Exercise in Action!

If you want to reap the fruits of love, you can’t do it by sowing the seeds of hatred. The universe only gives back what you have given.

how to grow compassion

Imagine you pass by a street and see a heavily-tattooed teenager. Or a Mohawk-shaped purple-painted-haired dude. Or a woman in hijab staring at outside the café window. Or a bum sitting on the park. Or practically anyone. What would pop up first in your mind?

I won’t say this coming as YOUR own mind ;). But let’s say this as a random example, I mean…. if you’re happened to be not so preoccupied with your own self….

“Oh a bum. Ugh, dirty. No thanks. Oh God, that punk rock dude, sheesh he must be a criminal. Screw them all. Damn, what a fine dress that girl is wearing, where did she buying it at??”

Now every time you come across anyone and a judgmental thought was clouded your thought, do this step. I’d call this exercise as “walking through the footsteps of strangers”. ;)

Step 1. Every time you come across someone and your thought was not-so good, quickly interrupt that : “hey who am I here to judge? Do I know him? Do I walk his journey to know the heaven or hell he’s been through?”

Step 2. Say this affirmation to yourself, as if you talking through telepathy toward that stranger : “If only I step into your shoes, your life…..and if only I see you through the people who knows, loves, cares about you, I’m sure you have much more beauty than what is apparent now”.

Step 3. Then continue this by saying (in your heart) with the most sincere intention, “May The Divine bless you, and shower you with His guidance, healing, and blessings. May your heart be opened with love”.

Step 4. If you only find nothing but the unpleasant or not-so-good thing, then say this : “Oh Divine One, the turner of hearts and most compassionate one, pour him Your mercy and turn his heart to Your guidance, and to love”

Try that tomorrow. Even if you don’t want to do it for THAT particular person, do it for yourself and see how it feels like. It may be trivial. But heart is a seed, and from the seed a greater plant will grow. From a simple empathy, it will grow slowly into a willingness to open for a greater love. And actions. Consider this a kick start to open your heart for that. Your words and loving intentions do not fall into deaf ears, it only goes to the Greatest Source of all.

May The Divine opens our hearts to love — always! :)

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  1. 5 years ago
    a muslimah

    Excellent reminder!

  2. 3 years ago
    Yasmin Abdur Rahman

    Assalamu’Alaikum. I pray you’re well.
    I am going through so much difficulty . And i need the best of advice. Basically I will be going through a divorce i have been married for 2years now and we had very bad communication due to….My husband not being happy with this marriage from the beginning.

    I have tried everything to save this marriage , i stayed patient with n his family but no appreciation what so ever.

    My Question is how do cope with and how can i deal with. Please advice me

    Jazak’Allah Khair


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