Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of: May 10, 2004

In Their Shoes: Intentional Empathy

The true ability to put oneself into the position of another person belongs to the level of being of the saint. The rest of us, however, can profit heart and soul by the intentional practice of empathy, by attempting to understand the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another person through seeing ourselves in their place, with their background, propensities, and life situation. Such inner work transforms our attitude, changing the whole tenor of our interactions.

Intentional empathy can be particularly valuable when we practice it for people with whom we have some difficulty or toward whom we are indifferent. Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes opens doors to compassion, forgiveness, kindness, and love. Understanding the other person’s position from inside their situation brings us toward seeing the humanity of the other while weakening the grip of our own self-centered egoism.

Intentional empathy does not rest on intellectual consideration of the other person’s life, but rather on a direct seeing, an unmediated perception of the within of the person. Through practice this new mode of perception opens to us, as we open to others.

For this week, practice intentional empathy toward at least two people each day.



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