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Culture of Empathy Builder:  John Vervaeke

Empathy and Awakening from the Meaning Crisis
John Vervaeke

John Vervaeke, is an award-winning lecturer at the University of Toronto in the departments of psychology, cognitive science and Buddhist psychology.  His work is in integrating science and spirituality to solve the meaning crisis.  He hosts an extensive Youtube video lecture series entitled, Awakening from the Meaning Crisis and has taken part in numerous public dialogues to explore the topic.

John writes, "The Meaning Crisis is at the root of modern crises of mental health, the response to environmental collapse, and the political system. We are drowning in bullshit--literally "meaninglessness". We feel disconnected from ourselves, each other, the world, and a viable future."



In this dialogue, Edwin Rutsch and John discuss how empathy relates to John's work to solve the meaning crisis. We begin by trying to get a clear mutual understanding on what we mean by empathy.





Empathy and Awakening from the Meaning Crisis: John Vervaeke and Edwin Rutsch
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Empathy Circle
What are any concerns, anxieties, worries or fears you are dealing with in your life?

Peter Limberg, John Vervaeke, Jason Snyder, Edwin Rutsch
(View On Youtube or On Facebook)



  • Peter Limberg - Empathy Circles 'a good conversational modality for memetic mediators to have in their toolkit.'

  • John Vervaeke - Psychology and Cognitive Science Professor | Integrating science and spirituality to solve the meaning crisis

  • Jason Snyder - I found the Empathy Circle format to be a very useful 'enabling constraint' encouraging a dynamic interplay between co-presence, theory, and embodied/intuitive processing. Thanks guys!

  • Edwin Rutsch - Director Center for Building a Culture of Empathy




YouTube Generated Transcripts.


until that yeah okay great well thanks
for joining me for this discussion or
dialogue well thank you for reaching out
you know and I enjoyed when we when we
did the empathy circling Peter Jason and
I and you and so when you reached out
and said I think we need to bring you
sort of empathy into the discussion
especially on the on the project that
I'm engaged on now the after Socrates
series I thought yeah I've been just
made a good point so I thought we're
doing it together in dialogue also
seemed appropriate so thank you for
inviting me and proposing this and I
appreciate your openness to dialogue
even watching a lot of your dialogues
and you're just you're wanting to talk
with everyone so I appreciate that
mindset and that attitudes I think
that's really what we need going forward
is kind of that open that's just yeah
yeah I I think that I mean I'm willing
to talk to anybody that will come they
can disagree with me but Paul Van der
clay Jonathan Perot often disagree with
me but I have a tremendous amount of
affection and respect for them because I
trust them because they come into
difficult dialogue with with you know in
good faith we've lost with that mess
right but they come in and in good faith
they come in with no no I'm gonna be
open to self correction and to inside
we're gonna disagree but I'm also going
to come in with sort of a reverence for
the real possibility that I will learn
something from you and you will
transform me in ways that I can't
foresee or anticipate or do on my own
and which people come in with that sort
of orientation then I want to talk to
them I want to talk to them when they
come in when they have an axe to grind
then they want to prove their point and
it's like I have a place where I do that
and that's let's go into the scientific
Academy and we can argue you know
particular theories there there's a way
of doing that and though I try to you
know that other than that I kind of
don't want to talk to people but
thankfully thankfully I find a lot of
people in both domains that I can talk
to effectively and I think productively
well I actually like to talk with you
people from they have very who you say
our bad faith but to do it in an empathy
with the empathic listening structure
and we bring together people at
political left political right talk
about topics like abortion you know
whatever but they have to follow a
structure where they have to do that
empathic listening which you you know
took part in so as long as there's that
rule it's like anybody I'm glad to talk
with anybody you said it kind of makes
sure people actually listen to each
other instead of just start throwing
another yeah but that's one of the I
think we could slow down here because I
want to I want to zero in on this
because there's one of the things I'm
interested right now to talk to you
about because I think the difference you
pointed to it because I see Socrates as
doing both what I said at the beginning
about that but Socrates also doing
something analogous to what you did
that's the midwifery that he talks about
he says that he's like a midwife because
one of the things you I think if I miss
if I guess it's wrong but it seems like
you're saying that one of the things
that the MP circling do does is
transition people into good faith
dialogue oh right and so and I think
that's a missing and I think so I think
your critique or criticism and which way
ever way you want to put it that I have
not sort of looked more at empathy or
empathy circling and there's it's a
missing piece i I want to acknowledge on
you should know just so just to be
explicit I'm going to directly talk
about empathy circling in the after
Socrates series the first half of this
series is about the you know the
historical development of dialectic but
I want to put that if you'll allow me
the pun into dialogue with all these new
emerging practices around trying to get
to authentic dialogue and I think I
think I mean I think what you've I think
we just said is really important in fact
one of the things that when Peter Peter
Lindbergh isn't also tonight and I
talked about after because we said like
because we're doing a bunch of these
modalities right and it's all
participant observation and what we
talked about in Peter had this metaphor
for which I think is really good he said
it felt like the empathy circling was
sort of training a different muscle and
some of the other and they sort of be
seeming to train different things and
to him I said I wonder and if they could
be put into sort of a programmatic
relationship and I hope you don't take
this as as being diminutive trying to
diminish the importance of empathy sir
going I'm trying to do the opposite in
my mind which is that empathy circling
is this great thing for transitioning
people into good faith dialog and then
maybe that could consider you would
perhaps need to get good training in
empathy circling before you could go
into sort of the kind of circling the
guy sense doc talks about which is much
more when people are capable not just
willing or wanting but also capable of
entering into deep good-faith dialogue
then you can sort of do this extra stuff
with it so that's how I see it is that
the empathy a circle is sort of a
gateway practice but it is this
foundational gateway practice it is it's
like anybody can do it with sort of a
minimal exactly exactly and then which
means it can spread very widely which is
sort of the thing I've been focusing on
is how do we sort of spread this
practice you know throughout the culture
is it something anyone the culture can
do and just by observing it if we can
have like politicians if we could have
you know like when when Trump Pelosi
Schumer and pence were in this in the
Oval Office they're having this you know
banter between each other aren't
permanent if they would have done an
embassy circle with each other it was
like the whole country would have seen
it and they would have picked it up and
it would be like that so if you can
model it people can pick it up and it's
this gateway to all those different
practices that you're I think they got
talking about that whole constellation
of practices and it's like making it
deeper but that's why I really focused
on on this and there actually are our
topic actually is like what is the role
of empathy in your your work so I
haven't heard it you know I mentioned I
don't we haven't talked about empathy
and I think it's really a foundational
practice and and you had sent the you
know just said well maybe we should
start off by like what are we talking
about when real good including empathy
rights like what is it definitions that
we're talking abit of a mess out there
in terms of what people are calling
empathy there and I sent you that
article that paper buddy Dan Batson he
lays it out pretty well you know just a
basic framework for it so so it's
starting point I think it is so two
points on that the first the many I mean
this is a this is a prevalent problem in
psychology where the same term is used
in multiple different ways and so that
really that really makes the problem of
equivocation a neat problem in
psychology and so I have avoided the
term empathy perhaps I was mistaken but
maybe not it looks to me from the
outside and the article you sent me sort
of assignments to support this that
there are many different meanings and
they don't or they are of this term and
so that's why I hesitated in using it
and you know it's and some particular
meanings have come unto a very strong
criticism like the criticism that bloom
is made I know you have responses to
that just try to explain why I sort of
held off in using the term because it
was funny like what people like what
what am I saying when I invoke this term
either I spend a lot of time like trying
to stipulate it or I just think I just
put it aside now here's an opportunity
to actually give it the foregrounding
that it needs but the second thing I'd
like to bring into that defining is I
want a definition that makes focal and
central the very thing you just put your
finger on a few minutes ago
I want a definition of empathy that
helps me explain the transition from bad
faith to good faith dialogue so I want
to reverse-engineer empathy from that
important and I think you agree that
central function that we as deeply
needed today or so I'm gonna be a little
bit bold here Edwin if there's a
definition of IDI there's a definition
coming from Edwin that doesn't tell me
you know explain how empathy gets people
from bad faith to good faith dialogue
I'm not that interested in it because I
think we have the shared idea that no
this is really really needed right now
and I think it's really central to as
you also seem to agree with a lot of
important projects so let's open up what
it means but I want to keep this
function the central thing I want to
understand what is empathy and the
explanation is such that it explains to
me this function of taking people from
bad faith to good faith dialog is that
is that fair yeah yeah that's great yeah
visit your said there's a practicality
to that yes yeah this is a practical
definition it's not just you know looks
like this is something we can use and
that's what I really appreciate about
the value of empathy is the practicality
of it and because I see it all the time
like you know I do empathic listening
with people I do mediation and it's the
empathy that's sort of the key
ingredient for you know bridging that
meaning crisis I would say yeah and
and so the work I do is pretty much
based on work of Carl Rogers so he had
definitions I'd sent you that definition
yes I saw the of empathy you know he has
a I think really a paper and he gave it
he presented the paper you know he gave
his definitions he laid it out he spent
like 40 years doing it Pat you know
developing empathic listening
in a therapeutic context and you know
promoted it so it's his work and at the
core it kind of the most simple
definition or is a metaphor of going on
someone else's journey with them yeah so
I'm going I'm sitting here I'm looking
you're kind of going I'm speaking you're
following my journey right it's like
you're present with me I can feel you
being present
you know sensing into what I'm saying
and you know and you're you're going on
my journey you're not saying no you're
wrong you're this you might be thinking
some things but you're still have that
presence and so you're going on my
journey and then also the other part I
would say is the emphasis I'd like to
define empathy within the context of an
empathy circle too so we have something
tangible that we're defining it with
though so here it is you've been you've
been following me and then it's like
okay now I'm gonna follow you right
we're gonna switch I'm going to
empathize with you and follow you on
your journey and and hear you yeah so
that's it that's just the sort of a
just the starting point no but that's
great okay so that that thank you
that brings up a couple of points I want
to first of all I like this idea of sort
of you know participating in somebody's
other sort of sort of what I would call
respect I will knowing like and that
leads to a point that I think I want to
explicate and draw from your work that
you are thinking of empathy as just an
affective state
you're thinking of if I'm following your
journey the way you're talking about I'm
not just having sort of the same
affective state I'm also trying to see
how you're making sense of things if I'm
following your journey there's a deeply
cognitive aspect to this project it's
not just an effective response and I
think that's important because many of
the definitions are you know this many
of the definitions of empathy reduce it
to a kind of effective response or an
effective resonance between two people
and and and then it's like okay so what
that for me that carries no moral
implications if I just share your pain I
might just run away from you because I
don't want to be in pain and but your
notion of you know following somebody
else's journey is oh no no I'm not just
sort of in in you know sharing an
affective state with you that affective
state is bound up with its facilitating
and affording trying to get deeply get
this is what I mean about perspective of
knowing how you're making sense of
things that's why in the empathy
circling I like the part where you have
to sort of say back to the person I've
understood you right it's about have you
understood me yeah you know you're
getting a check you're getting a sort of
a yeah message sent message received
accurately sort of yeah so I think this
is one point we should emphasize right
away and I'm I'm trying to make
connections to some of my constructs I
hope I hope you find that using a great
answer I'm looking forward to so I think
this idea of thinking of it more as a
whole person thing it's got serious
cognitive aspects to it and that we can
think of it in terms of apart our
participatory knowing and knowing by in
some sense identifying with people so
that I can get right I can enact for
myself too
degree there perspectival knowing I'm
seeing how they're making sense of a
situation how their salience landscaping
how they're framing others sizing up
also how they're identifying with that
particular perspective in a
participatory manner I see that I'm
trying to unpack I hope you finding this
fair yeah follow following somebody
else's journey in those kinds of terms
right there's no landscape of their
whole there's a landscape of their
beingness right yes all these things
that are happening in their being and
you're just sort of moving into their
world into their landscape of all the
different relationships or their self
relationships how they're putting the
world together and just sort of
exploring that and not bringing in
you're just bringing in your presence to
follow them to get a sense of that
landscape and it's the felt the one
thing I would say is I know there's you
talk about you know the emotions and the
cognitive but it's so intertwined yes or
no you can even this whole thing of
affective and cognitive it's all so
intertwined I don't think you can even
really clearly tease it apart I wasn't
wanting to tease it alone in fact you
know I argue in my series for the deep
interpenetration of cognition and
emotion and motivation and effect in
general I think that I think what I was
trying to do was I was trying to resist
the reduction I think the overly
simplistic reduction of empathy to a
purely affective right uh-huh
okay that's what yeah there's a whole
mapping there's a map when you have map
you're seeing things in a relationship
to each other so there is that it's not
just a felt experience but those felt
experiences have relationships to each
other yeah maybe that's what you're
that's what I'm pointing down right
you're kind of trying to get the other
person not with just the machinery of
the mind or the machinery of the heart
but if you'll allow me sort of with the
machinery of yourself I'm trying to
figure out how if you'll allow me to
turn this into a verb I'm trying to
figure out how you're sort of selfing
right now how you're sort of configuring
yourself and you know Co configuring the
world and trying to fit yourself in the
world together that's what I'm trying to
get and here's why I think that's
important Edwin
I hope you you think this might be away
I mean I know Paul and so okay let's
have an empathy circle with you I'm
trying for five years to have an empathy
circle you won't talk to me
well I don't know him well I've only met
him and I've had a couple of
conversations with him I might be able
to get into a conversation with him I
know he likes my work a lot but so I
agree with him if please remember the if
if empathy was just that shared effect
then I like I think it's morally neutral
but if what we mean by empathy is this
sort of like in acting for myself
getting buy-in acting your selfing that
here as his has huge moral implications
in fact I can't enter into a proper
moral relationship with you if I can't
in actively get yourself in knots so I
think that's a deep way if we understand
empathy of being able to respond to that
kind of critique and say no no this is
what we mean by empathy we don't just
mean the shared outfit yeah so there is
it sorry there there is a feeling into
like I'm feeling your excitement really
but it's like your excitement is not
like overwhelmingly and I'm just like
overly you know what in your excitement
right and that's what bloom is
criticizing you say oh you're getting
all excited I'm gonna get all excited
yes yes so that I have a sit I'm still
feeling into your being
oh I'm feeling you're excited you know
what's beyond that excitement what's
what's the bigger picture so I'm not
being concerned in fact if I got totally
you can do that I can get totally
excited and I lose my connection to you
exactly I actually what Paul is
criticizing I actually agree with that
estate that he is you know criticizing
is actually it's it's a block to empathy
as I'm sort of explaining it so in a
sense I agree in that sense but I don't
call that empathy he's like state
matching orders could be any number of
reasons you get into that that matching
state so yeah so I just want to throw
that in no no I think that's good I
think what that is why I like this idea
of making sense
because sense has both sort of a
cognitive meaning like making sense but
it also has a sensorial meaning like
actually sensing and feeling like you
said I'm trying to pick up on that with
that term and the reader the reason why
I were circling no pun intended on this
is you know one of the definitions in
the paper was the idea of empathy as
emotional contagion which is exactly
what you were right yeah just having a
few minutes ago an emotional an
emotional contagion as you yourself say
can actually be deeply disruptive it can
disconnect people and it can motivate
them to immoral behavior I think very
clearly but it's mom kind of mob and
lots of things yes so I think trying to
get this I'm glad we have this forum you
know where we're trying to get very
clear on you know a conceptual
reformulation of empathy that can
distinguish it from these other things I
think would be tremendously helpful now
so what can I like this idea of
following somebody on a journey in the
way we've been talking about it this
sort of you know a participatory knowing
of other people's perspective on knowing
of getting into getting and feeling into
getting into see babies speak both sides
I'm feeling into it getting into how
somebody is selfing and world Inge I see
that as really important and at that if
I think it's also important for another
reason because this idea of getting into
how somebody is selfing in world a might
help to explain why empathy can move
people from bad faith to good faith
dialogue do you see what yeah I mean you
talk about so somebody's
talking and you're gonna
manipulate you and you just listen to
the you listen to the to the to
the all the different things that
there's you know trying to throw out
there and then you just hear it it's
like oh I hear you're really you know
this is going on for you and it's almost
like it just arms them it's like oh
you're actually listening to me they
might have anger I hear you're feeling
angry is is they're more like yeah and
then you go into it and it's almost like
if this arm
and it's like and then they're like oh
this feels pretty good I'm actually
being heard and then they kind of open
up and they said there's a deeper truth
I find it kind of comes up over time if
you another question that might help
give kiss give even more distinctive
clarity so what's the difference because
I think there's a difference in what you
just said between listening to someone
so they're heard and listening to
someone and being convinced by them cuz
I don't want to be convinced by the
artist right I don't want to be
convinced because then the
artist is that we're not gonna connect
the artists that I'm gonna
manipulate me he's gonna treat her
myself deceptive machinery my defensive
machinery so what what are you doing
what is empathy doing that is allowing
you to listen so the person feels heard
without you thereby being convinced or
manipulated by them if they're doing
something in bad faith because that's
what we're zeroing in now on how do we
how do we get from the bad faith to the
good face so what's the difference yeah
I there's a guy named Sam Vaknin he's
he's in the in Europe and he wrote a
book called malignant self-love and he's
he's kind of the go-to guy that you go
through for a narcissistic psychopath
right he's created a you know a media
persona of being and there was a
documentary about him that they traveled
to these different research centers for
studying psychopathy and they tested him
and he actually tested you know positive
for for this and so I've done a couple
interviews with him and I did we did an
embassy we did a couple empathy circles
and it's sort of amazing that it's like
he kind of started opening up by instead
of trying to manipulate me to get what
he sort of wanted you know it's like he
was able to share hid what he who he was
and be heard by me and then likewise he
I was able to be heard he was reflecting
me he was following me on my journey and
her sort of a there's sort of a deeper
truth that comes through in overtime
with that in it I can share my truth
plus if it's more
than just having two people the more
people you get that's are like four
people in the circle because you have
multiple points of so that creates a bit
of a safety as well that if you just get
with two people and they're just going
back and forth you can kind of get kind
of bogged down the more points of
reference of reality you have there
creates it creates the sense of safety I
don't know if that's sort of kind of
part of it okay the last point you said
it makes good sense to me using sort of
distributed cognition and yeah Chuck
okay so I think I think that's and of
course that I think overlaps with sort
of Socratic dialectic in important ways
and I'm getting I like this idea of a
deeper truth so this is what this is
what it's sounding like to me it's like
well sometimes what people often what
people think they want in a conversation
especially they're coming in with bad
faith is they want belief transmission I
want to give you my beliefs that way
I'll be able to predict and you control
your behavior but it sounds to me like
the deeper truth is almost like the high
daguerreian Alafaya what people often
want and what they perhaps know if
you'll allow me what they really want is
connectedness yeah and a mutual opening
but right rather than right rather than
you know belief transmission and so is
is that the key that you listen in a way
in which you're not getting locked into
sort of belief transmission you're
trying to listen in a way in which
you're trying to shift the person on to
paying attention to that sense of
connectedness which they create yeah is
that a good way yeah I think that you're
you're talking about demeaning crisis it
which is feeling disconnected
disconnected from your own real felt
experience yeah you have disconnection
from other people's felt experience so
the fantastic process of just fully
hearing somebody is sort of a connection
building process and that connection
when you start feeling connected it's
like your your fear goes down right
there and the fear itself is a
disconnecting you
process so the more we can get away past
fear the more we can sort of feel
connected and the more we feel connected
it creates a positive spiral towards
deeper deeper connection over time so
yeah a reciprocal opening as a
participant of Ladera link yeah so so
that seems to be implying and I would
agree with this implication that sort of
one of the core underlying motives of
bad faith dialog is a kind of fear
motivation whereas when people if they
can if you can sort of get them to
connect you you you you shift them from
avoiding fear to pursuing connection and
that's how you can shift people from a
bad faith dialogue which is fear driven
to a good faith dialogue which is
connection seeking or connection
cultivating is that yeah I think I think
so yeah it it you do start over time I
mean I you know we have like I said
we've done left-right dialogues so on
you know gun control gun violence on on
abortion you know people have really
strong feelings
yeah and it's easy they share something
and if they don't feel heard a wall goes
up right it's like they get tense you
can just feel the tension and then but
it's like okay what I'm hearing is this
this this you know you're starting to
hear them and then the they get more
relaxed right and then but then then if
there's also the mutuality of it at
least in the empathy circle where it's
just not the other person doing all the
talking it's a mutual so that act feels
pretty good there's a sense of fairness
within it so that fairness within the
empathy circle helps so right but you're
looking it so the real dynamics of
what's really going on here well
that'sthat's what I what yeah what I
have you know I wanna and I'm grateful
to you for being such a willing
participant in this I want to bridge
between the cognitive science and the
practicality I want to try and
understand you know in terms of the
cognitive science what are the cognitive
processes what are the dynamics going on
because well I think
it would serve your practice what's
happening here is a way of getting you
know good responses to misunderstandings
and miss framing of empathy circling I
think that's a clear potential benefit
but also I think if if I could
understand if you'll allow me this
metaphor the machinery of the dynamics
yeah then I could relate it to other
developmental processes I could see how
empathy circling as a practice could
more properly coordinate with other
developmental processes and projects so
that's what I'm that's what I'm trying
to do here right now that's why I'm
trying to do it yeah well there's
another piece that's coming to me now is
that with there's I'm irresponsible so
many dimensions to this one is the the
empathic listening was really articulate
developed within the therapeutic context
right there's the the listener like Carl
Rogers he would listen to his you know
clients and they would bring all kinds
of I mean the amount of you know
struggles people have the meaning crisis
that they're bringing their meaning
crisis is to him he's just like sitting
and listening the other part that I'm
looking at is a relational part that
within the therapeutic part you have
your you do have a bit of a distance
because you've got the you've got a
professional relationship the therapist
is not equal in a sense they're not
sharing their story so it's not a
mutually empathic relationship so that's
another part of it is that that's why I
call it a culture of empathy because we
want that mutual the relationship
relationship Parden how do we create and
so the the relationship part is you can
speak in past the CLE - right it's not
just like listening empathically you can
contribute to the empathic relationship
by speaking more and this was the work
of Jean gentleman yeah I think we're
focusing is he like stable okay who is
this who the clients you know who came
who is moving forward in their growth
right they're in stock they got a
meaning crisis you know who's actually
through this empathic listening and
some kind of forward motion and from his
studies it was like the people who spoke
from a felt present veldt experience
like oh right now I'm feeling excited
I'm feeling concentration you know in
the concentration is right here I feel
kind of a spaciousness here and they're
doing that moment a moment - it's like
oh it's actually changing just by my
sharing the felt experience kind of
starts shifting and then you get a
reflection on it that kind of
contributes to the shifting and so his
insight was it was the felt experience
and identifying it you know sharing it
getting the reflection on it versus kind
of spinning and sort of an intellectual
writers attached mm-hmm way that you're
in sort of a monotone continuous or a
monotone Spacey
you just don't move anywhere so it's
sort of his and he kind of developed
that whole kind of a structure that's
so the so now I'm getting a sense of the
appropriate let's call it the empathy
conducive kind of listening and now you
said but it has to be properly conjoined
with an empathy conducive kind of
speaking and getting them to resonate
properly together is as part of the
challenge I take it yeah and you can
deepen that's what it takes to sort of
deepen the experience even at a super
you know at that sort of just more bad
faith or whatever level you know right
right it already it does a lot you know
it over time you know we do like family
empathy circles for hours so this
together thing and you know it it kind
of people are kind of disjointed and
after you know about two hours a little
bit more something clicks and people are
sort of you just gonna feel this kind of
connection that that happens yeah yeah I
take it that what happens is you get so
sort of this self-organizing system that
takes shape I've noticed that in other
other circling practices you get sort of
this people are people feel sort of
static or just you know this kinds of
one-off connections
and like you say it's sort of all
propositional and then it shifts into no
no now we're all sort of belonging to
this self-organizing system that's
starting to take on a life of its own
and people started I noticed that the
metaphors shift from sort of pushing
effort to being drawn people start to
say I was you know they do I saying this
and they sort of pushed their hand out
they do all these pushing metaphors and
then when the different turns they do I
mean I've been drawn in I'm carried
along and they started and so they they
view the Buddhist metaphor thay they
feel that they've entered the stream
right that they've found a way to orient
themselves into the process so that they
may now state to get carried along so
I'm very I'm very interested in that I'm
trying to see what are the conditions
that make make that gel in take shape um
actually starting to do work with a
student about trying to maybe come up
with you know a way of operationalizing
this and measuring this so we can see
where you get that transition where it
goes from sort of chaotic to then
coherent self-organization yeah there's
a real felt experience in that yes like
you're saying there's a feeling of
pushing versus a feeling of being drawn
into it and exactly and you're not being
yeah it's like being in sort of a flow
and there's more about harm a harmony of
the whole that kind of happens that and
how do you kind of create that
environment yeah so so part of the
theorizing that I'm doing is is that I
think that what seems to be happening is
that within distributed cognition you're
getting you're getting a shared flow
state in the trick set - in other words
you're actually getting the you getting
people in sort of distributed mutually
reinforcing flow and so I'm wondering if
you know the conditions that create
individual flow how did that map onto
you know creating this collective flow
it's interesting that because I've been
in some circling events and I've been
reading about it that the people often
they they they get to do this like this
third factor that in addition to all the
people there's the
or the process or even even the spirit
and they start to feel sort of a
relationship to the process and the
spirit of the process above and beyond
but not excluding of the other
participants in the process and I get a
sense from what you're just saying that
that's also happening when you get into
the deeper levels of empathy circling it
do people start to talk that way as if
they're being sort of carried along and
the conversation itself is starting to
direct them or lead them yeah I found
there said there's a state where you
don't even do empathic listening and you
don't do the reflection anymore it's
like it's already embodied sort of that
yeah we already know that we're
listening to each other right we already
know there's taking each other in so we
don't even do the reflective listening
anymore and I kind of like that at state
there's a kind of a shift that happens
then I kind of feel I feel comfortable
in at ease because I'm not having to be
on guard on guard about what's being
said is there gonna be space for me and
then I've heard that so it is sort like
this I've some people have mentioned
sort of a third space you know there's
yeah you in this third service space the
third space exactly happens and I
recreate that and how do we deepen it
yeah yeah III think that's those are
good questions and those are questions
I'm trying to get a handle on and I'm
also interested in that because when
people I've seen and I've read about and
I've experienced that when people start
to get a sense of that third space
they're there some of their they start
to shift right and I want to be really
careful here and I don't want it be I
don't want this to be over read I'm like
but people they start to use spiritual
and religious language and talk about
this this space and it makes sense
because you're sort of involving the
whole self and then the whole self is in
relation to other people's whole selves
and then all these whole selves are sort
of in relation to this third space and
it's see and I'm interested in I guess
for lack of a better word the spiritual
aspects of these practices too because I
think that's also the way in which they
address the mean crisis they give people
away of not believing
propositions about spirituality but
actually enacting the self-transcendence
and the deep connectedness that's at the
core of I think a lot of meaning making
and the cultivation of wisdom of
spirituality to put an umbrella term on
I wonder what do you think about that do
you think it starts to because that's
another aspect of addressing the meeting
crisis right giving people a place like
a temple or a church if you'll allow me
the analogy where they can go so that
they can expand enact self transcendence
they can enact deep connectedness they
can enact transformation they can enact
and awareness something more
comprehensively connective than just
their own ego itself yeah I think I
heard one of your your dialogues that
you had of a evangelical fundamentalist
background yeah so yeah so I so for me
you know I grew up I thought I knew
understood everything you know I go to
heaven I had the kind of the answers
then I spent 10 years traveling around
the world right Muslim countries Hindu
you know animist and just wide variety
and all that kind of just you know kind
of passed away to where I kind of I just
saw that what people are kind of people
if I was born here I'd kind of be a
Muslim if I was born here I'd be a Hindu
or whatever just as I would have taken
on like the culture and then I just saw
that the dose or this common humanity
you know people just they're kind
they're generous they're caring they're
they're not so caring you know so so I
just see it more spirituality as more
just felt experience so if you're saying
spirituality that there is a felt
experience of you know if you say
transcendence something you know moving
be unstuck getting unstuck yeah that's
what I like that's what I mean by self
transcendence and I mean again again if
we if like I think what's going on is
people I felt experience of getting
also a felt experience of making
connections and making meaning and again
not propositional meaning I mean the
meaning in life kind of meaning the kind
of where we sense that we're connected
very deeply to ourselves to other people
to reality in important ways the things
you know that the research is showing is
you know are really conducive to people
feeling they have a lot of meaning in
life and that's what I mean by
spirituality yeah so for me I just used
the word felt experience to be as
spirituality somehow has a sense of it
being another world I mean yeah yeah
yeah it's not a part of the physical
experience or something like God who's
in a different dimension that's outside
of the this yeah I I understand your
criticism and as you know I think we
have to I I sometimes would use the word
Sapienza rather than spiritual meaning
nothing to do with wisdom in this broad
sense of really understanding you know
how to connect with other people with
yourself and other people in the world
and really cultivate a depth in that
yeah something oh sorry go ahead I just
want I just wanted to just wanted to
thank you for letting me finish I
appreciate that I just wanted to say
that I guess part of the way I see the
project that I've been engaging is is to
try and reconstruct the notion of
spirituality make it more oriented to
SAP because I want to take it out of
that two worlds grammar that you've just
pointed to because many people I like
you they don't find that two worlds
grammar of the here and then there's the
other world of Heaven or God they don't
find that two worlds grammar viable
anymore it's not a live option for them
and if spirituality is bound up with
that that's why that's why you I would
argue that's what you see a lot of
people rejecting the established
religions because that grammar doesn't
work for them anymore for all kinds of
historical and I think scientific
reasons but if can we take whatever it
was that was going on there that
afforded people what I call religio that
deep sense of connectedness that
affordance of getting unstuck self
transcendence growth in meaning in life
it can we bring it into another way of
thinking that doesn't rely on the two
world grammar
I think that's what I'm trying to point
to I think that part of what empathy
circling and these other modalities are
doing is exactly that they're trying to
say we don't need that we don't need
that that that myth us anymore there's
another way in which we can enact these
these X what you call the felt the felt
experience of connectedness yeah how do
you create that sense of connectedness
without having to think of God and and
some outside worldly sort of space other
and I think that's what Carl Rogers if
you you know if like that paper of his
he's kind of addressing this like he's
talking about people getting stuck I
mean whose whole work was like people
are coming I am stuck in I'm stuck in in
disconnection alienation depression
anxiety fear I mean just go down the
list of all these feelings that people
get sort of stuck in and he's like well
just through the listening to people for
them to start opening up start sharing
their felt experience and for that to be
seen it are something about the having
someone there to reflect you to be sort
of on the journey with you
metaphorically I'm on the journey with
you to follow you on your journey and
there's something about that
companionship that creates a sense of
connection even in the darkest you know
you see people who just collapse like I
just they collapse with grief or
whatever and there's someone there that
has their arms around that person sort
of being present with them and it's a
support in that that moment so it's I
think that's sort of the the empathic
presence that how it helps the unstuck
did it's like as you slowly go in and
I've had that experience I don't find it
before but with I was kind of just
nursing my own anxiety and and I was in
a dance I do freestyle dance right so I
was noticing it and I thought well
instead of just avoiding it going off in
a way I'm gonna really try to tap in I'm
gonna try to take that anxiety that I
feel kind of in the core of my body and
I want to zoom in on it like like
picture like when you zoom into a
picture you get individual pixels I said
I want to zoom into this and get into
the individual pixels and see what it is
and and ice and as I did that I started
getting metaphors came to my like oh
it's like thousands of little knives
that are cutting away slicing away it
mean I'm gonna get really close to that
and as I got really I kept you know kind
of exploring it kind of dissolved that
feeling dissolved in a new and it was
like oh this is kind of it's gone and
then it was only a few seconds later
that oh I have another one there's like
this heaviness in my mind kind of a
heavy cloud so I was kind of met it turn
it and then I started going into that
and for like an hour I just kind of kept
dancing into looking for the fears and
anxieties and I would kind of get as
close as I could and and it's like going
into him it's like they would kind of
open up and sort of dissolve and at the
end of an hour I felt like I was I mean
I was like in heaven it was like that
was just so calm I was just so it's like
ah this space of just talking about
transcendence like it just felt so good
to have kind of trans it train gone
through all of these these fears I think
that's what a depression pastic presence
does it allows you that's that you're
not going alone on that journey into
these different feelings so I guess I'm
tying that in with the spirituality for
me that no totally liked all the totally
a spiritual transit formative trend yeah
that's good because I think there's a
both an individual you might call it a
therapeutic aspect of meeting crisis but
I think there's also a cultural aspect
and so that's what I've tried to bridge
with this notion of spirituality we need
a better term but we need something yes
people need sort of individual ways of
getting unstuck but there's also a
people also have a sense of being sort
of culture shock experience and culture
shock within this culture like not
feeling at home in the culture at large
a kind of collective domicile and I
think part of that is they're looking
for I mean I think there's evidence
or this they're looking for ways not
because they're in what you might call
it you know any kind of psychological
distress this is much more an
existential they're looking for ways to
afford this connection and I mean that's
your intent right yeah bethey isn't just
for people who are in therapeutic
distressed it's supposed to be also
something that's more existentially
powerful and relevant is that is that oh
yeah I'm looking for cultural
transformation my idea is that if we and
is this is just one tool the empathy
circle is something that can be trans
you know can go into the full culture
and I really am serious about you know
what I want to do I've been working with
the extinction rubella near the
environmental because I really like the
nonviolent direct action I'm wanting to
do empathic direct action where we like
set up our empathy and all these empathy
tents we've got them in different
countries to we set up on the Capitol
Mall you know in front of the Congress
and we say we demand that the the
Republicans and Democrats do empathy
circles with each other and it's like
that's great so the way I see it is
metaphorically is it's kind of like
World War one right you got the social
structure which is you know is a kind of
authoritarian colonial a real automatic
hierarchical structure you got the
soldiers working with each other and
then you got the nurses and doctors
trying to help like oh that's great but
it's not those nurses and doctors aren't
transforming the overall a social
structure so it's like how do we take
this sort of mindset and bring it into
the core of the social structure II of
the political social structures and so
we camp out you know there on the
Capitol Mall and we got these empathy
tents on if you've seen the tents that
we've got we oh I have to send you the
links please
so we we you know the political right
comes to Berkeley and then the political
left and Tifa and so forth you know come
and they kind of battle it out here and
we have this you know small group we
have an empathy tent we set it up kind
of in the middle of that we offer
to both sides and also sort of mediation
between the sides so we've got sort of
machinery either cool for setting this
up and so we got the tools so I'm kind
of working towards that you know capital
mall that's great
so that that goes towards like my my
concern about the sort of zappy ntral
spiritual aspects of this about that
it's not just a therapeutic relationship
it's a much more comprehensive
existential and cultural transformation
that you're seeking so I think you
answered that question very well I also
see in the way you were describing the
dancing and I mean this is also again
one's work right there there's you know
training in mindfulness could interact
with things like the empathy circling
they couldn't you chilli improve and
benefit each other and I think it's a
very powerful ways so like you know in
other ways I'm trying to unseeing how
empathy circling could fit into a larger
ecology of practices so that example was
particularly helpful to me so thank you
yeah it is thinking but I think that's
what you're trying to usually try and do
cultural transformation and create the
tool set in a map for how can this
cultural transformation take part is
kind of what I'm getting is that culture
the culture itself the whole dynamics of
the the mutuality is that is having that
crisis of yes where do we go from here
things are falling apart there's
polarization you know we're not solving
climate crisis etc etc yeah yeah the
eggs right so we're not only stuck as
individuals right we're we're stuck as a
culture in an important way and so and I
want to understand
well you've helped to address that how
what's the connection between the
individual level of practice and the
more comprehensive level and I see what
you're trying to do that's that's
extremely cool um
I think at some point I would like to
talk with you again yeah great because
it may be a bit longer yes I'm sorry I
today is a day of like four or five
interviews for me so I'm sort of chuckle
block but well I I think it's I think we
made some good progress in
yeah get anything is clear and I would
really like to talk to you again and
week let's do what we did before we will
have this let's try and build on it have
another discussion maybe yeah I'll set
aside an hour and a half for our next
discussion Edwin and let's try and also
do what we did like email about how we
might go forward and extend because I
think that really got us very quickly
into really good discussion I would also
like I mean you'll obviously put this on
your channel I'm wondering if you could
you know send me Google Drive this and I
could upload it onto my channel that
would be great yeah I think you'd have
get much more distribution I can put it
on Facebook if you want to put it on
YouTube I think your channel
I'll get more yeah yeah I'll put it on
my youtube channel and I can also tweet
about it and a post on it and LinkedIn
and so I can sort of broadcast it more
more Y more widely so like I said if you
send me the link through like Google
Drive or Dropbox or something then I'll
look to offload it on my channel the
next couple of days then okay great yeah
that's I'm really excited it's just the
beginning I thought it was very I
thought it was very productive though I
thought we would we've we sort of
unpacked things sort of quite well at
least in this yeah starts to start
getting at some of the depths right like
I said starting to build some
connections between the cognitive
science and the practice space of how we
do it space that you create it's like
this inviting you reciprocated at that
space very nicely uh so again thank you
we will definitely talk again please
like I said send me the file and I'll
upload it to my channel and it's been
great gonna talk again for sure
thanks again thanks again