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Adventures in Empathy

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Cooperating Hearts Serve Our Need to Heal

By Henry Reed

We all know how good it feels when we feel that someone else truly empathizes with us. Trouble is, it’s not that common an experience. I’ve found a way to distill the essence of the magic potion of empathy by removing all the external stuff that gets in the way. In the process, I’ve developed a great demonstration of the reality of the “non-local mind,” or universal awareness. Here’s where empathy shows its true healing power of connectedness.

I’ve designed the process—we still don’t know what we want to call it (“The Healing Memory Circle”?  “The Non-Local Empathy Circle”?)—around today’s mode of connection: emails! Let me describe a recent performance of this game.

I sent out email invitations and convened a group of six players to join me. For the most part, they did not know the identities of the other players, and we played anonymously.

To begin, each of us decided upon some personal issue, concern, or challenge for which we’d like resolution, healing, or guidance. Each of us created an email with a one or two sentence description of our dilemma. In the subject line, we each posted a four digit number of our choosing, and then sent the email to one of my remote assistants.

When the assistant had received all 7 emails, the assistant read a prayer asking that the dilemma that would create the most healing light among us be the one chosen, and then used a computer to generate a random four digit number. Among the 7 emails received, the one with the four digit number in the subject line that was closest to the computer generated number became the secret target question. The other six emails were deleted. The target email remained unopened, but the assistant signaled me that a target had been selected.

Then began the next stage. Each of us used a special recording I had prepared to get into an “Intuitive Heart” frame of mind. Using mind body formulas regarding gratitude for the life-giving breath we all share in spirit, the recording directed the listener to allow Spirit to direct into one’s mind a memory from a specific experience in the past that would best create empathy for the targeted secret dilemma belonging to that email’s author. Of course, none of us knew what was the content of that email. However, the science of intuition has demonstrated that intention is sufficient to the task.

Each of us recorded the memory that spontaneously came to mind. Also, we each wrote a few sentences about what learning experience or lesson for ourselves we find in that memory as we contemplate it now. The memory and it’s interpretation was sent by email to the assistant, who then stripped the identities from the content, and then forwarded the collection of 7 memory/analysis compositions to each of us for comments. After we all had a chance to comment on the collection, the assistant forwarded to all of us the anonymous targeted question. The author of that question then sent to the assistant for forwarding to us, anonymously, the reaction to our efforts.

As I expected, based upon quite a bit of face to face trials with this method, this remote, anonymous, email based collective empathy experiment was amazingly effective. Here’s what happened:

  1. The first person remembered about being at a hospital, where someone was dying, and remembered how impossible it seemed to offer anything to ameliorate a friend’s suffering.
  2. The second person remembered the excitement of winning a large iron bell at an auction, but was then at a loss as to what to do with it.
  3. The third person remembered being dropped off to kindergarten on the wrong day and being embarrassed in front of the class, but supported by the teacher.
  4. The fourth person had remembered how his brother was so thrilled to be able to hit with his slingshot a squirrel up in a tree, but only to feel very sad upon looking down at the dead animal.
  5. The fifth person remembered a brother playing happily as a child, in contrast to his general negative attitude as an adult.
  6. The sixth person remembered starting to wash cars as a teenager, and ultimately losing the first customer who became dissatisfied with the quality of the work.
  7. The seventh person wrote about how she looked in a photo as a bubbly toddler sitting on her sad, depressed grandmother’s lap.

Folks also explored the implied lessons in these memories, both for themselves, and what they saw in their colleagues’ memories. Each memory seemed to involve some kind of “shift” in perspective, as one person expressed it:

A shift from feeling pleased, to feeling sad. A shift from frustration over not being able to help to taking a position of acceptance. A shift from excitement, to doubting the value of an action, to accepting the value of spontaneity itself. A shift of focus, from the face of detractors, to the face of someone supportive. A shift from unconscious selfishness to an appreciation for the perspective of another person.

The consensus seemed that the person asking the question has a difficult situation in their life, perhaps involving a family member. They are wanting to know what they can do to help that family member, or the situation around that family member. The message seems to be that they need to focus their efforts on cultivating/remaining open to their own sense of a compassionate acceptance all around.

Here was the undisclosed target question:

QUESTION: I feel at an impasse around a seeming inability to repair my relationship with my sister-in-law, which was damaged by a seemingly very minor argument I had with her, and I would like some guidance around repairing this situation (if it is repairable).

Here are some of the comments from the person whose question was the focus:

A sense of  ‘learn your lesson” to me translates as: This is a reminder of what happens when you forget to be fully “respectful” of the other person. I find this SO helpful. I feel like I was getting more and more narrowly focused on my sister-in-law and how she SHOULD be feeling, how she SHOULD be acting, what an immature and neurotic person she must be. Reading the memories, I began settling back into a feeling of  spaciousness around the whole issue, regaining my own inner sense of harmony with my sister-in-law, losing the sense of urgency around the whole situation, feeling much more relaxed about it, and able to allow her the space to act out whatever it is she’s acting out right now without me having a feeling of being personally attacked in some way.

My Experience of the Memory Circle

The person whose question became the focus

I am very grateful that I was asked to participate in Henry’s first go at a “healing memory circle.”

After each of us had submitted our memory/lesson learned to Henry’s assistant, they were compiled into one document and sent out for each one of us to review so we could determine if there were commonalities among the memories and their lessons that would reveal the nature of the question that each memory was answering.

One by one, as I read each memory, it was as if a balm were being poured over my agitated spirit. (And this was in spite of the fact that I simply assumed that the memory was not mine since having one’s memory chosen felt almost like a contest – and I never win contests!)

The meaning I took from each memory:

(A) Letting go of how we would like things to be and responding with unconditional acceptance to what is here before us.

(B) Going with the flow. Allowing life to ring through her.

(C) Embracing what is with love and acceptance. Within the perceived sense of isolation, people appear who are kind and accepting.

(D) This seems again to be a memory about allowing the life force to express in the world. When we interfere, we end the joy.

(E) Even in the midst of the difficulties and the anger and frustration that comes, beauty is here if we will simply allow ourselves to acknowledge it.
(F) Something about “the joy and pleasure of doing something well of cleaning revealing something new and bright”; and being mindful of the job you’re doing when serving others by revealing to them this “something new and bright.”

(G) Even in the midst of depression and emptiness, at bottom there is always an irrepressible life force ready to be born anew.

What the memories as a whole conveyed to me at the time (as well as now):

I am undoubtedly filtering the other memories through my own lesson  – so from my point of view, at least, there is a clear common lesson among the seven memories:

No matter how dull, hopeless, and empty life may seem, there is always something deeper here that is fresh and new. Through allowing life to be what it is, that deeper and foundational fresh new life ever bubbling forth will show and express itself. And we need to be mindful about allowing ourselves to be open to life as it is if we want the natural life force to be able to bubble through us, as it naturally wants to.

It seems to be essentially that the person asking the question has a difficult situation in their life, perhaps involving a family member, and they are wanting to know what they can do to help that family member, or the situation around that family member. The message seems to be that they need to focus their efforts on cultivating/remaining open to their own sense of the foundational beauty of life and compassionate acceptance of the situation/the person as they are. That’s the best way to serve this person within this difficult situation.

Henry’s PS:

Comments from the participants included the surprise pleasure that each person also learned and gained from the experience. The proof of that sentiment was that all seven asked to do it again!In doing my meta-analysis of the memories, I did not feel that I was having to “stretch things” in order to find commonalities among them even though each was very different. Each memory seemed to have a clear and distinct aspect of the quality of loving acceptance of things as they are. It felt like a kind but no-nonsense guide was reminding me of something I already knew but was forgetting as I allowed myself to become increasingly caught up in the sense of stress around my situation.

Interestingly, while the memories seemed incredibly on-point to me, the meta-analyses that the other participants contributed at best seemed to intuit something about the facts of the situation (e.g., that there was something about miscommunication), but none of them seemed to shed any light on a resolution of the problem. I’m wondering if (1) this is because the meta-analysis was perhaps done from a more purely analytical point of view, or perhaps (2) they tended to address each individual’s own concern. I don’t know!


If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about the experiment that Henry Reed developed – Good News – He is offering his experiment at no-charge for a limited time! Contact Henry here.


henry-reedHenry Reed divides his time between being a goat rancher and being an independent scholar of psychology, involved in writing, teaching, consulting, research and counseling. His speciality is cultivating the creative spirit in others, working from both humanistic and transpersonal viewpoints.

He received his Ph.D. from U.C.L.A. and was Assistant Professor of Psychology at Princeton University and Professor of Transpersonal Studies at Atlantic University. He has authored several popular books and professional articles and produced several instructional videos.

Reed was termed the “Father of the Dreamwork movement” because of his creation of Sundance: The Community Dream Journal, that helped spark the national dreamwork movement. He had a one-man show of his dream inspired watercolor paintings at the Virginia Beach Center for the Arts, and created an annual “Dreams and Creativity” program for the City of Virginia Beach. He also consulted on a three hour series for the Discovery channel on dreams. He now leads people on home-based dream quests and paints watercolor mandalas for them as a channel of prayer support. The Smithsonian Institute invited him to give a lecture about his “Dream Solutions” method of creative dream work.

He is Senior Fellow at the Edgar Cayce Institute of Intuitive Studies where he regularly provides training, consultation and research. He is also a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, specializing in intensive, transformational work, centered in dreams, energetic healing, and creativity. He is the founder of Creative Spirit Studios, which is a collaborative of lightworkers involved in using creative spirit in healing, teaching, and innovative service projects and research. Their virtual headquarters is at and Henry maintains a well-equipped studio at Flying Goat Ranch in the Appalachian mountains, where he breeds and trains work friendly goats who help out and entertain guests of the spiritual healing sanctuary that exists on the ranch. His most recent projects include creating an “Intuitive Heart Discovery Group” network around the country training people to become Intuitive Heartpractitioners and the development of the online “webzine,” Intuitive-Connections Network, located at

More ways to connect with Henry Reid Ph.D.:

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