“I welcome you as you are”

by Sarah on May 16, 2016

As I sat at a side table in the airport, biding my time with too little sleep and too much coffee, I began to notice, with wonder, the people scurrying about, foraging for bananas and granola bars and scouting out the restrooms. I slowed my mind and opened my heart, looking intently and saying silently to each one,

“I welcome you as you are.”

I became curious about their stories; their joys and their sorrows. I wondered if anyone had taken the time to look softly into their eyes today. I noticed an elderly woman with her jaw set tight. I admired her determination and imagined the many trials she’d overcome in her lifetime. I smiled at the young guy in the silver sequined fedora hat, which he wore perched on top of his hoodie, as I enjoyed the one-of-a-kind style and personality of each passerby. Love, compassion, and empathy washed over me.

“I welcome you as you are.”

I noticed a woman clutching her purse closely, with her arms folded rigidly against her body. I wondered, “Is she cold or is she afraid?” I heard the low murmur of two strangers sharing a table and making small talk about their pizza slices before letting their gaze fall off in opposite directions.

“I welcome you as you are.”

The longer I sat, welcoming each person, the deeper I experienced the unique beauty and inherent value of each living soul. I was enlivened by the connectedness and also aware of its impact on me. Life is challenging, and as I took in more of the beauty walking past me, I also experienced more of the pain. Experiencing this rough edge of the human soul didn’t cause me to shrink back into protected places. It, like sand paper, smoothed out frayed places of my own heart leaving me softer and more empathetic.

What is so fascinating to me personally, and in the work that I do with clients, is that we’re actually hard-wired for this stuff – for feeling with others what they are feeling. It’s in our neurobiology. Many studies show that the basis for empathy is regulated by mirror neurons found throughout our brain. A recent discovery in the past 10-15 years, these mirror neurons allow us to read behavior and create a resonance in our nervous system that connects us with another human being. When these neurons fire, both when I act and when I observe an action, they create an internal experience of what I’m observing. This is why I experience thirst when I watch you take a drink, or my eyes moisten when you share your grief. I’m not just observing what’s happening for you, but I’m having an internal experience of it as well.

There’s an Irish Proverb that says, “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.” What we all deeply long for is someone to welcome us, as is, and feel with us our deepest pains and joys; even a complete stranger.

I invite you to try this exercise sometime this week and leave a comment about your experience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *