I like the word "Presence." The first three letters P-R-E (the suffix) means "that which comes before" and S-E-N (the root) means "to be." [from Latin]
So Presence is that what we are before anything else...before we do anything, before have a sense of our own identity, before we have any intention or make any movement...
Presence is not something that I need to train. It is not a skill. I don't accumulate Presence or the ability to be present. And yet it is in some way a practice, or rather, it is a practice not to interfere with Presence and allow it to "be" in a way that is fuller and fuller and more and more visible to someone else.
I may be judging them. I probably am in my case, judging them, making some kind of diagnosis, believing they should change in some way, agreeing with them or disagreeing with them.
Whether I'm doing that or not doesn't seem to make an effect on the quality of Presence. What makes an effect is where do I focus my attention?
Do I focus my attention on that constant stream of judgment that I have in my head? Or do I focus my attention on the place in which they and I connect--our common humanity that which we share. When I focus my attention there things begin to shift, or at least the invitation for them to shift is clearly on the table.
So that's my experience of empathy while I'm experiencing it as alive and dynamic happening between us, and the way I connect to the meaning in that is through remembering what the word Presence is pointing to...
And a metaphor for empathy? If it was a type of animal for example.
It's not exactly sunshine, it's not exactly water, it's not exactly the soil. It's something else which imbues all of these and creates conditions for growth. I'm wanting it to be silently, invisibly, or visibly present.
Not simply in moments in which someone is experiencing pain and would really like to be heard...