This week boasted the biggest astrological event of our lifetimes – one that hasn’t happened in 800 years. Known as the Great Conjunction, here’s how Henry Throop, astronomer in the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington described it: “Imagine the solar system to be a racetrack, with each of the planets as a runner in their own lane and the Earth toward the center of the stadium. From our vantage point, we’ll be able to be to see Jupiter on the inside lane, approaching Saturn all month and finally overtaking it on December 21.”
According to astrologer Daljeet Peterson, the conjunction cycle of Saturn and Jupiter “tends to indicate the beginning of a new era in society, pointing to shifts in power and ideology… Throughout history, the reigns of monarchs and the emergence of new political dynasties and even new religions have been linked with this cycle.”
In addition, since we’re moving from Earth sign Capricorn to Air sign Aquarius, Peterson also believes: “We will witness a shift from top-down hierarchical structures to horizontal systems and peer-to-peer networks. We are going to participate in the transition from a model of private capital and personal wealth accumulation to a model of serving the highest good of the collective commons and instituting more equitable wealth distribution.”
Awesome. But what’s all this got to do with empathy and reconciliation?
In my most recent blog, I described the power of Empathy Circles to elevate our empathic consciousness and unite us in our shared humanity. It’s a practice fully aligned with the spirit and promise of the Saturn-Jupiter conjunction. The operative word being practice.
So, as you make resolutions and set intentions for 2021, I invite you to affirm your commitment to empathic practices at the dawn of a new era for humanity. Here are a few of my favourites:
Gratitude: There is mounting evidence that being in a state of gratitude increases our wellbeing. A few years ago, I started a gratitude practice. At the end of each day, I would write three things for which I was grateful. Some days, I captured beautiful memories, and some days, I wrote: “I’m grateful this day is over!” Two or three weeks into the practice, I started noticing something interesting. As I went about my day, I would make mental notes about things I could write in my gratitude journal later that evening. Catching a green light when I was late to a meeting. Receiving a piece of snail mail (that wasn’t a bill). Bumping into a friend at the grocery store. The simple act of recording things on a daily basis for which I was grateful inspired me to pay more attention to the good things that were happening to me every day. That in itself was a blessing, but it also encouraged me to be more positive in the world.
Forgiveness: Whether you’ve suffered a minor slight or a major betrayal, offering forgiveness is not a sign of weakness, nor it is about giving the person (or people) who hurt you a free pass. Instead, it’s about honouring your psychological well-being and physical health so you can engage as a whole-hearted person in the world.
Reconciliation: Similarly, reconciliation can become a psychological gift if conflict is converted into constructive forces for growth. This usually involves a process of restoring a shattered relationship between two actors (or groups) through reciprocal dialog, cooperative action, and acknowledgment of the past. As Austin Channing Brown puts it: “Reconciliation requires imagination. It requires looking beyond intentions to real outcomes, real hurts, real histories.”
Metta meditation: By devoting a few minutes every day to sending messages of “loving kindness” to yourself, to your loved ones and to those with whom you disagree or who have wronged you in some way is an easy way to flex your empathy muscles. (This article offers a step-by-step process.)
Finding common ground: When it comes to healing the political divide, humanistic psychologist Dr. Kirk Schneider believes: “Existential fear appears to be at the heart of what drives polarization.” If we want to transcend that fear, we must get to know “the other side.” Braver Angels and More in Common are two organizations working tirelessly on this front.
Oprah’s late mentor Maya Angelou once told her: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” I recommend keeping this in mind as you think about folks whose belief systems and behaviour upset or offend you (past and present). All of us are operating at the level of consciousness available to us in this moment. Hopefully, throughout our lives, we’ll all move towards a higher level of consciousness and begin to think and act accordingly. That’s certainly my big wish for this Great Conjunction.
PS I’ll be facilitating an Empathy Circle on Wednesday December 30 from 4-5:30pm ET.
If you you’re interested in participating, drop me a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org
PPS I’d like to send a special shout-out to Gwen Yi and her fabulous team at Tribeless in Malaysia. As creator of The Empathy Box, I was keen to interview her for Purposeful Empathy and learn how they’ve adapted their tool to the realities of COVID. Not only did Gwen share how they’ve pivoted to an online delivery model (watch episode here), she also offered to a facilitate an Empathy Circle for an annual fundraiser I host.
Empathy Circles by Tribeless:
PS Join the Purposeful Empathy community. Together, let’s spread more empathy in the world.
For more than a decade, I have been singularly focused on leveraging empathy for personal and social transformation. I teach Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation at McGill University and co-founder of PVM-Studio, a global advisory firm that supports purpose-driven people and organizations. Learn more about my work here.