May 1 ~ Bob Stilger’s Notes from Japan #12: Empathy

Many conversations continue about how best to support the unfolding of work here.  I’m in conversations with an intriguing array of people and organizations.  KDI Future Centers, Japan Dialog. Art of Hosting – Japan, Goi Peace Foundation, Presencing Institute – Japan, Process Work Center – Japan, KEEP at Kiyosato, Social Venture Partners Tokyo and Social Venture Partners Shikoku and others.  There is this sense that now is the time to create new partnerships.  There is enough work to do that everyone is needed.  So much more is possible when we add our different pieces together into a greater whole.  This is almost always true in any crises — we work together with egos set aside.
The magnitude of the disaster is unimaginable.  That was one of my lessons when I visited Ishinomaki City two weeks ago.  Traveling through mile after mile of devestation in just one area suffering because of the quake.  Ishinomaki alone has 22,000 people homeless living in 152 shelters.  And the disasters stand side-by-side:  earthquake, tsunami, radiation.  Continued small earthquakes,  almost daily, combined with the unraveling of the nuclear mess are constant reminders for anyone who might try to forget.
AND, there is something larger still than the physical disasters.  Many names might be used:  emotional field, subtle level, spiritual sphere.  They all seem combined.  One person remarked in a conversation recently that another aspect of a collectivist culture is that these level are more deeply connected than in more individualistic cultures.  The YouTube video of Jeremy Rifkin’s work on empathy:  http://bit.ly/empathyvideo also seems to get at what is happening here.  There is deep, deep connection which breaks out in a variety of ways — some quite raw.  Some people in Tokyo feel guilty for feeling grief and other emotions — after all, they didn’t lose friends, family and property.  The TEPCO workers who are risking their lives in the nuclear power plants are being paid, unlike many others in Fukushima and some people feel anger towards the TEPCO workers and then guilt because of the anger.  Silently, people who have lost everything take their own lives.  Some people are finding ways to “turn the switch off” or go back to sleep.  They try to act as if everything is normal — even while they know it is not so.
What I know for sure is that what’s being worked here is happening at four levels — Tohoku, Japan, the World and the subtle realms.  And they are all interconnected.  I suspect the work at the subtle level is the key.  Our capacity to let grief work through us, our ability to come back into right relationship, our practices of not making our feelings good or bad and just accepting them as feelings, our willingness to embrace ambiguity and uncertainty — these and more are needed now.

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