Tabernacles of Silence: Cultivating Empathy

Please join me for this free online contemplative experience hosted by the Portland Museum of Art in conjunction with their exhibition Tabernacles for Trying Times. All are welcome to participate (it’s free, but you have to register!) in paying attention to phenomena in and around the body, developing a relationship with Silence, moving into a place of heartfulness, and allowing for encounters with empathy.

Empathy, the phenomenon first recognized in the first half of the 20th century, has roots in aesthetics and art appreciation – as a powerful, passive exchange that occurs between artist and art observer through a work of art.

During the guided (30-minutes-ish) contemplative practice, we enter into the tabernacle, or dwelling place, of Silence, place the fullness of our attention within the body, and experience the empathetic capacities of the heart.

By placing our attention – a great gift of our being – into our physical bodies and observing the experience, we begin to encounter empathy, which eventually allows us to place ourselves, in a feeling, sensing way, into another. Empathy cannot be manufactured, it simply grows out of the pure, selfless activity of the heart. There will be time at the end to share impressions from the practice.

This event is presented in conjunction with Tabernacles for Trying Times. In the exhibition, artists Carrie Moyer and Sheila Pepe created a sanctuary for all kinds of people to worship at the altar of contemporary art, Pepe noting “art can be a place for secular spirituality.” So, too, can one’s own secular space transform into a sacred dwelling place, or tabernacle.

Participants in this evening’s event are encouraged to prepare their own tabernacles ahead of time. Don’t fret! This can be as simple as clearing the space around you or bringing a special object into view. Look at your dwelling place with fresh eyes. What do you see? Look out your windows and doors – even go outside! What calls to you? If you like, bring something from the natural world into your tabernacle (or invite a houseplant or favorite stone to join you). Take some time in creating your tabernacle. Given time and space, the sacred arises out of the secular.