Copyright © 2009 by William R. Mistele All rights reserved.
Ordinary, Magical, and Undine Empathy
Explore some of the inspirational quotes.
Practice active listening by paraphrasing back the thoughts and separately the feelings of the other person. Ask questions that keep the focus of interest on the other person.
Do three to ten minute sessions of active listening with one or more people.
Observe body language, word choices, tone of voice, intonation patterns, incongruities, and in particular the way the other’s words and feelings are aligned or moving in separate directions.
Send in questions, comments, and observations.
This course takes the article, Ordinary, Magical, and Undine Empathy and expands it into a college level class. If you would like to read through that essay it is at
Note: I will have a section for responses, comments, and questions and answers from participants at
I could present a rigorous academic class curriculum with an instructor setting goals and evaluating performance. That approach embodies the air element which, though clear, tends to be emotionally dry overemphasizing the intellect.
Instead, each participant is free to approach the material in his or her own way. The class is meant to flow like water—to be calm and still as a pool or a mountain lake, as refreshing and sparkling as a waterfall, as purifying and delightful as a stream, as steady and constant as a river, and as deep as the sea.
I could also have taught the course by moving systematically and step by step from beginning to end. However, individuals may wish to stray from that procedure. The course presents specific, well-defined skills. But these skills are of no value and little application without the inspiration within water.
The class is flexible. Its direction and content are shaped by your responses and interests. Some undines enjoy interacting with human beings. My job is simply to further the process, offering connections when that is appropriate.
You have to allow me some leeway with this course. It is fluid and malleable. From my perspective, this amount of material with this degree of detail has not been shared with the human race for well over ten thousand years.
We are very good pursuing the basic laws of physics. We are fair to moderate in ability when it comes to understanding medicine and physiology. But humanity knows next to nothing about how to feel and how to love with the depth and beauty of undines.
I am placed, therefore, not in the position of a teacher. I am a facilitator of connections and a mediator of differences. To do this job, I have to listen carefully to both sides and discover what works and what does not work. There is no manual for how to pursue this. It is an experiment and a creative action.
For some individuals, this material is completely natural. It is almost effortless for them to follow along. But gifts from another realm often involve a degree of difficulty. You have to determine very carefully for yourself if and to what extent there is room in your life for their presence. Relationships are like that. You have to know when to set boundaries and when to cross over them for the sake of love.
Meditation and Contemplation
There are different ways of internalizing a feeling, a spiritual presence, or an inner truth. You can use the method of focusing—notice the feelings that arise in you as you verbalize a description of an experience. Open to the feelings and let them transform as they vibrate, echo, and expand within you.
You can use contemplation—let the words or phrase that describe an experience sink into your mind leading you to a place of dream and vision beyond the limitations of thought and reason.
You can use the method of dialoguing—let the feeling within the words appear to you as a person with whom you can speak and who speaks as you listen. Discuss your different perspectives and ask the tough questions.
You can use invocation—let the words that describe an experience raise your awareness to a higher level so that you feel closer to something greater than your self and that now has greater access to you.
You can use evocation—speak the words describing a spiritual realization as if your voice first spoke them and so what they mean rises from the core of your being.
You can use meditation—open your mind with care and concentration so that the vibration of the words (their essence, the light and life within them) become a part of your mind, your body, and your soul.
You can treat them like poetry (as poetry and words of power existed in ancient times)—let the sounds and imagery speak to your heart and imagination of and with the primordial powers of creation. How? Similar to meditation, you become very still like a mirror. And then with more feeling than is typical of meditation you let what is in front of you appear within you so that you overcome the separation.
You can use path working—somewhere between daydreaming and waking up within a dream begin an imaginative journey that moves between who and where you are to what you wish the world to be.
Or, to sum it all up, you just become the thing you are concentrating on. Become a lake, a river, or a sea as if you are identical with it.
Which of the following descriptions of water and undines can you make your own?
There is a well-being that flows like a stream from the dawn of time to the ends of eternity. (from Istiphul)
There is a peace in the soul as deep as the ocean, as flowing as water, as still and clear as a mirror, and as vast as the starry night. (Isaphil)
The Sidhe possess an absolute contentment—an awareness in which the inner self is at peace with the universe. (from Istiphul)
The gate to the astral plane of the undines opens the moment your body feels the vastness of the sea flowing through it. (from Istiphul)
At night I dream that I have become a silver chalice. And within this chalice is gathered the purest essence of all the stars. When I dream this dream, though I am but the sea, I feel I have become one with the universe. (from Isaphil)
Imagine for a moment what this would be like: imagine taking all the sensations, feelings, and moods that the seas create; imagine binding that beauty and wild passion into one light, one dream, or one vision of completion--and then to be able to transmit this to another through your eyes, a touch, or a kiss. (from Istiphul)
Place your hand in water and feel the water connecting you to all the seas of the earth. Become a billion waves dancing to a thousand separate winds. To know me is to learn to perceive as I do. For a moment let go and be as me--the soul of the sea. (Istiphul)
This is the first key and the gateway to all the mysteries of your soul--to relax so, to be calm, to open from within, to be so still, you reflect easily within yourself the being and the life of all that exists.
In your soul waves roll five thousand miles and magnetism flows between the poles. (from Istiphul)
Where can an undine go to share with a human soul these things?
The dark depths of the ocean trench,
The slippery touch of the jellyfish and the nautilus,
The caress of arctic cold,
Or the warmth of curling up on a tropical beach
Of a woman walking out of the sea naked and free
Drops of water anointing her skin. (from Istiphul)
In water are love and sharing--the experience of life giving birth to life and of flowing in and through another. In water is the absolute destruction of loneliness, separation, and isolation. For undines, each moment is a magnetic sea containing the dreams and the taste of ecstasy--each moment arises from and resonates with the love sustaining all life on earth. (From the Introduction)
You taste our inner essence--a love that flows without ever being lost and gives all of itself in every moment. (Amue)
From the undines—to humanity:
The universe is on fire
With wonder, beauty, and ecstasy.
Her touch annihilates loneliness. (from Istiphul)
Love is a pilgrim journeying through a land of ancient shame, unbearable pain, and yet never-ending wonder; because it will never be satisfied until it is one with another. (from Osipeh)
What an absolutely terrible and yet wondrous gift of unspeakable beauty human beings possess—to be so lonely, so far away from sharing heart-to-heart. And yet to be so proud—knowing there is nothing you can not endure because one day you will become radiant like the sun and magnificent like the stars. (Istiphul)
The female form embodies a way of thinking that men can not
imagine. It is receptive, open, nurturing, offering and giving of
itself. Affection extends everywhere and into everything.
Zen koan: What lies hidden within the moment?
Answer: A stillness that embraces the universe.
There are many definitions of empathy. For our purposes, empathy is the ability to feel what others feel. This does not mean you are in the same emotional state or frame of mind as the other person. However, at a minimum, it means you can sense what the other is going through by imagining how you might react in the same circumstances.
A Statement of Fact Followed by a Question
Larry King, a famous, TV talk-show host, often uses questions that establish empathy with the guests on his show. He will begin with a statement of fact and then follow with a question.
For example, Larry to guest: “You mentioned that this is a new job assignment for you in a field in which you have no previous experience. I am guessing that you have had moments of doubt about your abilities in the first few months?”
And then, even though the guest is on TV with millions of people watching, he will say something like “No one has ever asked me about this. Yes. It was a terrible struggle until the second year.” Although he had never met his guest before, Larry King has just coaxed his guest to disclose something personal that he had never shared with anyone else. Even on a linguistic level, empathy is very powerful.
Try the above form of empathy. While listening to what someone says, state a fact that you and the other person regard as true about the other’s experience with the topic. Then ask a question that likes the statement of fact to something the other person has not disclosed yet.
Example: You have a job that requires secrecy. Does keeping secrets from your friends and family present difficulties for you?
You have been moving between different jobs, advancing as you go along. Is it hard to formulate specific career goals with so much change?
You know a great many people, yet you choose your friends very carefully. Is it hard at times to keep your personal life separate from your career?
We can get a feel for undine empathy by strengthening ordinary listening skills such as active listening. In active listening, we paraphrase the content—the ideas--of what a person has said. Separately we describe the feelings the other person has toward his topic.
People are often unaware of their own emotions as they talk. They may not realize they are angry or sad, enthusiastic or worried. By describing what the other person is feeling, we give him a chance to reflect on and to clarify what he feels.
Active listening is a form of feedback. You do not have to be accurate, only close. People look in the mirror. They may be surprised with how good they look or how bad. But until they look they do not have that information. Active listening gives another the opportunity to look inward and decide for himself what he is feeling.
Part of active listening involves noticing incongruities--the difference between what a person is saying and the feelings expressed though body language—facial expression, gestures, intonation, or even word choice. Incongruity describes one way in which words and feelings may not be in sync.
An individual says “It did not bother me,” but his face darkens, his eyes turn hard, his voice changes pitch, his muscles tighten, etc. This is an incongruity between what is said and what appears in the body. In a case like this, you can simply point out the changes in body language.
Another example: “As you talked about her, you started speaking slower and with a quieter voice than the way you were talking before. You seem to take more time to process your feelings.” Or, “You say you love him, but you also mentioned some terrible things he did to you. But I do not see you expressing any anger. Are those feelings there, also?”
I briefly explained to one woman a scale of physical reactions and emotions relating to anger. I then asked, “On a scale of one to ten, how angry were you with him?” It seemed that in her body language and word choices she was expressing anger at around a five when the events suggested it might have been much stronger. She said that on a scale of one to ten her anger was a twelve. Her response to my question gave us both a clearer picture.
Thus far, I am describing good listening skills. Active listening is a courtesy we may extend to someone we care about. Imagine listening in this way to someone for ten minutes.
I have noticed that individuals who are very skilled in active listen rarely use it in conversations. They are more comfortable using it in designated situations such as counseling or conflict resolution. Consequently, it is useful to form a habit of applying it casually.
This can be done by asking questions that encourage self disclosure. Often, as in the Larry King example, individuals are not offered the opportunity to talk deeply about their experiences. Here are some of my favorite questions I sometimes casually drop into conversations.
What is the best and the worst of your job, (relationship, your experiences with so and so, your parenting, your college, being in the army, your spiritual practices, etc.)
What were the dreams you had early on in life and which are still with you?
Have you had any unusual spiritual experiences?
What has that been like for you? In reference to any area of intense interest in the other’s life.
What makes you feel most alive?
What has been your biggest challenge in life?
What would you do differently looking back?
Listening is both a human and a divine skill. We are starting with well-established practices. Ultimately, you can listen so well that that Divine Providence considers you part of itself.
The undine queens are great listeners. They feel what is inside of you as they listen. They sense your innermost dreams and visions.
When one woman paraphrased my thoughts and feelings, it was like she was speaking to me with the words hidden in the depths of my own heart. At that point, the method or technique she was using was undine empathy. There was no conscious action on her part. The magnetic quality of her aura was flowing through me, joining both of us to the beauty and creativity of water in nature and on the astral plane.
Being able to listen with that level of giving and receptivity is one of the objectives of this course. But this usually takes time and practice to develop. We are seeking to unite conscious and archetypal, our world and the realm of undines. We are opening a gate and looking through from both sides.
For me, this is not a fanciful endeavor. On some level, it is a test of conscience and collective will--to see to what extent we can align ourselves with the beauty of this planet. It is about survival.
Optional: Other Listening Skills Relating to Active Listening
Tracking, summarizing. Tracking and summarizing are similar to empathy in the above example. In this case, you make multiple observations and then tie them into a question or general observation about a pattern.
For example, “You began by mentioning that that you did not really remember much from that year. And then you went into great detail about several life defining events. It seems that now you are better able to cope with what you went through than you were then. Is that true?”
In this case, you are mentioning differences that have occurred at two different points in time and then asking why.
In another example I pointed out to one person that as he told the story of his life he looked most alive and enthusiastic—his face lit up—when he talked about a drawing class and the colors of the paints when he was age five. So I asked if he might consider doing more with painting or working with colors in some way now later in life. The comment gives him a chance to review his own feelings and experiences.
Self-disclosure. In self-disclosure, you relate a story from your own experience that is similar in nature to the other person’s. But you never do this to share your self or to turn the focus of the conversation back to you.
Self-disclosure enables the other person to consider again what they went through. It is one of the few times that comparison is helpful because it enables the other to go deeper into the past by asking new questions about what was experienced.
For example, “What happened to me when I had a similar confrontation was that I never spoke with anyone again about that topic. What did you do in the situation you mention?” It allows the other to think more clearly about his or her experience.
Stages of life. Some who specialize in telling the life story, like Ira Progoff in Intensive Journal, like to have the individual define for himself the stages of his own life. It is the individual creating for himself his own subjective and personal reference points.
It is nice and all to point out the general patterns all people tend to go through. But we have a specific individual in front of us and his words and ways of looking at himself are far more interesting and important than statistics or general patterns.
You can get a person to talk about this by simply asking, “If this time period had defining boundaries, where would you say it began and when did it come to an end?” Someone might say in response, “It began when I started thinking about getting ready for college. I got very active in sports and started studying seriously. My interest in sports ended when I could no longer keep up with the level of competition I ran into in college. That was also when I became confused about my career goals.”
Inner and Outer Flow of Life; How they Correlate. In this method, you track the outer, real world events that occurred in the individual’s stage of life. Then you also note the inner flow of life going on within or underneath it.
Maybe there was a great deal of activity, success and popularity going on in his or her outer life. But inside, in terms of feeling, the individual sensed that this was irrelevant. Deeper feelings and desires were not being expressed.
Or the opposite, when everything was going wrong suddenly there was perfect clarity about what was most important. A new sense of direction and purpose arose.
In these examples, there is a separation between the “flow” of life in the inner and outer worlds of the person. The next step here is to ask about how these two were connected. Maybe the person was in no way bothered by the separation or disharmony. Maybe even a slight difference was disturbing as in “I achieved what I wanted. Why wasn’t I happy?”
In any case, it helps to find an image or words to express the dissonance or conflict or connection. It is a way of summarizing or capturing the dynamics of a particular life stage. The inner and outer worlds each have their own energies. Obviously there is more energy if they flow as one. And just as true there is a chance to learn far more than what was known before if they are in some way opposed.
Resonating. Resonating is simply moving back and forth between what is expressed and the feeling that is there but which is still not completely clear. It is finding better words to describe events and the feelings felt about those events.
For example, you ask, What was that like for you? The person says, It was very annoying.
You notice the incongruity, that is, something in the way the person describes what has happened does not seem accurate. And so you ask about it again if the person is willing.
You go on, “You say ‘It was very annoying.’ Given that this has occurred a number of times in the relationships you have told me about and from the way you raise your voice as you describe it, it sounds like you would like to put an end to this if you could. Is that right?”
You are simply asking the individual to find a better phrase than “very annoying.” The phrase does not seem to express the energy actually moving though the person. You want an image or words that “resonate” with the energy inside the individual. And so the individual might say, “I am sick of the way these men treat me. I can’t stand it when they do that.”
The individual is in effect “checking” to see which word, phrase, or image best fits what is felt in the body.
Omens, Significant, Unique, or Life Defining Events, Crossroads. So the woman is having great difficulty with her husband. He keeps spending the money she makes and keeps trying to manipulate her and put her down.
The woman visits another town. She walks out of the hotel and runs into the one person she loved long ago in high school who is currently available.
What is that? That is kind of like fate. It is like a guardian angel intervening to salvage her life. You have to note with great clarity events that are crossroads or that appear seemingly out of no where and which offer life altering choices. But there is still choice and options even when all signs indicate a specific direction. You can make your own options at times.
Someone graduates from college and is offered a job in a field totally unrelated to what she studied before. She takes it and becomes extremely successful.
The individual may be “stuck” in a stage of life. He or she is waiting for an event that connects the energies of the inner flow of life to the outer world. The person had been waiting for a long time or a brief time. And he or she was ready or was not ready when the opportunity arose to move on.
Or the inner flow kept undermining all the outer world activities, diming their brightness, destroying their life. Until finally the person decides to make a choice that allows those inner energies to vent or flow by being creative or finding a new way to go.
Some people relate to me events which seem to me to be so rare they occur only every few hundred years in the Western world. It is like some ancient archetype, some deep power hidden within the human soul has decided that this individual is to be a vehicle to express its light. These events offer great energy and possibilities that enrich life but they also come with a great price tag. You have to find a way to adapt to them—meet their demands--so they do not destroy your life.
In fact, I run into this quite often. A woman, for example, has some astonishing ability or energy within her. If she fails to find a way to acknowledge and express it, it haunts her life like a ghost who has been wronged and wants things made right. If this happens to you, you have to make a greater effort than most other people to acquire peace in your life.
For example, an individual has an immense capacity to love others. But she is passive with her gift. She just wants another to love her. So she ends up stalking men. She has an almost divine power to heal others’ wounds. But she refuses to learn how to heal others or herself. She thinks life owes her and that things should flow along more easily. Not getting what she expects, she tries to steal love rather than use her inner resources to create it.
Whatever the case, it remains to the individual to find her own way. No one possesses the ability to “illuminate” her about her ways. There are clear patterns. But there are no support groups, no twelve step programs for individuals who experience direct contact with the archetypes. There are no schools you can send people to whom the divine world has chosen to move through.
So you have to listen carefully. The situation is unique. Comparisons have little or no meaning.
Choices. The great lecturer on screenplay writing, Robert McKee, emphasizes that choices are what drive story. And so there is a vocabulary for describing the dynamics of drama.
There is the inciting incident: something happens that changes everything for a person. In the movie, Lord of War, the arms dealer’s wife says in effect, “All the decisions in my life until now had already been made for me. This is the first real decision I have ever made on my own.” And so she leaves him.
In another movie, Good Evening Mr. Wallenberg, a man is volunteering to help rescue Jews from the Nazis. But a rabbi doubts he has the courage or integrity to do so. The man relates how he saw a Jew pick up his child that was thrown off a train on its way to Auschwitz. The father was then shot. The man says, “Seeing this was the only real thing that has ever happened in my life.”
When you put it that way it no longer matters whether you have or have not exercised courage or integrity in the past. What happened was a life defining event and, in the case of this movie, an inciting incident. The choice that follows determines everything. The categories that describe the dynamics of movies and of choice are in some ways far in advance of the categories presented in psychology.
Other categories of drama are subplots, symbols, contrasting characters, object of desire, arc of the plot, climax, etc.
See lava.net/~pagios/mckee.htm for my article on McKee psychology. McKee said he liked my article about him.