"We all long to be seen and understood, to be valued and honored, and to be loved for exactly who we are. We also want to connect deeply with others, understand them clearly, and respond skillfully to their wants and needs. We want to navigate through difficulties and conflicts with grace, and we want our relationships to be a source of healing, strength, humor, and love. We want empathy, and we want to know how to offer our empathy to others.

"Luckily, each of us already has an innate talent for empathy, and most of us developed our capacity for fully compassionate and empathic engagement when we were just toddlers (research suggests that our empathic skills can develop before we're two years old; we'll explore that research in this book). We humans are a deeply and intrinsically empathic species — we can tune into the emotions, wishes, thoughts, intentions, and hopes of others, and we can make intelligent decisions about how we'll respond to the information we receive. Through our empathic skills, we can get into synch with others, understand them, and meet their needs in ingenious ways. Empathy helps us witness, engage with, and respond skillfully not only to humans and animals but also to nature, art, music, ideas, ideologies (such as traditionalism, existentialism, etc.), and even structures (such as buildings, public spaces, and living and working areas).

"Empathy is everywhere: it's the air you breathe and the ground you walk on; it makes relationships, communities, and societies work. And yet, empathy can also be something of a mystery. Because empathy is such a central part of everything you do, you can overlook it and almost ignore the processes that make empathy work (or stop working). This is actually an important part of how empathy functions, because you don't want to have to think about every piece of empathic information you pick up, then catalog all of it, then reflect on each piece, and then plod through all of your possible responses. In fact, it's good that empathy is generally hidden from your conscious notice! But when you want to consciously work with your empathy — either to increase it or to calm it down — it's very important to be able to enter into that hidden world and understand the processes of empathy very clearly."