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“We are what our thoughts have made us: so take care about what you think.  Words are secondary.  Thoughts live and travel far” – Swami Vivekananda
The arts have always played an important role in my life.  As a child I was surrounded by family members who were accomplished musicians, dancers, painters, and writers.  Needless to say our family reunions were always a source of entertainment – between family dance-offs and karaoke performances there was never a dull moment.  But, beyond those moments it is clear to me that without the arts my family, and me, would be completely different people.
My relationship with dance began at a young age.  And like any relationship I’ve grown with it and because of it.  One important lesson it has taught me is the value of empathy.  Now you may be wondering – how does empathy relate to dance?  Many forms of dance involve the technique of story-telling; movement is used to convey both simple & complex situations/characters. And a skilled dancer can use story-telling to weave movement and emotion together to elevate the audience to a higher experience.  But, the necessary element to that elevation is empathy.  Unlike sympathy, empathy requires the story-teller (and observer) to immerse him/herself in the shoes of that character.  Not only to understand the character’s thoughts and emotions, but to let it become their own.  So that by the end of the story, both dancer and audience create a meaningful connection to each other and to the character. And it’s through that connection both sides grow and change.
Lately, I find myself thinking about how important empathy is in my day to day life.  Whether it’s interacting with friends, family or even strangers I use it to connect with the world around me.  My thoughts and beliefs grow from understanding both the positive and negative circumstances of others.  With each connection, comes new experiences.  With new experiences, comes different thoughts and words.  And with a compass of compassion & non-judgement I can shape the path I choose to walk.
-Mytri Sundaresh

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