Updated: Mar 13, 2020
I am empathic. What does that mean? It mean's that I can feel the emotions and energy and sometimes even physical sensations of people, events, nature and animals, and occasionally the collective consciousness. When my loved ones are going through hardships, I can feel it right along with them. And when there are high energy days in my community, country, or in the world, due to stressful or joyful times, I feel them intensely; picking up on the collective energy as well as my own reaction to it.
This is how it feels sometimes. Yes it's raining and I have my umbrella and am dealing with it, but I'm experiencing it within a sea of everyone else's experience of the storm. I can see and feel their experiences and it may seem as though they are a part of me or I am a part of them, but if you focus in closer on the whole scenario, you can start to see the individual parts that make up the whole.
The energy this week in the universe is composed of an intersection of several major cosmic and seasonal events. Monday night brought us a full moon. This alone can throw us off kilter. Additionally, we have a powerful number day coming up on Friday (313) which is also an emotionally charged day due to fear culture and embellished superstitions, at a time already infused with the exposed nerves of being in an election cycle and to top it all off, all eyes are on a major public health situation. Not for the faint of heart.
So as you can imagine (or feel if you too are empathic 💚), things have felt a bit... intense... recently. I know many of you are experiencing the same. None of us are immune to stress or fear. It's like saying that we are immune to needing to breathe or poop. We may not want to admit it or talk about it, but when we eat food, it processes in our bodies and then we dispose of what's no longer needed. We poop.
It's what we do with it that counts. Not our poop - well not physically, but we could still call it that. What do we do with our thoughts and emotions that get caught in fear and worry and doubt. What do we do with the byproducts that are left over once we've processed them and have taken what we need? We let it go. Here is a very real and very recent example for you from my own life.
I was working on my computer the other day on a task that was in no way scary or emotional, and yet I felt as though I was vibrating. Have you ever had that sensation? I often feel this way if I've just driven for hours non-stop on highway. I feel like I can still feel the vibration of the road transmitting into my body through the steering wheel, sometimes even hours later. Next, my hearing became more focused, almost clearer, but more accurately just tuned in better. I became more aware of the sound of my own breath and that my breathing was more shallow and faster than what it felt it should be. I felt simultaneously like I wanted to get up and run around the house while also wanting to go hide under my covers in a dark room and take a nap. I did neither.
I recognized what was happening in my body and my mind and asked myself - "what would I tell a client to do right now?" - and the answer came easily. Breathe. OK, too simple, you may be thinking. But I did it. I sat up taller in my chair and put my feet flat on the ground to prompt my physical body to recognize that I was grounding myself. Then I placed my hands on the tops of my thighs for the same purpose. I consciously focused my mind on the state of my breath and acknowledged that it was all currently being held in my chest. I first exhaled out as much of it as I could and assured my questioning mind that we were committing to 10 breaths only and then I would return to my work. And then I began. At about 3, my mind kicked back in to let me know that this was certainly a waste of time and I was fine and could just resume the work already. I persisted. At about 9, my mind said thank you and acknowledged that this was absolutely a helpful activity and worthy of the time. I tuned back in to my body and realized the vibrating had calmed.
A visual for you of my impatient and overly confident inner monologue.
Once my mind was back to thinking clearly and my body had returned to a parasympathetic state (a.k.a. rest and digest mode), I tuned in further (to my intuition, my soul, my higher self, Spirit - whatever you prefer to call it) to find out where that had all come from. When I do this, I ask "is this mine or am I feeling it on behalf of others?". "Mostly for others" was the answer I received. I was experiencing a palpable sense of the energy of the world and of the people within it who are hurting. However, I realized that it was partially an expression of my own fears as well. Not so much a fear for my own personal well being, but for that of my loved ones. I have the tools I need and an awareness of how to access them, to maintain a peaceful mind and healthy body. But do we all have the same? What I was experiencing was a feeling of wanting to help, but knowing that we are each responsible for our own path and choices; including how we deal with our fears.
You know those moments when you are 100% certain that you know what is best for someone else? Don't tell me you've never had one, because we all have them. And sometimes we are correct. What we see is absolutely a solution that could benefit them, and could make the whole situation just a little bit faster or easier. But the reality of it is that ultimately the choice is theirs. And however they choose to handle it is guided by their soul and part of their own Spiritual journey. Because if we are forced or feel coerced into something, then we are not authentically aligning with it, and it will not take. What I have found to be the most compassionate way to handle this is to be a loving mirror for them and to open your heart to believing fully that they have it within them to heal.
Here is Carlos studying himself in the mirror, tinted for you with a rose-colored tint as a symbolic nod to the phrase about looking at life through rose-colored glasses. Carlos spends a LOT of time staring into the mirror. I believe that he is watching the world from an alternate perspective. We can learn so much about ourselves by watching through the reflection someone else sees, and likewise about others by learning about how they are a reflection of us.
What exactly is a loving mirror? Is that the opposite of the 360° mirror in the fitting room? Is it a rose-tinted mirror that makes us all look happier and feel only positive vibes? Not exactly. I was in a training the other day and the presenter was talking about how as coaches, we are not working with people to point out their flaws or celebrate their strengths, but instead to be a loving mirror.
My translation of this is a key element of how I work with my clients. And the steps I took once I recognized that I was entering a sympathetic state of being (a.k.a. fight, flight, or freeze) in the scenario I described above, are similar to those I would take to bring them back to a clearer mindset and out of a fear spiral. Sometimes I do this once in the beginning of a session, and sometimes we return to this over and over as many times as it is needed, sometimes for days or weeks or months or years. None of these is more advanced or better than the rest. I am there to remind them of this practice, but I can't do it for them. I can walk them through it, be by their side and help them stay focused, notice when they are getting off track and help them see it too. But I can't breathe for them. And eventually, with practice and commitment to the practice of being a mirror for our own minds, we can learn to do this without a coach to prompt us.
Much like the tides of an ocean, our breath (in most cases) flows naturally in and out without our conscious awareness. So why then is this such a big deal to keep returning to? Because our breathe helps us to stay present in our bodies and in the moment we are living at any given time. And why is this important? Because when we are present in our bodies, clear in our minds, and aware of what is happening in the exact moment we are experiencing, then we are able to act and react accordingly.
One of my personal self-care practices is with the system of Reiki. There are a set of precepts (guiding principles) that those practicing the system of Reiki work with and strives to live by. They were originally written in Japanese kanji, but can be translated in various ways (as with all kanji). A version this can be found below:
Anger and fear stem from living in the past or in the future rather than in the present moment. We remember the outcome of situations where we were hurt and project potential outcomes based on these experiences and other found knowledge and often a little imagination. But when you are true to your way (your instinct - how you act/react) and your being (what feels true in your whole being - mind, body and soul - what comes easily or flows), then you are living in the present moment. You are living from a place of awareness rather than a place of preparation and analyzing. And when we act compassionately toward ourselves and others, we become the loving mirror.
Compassion does not mean nice at any and all costs. It does not mean at the expense of your own best interest. It does not mean for the sake of your own interest at the expense of someone else's. Compassion means presence and openness. Honesty with awareness of intent. It means observation and willingness to learn and grow from all experiences.
As I discussed in my blog post A Deep Dive Into the Art of Reflection, when the reflective surface is clear, you can gain more accurate information from it. So let the fog of fear and worry clear before you start to gather intel and form a plan of action. Connect with your breath. Make sure that you are fully present and aware. And then decide what it is you are looking at. When you can act as a loving mirror for your mind and body, you get to the other side of fear. On the other side of fear is an intuitive gut, an aligned and flowing life-force energy (also known as chi/ki/qi), and a peaceful mind.