An empath is someone who is aware of the feelings of those around them. This can range, on one end of an extreme, from literally taking on the feelings or even the conditions, symptoms or illnesses of those around them, to feeling the feelings of those around them to, on the other end of the extreme, simply being aware of the emotional climate of their situation. An empath can extend their awareness into the mental realm and be more or less aware of the thoughts of those around them.
A neurologically and psychologically normal and healthy infant and mother pair are naturally empathic. That is, they each feel the other’s feelings. A mother—again, a neurologically and psychologically normal mother—is biologically attuned to her infant; her infant is attuned to her. This is how nature causes a red, squalling, smelly little creature to get its needs met by someone who, temporarily, thinks they are precious.
It may be that we naturally grow out of that more acute attunement—or it may be that we are conditioned out of it. Even so, some of us retain that empathic nature. We can make wonderful partners, we often become healers in one form or another, or we become simply really well-attuned co-dependents.
Empaths benefit from developing greater sensitivity to what they are feeling. This may seem counterproductive since they are feeling their feelings as well as the feelings of others. But taking time to feel—truly feel the physical sensations they are feeling—allows an empath to begin to discern the feelings that are theirs and the feelings that belong to someone else. Once an empath is able to discern the difference—or even be able to be curious about whose feelings they are experiencing—they can begin to set boundaries.
A simple boundary is just the awareness of where the empath begins—in their core—and where they end—at the far reaches of their personal energy field. The next step is to notice the near end of the energy field where another begins. The empath may be able to feel the other’s core, as well.
The number one myth about intuition is that you either have it or you don’t, when in reality everyone has intuition because it is one of the ways that our brains work. The other way that our brains work is through logic. Logic and intuition can work together. They complement one another.
Logic is linear and sequential. It goes from a to b to c. Each fact or thought or event or experience can be organized in a straight line, each data point relating to the next to form a sequence. You might use logic as you drive away from your house for some period of time: in your mind you create a sequence of the tasks you just completed, going over one after the other, each one related to the tasks you performed to leave the house. You turned on (or off) lights or appliances, you locked doors, put the dog out (or brought the dog in), and put your phone in your pocket or briefcase or bag.
Intuition, on the other hand, might deliver a sudden insight as you drive away: I forgot my phone! (Or forgot to turn a light off or on or forgot to put the dog in or out.) The insight is discrete. It does not require a lead up and is not necessarily related to the thoughts that preceded it. It simply appears in the mind, whole and complete.
Both logic and intuition are valuable ways that our minds naturally work. Logic allows us to order the elements of our experience and of our world. It allows us to follow a chain of events, prioritize elements of the chain in order to determine any possible cause-and-effect relationships and eliminate elements that are not relevant.
When we go to a healthcare practitioner, we use an amazing amount of logic, education and experience in order to choose what information we share with the practitioner. We might have educated ourselves ahead of time. Even though watching a television show might precede the visit, we do not necessarily include watching the show in the sequence we report to the practitioner. If we go to the doctor because of a dog bite, we might report the incident with the dog and not necessarily the incident with the neighbor that preceded the incident with the dog.
Intuition, on the other hand, may cause us to mention something logic did not identify as relevant. There was a story years ago in the Denver Post about a woman who had been sick for more than ten days with what she thought was the flu. She was getting worse rather than better and her daughter eventually insisted that the woman go to the ER. She did and while reporting her symptoms logically, thought to mention that she was embarrassed to say that she might have bad breath—she had been unable to open her mouth to brush her teeth before coming to the hospital. Whether intuition or lucky accident caused her to report that, the doctor treating her knew immediately that she was suffering from tetanus, otherwise called lockjaw, a rare but very serious infection that can prove fatal.
Intuition might also provide the practitioner with sudden insight, asking a question or making a connection that might seem unexpected—even unrelated—to the conversational sequence.
Intuition and logic work together. If we develop both, we are able to both receive insight and put order into our thoughts, words and actions. We all know people who have seemingly developed intuition without also developing logic. These people can seem overly touchy-feely or ungrounded, impractical and even scattered. We can imagine a trip to a healthcare practitioner taking a great deal of time as they include details that the practitioner might find entirely irrelevant to the subject at hand.
Those who have done the opposite, developing logic without also developing the ability to receive and process insight, can seem flat, unimaginative, unable to “get” certain aspects of their own experience or the experience of others. A trip to the doctor for depression could easily result in them failing to report their depression!
In my experience intuition runs on the same circuits the emotions run on. Allowing emotional flow without getting bogged down in some emotions or flying off the handle with others can lead to the ability to observe both the flow of emotion and the flow of intuitive insight.
We do not either have intuition or not have intuition. The question is, do we recognize and allow intuitive insight to inform our experience—do we allow it to complement logic? And then do we have the wisdom and confidence to weigh the two types of information and act accordingly?
The most important difference between logic and intuition is that our educational system—and our interactions with others—reinforces our use of logic. Unless we were born with a strong tendency to use intuition, and we sought or received education, mentoring and encouragement in doing so, there is very little in our experience that reinforces our use of intuition.
We can change this. Recognizing and using intuition, cultivating the non-linear and non-sequential thoughts and feelings we might experience, and then allowing those thoughts and feelings to complement logic, can give us the ability to recognize and process different types of information—from felt sense to spoken word; from inner vision to external observation; from knowledge obtained from books and articles to knowledge gained from real world experience and sudden insight. Learning more about what intuition is and how to use it allows us to apprehend aspects of an experience that were unavailable to us previously, creating a wider range of experience and, eventually, a more whole and satisfying sense of our own humanity and the humanity of others.
I would like to share with you seven practices or habits that really will change your life, but before you get overwhelmed with the possibility of adding seven new practices to your life (and you may already be doing some of them), I’ll tell you about a creative project that could make adding new practices more fun and a lot easier.
As you read the descriptions of the practices, notice how you respond to each one. When you feel drawn to a practice, write it down. If you don’t feel drawn to the practice right now, either don’t write it down or write it down for later. Then create your own deck of inspirational and motivational cards from the list you have just created. Use half-size, full or large index cards or your own custom-sized cards. Do a card for each practice you want to include in your life—and add your own if you want to, say, go dancing or learn to paint or rock climb or take your dog to obedience training. You can even add cards to remind you to stay in a place of equanimity when you speak with your boss, your mother or that person who triggers you. When the cards are complete, you can have them laminated—or not. They’re yours to do with as you wish.
Use bright markers or pastels, paints or stickers to make your cards as fun and lighthearted as you like.
1. Drink more water. Yes—really. From an online article from the Mayo Clinic, “The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake (AI) for men is roughly about 13 cups (3 liters) of total beverages a day. The AI for women is about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of total beverages a day.”
I would go further: I believe that drinking plenty of water assists the body in processing conscious experience. Just like eating the right food for our personal needs allows us to operate at peak efficiency, drinking enough water allows us to operate consciously. When I work with clients, my water intake goes up dramatically as I process the experience my client relates to me as well as my own reaction to their experience.
Buy a gallon bottle of water and begin by drinking a little more than half of it throughout the day. As you rehabilitate your thirst mechanism—because it does get sublimated when we drink less water—your thirst and enjoyment of water may well increase. And, yes, that Institute of Medicine recommendation talked about “total beverages” but I have found that coffee, tea, soft drinks and alcohol all require water for my body to process, so I made a rule for myself that I need to drink an equivalent amount of water for every non-water beverage I take in.
Your water needs will vary according to altitude, temperature, intensity of exercise, salt intake, medication and other factors.
2. Move and breathe. Exercise, walk, run, jump up and down, do yoga—just move! Oh, and breathe. Our experience changes from moment to moment and on a good day we flow from one experience to the other, maintaining our equanimity. Some experiences, however, get stuck in process; we find ourselves unable to move on from them. As those unprocessed experiences build up, we can get emotionally and mentally stuck.
In my work as an intuitive I have discovered that “reading” a person’s energy—mine or yours—might actually be equivalent to the state of our lymph. Lymph is the fluid that is part of our immune system. If you look at a model or drawing of human anatomy, you will see red vessels representing the blood and blue vessels representing lymph. The red vessels have a pump—the heart; the blue vessels do not. The lymph requires muscle contraction, either through movement and exercise or external manipulation, for example, from massage or stretching. Some exercise physiologists have measured various exercises and their effect on what’s called lymph transport, the lymph’s movement through the body. Jumping on a mini-trampoline has been rated highest in efficiency of lymph transport. Here’s a link: http://www.moneycrashers.com/health-benefits-trampoline-exercises/
But any form of movement is going to improve lymph transport and lymph drainage. This movement of the lymph seems to me to correspond with movement within our mental and emotional systems. Keeping active seems to aid in our ability to process and “move on” from an upsetting or disappointing experience. Active people—if they aren’t too obsessive and rigid about their choice of activity—seem more open and flexible in their thinking, more emotionally balanced and able to cultivate happiness.
3. Meditate. Meditation is the cultivation of a particular form of relaxed focus. Some form of meditation can literally open our mind to insight, intuition and increased awareness of our inner and outer worlds. Many of us think we have to achieve a meditation—associating a long period of time with meditation. I advocate beginning with one to three minutes and building up to ten or 20 minutes. If your life and ability allows you to do more, do it. But start out slowly and moderately, goals that are far more likely to ensure long-term success.
Here’s a simple meditation that has a number of benefits to it:
Call light to yourself. You do not need to know how. Just think of calling light to yourself. This is the light of enlightenment, the light often pictured around saints and holy people. Imagine this light all around you.Breathe in the light. Let your lungs fill with light and your lungs will make that l light available to every cell in your body. See yourself filled and surrounded by light.Now imagine that you can draw the energy of the Earth up into your body, into your feet, your legs, your hips and your pelvis. Imagine this energy filling your body to about the level of a low belt. This energy is the energy of sustenance and survival, of practical action.Now imagine that you have an energy opening at the top of your head, like the blow hole on the head of a dolphin or whale or like an infant’s fontanel. Imagine you can open that as wide as the widest part of your head and allow the energy of Heaven or the sky into your head. This energy is the energy of insight, creativity and intuition. Your head will open to that energy to the extent that you need it right now.This meditation does a number of things: it raises the level of your energy and balances out an out of balance temperament. If you tend to be too practical, too grounded, too focused on work and “getting things done,” helps to open you to your own imagination. If you tend to be a bit too imaginative, impractical or ungrounded, the energy of Earth can help you to refocus on the practical.
4.Journal. How many friends do you need to talk to—or how many times do you need to talk to that one friend—about what you said in response to that horrible thing that mean person said to you? Or the many horrible things that someone said or did to you? When we do this we are seeking validation. There is nothing wrong with this but often the validation we seek is actually not coming to us. Does your friend—or friends—repeat what you said back to you? And then take a moment to actually validate what you said? If she does, it might sounds like this: “So you told him that you were no longer available to make copies and that you understood that the new hire was actually the person who would be making copies. So you were in line with the new policies when you suggested he take his copy needs to the new hire. You stood up to him! And you did so in a reasonable and logical way. Good job!”
It probably doesn’t sound like that, does it? If it sounds even close to that, if your friend actually takes the time to reflect some of what you just said back to you and comment on it positively, your validation-seeking with that person is actually useful for you. If it doesn’t follow that pattern, that your behaviors have become a habit—a habit that is actually not getting you the validation you seek.
The worst possible response from your friend would sound something like this. “You think that’s bad! Wait till you hear about what so-and-so said to me!” That person is unable to provide you with any reflection or validation. Their conversational style is competitive and they literally don’t have time—are not taking the time—for you and your needs. You are wasting your time and your energy telling that friend anything.
Whether you have friends who are able to validate you or not, you may not be able to receive validation as consistently as you might need it. Because you do need it. Here’s why:
You’ve heard a young child demand validation. It sounds something like this: “Mommy, Mommy, I did a BIG JUMP!” The child will say that over and over until Mommy says, “You did a BIG JUMP!”
The child cannot hold their experience—and integrate it into their identity—until and unless Mommy or Daddy or a teacher or some adult authority validates it for them. A gift, talent, ability or accomplishment will likely go unclaimed, unused, until and unless that gift is acknowledged and validated—valued—by a trusted authority.
I have studied yoga and meditation, depth psychology and spiritual practice for many, many years, as have many of my peers. One day I realized that one thing that set me apart was that I seemed to have integrated so much more of what I had learned than some of my peers. Another way to say this is that I seemed to be able to use and benefit from my practices so much more than some of my peers. I thought about what was different and I realized that besides actually adhering to regular practice and study, I journaled frequently. Actually, I journaled passionately—as if my life depending upon it. Which, I now believe, it did.
Journaling validates ourselves to ourselves. It acknowledges our efforts, our gifts, our gains and our dreams and desires. And it allows us to then integrate those things into our actual lives. Journaling is the written equivalent of “Mommy, I did a BIG JUMP!”
So journal. Journal about your BIG JUMPS and your big mistakes and your little victories and everything in between. Validate your actions and your thoughts and, most importantly, your feelings—to your SELF. You will grow yourself up into many, many big jumps and many, many victories.
Please stay tuned for the next four steps, which will also be featured in my next newsletter.