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Everyday Enlightenment, Episode 3: Am I an empath?

everyday_enlightenment

In this week's episode, we explore what it means to be an empath. No longer considered as "out there," emapths are finding their voice and power in today's society. We look at the attributes of an empath, the differences between highly sensitive people and empaths, rekindling or cultivating our empathic abilities, and the importance of loving kindness and compassion in specifically an empath's life. 

The Truth About Limitlessness

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Within the spiritual community, there is a belief for many of us that we need to work extremely hard in order to break through our limits in order to reach the goal of awakening. We need to push beyond our present selves and beliefs, and become someone...different, more, better. If only I was more compassionate, served more, got rid of all my triggers, was a better person, understood love, heard and saw my spirit guides, became enlightened, and saved the whales!!! 

Folks, this is a lot of pressure.

When we pursue spirituality with the drive of a sports coach, it quickly becomes painful and overwhelming.

It also has the potential to set up spirituality as a kind of self-competitive sport, giving serious (and precious) air time to our inner critic. 

It's one thing to become mindful in situations where we may be unnecessarily holding ourselves back due to old habits and fears. It's quite another to push ourselves in a way that can become self-flagellating, literally harming our selves with our loving intention to heal. 

Breathe. 

The truth is, we already are limitless. Each and every one of us. We all have the seed of infinite possibility within us, waiting to be nurtured (even a tiny bit) to let blossom. The key word here is nurture--to provide sustenance in the physical (good, clean food/water, enough rest), the emotional (supportive relationships in our lives, space), mental (space, mindfulness) and spiritual (meditation, a spiritual practice, connection with our inner Self). 

When we drive ourselves to be "better" in a spiritual sense, we actually limit our infinite potential and true divine nature.

When we breathe into our lives--the joys, the pain, the confusion (especially the confusion), we give space to our thoughts and emotions. The weight of the yoke of "being good enough" lessens and eventually falls away completely. 

We come to this conclusion quite naturally, though. We feel we must conquer something within us that seems to "take over" at the least opportune moments. Our fears, anxieties, triggers all can easily overwhelm; so why wouldn't we want to conquer them? Wouldn't that mean finally finding peace? We want peace! So we are going to go and get some PEACE! (whip cracking in the background)

Except the more we attack these aspects of our selves, the more they embed within us. The more they are fed, the more we give them affirmation that yes, they are definitely needed. Until we learn to train our minds (mindfulness) and hear the truth in our hearts, they will continue to do what they believe their job is: protecting us. 

How can we truly become limitless?

When we connect with our limitlessness through kindness, right action, and love. Especially with our selves. When we approach our pain, suffering and arduous striving with openness, allowing for there to be space (to be mindful, to come back to center, to objectively think things through). That space then allows for love, compassion, patience, and forgiveness to enter our hearts.

The more we push the hurt within, the more it will push back. The practice, then, is to not push back so much as observe. Observing then leads to openness which leads to kindness. Kindness leads to healing which leads to compassion and love. We live limitlessly through our choices in thought, action and speech. We are the creators of our limits--with the same power to release them. It's truly up to us. 

Heart-Centered Activism

heart centered activism

Thomas Jefferson famously said, a democracy cannot survive without the "spirit of rebellion." The United States is a country of extreme contradictions: glory and shame equally a part of our journey as a nation.

How do we participate in the current "spirit of rebellion", while holding love as our primary focus? Perhaps even our main goal and outcome? We tap into our passion for the human race--of which we are inextricably linked--and move forward as our hearts call us to. 

There are so many issues bombarding all of us in the U.S. at the moment. There are so many huge changes being proposed and legalized, that many of us have moments of overwhelm, confusion, despair. Our hearts are more than heavy, they're breaking over and over. 

However, it's through this steady breaking open of our hearts that we're rediscovering our inherent power as individuals and a society. As Lenard Cohen reminds us with his timeless lyric, "there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in." We're tapping into one of our greatest strengths as a nation, a founding principle--the "spirit of rebellion"--and standing up for what we believe, for what's right for humanity. 

What is heart-centered activism? It is connecting heaven and earth, soul and country, body and spirit through love-driven action. This activism allows our bodies and minds to do what needs to be done (which is why we have them) in order to create effective, compassionate change. It's only through love that fear is banished. Love will take our overwhelm and turn it into practical, applicable action items. Those action items may be part of a collective effort or inspiring an individual to new depths and strength to share with the world. The heart has many surprises. 

Heart-centered activism could take on so many forms: peaceful protest, calling/emailing/snail-mailing your representatives, making food for the homeless or families who need our help, organizing donations for folks who need help, donating your expertise (medical, legal, spiritual, therapeutic, childcare, tutoring, mentoring...), raising money to help others, speaking up, washing the feet of Muslim immigrants, or simply teaching/modeling to your kids about compassion and kindness to all. 

We are waking up to what needs to be done. This generation, like each generation before, is facing it's most critical moment in our democratic history. We're understanding on a profound level what it means to be responsible for our freedoms. The moment overwhelm or fear take their icy grip around your heart, try sitting with it. There it is. Now breathe into it for five deep breaths. As you're breathing, ask: how can I help? how can I serve? The answer may not appear right away, but keep it at the back of your mind for a day or two. Love will guide you. You'll know it's love when you feel at peace with your decision for next steps forward. 

Marianne Williams writes our founding father's were not "geniuses who just happened to care about the human race; they were people who cared passionately about the human race, and out of that passion their genius emerged. Love is its own brand of genus. Our only true enemy is neither people or institutions, but fear-laden thoughts that cling to our insides and sap us of our strength...Our greatest political power now is to fear nothing and love everything; then all things will heal." 

 

Love is a Choice

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Love is a knowing, an unwavering solidarity deep down inside ourselves amidst the unpredictability of everyday life. 

For most of us, getting to this place of solidarity is a process, and a practice, we must continually choose as our lives unfold. For some, awakening happens overnight and their inherent sense of connectedness is fully realized. They are few and far between, however.  In our information-at-our-fingertips age, our practice of coming back to love, choosing love over and over again, can seem daunting and unnatural. It can feel like so much work in the beginning! Especially if we have known love at some point, yet it comes and goes seemingly at it's own will. But is love uncontrollable, vague and impossibly out of reach, especially in the hum-drum of our everyday lives? 

Love is a choice. 

Love is a choice. It's a moment-by-moment choice in how we are choosing to act. It's a practice and it's a path. For those of us who have experienced trauma--where our ego's did an excellent job of protecting and guiding us through those painful times and experiences--this "choice" can feel threatening. Our ego's only concern is protection of itself. After all, it did a pretty great job keeping us safe. It believes we are separate, isolated, and alone--and it wants to keep it that way. This is precisely how the ego protects itself, inside a hard shell where we're unreachable and untouchable. 

Hey, I deal with my stuff and you deal with yours. Your feelings are not my concern. Go get help.

Have you ever felt or heard this or something like it from someone? Perhaps you've even said something like this. There's no judgment here if you have. I lived by this ideology for my young-adult life. It feels terrible. Empty. Hollow. Closing our selves off--to our feelings and the power they have to help us grow--and to each other, is painful. How can we begin to ease the pain? Communicate: to friends for support, to a therapist for tools, to loved ones for the container of love they hold to be completely, utterly you within. 

Communication is an act of union. 

Communication is an act of union. It literally and figuratively brings us together. Separation (isolation, keeping others at a distance because their feelings make us uncomfortable) is an act of violence. It's painful. Interestingly, we can learn to live with this pain for a long, long time. It becomes the norm in our lives until we're woken up to experiencing a new way of feeling and living. 

Once we've begun to open up more, we can begin to communicate with our own hearts. For some reason, that is the scariest place to go when mired in the story of our ego. Going inside feels like certain death, because (according to ego's story) everything we need to be aware of, ahead of, on top of is outside of us, coming at us as potential dangers. Why would I go in when it's already so dark and painful in there? 

When our ego feels angry, it is masking fear. Fear masks hurt and hurt is a very scary thing for an ego to confront because it means being vulnerable. Vulnerability, unless modeled to us in our first families or as children, generally conjures up beliefs of personal weakness. None of us have been completely immune to those experiences, especially as children--a vulnerable time for us all--when we first felt what deep betrayal was from a friend or loved one. 

So how do we get to this place of living in this unwavering solidarity and knowing--or living through love--in our Selves and with life? 

Choosing, again and again, love. Understanding that other's reactions are not a reflection of you, but of themselves. Once we begin to choose love, oftentimes the scariest part is that those around us begin to rebel. They're uncomfortable because what you're doing is upsetting the status quo. This is interesting and something to be aware of, just so you can understand what's happening.

The more you choose love, the easier it becomes. The more you choose to look strangers in the eye and smile, to accept the compliment, to receive a hug, to confront that judgment as it repeatedly arises, the easier it is to do. At first, it can feel excruciatingly hard--that's the ego trying to defend itself. But isn't it harder to harbor anger, resentment and judgment for a lifetime?