Burned Alive?

You burned them alive?

You burned them ALIVE!! Did you hear them, too?

 

The ways of mercy are not how many imagine so what I want to say to you as grief rolls through would be as untrue as the mask you wear. There are no words that could meet your heart.

Or are there?  Is there a place inside where mercy and the touch of God might meet you, even where you are?

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The Mystery of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women?

There is no mystery here

What follows is an element of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women phenomenon. It is the story of those who are intentionally disappeared to be sexually exploited and how I came to be involved in it. At then end, I’m going to ask for your help. On this day of remembrance and recognition, I share this in honor of Ariel Begay, her mother Jackie, Grandfather Edsitty, their surviving family; Tanya Begay, Ashley Collins and Misty Rain Bedonie, and the girl with the pink flower in her hair.


Indigenous women, men and children from across the continent are intentionally disappeared with the purpose of being held and sold as sex slaves in a multinational criminal network. This network, whose primary ‘hive’ is located in the Phoenix metropolitan area, is a multinational one. And it’s hub is located on an Indian Reservation.

Those that are being held in this place, are held underground in a system that uses wells, former mines, and the ancient canal system developed by the Huhugam. They are held–underground!–until the time comes to be auctioned, unless they die while in captivity. Near such time, they are moved to the ISM raceway, force to clean up at mobile showers there. At least one auction a year is held there or near there using good old-fashioned radio technology. Sold to the highest bidder to be fucked to death.

Women, men and children  from indigenous communities are intentionally disappeared, many times from within their communities, to be held in captivity (hundreds literally held under the ground in the desert) bought and sold for the purposes of sexual exploitation by those within indigenous communities–with the full awareness and agreement of tribal leadership— until they cannot be exploited anymore-when they die or are killed (including during the sexual act)!  When they are killed their bodies are buried, sunk or burned but not before someone qualified determines whether their organs are harvestable. Stop here and think about that paragraph. Then breathe and think some more about how many people it takes to pull off an operation like this.

There is no other way to clearly express what these young people are disappeared for. To have paid sex as many times as possible until they have no more use for someone else’s financial benefit. They are then killed or they die in the process. Their journey to the point of auction, includes points of contact with people in their communities and outside the community, like in the case of one recently disappeared Native woman in Montana, two young women from Dulce, New Mexico, and their associate in Montana developed an online ‘friendship’, then met in person at a bar, and the victim was disappeared. In addition to those who select, hunt, trap and broker the victims, there are drug dealers, dentists, doctors, preachers, medicine men and other esteemed community members involved.

Their complicity is aided by many, many others that fuel a partnership between the Sinaloa cartel and Indian Gaming. They include elected officials from the:

  • Gila River Indian Community
  • Tohono O’odham Nation
  • Three Affiliated Tribes of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara
  • Hia Ced O’odham
  • Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate
  • Salt River Pima-Maricopa
  • San Carlos Chiricahua
  • Mescalero Apache
  • Siksika Nation
  • Cowesses
  • Brokenhead Ojibwe
  • Cherokee Nation
  • Shoshone Bannock
  • Prairie Band Potowatami
  • Acoma Pueblo
  • Jicarilla Apache
  • Jemez Pueblo
  • Kickapoo Nation
  • Caddo Nation
  • Ponca Nation
  • Osage Nation
  • Choctaw Nation
  • Fort Mohave Tribe
  • Kahkewistakew First Nation
  • Cocopah Tribe
  • Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs
  • Chiricahua Apache-New Mexico and Oklahoma
  • Eastern Shawnee Tribe
  • Wichita and Afflilated Tribes
  • Spokane Tribe
  • Nooksack
  • Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla
  • Picayune Rancheria Chukchansi
  • Southern Ute
  • Hoopa Valley Tribe
  • Cabazon Band of Mission Indians
  • Pauma Tribe of Luiseno
  • and more

Other active participants in what I’m now calling the enforced disappearance of indigenous women from across the North American continent include:

  • former and sitting judges from the Navajo bench and one sitting on the New Mexico Court of Appeals;
  • state senators from Arizona, Colorado, North Dakota, North Carolina and Ohio; staff of Senators serving in Washington, DC, from Arizona and North Dakota
  • a policy analyst in the State of Washington legislature
  • provincial representatives in Winnipeg and Toronto, and a member of the Parliament of Singapore
  • lawyers from Arizona, West Virginia, Kansas, Wisconsin and South Dakota
  • a Museum of the American Indian Board of Trustees member
  • a nationally recognized Navajo author and educator
  • journalists in the US and abroad
  • CEOs & upper management of international oil, entertainment, property management, hotels and manufacturing companies
      • including those sitting on the Boards of General Electric and Goodwill Industries, the National Hot Rod Association, and Gillette
  • heroin wholesalers
  • an English jeweler
  • Russian, Chinese, Japanese and American Ambassadors
  • rock musicians, a boxer and a Native flautist
  • Nuns and teachers
  • AIM members across the country
  • some people who work the Pow Wow circuit
  • Tribal and local police sprinkled from small towns like Odessa, TX, and Engleman Township, IL,  and big cities like Vancouver, BC, across the continent including:
      • BIA officers at Standing Rock who publicly pimp young women
      • a sheriff’s department in Arizona
      • a former law enforcement commander who is now a state legislator
      • county Sheriff’s deputies in Montana
  • a favorite fashion model of Georgio Armani
  • a custom machining shop in Illinois
  • leadership of an ammunitions manufacturer
  • a sand and gravel company in Montana
  • an Airborne Ranger at the Pentagon
  • an unknown people at the MCAS Cherry Point
  • upper level management of DARPA
  • a manager of a non-profit organization that advertises themselves as a law enforcement trainer and facilitator of family reunification of missing persons
  • professors and directors at Arizona State University
  • real estate agents and developers
  • and more

When they are sold for the purposes of sexual exploitation in the United States and Canada, these ‘disappeared’ young people are moved across the country to be ‘worked’ out of more than 120 Native owned casinos (as well as those owned by provincial governments in Canada) in addition to ‘working’ through webcam and pornography services, and call-out and call-in services.

In addition, the international nature of this criminal partnership includes the disappearing of young women (and men) from Eastern Europe, the EU, Brazil, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Chile, Peru, many of whom are from indigenous communities. They are brought to the US, bought and sold here and potentially sent on to other places across the globe where they are forced to work along with those from indigenous communities from Germany, North America in Singapore, Seoul, France, Amsterdam, Laos, and at what I call Embassy Row outside of Marrakesh, Morocco.  And elsewhere.

Among those that facilitate the movement, pimping and ‘management’ (and deaths) of these young people are two Native-owned casino development and consultancy companies, a Native American at Goldman Sachs whose career and professional relationships began with work in a California Indian-owned casino, several people connected to the Seminole ownership of the Hard Rock brand and it’s casino and resort expansion across the globe. Some Nations formalized their criminal relationships and partnerships with each other at Standing Rock while the rest of us were there to help protect and heal water and communities.


The Fuckery is what I’ve named this unfolding relationship between disappeared Indigenous women, law enforcement, and organized crime that began last September 2017.  It’s the most apt description and, at this point, I no longer refrain from using it with those who might be offended. Because that’s what this is. There is no way to pretty it up; not only is that like putting lipstick on a mud-covered pig but, in my view, there is no other way to adequately express the institutionalized system that exists solely to pad the pockets through selling sex with children and young people.

In September 2017, a Navajo police officer with whom I’d worked in the past, sent me a missing person’s flyer and asked, ‘What do you feel from this?”. After Old Ones sent me on what I thought was an expensive, exhausting and unproductive trip into Alberta and Saskatchewan the month prior, I had no desire to engage with anything in Diné country. My desire for quiet and rest ended when he said, “She’s in Phoenix.” I had no reason to doubt him. I know well how his own gifted nature works through him. I didn’t have to ask, “So, they want me to go get her?” Because that’s exactly what was being asked.  In fact, not asked; demanded.

Beginning that night, people with whom I have limited (or no) connection outside Facebook, shared with me their dreams and said things like, “I don’t know how I know to tell you this is for or about you.”  They didn’t need to. I knew what the Old Man hollering, “Gallop, Josephine!! Gallop!!”, from the back of a running horse meant. From the night of September 6, the day the Navajo police officer reached out, visions began flooding me with information. Crystal clear, no interpretation needed visual information including who, what, where, when, why and how.  I may have wanted peace and rest but that wasn’t going to happen. Not then, not now.

Within days I was on the road from the mountains of Montana to the desert of Arizona. In my mind, seven to ten days seemed about right. I’d done more in less time before so that’s what I packed for. It made as much sense to me as saying to the missing woman’s mother, when she asked if she needed to give me any money, “No. That’s not what this is about. However, if I bring her home, mutton stew would be pretty amazing!”

I arrived in the Phoenix area on September 14. I was at the local FBI office four days later and, during a nearly two hour interview, I gave what I felt was actionable information, including webcam sites where other missing Native girls and women were being forced to work, an address on the southern border city of Nogales, and more. I watched the skin on the arms of the agent in front of me repeatedly rise as the truth connected with her and then left, never hearing a word. A few hours later I met a man who is key in the disappearance and enslavement of women and children. I shook his hand at the beginning of our conversation and shook my head when I left after he lied to me. It was in that moment, too, I realized I’d been set up in the most spectacular way of spirit.  I wasn’t in the desert to find and bring home one young woman. I was there for many.

The visions and visitations didn’t stop. Information came from the desert herself, blowing sands and stalwart stone like beacons. And, three days after initially reporting to the FBI, I found a place where young people are held in darkened captivity, to be sold into sexual slavery, supervised by the same esteemed member of the local indigenous community who lied to me. And, I attempted to reach out to the FBI again. Several times. There was no response.

One month later, on October 17, the day I learned that Ariel Begay was, in fact, dead,  I made contact with an FBI agent in Tucson who, I initially thought, didn’t pay attention to what I’d shared. One year later, I learned the opposite. In October, I learned that he cared enough to report it to somebody within the criminal network that, in turn, put a $50,000 price on my head.

The details of the underground location were shared with agents at the Phoenix and Tucson FBI offices, (it was the Tucson agent with whom I shared the information who facilitated the price on my head), and a lieutenant in the Gila River Police Department. When we spoke, he did not raise an eyebrow at the names I gave him but looked ready to shake me by the shoulders when I told him where I’d been led to and been making my presence known. “That’s the most dangerous place on the reservation!”. I told him I was well aware of that. It was the place I almost got shot, was told by residents that there was no help to be found there and I better get the fuck out) and there was no action. I was told that would not happen because there would be no way to get a Federal warrant to search the premises; not enough proof. However, “if you were to call 911 from there, we’d come running!”.

By November 10, 2017, I realized that I was actively followed and targeted by those involved in the network or the FBI. I thought safeguards were put into place once I realized the how close they were (enough to take photographs of me at night!) and how they found me (nothing is as secure electronically as you think it is!) but that was not as it seemed. As 2018 began to unfold, I was given information that I didn’t put together for three months. Visions of crossword clues and road runners would get my attention but it wasn’t weeks passed before I learned that I was not only under electronic surveillance but I was being physically watched as well, from 200 yards away. In late March that gap was closed when a drone was sent to my bedroom window and I fled a few days later.

In those unfolding seven months, I nearly got shot, someone tried to file a restraining order against me after I asked them for help and another, again when I asked for help said, “You’re not going to get that here! Get the fuck out of here, lady!”, I reached out to countless non-profits, retired DEA agents, tribal, local and federal law enforcement, and people of the medicine way, all to no avail.

When the journey began in September 2017, one of the questions I asked was of the group of Old Ones, “Will I have help?” “On your own”, was the reply. They weren’t kidding. Not that I was entirely alone. I never really am but as friend after friend bailed in fear, loneliness and abandonment became like fuel until the body and mind brought me to the point of deep despair. Each time, though, when I considered walking away, I was brought back when Mother Mary and others visited. Their visitations buoyed my spirits but also reminded me that if I was feeling lonely and abandoned, how could I, in turn, abandon those who had been disappeared, brokered, held in the dark to be turned over to be fucked to death? How could I leave them when I was the only one seeking their freedom and knew where they were? Guilt and shame repeatedly rolled  through (and still do) for not doing enough, not being enough, not trying enough, not being noisy enough, not being smart enough, not being brave enough. Rage came with it; rage that others weren’t doing enough, were making noise but not listening, making noise while actively participating in the disappearing of others, or not doing anything despite knowing the horror faced by these captive children and women.

When I fled the desert for the sanctuary of the mountains, I thought I had enough information to engage federal law enforcement again. I was wrong. I was ignored when I reached out (ultimately hung up on by the FBI before I finally gave up). However, though I felt ignored and alone, I learned that I was not. I learned I’d been under electronic surveillance by the FBI for months. (Yes, it’s legal. Warrantless surveillance is allowed under a couple of circumstances: a) if they believe a life (presumably mine) is in danger, or b) the subject (definitely me) is part of organized crime.)

And the information continued to flow through ways considered spiritual and the more obvious slips of the tongue like a local cop who didn’t expect me to hear someone told him, “Someone is telling Ingrid way too much” and being part of the experience where a person who was responsible for my safety and that of victims chose to make traffickers safe instead.

The last time I attempted contact the FBI was when I received information I believed indicated a body dump in the Phoenix metropolitan area in October 2017. I never heard back from the FBI but I have since been given the locations of many more hidden individual and mass graves across the continent where those who have been killed during transportation, of drug overdose while being held or in the process of being kidnapped, or during the act of sex.

After my conversation with a female legislator from the Blackfeet Nation, nearly a year after this unfolding began, I reached out to women in formal and informal Indigenous leadership, who Ancestors suggested would be helpful, in the Osage, Cherokee, Odawa, and Crow Nations. I was ignored by a former judge, current councilwoman, and environmental activist, just as I was ignored by law enforcement again when I went to them with specific information on the disappearance of Jermain Charlo in Montana, and when I asked a singer for something as simple as a prayer sung for freedom. In addition, I have been ignored when reaching out to the US Attorney’s Office;  Senators Jon Tester, Senator Lisa Murkowski, and former Senators Jeff Flake and Heidi Heitkamp.

I feel the need to repeat a few things that may be lost in the text: Women, men and children  from indigenous communities are intentionally disappeared, many times from within their communities, to be held in captivity (hundreds literally held under the ground in the desert) bought and sold for the purposes of sexual exploitation by those within indigenous communities–with the full awareness and agreement of tribal leadership— until they cannot be exploited anymore-when they die or are killed (including during the sexual act)!  When they are killed their bodies are buried, sunk or burned but not before someone qualified determines whether their organs are harvestable. Stop here and think about that paragraph. Then breathe and think some more about how many people it takes to pull off an operation like this. Not just those above, they are key elements but between each of them are many, many people.

Think about this: active and retired personnel and operational infrastructure of the United States military is used to perpetuate the sexual slavery of women, men and children.

Think about this: the very mechanism fought for thirty years ago to help support the sovereignty and economic stability for First Nations and Native communities are primary locales where indigenous women, men, and children are enslaved for sexual exploitation. To be more clear, Indian women, men and children are disappeared, bought and sold by those in and working with Indian communities, to be fucked (literally and figuratively) in Indian casinos (and non-Indian casinos in the US and abroad), and other venues until they have lost their value. 

Despite the fact that a Blackfeet legislator suggested I write a novel–“It’ll read like a thriller!”–there is nothing fiction here. This is real. This is every day. This is recorded on security cameras in every casino, from the friendly relationships between on-site tribal police and pimps, to underage girls being led by older men through the lobby in the wee hours, to security facilitating prostitution in restricted-to-guests spaces. Security, bar staff, housekeeping, other floor staff and managers–everyone knows. Guests share openly, telling strangers of their liaisons with victims of trafficking in casino resorts.

The journey these young people are thrust into is one that no human should have to experience. Yet, they do by the thousands. Every day.  The phrase ‘someone knows something’ is used a lot by the online community that helps spread the word about missing Indigenous women and children.  In this case, ‘someone’ means many, many, many people know and do nothing. Of those many is Federal law enforcement officers; figured into the gaming industry is organized crime so the Departments of Treasury and the FBI are regularly in Indian casinos and certainly a fixture in those around the Phoenix Metro area.


It’s been suggested more than once to me that “Of course, the FBI knows right? They must, right?:  Yes, they must. They know enough to put me under electronic surveillance and tell a Montana cop, “Someone is telling Ingrid way too much.”  Yet, they and the US Attorney’s Office have refused to engage. Why? Is it because I’ve been labeled ‘the crazy psychic lady’? Perhaps, but if that’s the case, why did a supervisor (assuming there was no warrant) or a judge (because maybe a warrant was signed) sign off on, at the very least, electronic surveillance.

That births a few more questions: If, indeed, the FBI and/or other federal law enforcement officers are aware of this network then why has it not acted? Is it because victims are brown-skinned or foreign? Is it because “they’re just whores”? That they have no value?  Is it because victims are not terrorists or the perpetrators are not (although they fit the definition if one considers that fifty percent of the population of Indigenous communities is, in fact, terrorized by a criminal network)? Perhaps, federal law enforcement is enamored with to catch the Big Cat, a leader of the cartel who is more ‘valued’? Is this network is too large to intervene? Is it because agencies operate within silos and with inherent racial and ethnic biases? Is it because, somehow, they benefit from the victimization of these young people? I don’t think any one of these things or a combination of them is too far a reach.

We know why the cartels do it. Money. There’s lots of money in sex on demand.  We have a pretty good idea that some of those involved in the pipeline, because that’s what it is–the movement of ‘goods’ along an enclosed yet visible infrastructure to another location–do it for a lot less money, or, perhaps, threats against their life; “the bullet or the bribe” is real. We can also make educated guesses about the motivations behind casino development and management companies actively supporting sexual trafficking: protection from the cartel and an additional revenue stream, for instance.  However, there are those within the above lists I would really like to ask a simple, “Why? What motivates you to participate in the continued decimation of your relatives?”

I’ve said before that this won’t be legislated or enforced away. It is an institutionalized phenomenon that exists, in part, because of legislation and enforcement. It is part of a larger culture in which the fruits of multiple billions of dollars are enjoyed by those of power and privilege. It’s up to us and the industry that supports it.

I cannot do it alone. Who will stand with me? Who of you attending the 2019 South Sound Human Trafficking in Indian Country Conference, held this week at the Emerald Queen casino, will openly challenge casino management about the practice of supporting the prostitution of trafficked women in their casino?  Who will have the courage that the young women who try to claw their way out of imprisonment walls to help me? Who will stand, not just with me and the Old Ones, but with those who suffer because ‘someone knows something’ and has done nothing.  Because many someones know something and do nothing. Who has the courage to meet the fear, the power structures, and greed-machine with me?

Please help me.

Please help the little girls with the pink flowers in their hair. Please help me help the young women who cry for freedom. Their prayers have been heard. Will you help me answer them?


And, yes, of course I’m aware you’ve read this.  Where does your courage and your heart lie? Why?  Can you say that out loud to your grandmother, and her mother? She knows. They know. I know. Have you told your own mother? Why not? Think about that, too.

Here is who tells me too much. More of the crowd is here.

On the Practice of Truth

When kindness is so foreign that those who encounter it are surprised, what then is the value of goodness and mercy and trust and loving openness?

When love is sought as a spiritual truth but not is not practiced in the same way ‘practices’ are, what then are we teaching the future?

When peace is merely ‘practiced’ because it’s not seen as ‘practical’ or the notion is beyond those who maintain their faith in humanity need restoring, what then do those practices mean?

When desperation for connection creates separation because truth can’t be filtered through the noise or stillness, what then do we say to our young people?

When connecting things of the past that contain things that cause harm, what then do braids of the truth from *then* mean in the emerging now?

When truth is hidden behind ‘truthiness’, what then does truth truly mean?

Who decides the answers of what, when, how and who?

These questions are meant for answers to be spilled from fingertips but in how you move through your days. Consider them for more than a few seconds. Answer them for yourselves. Make choices based on those answers, knowing that they may change and that they should as you grow.

Gizmodo’s 10 minutes on the Brain

https://gizmodo.com/watch-this-beautiful-10-minute-film-on-the-current-stat-1735367212

Just some food for thought. I’m one who thinks that as we grow into ourselves more fully we’ll find we’re more super and more intelligent than we think we are.

And, for the record, I don’t think this diminishes the Divine, the mystical or our individual relationships with the Godstuff. To me, it makes it more accessible to everyone, it takes the discussions of healing, prayer and the power of the heart (and mind) beyond mere belief into a universality that can bring us together.

Lessons for the Empath from Walmart

 

Here’s why Walmart, the empath and ‘is it mine?’ matter. Because it’s  all about you. Until it’s not. Being an empath is about your connection with others and your capacities to use your own nature as a tool or superpower for good but before you can understand or build your tool box and put on the cape, you need to know you.  As you begin to know yourself, the rest will unfold like a Jacob’s ladder, leading step-by-step into the role you were made for, prayed into being for. Walmart is merely one overt example of how we recoil and project when we feel. It is also the perfect testing ground for what your lack of boundaries really means, how the body itself is our greatest support and barometer of energies around us, and how we can manage our responses to ourselves and the environment around us.

Here’s how my experience with Walmart changed and subsequently changed me. I’ve never been a fan of the place myself but in 2011, I happened to be in a Wal-Mart in central Virginia attempting to get in and out with little fuss. While I never experienced anything like panic in the store, I was easily befuddled and could never go without a list and pen to mark things off the list. Otherwise, in the haze, I’d forget half of what I needed and probably looked like a coked-out squirrel (think about it for just a sec!). This time, in the cereal aisle, while pretending to stare at my list—the perfectly acceptable way to be seen muttering to oneself—I was nearly knocked over by a energetic force outside of me making contact with my head. It wasn’t an ‘oops, upside the head’ kind of thing. It was an intentional ‘now I’ve got your attention, haven’t I’ kind of thing. I muttered a few choice foul words and finally, in a fit of pique, said, “Fuck it. Show me.”

I didn’t know then what I know now about my relationship with the invisible. Clueless, I was stumbling through my own evolutionary process in a way that was about as ungraceful as one can feel at Wal-Mart. My response was one of frustration more than curiosity but someone or something had made an impact in more ways than one and I was going to find out why, dammit.

For the lack of a better description, I turned my shopping cart into a dowsing rod. What first seemed like aimless wandering finally took me to the front of the store, past the customer service desk, and to the ladies room. I didn’t have to pee (unusual in itself) but there I was because that’s where that damn shopping cart took me. And, given the choice to ignore why I was there or go into the restroom, I chose the latter. I entered and nearly walked right into the only other person there; a woman whose boyfriend or boss, so guessed because she kept calling him “He”, had been an asshole. In that moment, all I could do was say, “Come here, honey” and wrap my arms around a distraught stranger and repeat, “I’m so sorry. I love you. We’ve got you.” When I got smacked in the head by that unknown energy, the direction was clear: go to the person who needs to be loved on.  Who knows how long I’d been receiving the message but could not ‘hear’ it through the filters of anxiety, exhaustion, and confusion.

In case I missed the point, that set-up repeated itself four more times, each time in a public shopping area. By the fifth time, at the Fairfax, Virginia, Macy’s where I was on the hunt for that perfect pair of jeans, I knew the cue. Although my response to the energetic stimulus was not as if I’d been assaulted again, that energetic ‘signature’ was identical each time and wasting time or arguing was moot. By the time it occurred at Macy’s, I dropped the two feet-high pile of jeans I was carrying in the most inappropriate place and walked directly to the nearest ladies restroom. And, sure enough, there she was, another upset woman who, when asked if she needed some help or a hug, merely said, “I just need time to myself.”

I never did go pick up the pile of jeans. That ‘aha’ and ‘oh shit’ moment was enough for one day. Like with many other experiences, I left the mall and while stuck in traffic on the return home said, “Well now, what in the hell do I do with all that?”

What I’ve learned in the ensuing five years is to turn that into a teaching tool for others, how to discern what is mine to deal with, what is not mine to not deal with, and what is mine to deal with. You’ll soon be able to do the same.

There is no denying that there is discomfort, even pain, in this exploration of yourself and the world around you. However, that cannot harm you. Unlike one of the more common myths, you are not taking on any one else’s pain or absorbing it.  You are feeling it, sometimes the depths of it. The feeling of it and it’s expression bring a freedom to you and to another.

Anthon St. Maarten has described his experience of feeling another this way:

I can even feel the anxiety some people feel in the pit of their stomach when they are telling a lie, or feel their heartbeat increase when they are feeling guilty. If the lady in front of me at the supermarket is getting angry I might feel her blood pressure rising, and possibly perceive additional information about her personal life that may cause her to be so impatient and irritable. But that does not mean that I necessarily identify with her feelings (empathy) or feel sorry for her (sympathy). I simply experience what she is feeling and I know why she is feeling that way, even if it makes no sense to me personally.

The difference for me and, quite possibly you, is that these experiences generally make complete sense to me, I can identify with her feelings and, feel sympathy and empathy, and, when necessary express them without  attachment to the feelings or any outcome. 

Unlike St. Maarten and many others, I disagree that empaths walk around absorbing or taking on the energies of others like a sponge. If that were the case, we would be experiencing joy, surprise, grief, awe, and orgasm, sharing those in the same way we bitch about being effected by ‘energy vampires’ (which, following my logic, don’t exist in the way they are commonly described).

That is not to say i don’t believe we are not affected by the energies around us. We absolutely are but being affected by our environment is not limited to those who identify as empath and the effect upon us is real. How we define it is important, mostly because it’s our responsibility, not another’s. Everyone is affected by things surrounding them. We may be special enough to feel someone’s kidney stones but they are not going to land in your own kidney. Debbie Downer’s negative mood is not a virus. You may feel her funk because she’s telegraphing it in more ways than one but she’s not sucking everything out of you. You are absolutely feeling it but your systems don’t know what to do with it. Your feeling of ‘sucked dry’ is a tiredness that comes from all of your systems trying to figure out what the fuck to do with the unknown funk it’s attempting to process.  You’re tired. Not for ‘no good reason’ but for a very good reason. You may know you haven’t run a marathon but other parts of you disagree because they actually have been working that hard.

So, homework: Post-It notes “Is it Mine?”.  Pay attention to how the brain and body respond to the question. Don’t create an answer. If one flows through you, connect to your breath and ask another question; who or why is a good one.

This is work. Simple work but it requires some focus. Ask, attend.  As you begin to consciously discern what’s yours and what’s not, you’ll also begin to learn what you’re to do with that knowledge. I touch (or mentally air-kiss) and cure shit. You might create energetic space for a new song, design, recipe, or poem to move through. You might be smacked upside the head with the next brilliant idea that makes the rest of us say, “Why didn’t I think of that?!”  You might just find space for peace within your ownfineself.

I’m available to ask questions. If you’ve got ’em, ask.

The Empath and Walmart, Part 2

Mindfulness brings to light experience in its pure immediacy. It reveals the object as it is before it has been plastered over with conceptual paint, overlaid with interpretations. ~Bhikkhu Bodhi

If you haven’t yet, read The Empath and Walmart, Part 1 before reading through this post.

The sensation of touch involves more complex processes moving information from environment, often to an area larger than our ear canal, to the brain for the interpretation of that information. There are more than twenty classes of nerve cells related to touch on or under the skin. What follows is a sampling of them.

Underneath the skin, between the dermis and epidermis under mostly hairless skin like under the hands, lips and feet, are nerves call Meissner’s corpuscles. They lie parallel to the skin and, operating both independently of each other and in unison, take messages to the brain. They are what is called rapidly adapting mechanoreceptors and, among other things, are the agents that allow the blind to read Braille. Their job is to detect and signal the brain about vibrations between 10 and 50 Hertz or light touch, like flutter or textures like the slip of silk that are making contact with the skin. Their adaptive nature makes it so that once we feel something for a time, that sensation disappears. (That wool sweater? If it was scratching in the exact same place each time, you would not feel it at all after a moment or two).

In addition to the Meissner’s corpuscles, there are Pacinian corpuscles and Merkel’s disks. Pacinian corpuscles are responsible for the detection of vibration and pressure on the skin. They are larger and there are not as many of them as there are the other three nerve ending related to touch. And, they are not just on the skin. The work directly with the pancreas, detecting particular vibrations that signal the need to release insulin. Their vibrational sensitivity is different than that of Meissner’s and are optimal at 250 Hertz. When deformed or reformed by pressure, it transmits pressure. If the table top is pressing onto your thigh or you pull up the skin on the top of your hand, you Pacinian corpuscles are what is letting you know it’s time to change position or rehydrate.

Merkel’s disk are found all over the body including in the mouth and anus but cluster in fingertips. Their job is to provide information on vibrations from 5-15 Hertz. They fire fastest when small points indent the skin and fire at a low rate on slow curves or flat surfaces. Convexities reduce their rate of firing further still.

Those Ruffini corpuscles are located in the deep layers of the skin and fascia and respond to sustained pressure, skin stretching and angle change. They’re located most densely around the fingernails and while they may help you adjust your grip, they also those things that, when in contact with an onion, remind you of the hangnail you’ve forgotten about!

However, what I find fascinating is the new science that suggests (and may support my hypothesis) is the idea that from all of those hairs that cover our body nerve cells connect to our spinal column. Scientists experimenting with mice learned that each LTMR cell branched out to nearly 30 different hairs and that these hairs had specific roles in communicating.

A summary from ScienceDaily in 2012 shared this:

Mice have three different types of hair: a thick, long guard hair that accounts for only about 1 percent of total hairs on the body; a shorter hair called the awl/auchene that constitutes about 23 percent of body hair; and a fine hair called the zigzag that makes up 76 percent of body hair. The team found that most of the C-LTMR cell endings — about 80 percent — associate with zigzag hair follicles, the rest with the awl/auchene and none with the guard hair follicles.

The researchers then similarly marked two other types of touch nerve cells and found that each hair type has a different and specific set of nerve endings associated with it. “This makes every hair a unique mechanosensory organ,” says Ginty. Moreover, with their new marking tools, they found that each hair type is evenly spaced and patterned throughout the skin.
The team then wondered how all the input from these individual hairs is collected and sent to the brain. Using a different dying technique, the researchers were able to stain the other end of the cell, in the spinal cord. They found that the nerves connecting each patch of skin containing one guard hair and other associated smaller hairs line up in columns in the spinal cord — neighboring columns correspond to neighboring patches of skin. They estimate that there are about 3,000 to 5,000 columns in the spinal cord, with each column accounting for 100 to 150 hair follicles.

So how does the brain interpret what each hair follicle experiences? “How this happens is remarkable and we’re fairly clueless about it,” says Ginty. But he suspects that the organization of the columns is key to how all the various inputs are processed before a message goes to the brain. And while people are not as hairy as mice, Ginty believes that many of the same structures are shared. This study and the new cell-marking tools they developed, he says, open a lot of doors for new research in understanding touch and other senses.

The Ginty mentioned above is Dr. David Ginty. In 2014, he and a colleague published another study, building on the one above, called The Sensor Neurons of Touch and while the focus of the paper is on complex mechanical processes on the skin, I think future studies will show a similarity between the hairs on our skin (and, perhaps, other cells) responding to mechanical stimuli as well as other energetic stimulus.

This report notes that:

Sensory modalities have been, for the sake of simplicity, described as anatomically and physiologically discrete channels, or “labeled lines” that faithfully convey particular modalities of cutaneous sensory information from the periphery to the somatosensory cortex. However, both anatomical and physiological measurements indicate that sensory integration begins at subcortical levels, providing a compelling argument against a labeled-line theory of somatosensation. Today, with the use of molecular genetics, and equipped with strategies for acute ablation and/or silencing of neuronal subtypes, we can test the idea that the exquisite combination of ion-channels, organizational properties of cutaneous LTMR endings, and central nervous system circuits are the substrate of tactile perception.

All of that is to say that how we used to think about physical senses is changing as specific technologies create ways to measure things previously immeasurable.

Five years prior to Ginty’s Sensor Neurons publication, in December 15, 2009, the medical journal Pain wrote, “researchers at Albany Medical College, the University of Liverpool and Cambridge University report that the human body has an entirely unique and separate sensory system aside from the nerves that give most of us the ability to touch and feel. Surprisingly, this sensory network is located throughout our blood vessels and sweat glands, and is for most people, largely imperceptible.”

I think for empaths, that sensory network along with those associated with skin and its hair, it is very perceptible; they just don’t know what they’re perceiving and, because the stimulus is unknown and invisible energies, fear fills in the blanks.

This paper came about after physicians and scientists noticed that two patients had what is called congenital insensitivity to pain, meaning that they were born with very little ability to feel pain. However, unlike other patients with whom they’d had contact and you may have heard about, these two, aside from dealing with incessant sweating (the reason why they went to the doctor to begin with), they led normal lives. They could distinguish hot from cold, sharp from smooth, and what might be touching them.

In one inch of skin, most of us have 65 hairs, 160-165 touch sensors, 650 sweat glands, 78 yards of nerves, 73 heat sensors, 13 cold sensors and 1300 pain sensors. While these two patients may have been missing some of the pain sensors, researchers learned that these patients were missing those Meissner’s corpuscles along with the Pacinian and Merkel cells.  They noted “Problems with these nerve endings may contribute to mysterious pain conditions such as migraine headaches and fibromyalgia, the sources of which are still unknown, making them very difficult to treat.”
What these and other researchers have called a sensory neuropathy, a dysfunction of nerve systems, I see as pointing the way for a new way of understanding for empaths.  Fascinating stuff, no?

And, more recently, in March of this year, eNeuro (the journal for the Society of Neuroscience) published an article called Transduction of the Geomagnetic Field as Evidenced from Alpha-band Activity in the Human Brain. Within that mouthful of a title, was proof that humans can detect the earth’s magnetic field. Scientists from CalTech and other universities in New Jersey and Tokyo measured human brain changes in response to magnetic field changes. Now, they (and we) don’t understand how it happens but Joseph Kirschvink, a geophysicist who worked on the project, said this to Gizmodo:

“Magnetoreception is a normal sensory system in animals, just like vision, hearing, touch, taste, smell, gravity, temperature, and many others.All of these systems have specific cells that detect the photon, sound wave, or whatever, and send signals from them to the brain, as does a microphone or video camera connected to a computer. But without the software in the computer, the microphone or video camera will not work. We are saying that human neurophysiology evolved with a magnetometer — most likely based on magnetite — and the brain has extensive software to process the signals.”

If we can detect, although not consciously according to this study, magnetic field changes around us, why not other energies? And how might we respond if we do and are not aware of it? Ponder that for a hot minute.

Take what you’ve read here and apply it to a dastardly Walmart experience. Can you understand how, if you’re energetically sensitive (using it broadly here), how you might feel anxious or overwhelmed? From external energies reaching all that skin and hair, to the skin and hair attempting to process and translate it through while sending it to the spinal column, which takes that message into the brain. All while the eyes cannot see to what or how the skin is responding. Those things we take for granted involve millions of processes, happening so quickly that they seem, to us, simultaneous events.  No wonder you feel exhausted. Go back to the idea mentioned above that the pancreas responds to what’s happening on the skin.

So what, Ingrid? How does that help me? I could give two fucks. I just want to get in and get out. No fuss, no muss.

Here’s how it helps: simple awareness of why your body and brain are responding how it does can change the experience.

And here’s homework to reinforce it. It may seem far too simple to be effective but I can assure you it works. Like creating muscle memory for typing or shooting, it doesn’t take much for all systems to get on board.  You’re going to start asking one simple question when you feel anything: “Is it mine?” If you feel anxiety, heart palpitations, nausea, headache, angry, annoyed, or simply uneasy. “Is it mine?” Ask and then simply observe how the body and brain respond. Ask out loud so you don’t confuse yourself and to bring focus. Don’t create an answer in your head or leap to ‘of course, it’s mine! It’s my head/belly/mood/heart!”  Not so fast, toots.  We may have been trained to think that everything we feel is ours but that is often not the case.

This is about retraining the brain and creating space for a deeper understanding about how they interact with the world around them. It’s about teaching your eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin what inputs they are responding to and what to do, or not do, with the messages being received.

I ask people to break out the Post-It notes and put the question on the bathroom and rear-view mirrors, kitchen cabinets, desktop screen, home screen of their phone, on the back of the door, above the sink so that for a few days it becomes a mantra and practice in observation. Ask, observe, and notice how energetic space is created with simple awareness.

It seems that younger folks respond more quickly to the lesson than older folks. The older we get, the less open we are to new ideas. A twelve year old was complaining of an acute headache a while ago. I asked him to ask the question. He asked, looked at me and said, “NO! It’s Jason’s.Holy shit!”  And the headache vanished. No shit. It was later confirmed when the two got together after school.

In the same way he could damn-near instantaneously identify the who and the what, you can, too, with just a little bit of practice.

It will make Walmart and other experiences easy-breezy.

The next post will be why Walmart and shopping and ‘is it mine?’ matters.

The Empath and Walmart; Part 1

“Walmart is the seventh level of hell” ~ a few hundred empaths

“We live a story that originates in our autonomic state, is sent through autonomic pathways from the body to the brain, and is then translated by the brain into the beliefs that guide our daily living. The mind narrates what the nervous system knows. Story follows state.” -Deb Dana, LCSW

I’ve said before that the only trait empaths share is that they are just that. However, those I’ve worked with, with a few outstanding exceptions, share a particular loathing of Walmart that goes far beyond not wanting to be caught in the next round of ‘Walmart people’ photos.  The feelings associated with Walmart (or shopping malls or lines at airport customs or movie theaters) include every symptom of anxiety known, ‘creeping skin’, quaking limbs, the inability to complete simple shopping, panic attacks, and unfinished chores due to feeling overwhelmed and ashamed by the whole shebang.

When I used to do the Empowered Empath class, I had two standard homework assignments that were the measure of personal growth. The first was to go to Walmart before the class started and record every experience from the driveway at home to the cash register, if they could make it that far.  The last assignment, 2-3 months later, at the end of the class was to go back and notice their transformation. From the first, a few people couldn’t even get out of the car once they’d pulled into the parking lot, others broke into a sweat before making it to the freezer section, and others carried on through the half-hour assignment while exhaustion competed with a shopping list. Not a single person had anything positive to say about the experience or my method.

Following the Deb Dana quote above is this: You’re afraid of Walmart and the like because a) you set yourself into the fear long before you get there, and b) your body and brain do not understand how to process the, 1) your fear, and 2) the energies it is responding to. It’s all you, baby. Until you get to the store, that is. There’s no shame in it, no reason to argue with me or yourself. It’s just something to sit with for a bit. It’s not much different emotionally or physiologically than working yourself into a particular state when faced with, say, public speaking. However,  the primary difference is how we recognize and deal with the effects. The public speaking example is one where we can easily recognize the reason for the fear response: there is an audience in front of whom we may screw up. We view the potential results on a spectrum that may range from embarrassment to the loss of employment. There’s pressure to perform and the anxiety that accompanies it. That, to most of us, makes complete sense.

It does not make any sort of sense that we have a similar response to an otherwise normal experience of shopping. There’s no real pressure to perform unless you’re the husband who typically forgets things despite there being a complete list and it’s hard to feel embarrassed when you’re not the one wearing pajamas to the store (not that there’s anything wrong with that. Comfort is key, no?).  Because it doesn’t make sense to us, there is room for shame to set up shop, repeating the oft-heard “you’re too sensitive”, “you feel too much”, “you’re a bigot”, “can’t you do anything without falling apart”, “what the hell is wrong with you”.  All that and more internalized as if there is something wrong with you, that you are disordered.  I can assure you there is nothing wrong with you and that with a few simple tools, you can breeze through Walmart and the shopping mall with ease.

Before we go further, I want to refresh two notions:  everything is energy and if you are sensitive to one kind of energy, you are sensitive to other (maybe every) kind of energy. So, in our journey to Walmart, your internal energies that have been fueled by dread before starting the car and the body’s practiced fight, flight or freeze response does what it’s been trained to do. It doesn’t quite understand why but it’s there for you, doing it’s powerful thing.

Then, once you’ve arrived, before you even set foot in the store, you are inundated with electricity from underneath your feet that feeds the parking lot lights. It may be sheathed and under asphalt but your body can still feel it. How many times have you driven under a large power line and felt it? The same thing is happening when you drive or walk above it.

You walk through a weight, light or movement sensor-controlled door, into an electrified and electronically controlled environment. Think of the currents of energy it takes to fuel the rank of cash registers when you walk in the door, the refrigerators and freezers, think of the florescent lights, and the type and amount of energy they emit. Think of the chemical energies emitted from the petroleum based, mass produced clothing, household goods and miles of packaging. Then, think of the electronics department!  Think about how you feel in that department; do you hurry past it, dread getting the phone minutes card because you feel overwhelmed or overstimulated there? You’re experiencing the same thing, to a slightly lesser degree in the rest of the store. Your eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin are responding to all of those inputs, those received messages and haven’t the foggiest idea of what to do with it.

All of those physical energies are designed to amplify the other energies associated with ‘buy me’ and ‘buy more of me’ and ‘do so quickly, if you don’t mind’.  Think of the marketing (size, colors, types of packaging), labeling, and televisions and bright orange clearance tags on endcaps.

Here’s how you, your feeling nature and Walmart come together to meet in either hellishness or harmony (the place you’re going to get to soon). Another friendly energy reminder: although we may be individuated expressions, there is no separating us from our environment.

We are energetic beings, long before the caffeine begins coursing through the body, our cells vibrate. We are of and constantly creating, expending, and receiving energy. There is nothing within our body that is still when it appears we are. We contain all of the above forms of energy and we feel all those forms of energy. We are a body electric. It is the foundation for our cells, our heart beats, our synapses firing or misfiring along our nervous systems.

That electrical system within the boundaries of the skin works in conjunction with chemical processes (say, sodium and potassium) that, in turn, are working with conscious and subconscious thought processes (say, training that leads to what we call muscle memory), and all of those things are working within sensory systems—both conscious and subconscious as well. In the same manner these operations are happening within the boundaries of our skin, they are also occurring between our skin and it’s external environment; both to us and from us. Think about the way we feel someone’s presence could knock us over or that we can zap the cat into oblivion with our forefinger on a dry day.

We’re all somewhat familiar with our five physical senses, those of sight, touch, taste, hearing and smell. We may not understand how they work but most of us have enough of an awareness to notice something amiss when one of them is not functioning as it normally does or, rather, how we think it should.

Human bodies are not the only beings that operate in this way. We are all energetic beings in an energetic universes. Plants, animals, and minerals create and use it in similar ways. Animals appear to telegraph danger silently or sense, say, the energy of a cyclone or earthquake. We know through the studies of plants that they can sense a change in energy around them not associated with food and water. We know that trees communicate by transmitting and receiving energies through networks of other organisms. We are not exceptions, we receive and transmit in the same manner. Here, the network of organisms we’re navigating with senses we’re not very aware of, is all things Walmart.

Diane Ackerman, in A Natural History of the Senses, says this:

The senses don’t just make sense of life in bold or subtle acts of clarity, they tear reality apart into vibrant morsels and reassemble them into a meaningful pattern. They take contingency samples. They allow an instance to stand for a mob. They negotiate and settle for a reasonable version and make small, delicate transactions. Life showers over everything, radian, gushing. The senses feed shards of information to the brain like microscopic pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. When enough “pieces” assemble, the brain says Cow. I see a cow… In the flatlands of the Southwest, a speck develops a tiny line at the top. Cowboy, the brain says, a person who has turned his head, revealing the silhouette of that brim… Reasoning we call it, as if it were a mental spice.

One of the reasons I think so many of those who identify as empath have such difficulty maneuvering through the world is that we have spent many generations—as long as we’ve been removed from our once-ingrained relationships with the natural world—separated from our bodies and the external environment, that we’ve quite literally lost our senses or our connection to them. Combine that with our fear of many of the things we cannot see (oddly enough, not of oxygen and most odors) and there’s a recipe for a disastrous shopping day.

The sense that I’m going to focus on is the one most associated with our skin, touch, and how it influences us in Walmart, without us even touching a darn thing.