Undoing Some Empath Bullshit

 See yourself in others.
Then whom can you hurt? What harm can you do?” ~ Buddha

One of the reasons I began the empath myth-busting task was that as I worked with people struggling how to navigate this way of being, I began to realize that their distinct experiences, fears, and the responses to the fears they’d adopted, were not unique, not occasionally similar but were damn-near identical. The latter were mostly tied to ‘I’m too literal, I can’t possibly be psychic’ and the myths one stumbles upon when googling ‘what is an empath’. Before the Fuckery became my life, I was well into writing a book demystifying all things empath-related. Since that book may not come to fruition, I’m going to bring the drafts here and expand on them as we go.

Another reason I chose to dive into it is because I’ve known since the first time I facilitated the healing work, the first day of my only class, I’ve known that it isn’t ‘just’ a ‘spiritual gift’. It, indeed, may be a gift but it is beyond spirit in that it is observable, measurable, and replicable. Similar effects on physiological and psychological systems can be reproduced by technology. If science could measure the energy that moves from my hands and the physiological response of the client I’m working with…..Actually science can, the tools and technology exist. The previous sentence should probably read ‘If science would…’  Traditional ‘energy’ medicines have been doing this same thing for a long time and have been long studied around the globe.  Does that change it’s often perceived and described spiritual or ‘Divine nature’? Nope. That’s like trying to separate daylight from the sun. It is all of that; divine and holy and inexplicable and measurable and replicable, even by objects associated with what we identify as tangible and far removed from ‘spiritual’ like electrodes or acupuncture needles. I’ll share more on that if there’s interest in it but, for now, let’s come back to the object of my attention–the empath.

For eons, the capacity for feeling the way empaths reportedly do has also been called a ‘psychic’ or ‘spiritual’ gift. It’s not. There’s magnificence to how we’re individually wired and universally interconnected but it’s not magic. Energetic, though? Absolutely!

I feel the need to state here that I’m taking us down the science-trail not to diminish the powerful, often spiritual, nature of energetic work. I’m steeped in it, led by it (or rather, it’s got me by the nose pulling me along like Toucan Sam), believe in it, and am alive because of it. I have visions of the future,  speak in ‘tongues’ in ceremony and have been prophesied. People I work with experience the Christed heart merge with theirs, out of body experiences and, as one man put it, “I just met God.” I work with Ancestors, angels, invisible animals and plants, and other beings every day. I’ve seen them, am touched by them, have great respect for and receive responsibilities from them. They are those with whom I have the most intimate relationships with. However, it is time to put to rest the fears that have led most of us away from these kinds of relationships. I want to demystify the things that frighten people into disconnection from themselves and their communities. It’s time for truths that offer new explanations and stories and room for growth of our greatest potential–our relationship with each other.

Before we explore some research together, I want to create something of a framework that begins with a story. The complaints I receive from empaths I initiate work with remind me of one traditional Buddha story. Sakyamuni was born into a royal and wealthy family who, at the time of his birth, received a prophesy that he was born to be either a great spiritual leader or a great warrior. His parents attempted to prevent the former and cultivate the latter by keeping him ‘protected’ from the larger world. He was reportedly confined within the castle walls while the lame, sick, homeless and dead were banished from within sight of those same walls. All of this to keep young Saky from being aware of and responding to those suffering around him, to be compassionate toward them. Then, like any self-respecting youngster who felt confined, he snuck out.  His initial exposure to the realities of the world from which he’d been protected, and his courage to walk away from the throne, have brought us some of the greatest teachings.

For me, the ‘feeling too much’ and ‘anxiety’ that is nearly universal to those empaths I’ve been connected to is directly connected to their deepest ownfineself, trying to sneak out. To emerge, engage, and respond. And not knowing what the fuck to do about it.

As we meander this together, through story and science, I’ll share what to do about it to make life more fluid, satisfying, sane and hearted.  One blog post at a time. Join me. Ask questions. Do the homework. Bitch about it. But be curious and invite some of the questions I offer into your own life.

If you are new to my empath myth-busting, start here:  Myths of Being an Empath, Some Empaths are just Ath-holes, Traits of an Empath and The Importance of Being an Empath.  The most recent is here: Empath Bullshit


Culture Clashing

The familiar life horizon has been outgrown; the concepts, ideals, and emotional patterns no longer fit; the time for the passing of a threshold is at hand. – Joseph Campbell

A personal experience connected to the universal one of desire for community, the dangers of secrets, and bridging the past and present with something resembling grace.

Betrayal without Bitterness

‘A man never rises so high — as when he knows not whither he is going.’ ~ Oliver Cromwell

And learning to trust over and over and over and over and…

On July 23, I was invited to come live in Sonoma, California, at a retreat center.  I met the owner of the place during the  journey of reconnecting an adopted Navajo man with his birth mother.  She was apparently taken enough with me and the unfolding story that she immediately arranged a session for a friend, gave me a turquoise necklace and healing gown that were her mother’s (who was also a healer), and said, “We have a vacant rental at the ranch.  Come. We have a place for you and the community will support you.”  Conversations over the next day included her habit of being the ‘mothering, nurturing type’, the importance of being open-hearted & following the path that is often laid out right in front of us.

It took me a couple of weeks to make the decision to get rid of what wouldn’t fit in a Mini Cooper and move those things that meant the most to me across the country.  At the time, I’d been homeless for just under a year.  After making the choice to be so in October 2013, I’d been wanting a place where people could come to me and to try being me in a community that supports this kind of work.  And it had shown up on a silver platter.  Helllllloooo, honey!  A retreat center no less.  In a supportive community?  Wooooooooo!

I timed the move to coincide with a four-day Native ceremony in Helena, Montana, and scooted across the Continental Divide with a sense of excitement, hope and an awareness that the ‘vacant rental’ had morphed into a ‘we’ll just find a corner to stick you in’ during a string of email communication.   I arrived in Sonoma on October 2nd after 5 weeks on the road spent in spare bedrooms, no-tel rooms, and 4,225 miles in the driver’s seat.  But I’d made it ‘home’.  I was introduced to friends, employees, shown the space where ‘you’ll be doing workshops’, and given a very comfortable corner to stay in.  Energies were weird, intentions vague, and possibilities endless.

I was informed a few weeks later, though, that ‘since you’re only 45, there’s plenty of time to get your shit together instead of following these guides and spirits around’.    You know those moments where you really don’t register what the heck has just happened until later?  Yeah.  That was one of those.  The comment came during the course of regular dinner & wine conversation and I didn’t have the wherewithal to say something nifty in the moment like, ‘Can you tell me what you mean by that?’.  Especially after I’d been the body for her deceased mother two days before.

We people have bad habits.  We smoke, drink, pick our nose, ceaselessly tap out In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida with the pencil in our hand, chew with our mouth open, mostly unaware of how we impact others with those habits.  Sometimes, though, the habits and their impact are much more than annoyances for others.   When the habit is to offer home and hope to others, using the same bait-and-switch tactic, followed by discarding them and dashing those hopes when they’ve been used just enough?  That’s a what I call a prollem.

This prollem was becoming evident through conversation with people who have been around her for years. “You’re lucky, though.  You’re self reliant.  So-and-so wasn’t even from this country.”  “Oh, yeah.  She does that.” “Yep, that’s how she operates.”  However, whether I couch my response in eyebrow up curiosity or an openness to watching things unfold (all while unpacking what things I didn’t need to do work on the Navajo reservation), I did what I do and went wide open.  I let the ground pull me into her,  I saw a few clients, I met the Apache connection to the First People’s work and signed up for local yoga classes.  And the night before I left for New Mexico, I was informed that the ‘vacant space’ would be waiting for me when I got back.  I’d have a place of my own, paying rent and all that, until I left for Australia in February.

Then I arrived in New Mexico and one recent morning was greeted with the email very politely dismissing me and rescinding the invitation to live there ‘with love and big hugs’.  After I’d left the few, most important belongings to me over 1200 miles behind.  And, that kids, that is a prollem.

Those of us whose formative years were comprised of regular, repeated and systemic abuse each have developed a way of feeling safe as we move through adulthood.  Some develop great skill at creating order & control of behavior.  Some channel those survival skills through artistry and working with others who share similar backgrounds.  Some escape all the baggage that comes with it through self-medicating in a number of ways, some learn how to trust incrementally and others choose not to.

I learned long ago that I was never going to feel safe in the way that most people define it.  Whether I consciously chose particular paths, I don’t know, but I created space for others to feel safe, I put myself into jobs that let others know they were not alone, I wrote about the disappeared as if I could reappear them,  I fell into the criminal justice system and found myself surrounded by guns and uniforms and strength of character and courage that wore off on me, that grew into my own badge of integrity and honor for all that around me.  All the while being led to this very particular in-spirit path in spite of the attempts at escaping through the alcohol, the suicidal bouts, the triumphs of responsible adulthood and creating meaningful change in a system that often chooses to ignore that option.

The knowing that I can move about with something resembling freedom despite not feeling safe is because I have both a sense of curiosity, a crowd of invisibles around me, ancients within me, and a Ruger P95.  I’ve also been in a position to know the cruelty that people do to one another.  I lived it for eighteen years, I feel it in the bodies & emotions of others when they cannot, watch it evolve around the world and usually know when it’s headed in my direction.  This prollem was one that I didn’t feel coming.  What I felt was welcomed, safe and actually invited to lovingly connect.

Until I wasn’t.

That sent every aspect of my nervous system & psyche into a tailspin of epic proportions and left me with a short inventory of choices.   Where there had been physical security & potentiality of community, there now was none.   Where there was possibility of income and a way to engage that with giving more freely, there was none.  Where there was home, there was none.  Yet again, I’d been disappeared.  Just like I had been for my first eighteen years. Just like I’ve done myself this past fourteen months.  Stay in a place and leave no visible trace of my being there.  Like camping but not.

A couple of the things I teach others are: move even if you don’t trust and then trust even when you can’t move.  Finding myself again in that position has been a strange one.  I’d been made homeless as quickly as I’d been rehomed.  It’s no longer part of my being to be bitter and anger serves no purpose here. I’ve wondered if that’s because I’m so numbed to it all, so detached or just so bloody used to the fact that humans can be shits and that all this may morph yet again when the wind changes direction.   I can’t get to bitter but where I do go is to second-guessing everything. Second-guessing my own need for community, trust of others in the skin and not; questioning the guidance to people & places, the intentions associated with them; doubting the inner voices of mine & the outer voices of others.  All while my mind and body are trying to dance through the inner conflict.  Broken heart, broken spirit, and a bull terrier nature seem more tangle-d than tan-go these days.

I try to remember and share with others, always, that we’re in this together–to behave and engage as it is the only universal truth there is.   I find myself, though, wondering how true that really is or how it can be when folks don’t know how to do this ‘thisness’ together.  Or, frankly, if I want to be part of it if I’m merely an independent agent floating through the universal flotsam of humanness.  Or why I want those few things–my elephants & Buddhas & baskets & African art–tucked into the back of my car rather than in a garage 1200 miles away. Why any of this is important or if it is at all.

At the end of it all, we have the same capacity to love & welcome as we do to cause harm.  And we get to choose.  It’s a short menu.

Choose wisely.