Help for Empaths

I’ve been revisiting the tools and techniques in The Emphath’s Survival Guide; Life Strategies for Sensitive People over the last few months. As the fear and anger in the collective realm continue to escalate, I’ve been finding a need to step up my protective mechanisms.

Judith Orloff, MD says, “Empaths have an extremely reactive neurological system. We don’t have the same filters that other people do to block out stimulation. As a consequence, we absorb into our own bodies both the positive and stressful energies around us.”

If you’ve ever been scolded for being “too sensitive” or commanded to “toughen up”, you might be an empath.

If you’ve ever wished you had armor like Ultraman, you might be an empath.

If strangers tell you their problems and people dump their emotional garbage on you and it feels like being slimed by ectoplasm, similar to what happened in Ghostbusters, you might be an empath.

If you’ve ever wanted to move to a remote forest with no neighbors, well that’s probably a human thing, but if you’ve actually looked up properties in Alaska and learned how to make your own candles, then you might be an empath!

The good news is that once you understand that there’s nothing wrong with you, that sensitivity can be a blessing, that there are ways to protect yourself that don’t come in a bottle or loaded with sugar, you can take action to cultivate your wellness. In these pages, you’ll find great wisdom to help you navigate. I sure have!

That’s so Reiki!

Many of my students have started using the word “Reiki” as an adjective. While technically it’s a noun (commonly translated from Japanese as “spiritually guided life-force energy”), I’ve used it for years as a verb. “Did you Reiki it?”, is my standard reply to each and every complaint or concern uttered by a practitioner. The adjective form was completely new to me, and a brilliant revelation!

One of the greatest rewards of being a Reiki teacher is learning from my students. 🙂 Frequently they have insights and ideas that change my perspective or open doors I never even knew existed. While my supposedly smart phone hasn’t been able to learn the word Reiki despite constant correction (seriously what is Ricci and why does it think it’s a word in my vocabulary?), people who are drawn to study Reiki are much more creative and adaptable.

“That’s so Reiki” developed in response to a discussion about the seemingly bizarre and inexplicable results and synchronicities that appear when we apply this healing energy consistently. When someone notices tingling or pulsing sensations at the time when a practitioner is sending them long-distance Reiki without being aware of the exact time of the transmission, that’s so Reiki! When the universe conspires to bring me the precise set of circumstances that puts me in the right place at the right time to meet the person who has the answers I need, that’s also very Reiki.

In the beginning it’s common to describe these results as “weird” or “impossible”, but as we continue to practice Reiki, we quickly learn that its effects are powerful yet gentle, all encompassing and somewhat miraculous. When we move beyond the ego’s desire to label and analyze these effects, it becomes easy to see that while I may not grasp the big picture, Reiki does. While I may not know what’s best for me, Reiki’s innate intelligence can deliver what I didn’t even know that I needed.

When we begin to trust in the spiritually guided aspect of Reiki, we can allow ourselves to relax into the seemingly mysterious results. Rather than trying to describe the indescribable nature of healing, we can simply accept that it’s just so Reiki.

Are You Giving Too Much?: Shamans Cave

I was introduced (virtually, of course!) to Sandra Ingerman at a Dreamwork Summit. She approached this topic from a Shamanic point of view, which is unfamiliar, yet fascinating to me. I was surprised (but not really) and delighted to find a hefty overlap with long-distance Reiki healing. Hear her and her podcast partner’s, Renee Baribeau, view on the hot topic of sending healing to those who haven’t asked for it at The Shamans Cave.

Following the Breadcrumbs

Some days I feel like I’m living in a modern day fairy tale. Today is one of those days. As per usual, it began with something going wrong. Or so I thought.

I was unable to open a document that needed revisions. An update was required and then my laptop needing restarting. Of course, that took forever. I’m sure you’ve been there!

I finally gave up and decided to go for a walk. Along the way, a cat rushed up to me from out of nowhere and then starting weaving slowly back and forth in front of me on the sidewalk. It felt like I was being herded! I declined to follow as it turned toward a house, assuming the human who lived there wouldn’t welcome my unexpected arrival. Your cat sent me? Nah. I kept going. But my spidey-senses were tingling and I was now hyper-alert.

Once I entered the woods, I could see people on the trail ahead of me. I caught up to them almost immediately as my legs are long and my stride energetic. To avoid lurking behind them or trying to pass, I took a different route than planned. About 10 minutes later, I blundered around a bend to find a buck with impressive antlers eyeing me warily.

Pausing to drink in the beauty of this moment, I saw he had a friend. Friends, actually, and maybe a consort. And, oh, there’s a fawn. Six of them in total. Not a big deal in the woods of Pennsylvania, but keep in mind I’m within the city limits of Philadelphia, the sixth largest city in the US, and about 100 yards away from a very busy road.

I stood there awestruck for many minutes. I’d still be there now, but it’s obvious my presence made them uneasy, so I continued on my journey, causing them to scatter, luckily away from the road. As I resumed my brisk pace, I remembered how a similar series of fortunate events put me on the path of a kindred soul in another part of the vast park system a few weeks ago.

The pure magic of this encounter elevated me out of a snit I had been nursing. Suddenly it was easy for me to let go of a hurt that had been unintentionally delivered and my mood improved greatly. Earlier in the day I had asked Reiki to help me heal this wound. I believe this allowed me to receive divine guidance, which led me to exactly what I needed despite my best efforts to stick to an inferior plan.

I then remembered how just yesterday I was thinking that it had been ages since I’d seen any wild critters bigger than a squirrel, and made a request to Mother Nature to send me some visitors. Those simple intentions for healing and wildlife viewing combined with my willingness to be rerouted by following the breadcrumbs led me to have an uplifting spiritual experience.

What a blessing! The more I pay attention to and allow myself to be guided by mystical nudges and my heart’s longing, I find myself in the right place at the right time. So when the urge to share this joyful episode on my blog arose, I brought myself straight to my now-restarted computer and started typing.

I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Simple Wake-Up Practice to Influence Your Day

I recently posted about my morning ritual, an elaborate and highly personalized, somewhat flexible routine that I designed to maximize my well-being. I’m following that up with a simpler, yet still very effective, technique for those who cringe at the thought of devoting so much time to a daily practice. I will reiterate that it doesn’t really matter what you do, just that you do it with consistency. There are countless approaches to health and healing. Choose one that suits you.

I’m a huge fan of Dr. Rick Hanson’s work. He teaches practical tips for maximizing well-being based on neuroscience. If you’re interested in starting your mornings off with an easy strategy for “growing the good” based on research and facts, I highly recommend this blog post.

“There is a traditional saying that the mind takes its shape from whatever it rests upon.” Why not make a choice to rest your mind on something positive to get your day going on the right foot? I look forward to getting his free newsletter every week, and this particular one really hit home.

Enjoy!

Year of the Misfit

Many moons ago, I was introduced to the concept of “a word of the year”. Choosing one word or a short phrase to act as the theme for the following 12 months. The benefits of narrowing it down to something simple are the ease of tapping into the feelings that this word conveys as well as wielding it as a homing device. Will this thought, these words, this action promote my intention to experience xyz? It’s really a brilliant strategy for navigating the uncertainty of the outside world.

On New Year’s Day I went for a solo hike to sort out my thoughts and choose my word. I did a letting go ritual involving a piece of bark I’d collected the week before and carried home not knowing why. I broke off pieces of the bark, returning them to the forest from which they came, symbolically releasing each and every outdated belief and coping mechanism, all unwanted and unnecessary burdens, and most importantly: any resentment, justified or not. Everything that I didn’t want to carry into 2021 with me.

During this process, the word “belonging” arose. Not belonging as in fitting in, but an internal belonging. A sense of being at home within myself despite most definitely not fitting in to the norms of society or most of the group settings I’ve explored. (Toko-pa Turner’s Belonging, Remembering Ourselves Home helped me greatly in understanding the difference. It’s a fascinating read!)

That afternoon I hosted a small online gathering to guide my Reiki students through a contemplative meditation to clarify their goals and perhaps choose their own themes for the year to come. I fully expected to share that I was devoting myself to belonging. But during the meditation, as I led us to drop into our hearts and listen, MISFIT popped up loud and clear.

I’ve been doing this work long enough to know that when the heart speaks, it’s easier to take heed immediately. The universe conspires to eventually bring me around to obeying its wishes so I might as well surrender now. I rolled with it without any resistance (much to my surprise and delight!).

As I sat with the word, it began to unravel. Accept. Allow. Embrace. Release. Release? Yes, but not in the sense of letting go. Release as in: let the misfit out. Think Gandalf in all his fierceness shouting, “Release the kraken!”. Like that.

Whoa. This is totally unexpected. I was (and continue to be!) filled with elation at the thought of letting my inner misfit out of her confines full time. The rebel within me is overjoyed to finally have some company and an ally against the harsh inner critic who tries to keep me safe by blending in.

I have no idea how this is going to play out over time, but I’m intrigued. I have my theme, unexpected and unusual as it may be, cemented in my mind and a willingness to follow wherever this map will lead.

For all you fellow misfits, know that you’re not alone! You never have been, but now there’s one more of us out in the open. Maybe our paths will cross. I imagine we’ll be able to recognize one another quite easily. Let’s not fit in together.

Daily Healing Ritual

I’m a huge fan of creating personalized daily rituals for healing. The act of setting aside time each day to do something, anything really, that supports health, happiness, creativity or connection can be extremely transformative. Students and clients often ask me about my morning ritual, so I thought it would be helpful to put it in writing.

For me, morning is a sacred time. I naturally wake up super-early and have worked hard to give myself the luxury of starting my workday later than the norm. I’ve learned to do the things that are most important to me first, while my energy is high and before the demands of the day can interfere. Morning rituals are a perfect match for my constitution and lifestyle. Other people prefer to use their lunch hour or evening, and that’s great too. It’s important to figure out what works best for you, otherwise it just won’t stick.

Twenty years ago I began with a simple mindfulness meditation, gentle yoga, and affirmations a la Louise Hay. That worked well for me for many years, but eventually I was led to experiment with different techniques. I began gathering tools to support my intentions and explored the myriad options available to me. Sometimes I got lost down the rabbit hole, like a kid in the cereal aisle, unsure of which colorful box to choose. Other times I rebelled against the routine and chose to improvise instead. The only thing that really matters is that each and every day I show up for myself in some way.

I still find it challenging to remain devoted to a daily practice while keeping it flexible. My needs are constantly evolving, so my ritual needs to evolve as well. By no means does this need to be a rigid process. Spiritual practices can be designed to bend and flex to fit your uniqueness rather than forcing you to conform to dogmatic tedium. There’s enough of that in our culture already; we needn’t impose any more upon ourselves in the name of healing! If it feels like a chore, you won’t want to do it. If it feels like a blessing, you’ll be eager to engage.

Another crucial element to building ritual is protecting the time to nurture, nourish and empower yourself. Being on a healing path requires us to become part guard-dog in order to stick with the plan and not get drawn into unnecessary drama. It’s not always easy, but it really is quite simple. All I have to do is ask myself, “Will this decision promote healing?”

I think of my practice as the vehicle that carries me to my destination. Obviously to get there, I need to know where I’m going. Synchronicity along with my intuition, emotions, and dreams can guide me along the way. Meditation and journaling are the tools that I use to get clear about where I’m going. And as my goals change, I can correct my course anytime.

My intended destination is a state of being. I’m aiming for vitality, inner peace, creativity, resilience, and pleasure. You might have a similar destination. Or not. The format remains the same even though this is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. The methods that I’ve chosen are highly personalized to meet me exactly where I am. I’m not wishing to lead anybody along my unique path. I’d rather inspire you to find your own.

Keep in mind that I have no dependents and have chosen an exceedingly simply lifestyle with a low overhead, which enables me to spend a few hours most days tending to my well-being. Not everyone has such privilege. Please don’t compare yourself! Do what you can with what you have. You might need to be hyper-selective in order to find the most efficient techniques. Remember that choosing mindfulness, compassion, and kindness at any moment is a gift to yourself that takes no time and minimal effort.

Alright. Now for the ritual that is currently working for me.

Before I get out of bed, I do some simple breathwork while saturating myself with Reiki. I take a few moments to tune-in to how I wish to feel that day and really let those sensations sink in. I acknowledge any worries or circumstances that could interfere and apply Reiki to them as well as to my desires. This is a short, but powerful exercise that sets me up for a truly beautiful day.

I write down my dreams as soon as I get up. I’ve been using the voice memo function on my phone to record my dreams, which tend to arrive at an inhospitable hour, and then transfer them to a journal when I’m ready to turn the light on. It’s a work in progress, but so fruitful I’m eager to continue working out the kinks (mainly my resistance to taking action when it’s so easy to fall back asleep!).

To support my goal of creativity, next I turn to Morning Pages a la The Artists’ Way. Three hand written pages on no particular topic. I follow up with another 30-60 minutes writing of a productive nature. Believe me, I don’t always feel like doing this, but I know if I put it off, I’ll get distracted and neglect it. Writers write. It’s just that simple, so most days I go straight to my desk before even steeping the tea.

By now my body is clamoring for attention. If at all possible, I head to the woods for a walk. This slot used to be filled by yoga, but I’m finding that I get greater rewards from being in nature right now. It was a struggle for me to accept this since yoga has been a staple for me for decades. I’m sure it will find its way into my daily routine again sometime.

If weather permits, I’ll bring my tea with me and drink it sitting on a log by the creek. This is incredible medicine for me and the peace and joy I experience is well worth the effort and multiple layers of gear it takes to enjoy the outdoors during the winter in Pennsylvania!

Now it’s time for breakfast. I’m all about solid nutrition and nourishment from real food and love to enjoy a simple, yet hearty meal. At the table. Without any screens. Radical, right? But this sets me up to have steady energy and a stable mood, so most days I am able to resist the pull of my smart phone.

I used to think that if I was lucky, I’d get some time in for reading before work. I’m now recognizing that books (whether for inspiration, entertainment, or learning) are a great benefit to my creativity. If I’m unable to carve out time in the morning, I feel somewhat off, so my next upgrade is to secure time every day to indulge my inner bibliophile, especially with material that engages my imagination. Let’s face it, I don’t need any more practice being serious!

Yes, this is generally a four hour process. For me, it is my calling, my healthcare, my hobby, my passion all rolled up into one package that I have the blessing to enjoy each and every day. It’s taken two decades to build the lifestyle that gives me exactly what I need to be joyful and well. Each and every step along the way has been necessary to get me where I am today, and I couldn’t have gotten here if I hadn’t decided I was worth the effort and taken a series of baby steps that got me going.

Whatever your path, wherever you’re beginning from and going to, you can benefit from taking one small action today to support yourself. It could be as simple as three mindful breaths or turning off the TV. Because you’re totally worth the effort. So why not give yourself the best possible chance to be as healthy and happy as you are able?

So Long 2020!

Here in Philadelphia we are experiencing very gray and rainy skies today. A friend just texted to say how perfect the weather is for the last day of 2020. It does seem rather appropriate!

I’m hearing fervent hopes that 2021 will be better. While I have no idea what’s going to happen in the outer world, I’m determined to cultivate more peace, love, harmony, freedom, and joy in my own little bubble. From there it will ripple out.

So, what’s the plan?

I find it helpful to look back over the year every New Years Eve and take inventory. What’s working? What’s not? What needs to be repaired and what needs to be let go? What victories do I have to celebrate? What changes do I have the power to make that will improve my circumstances and relationships?

While eating more cleanly and setting aside time for creative projects might seem somewhat meaningless in a world that on some levels resembles a dumpster fire, I still aim to maximize my comfort and well-being. When my tank is full, I’m better able to contribute to others.

If I focus my energy on the improvements which are in my control, not only do I feel empowered (which is a much better feeling than despair!) but I also give myself the best possible opportunity to create a different future.

So long, 2020. It’s been real. You’ve inspired me to take a close look at my life and ask, how does it get better than this? And you’d better believe that when my heart answers, I’ll be ready to take action.

Ask Rick: What Can I Do To Minimize Holiday Stress?

I found these tips from Dr. Rick Hanson’s newletter to be very doable, simple and quite effective. “Slow down, do less.” Good advice for most of us during the season of cold, long nights. I’ve copied it below in case anyone needs some gentle guidance.
In your body, keep engaging the balance to the sympathetic nervous system: the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Potential ways to do this include long exhalations, relaxing the tongue, warming the hands, and relaxing the body as a whole.

In your emotions, keep turning to the small positive experiences available during the holidays: for example, decorations are pretty, oranges smell good, it’s fun to go sledding, kids are cute, and it feels sweet to make others happy. Then take a dozen seconds or more to savor the positive experience so that it can transfer from short-term memory buffers to long-term emotional memory, and thus really sink into you.
Take care of your body, emotions, thoughts, and actions.
In your thoughts, beware “shoulds” and “musts.” The things we do during the holidays are only means to ends: goals such as happiness, love, sacredness, generosity, and fun. If the means get in the way of the ends – as they so often do at this time of year – it is time to lighten up about the means. Keep coming back to simplicity inside your own mind as an end in itself: the simple truth that in this moment, each moment, you are actually basically alright; the simple fullness of being in the present, not regretting the past or worrying about or planning the future.

In your actions, slow down and do less. Keep coming back to your breathing as you look for gifts, do dishes, wrap presents, or visit friends. Don’t let others rush you. Be kind; cut others slack; this time could be stressful for them, too.

One last thought would be the reflection that the practices of thought, word, and deed that lead to sanity during the holidays sound like a pretty good way to live year round!

Reiki and Bladder Issues

Recently someone asked me how Reiki could help his bladder issues. He didn’t elaborate on exactly what the “issues” are, but it doesn’t particularly matter. Reiki works with bladder issues much the same way it works with anxiety and sprained ankles and pneumonia: holistically. As I’ve heard several other bladder complaints since then, I thought it might be helpful to share my perspective here.

Reiki support is multi-layered: lowering stress (which halts energy from being needlessly diverted to the same physiological response experienced when facing a bear in the woods), bathing the body in life-force energy (which can be used for recharging and healing), and supporting emotional balance (which helps prevent future stress and further accumulation of stuck or stored emotions). I believe the body knows how to heal itself; but injuries, false beliefs, destructive habits, trauma and stress block the innate flow of energy. Reiki helps re-establish that flow.

Louise Hay, who I affectionately refer to as the Queen of Affirmations, writes about bladder problems in her little blue book, Heal Your Body, the Mental Causes for Physical Illness and the Metaphysical Way to Overcome Them. She lists probable causes as “Anxiety. Holding on to old ideas. Fear of letting go. Being pissed off.”

She also provides a new thought pattern with a prescription to repeat it frequently until relief emerges. “I comfortably and easily release the old and welcome the new in my life.”

In my personal experience and in working with thousands of clients over the years, it’s clear that affirmations are helpful in reprogramming thought patterns. They help us notice when we slip into a harmful mental loop and bring awareness to our emotional state and our power to intentionally shift it.

However, many of the deeper programs running in the subconscious seem to be immune to such efforts. When the fight-flight-freeze mechanism gets triggered, there are no magical words that will deactivate it. This wouldn’t be a big deal if it only occurred occasionally. However in today’s hectic world, it’s quite common to experience chronic levels of stress that keep the body locked in a state of being constantly on the defense against bears.

This is where Reiki comes in. By stimulating the relaxation response in order to reset the nervous system, it’s possible to move more quickly out of fight-flight-freeze reactions. When we’re able to recognize that in reality we really are safe and that the traffic or deadline (or whatever activated the warning bells) has awakened a primal physiological response that is a huge overreaction.

When the brain is no longer on hyperalert and signaling the body to prepare for imminent danger, calm is once again accessible and from here, it’s possible to resume positive thinking. Combined with compassion and the awareness of the sensations the body provides as indicators of well-being or the lack thereof, we now have a recipe for deep and lasting transformation.

It’s possible to build up resilience against chronic stress by receiving routine Reiki treatments, practicing mindfulness and other stress management techniques, and using affirmations to rewrite the default scripts that play in the mind. If you feel the need for a more powerful intervention, a beginner’s Reiki class will enable you to access this seemingly magical healing energy wherever and whenever you need it. While there are no guarantees when it comes to healing, it never hurts to explore natural and holistic remedies that give you access to the best possible health that is available to you in each moment.

Contact me if you’re interested in receiving a remote treatment from the comfort and safety of your home or to learn how to treat yourself. I’d be delighted to discuss the possibilities with you.