The Paths We Travel Working With Our Sensitivity

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The Paths We Travel - HSP Health Blog

Source: Morguefiles

“All of life is a circle” my meditation teacher tells me during a discussion on  the lessons life often presents; “Regardless of the starting point, at one time or another life’s circumstances will always steer you back to similar circumstances; if for no other reason than to allow awareness of the progress of one’s own journey.”

In my memory of that conversation, the point he made lingers.While time has shown me that it is all too easy for the Highly Sensitive to  fall prey to any negative emotions generated during these experiences, over time  I have realized that it is actually our sensitivity which plays a key role in also allowing us to recognize the lessons in growth contained within the experience. Similar to a double edged sword, our sensitivity can hinder or benefit us; it all depends on how we work with our sensitivity.

Working With Our Sensitivity

Working with our sensitivity may seem like a strange concept. Similar to how we work with our sleep dreams, we can be passive or proactive with the experience. The key here is in recognizing that being a Highly Sensitive Person is not an identity as our ego’s would have us believe. Instead, it is simply an aspect of our energetic makeup which in itself has different aspects; one of which is intuition. Sensitivity and intuition often go hand in hand. A favorite teacher of mine put it succinctly when she  commented” It’s all about energy” when I had asked her where intuition comes from.

As I exited the building where our meditation class was held, I saw the lone figure of a friend, Kira, sitting on a bench by the Koi pond.  A tall, thin blond in her sixties, Kira held herself with a quiet dignity that I often admired. As I walked up behind her, intuitively I could feel that dignity was not foremost on her mind as she looked across the pond seemingly mesmerized by the occasional flash of gold and white as the Koi fed in the early morning stillness. One of the gifts of being a  Highly Sensitive Person is that we can easily feel the energy generated by emotions of others especially if we are within an arms reach of them. For me,  it is a quick feeling in my midsection followed by that quiet, unassuming voice in my head speaking of emotional patterns and images.  Sitting next to her after a brief hello, I could feel that someone had said something emotionally painful to her. Questions of her worthiness lingered in her thoughts; a cloud of negative emotions obscuring the warmth of morning sunshine which surrounded us.

How Do You Work With Energetic Experiences?

In these situations , there is often a choice which presents itself ; we can be passive and simply acknowledge the emotional pain felt by ourselves or others as we journey through the experiences life presents.  Or, we can be proactive and use the energy of our sensitivity to tap into our intuition and search for the lesson behind the experience. Being proactive won’t make the lesson any less painful, but it will move us from a victim stance to one of power; instead of going for a ride and observing the scenery we are now driving the bus.

 I knew Kira was a Highly Sensitive Person from the moment I met her.  Often quiet in groups,  she preferred to sit towards the back of the room during our class. In an earlier conversation, she had told me she was divorcing her husband and being that this was her second marriage there was something reflected in her eyes which spoke of the emotional toll being paid. Now sitting with her, I wondered how I could follow the philosophy our meditation teacher often spoke of; that there is a lesson in growth in each and every moment of our lives.

When working with intuition, I always start by checking in with my gut; that is, I concentrate on the area just behind my belly button to see how my sensitivity is reacting to the energy of the person I’m working with. In this case, I experienced a strong feeling of blame and in my mind I saw a all too familiar pattern to which we all fall prey; faced with the negativity of the situation she was blaming herself for everything that had happened. As I searched my intuition for an  answer, suddenly I knew I needed to share one of Aesop’s fables with her; the story of the Scorpion and the Frog.

Turning to her, I asked her if she knew of the story of the Scorpion and the Frog. As she shook her head no, I began to recite the fable.

“A scorpion and frog meet on the bank of a river and the scorpion asks the frog to carry it across the river since the scorpion was unable to swim across. Ever mindful, the frog asks ” What assurance do I have that you won’t sting me as I carry you?”

The scorpion replies; “If I were to sting you, I too would drown”. Satisfied, the frog allows the scorpion to climb on its back as they set across the river, however midstream the frog feels the sting of the scorpion.

“Why are you doing this to me?’ the frog gasps as it grows weaker, knowing that their drowning is imminent.

“Because it is my nature.” the scorpion replies.

Finding Grace When Working With Our Sensitivity

Kira studied my face as I finished speaking. Because intuition can be  accessed through a persons eyes, I watched  her eyes as I presented the lesson I had  observed through the fable;

” Perhaps your divorce centers around that fact that like the scorpion, your husbands true nature is to sting causing you both to drown. In every situation there are two sides to the equation; take responsibility for that which is yours but also recognize the true nature of the person you are dealing with.”

As I spoke, I could see awareness register in her her eyes. She understood the lesson and I could feel that over time she would the see how the metaphors contained within the fable could  help her understand the experience of her divorce. It wasn’t up to me to teach her those connections within the lesson; instead my role was to lead her to awareness of the lesson itself. To fully understand it, she would need time for contemplation. Only then, would healing begin. Giving her time to do just  that, I  leaned over and gave her a brief hug before walking back to my car.

The following week, Kira came up to me after meditation class. I could feel the question in her eyes before she asked it; “How did you know to share that particular story with me?” It was obvious from her expression that the lesson had hit home with her.

“It’s all about energy or using our sensitivity to perceive the environment around us ” I replied. “We are taught in class that we are all droplets in the same ocean of humanity; perhaps intuition allows us to see beyond the waves.”

I could tell she wasn’t entirely satisfied with that answer. She wanted something concrete to explain how I knew of her husbands nature which she had never spoken of. However, it has always been hard for me to explain the mystery of Grace; the experience of being in the right place at just the right time in order to bring someone healing through awareness of the bigger picture. Reduced to its purest form,  Grace  is the gift our sensitivity gives others in the face of life’s lessons. As we become proactive in working with the energy of our sensitivity, Grace is the foot print left behind for others to follow, as we continue our journey on the paths we travel.

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Trading Push for Pull

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A funny thing happened on the way to the alarm clock.

After three non-stop years of making my way through several major life events, including the death of a parent and moving abroad, I have decision fatigue. This is turning out to be a good thing.

A Line In The Sand

At the beginning of November, after a year of struggling to calm my overwhelmed HSP sensibilities and find a more stable foothold amid all the changes in the realms of home, finances, work, and family, I snapped. It was like my psyche drew a line in the sand and said, “Take one more step and I won’t be responsible for the results.”

I’d been pushing myself and my life improvement agendas hard in order to make my life better as soon as possible, but it was backfiring.

The line drawn by my psyche took the form of an insistence that I go on vacation, immediately and lengthily.

Creating Vacation

I live in southwestern Germany, within easy reach of loads of wonderful places to get away to, but an extended away-from-home vacation was not feasible considering the transitional state of my work and finances. So, to appease my psyche, and because I recognized a mental health red flag when I saw it, I decided to go on vacation in a different way. Late one night, I sat at my desk and drew up an “Official Vacation Declaration” consisting of three lists: things I commit to doing during my vacation, things I excuse myself from during my vacation, and things I’m allowed to do during my vacation. I tuned in to what my sensitive body and over-taxed mind needed and considered how the practicalities of my life could bend toward a vacation. I thought deeply about what to put on each list. Then, on October 29, 2013, I read through what I’d created and dated and signed the document. I was officially on vacation through January 7th. Here’s a selection of the things I included on the three lists:

Things I commit to doing during my vacation:

  • meditate every morning;
  • accept and complete work for clients;
  • write enough journal pages to fill a spiral notebook;
  • go on weekly dates with my husband;
  • attend to holiday gift-giving pro-actively;
  • exercise enough to improve my health;
  • and (this one has made all the difference) stop doing work or work-like activities by 1:30 p.m. every weekday, no matter what.

Things I excuse myself from during my vacation:

  • business strategizing other than the minimum needed to meet my vacation commitments;
  • social obligations that don’t seem fun or restful;
  • solving big, long-term issues;
  • clutter-clearing, except to maintain the current state of things;
  • figuring stuff out;
  • telling anyone about this vacation, unless I really want to.

Things I’m allowed to do during my vacation:

  • space out,
  • not have a clue,
  • do things that are completely pointless,
  • watch YouTube videos of German soap opera storylines,
  • spend huge blocks of time on hobbies,
  • cry for any or no reason,
  • make a lot of mistakes,
  • stare into space,
  • sleep a lot,
  • wander aimlessly,
  • allow myself to be exactly as I am.

Finding Joy Again

As I write this, I’ve been on vacation for a month and I’m surprised and delighted by the results so far.

I spent the first couple of weeks in a dozy daze. I’d stop working at 1:30, then not do anything else of much importance at all. I read ridiculously indulgent things, online and off. I started writing fiction again, after a hiatus of about six years, which felt and feels like pure joy. I allowed my body’s clock to rule, staying up until two in the morning sometimes and sleeping in the next day, yet somehow, magically, still meeting my work commitments by 1:30, which seemed odd, but because my vacation document excused me from figuring stuff out, I didn’t try to understand why it was working. I simply went with it. And my joy kept increasing. About a week ago, I found words for why I feel so much better: I stopped pushing and allowed myself to be pulled. I’ve switched from doing things because I feel pressured to leaning toward a lack of pressure.

I don’t do today what I could put off until tomorrow, because if I feel like putting it off, it’s not pulling me. Instead, I turn toward what magnetizes me, as though I’m a bloom seeking sunlight. I know I’m going in the direction of a pull rather than a push because my body tells me. My breath slows, my chest and shoulders relax, my mouth curves into a smile, I sit up straight, my senses sharpen, and my internal chatter ceases. So far, the results of being on this vacation include immense relief, extravagant amounts of joy, deepening peace of mind, greater connection with intuition, and weird, welcome, unexpected adjustments of my career path.

At this rate, I may renew my vacation declaration on January 7th. Maybe I’ll decide to stay on vacation for the rest of my life. Why not? I’m already so much happier. This morning, I spontaneously skipped from one room of our apartment to the other. Just happy, I guess, I said to myself and continued on my merry way. I invite you to honour and empower yourself by trading push for pull, somehow.

Allow yourself space to notice and connect with the good stuff of your life, right now, today, even if you have to redefine some parameters.

You deserve it.

Happy Holidays!

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The holiest of all holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
The secret anniversaries of the heart,
When the full river of feeling overflows;–
The happy days unclouded to their close;
The sudden joys that out of darkness start
As flames from ashes; swift desires that dart
Like swallows singing down each wind that blows!
White as the gleam of a receding sail,
White as a cloud that floats and fades in air,
White as the whitest lily on a stream,
These tender memories are;–a fairy tale
Of some enchanted land we know not where,
But lovely as a landscape in a dream.

 

Embrace Your Inner Troublemaker!

Embrace Your Inner Troublemaker - HSP Health Blog

Being a troublemaker is not something we necessarily associate with highly sensitive people, those gentle souls who are loath to hurt others.

The label, troublemaker, is not something that we usually generate for ourselves either. It is usually conferred by others when they encounter something uncomfortable in themselves courtesy of another person.

Have you ever been called a troublemaker or treated like one?

Highly Sensitive And A Troublemaker?

Highly sensitive people are usually very conscientious, cautious, perceptive and empathetic.

Highly sensitive people often see what others cannot because they operate from an atypical perceptual reality. When people think differently, many assume that is is an ideological difference that is being expressed. In the case of HSPs, however, what is being expressed is a biological difference.

Highly sensitive people have nervous systems that absorb all the stimulus and energy around them. Their nervous systems are like sponges, which makes them uncomfortable and other people as well. Highly sensitive people notice when someone is uncomfortable, sad or angry no matter how much someone attempts to hide their feelings. They notice when something is not working very well, differences in perception and reality, mistakes of judgment and an other energetic event.

Highly sensitive people necessarily have values that support their sensitive natures including kindness and fairness. They are able to see the pitfalls in a competitive social structure and are unlikely to support the destructive aspects of it.

People who do not understand the highly sensitive nature may feel uncomfortable around HSPs and even think of them as troublemakers.

Characteristics Of Troublemakers

Why would anyone be labeled a troublemaker? Aren’t we all in this together?

The label suggests that there is something to protect against. It suggests that the group is dependent on the existence of certain behaviors, beliefs and ideas to sustain it. It also suggests that we each of us have the job of protecting the group, that protecting the group is one price of membership.

Troublemaker is a social label. Who gets the label?

Troublemaker is a social label. Who gets the label?

  • people who belong to another social group
  • people who look different
  • people with different customs and social habits

Those are just superficial reasons for labeling someone a troublemaker or potential problem.

There are deeper ones:

  • people who think differently
  • people with different values
  • someone kind and empathetic in a culture that is not
  • someone who notices disconnects
  • someone who notices that which is overlooked, devalued and deferred
  • someone who notices imbalances and inequities
  • someone who notices a need for change

When Awareness Is A Liability

When we are young we take in everything around us. We may not understand it, but we take it in nonetheless. In particular we take in what is supported and what is not. We usually then adopt the supported behaviors and reject unsupported ones. This is how we survive. In fact we have to. When people wonder why prejudice survives this is why: each generation learns the accepted attitudes of their social group and rejects the unaccepted ones including the prejudices towards different kinds of people.

For highly sensitive people, the situation is not so easy. Our perceptual system is different so we cannot help but think and feel differently. We will also notice that our perceptions are often not supported and that will leave us with a quandary about what to do and think. It may increase self-doubt, cause depression and leave us feeling lonely. We will feel our conflict with our social group and not know what to do:

  • Do we speak our truth?
  • Do we say nothing when we know something is wrong?
  • How can we live in our authenticity when we are so at odds with others around us?

When we go along with the group we may compromise our integrity. When we live our truth we may be labeled a troublemaker.

It requires a lot of learning to know when to speak and when not to, how to support healthy change without being alienating, and how to b respectful and also disagree.

These are important challenges for highly sensitive people whose wisdom the world needs and needs to be able to accept. We may be labeled troublemakers sometimes but we are far from it.

I Want A House I Can Feel In My Bones

Old House in Provo © by wickenden

I wrote this for an essay contest for Tiny Texas Houses which builds houses out of salvaged materials.  I didn’t win but enjoyed writing this, so I wanted to share. I was inspired by the idea of a house as a lived experience so these are the words that flowed:

I want a house I can feel in my bones.

I want a house that speaks to me across generations, that includes me in its conversation.

I want a house that doesn’t need to apologize for its rawness.

I want a house that holds time like warm tea in a cup, warming my innards with its resilient joy.

I want a house that is with me, not over me or anyone else.

I want a house that knows it is temporary, a monument to the living not the impressing.

I want a house that is humble because only then can we greet each other with kindness.

I want a house that speaks to the earth as a  friend not a burden.

I want a house that rests lightly with few demands and much spirit.

I want a house that knows the measure of all its parts and gives them all their due.

I want a house whose credentials are in the living.

I want a house whose shadows do no harm.

I want a whose whose quirks breathe with ancient knowledge.

I want a house that gives me back my past and a future to be proud of.

I want a house that has faith in me and that I can have faith in.

I want a house that like me is just happy to be here.

I want a house whose dignity is simple and with a known merit.

I want a house that gently takes its place on the earth.

I want a house that meets the moment with me.