Pagan Blog Project #5 – ‘E’ is for Empathy

Introduction

For me, Empathy is a hard topic (but then again, every topic I’ve written on has been hard at the beginning). I guess I find it difficult because I’ve only really just started working with my Empathic skills about 2 years ago – but they have seemed to have improved in leaps and bounds since then. A book I read by Karla McLaren called “The Language of Emotions” was what made me first realise I have Empathy… because, well, everyone does!

Empathy vs. empathy

There are two types of empathy-
1. empathy: sympathy. “Intellectual identification with or experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.” Every human being possess’ empathy – it is how we’ve been able to structure ourselves socially and communicate to one another.
2. Empathy (ie. Being Empathic): It’s “the ability to actually, physically, feeling the emotions of others”. It can’t be turned off, it can only be managed.
(click here to read a great blog written on this subject by bonesofaphoenix on tumblr).

Empathy

I’m an Empath and have been for as long as I can remember, but I’ve only just recently put a name to it. Previously I thought that I had something wrong with me as I would usually be able to pick up on things that others hadn’t told me about or be so invested in someone else’s emotional life that I would get submerged and would lose track of my own emotions. Once I started studying Bach Flowers I realised that I had a deep connection to emotions and went looking for more information – that’s when I came across Karla McLaren’s book.

Exercises to Help Manage Empathy

McLaren’s book mostly talks about emotions and what they’re trying to tell you, she is a very skilled Empath herself, but it doesn’t talk much about Empathy – only her own experiences with it in the Introduction. A few of the exercises in there have been able to help me control my Empathic skills. I can now distinguish between my own and others’… I can also lessen the waves that I used to experience by using visualisation techniques. I’ve also been practicing holding space for people to unload which I’ve found works very well.

1. Grounding Yourself: – Sit or stand comfortably and breathe into your belly. Imagine you are gathering light and warmth into your belly and as you breath out imagine that your breath (and the light/warmth) is traveling down through your body and into the Earth.
– In particular I like to imagine big, thick tree roots extending themselves from my body. McLaren talks about ‘grounding the circuit’ of emotions – they ‘neutralise’ once Earth absorbs them.

2. Defining Your Boundaries
– Get comfortable and Ground yourself.
– Now stand up and reach your arms straight out to either side of you (or imagine you’re doing this).
– Imagine that you fingertips are touching the edges of a lighted bubble that emcompasses your private, personal space. – Stretch your arms above your head and in front of you. Feel how far your personal boundary is from your body. It should be an arm’s length away from you at all points; ever under the ground.
– Now imagine this ‘bubble’ (it can be made out of anything you want) is a very bright colour, a clear sound or distinct movement. Make it really obvious and yours, in whatever way you want.
– I like to imagine a bright blue fire boundary that glows brighter whenever I breath in. I maintain it everyday but do a big ‘clean’ at yoga whilst meditating.

3. Burning Contacts
– Ground yourself and light your boundary.
– Imagine yourself rolling out a big piece of paper or parchment then put whatever you want onto it. Any emotions that are bothering you, things people have said, things that have happened… just express yourself.
– Remember that you can do or say whatever you want on this parchment as you are inside your Boundary and you are protected.
– I tend to just spill my mind onto this. At the beginning it was harder and sometimes all these emotions would come forward (and sometimes they weren’t my own) but now it’s easier. Once I’ve filled up as many of these sheets of parchments as I want, I get out a cool bow and arrow then light up my boundary so it’s burning red hot. I then tie the parchment to the arrow and shoot it out of my boundary. It catches on fire or explodes in the sky (depending on the intensity of the emotion).

Conclusion

I found this information extremely helpful when I was first feeling my way around Empathy but I would highly recommend reading The Language of Emotions by Karla McLaren as there is heaps more information regarding these exercises and the theories behind it.

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Surya Namaskara A (Sun Salutation A) – Jan 2013

Just thought I would document my yoga progress – admittedly I’ve gotten worse in terms of how far I can go in the postures since I’ve stopped going to a regular class. I’m hoping that will change the more I do it.

This is the postures required in the Sun Salutation – I normally start off with this whenever I practice yoga so I thought these poses would be the most accurate representation of my progress. Basically, I will take more photos at the end of the year and will hopefully see some different 🙂

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The Beginning of a Yogi

I’ve been practicing yoga for about 4 years – I’m 21, so that seems like a really long time to me.

One summer about 5 years ago my parents got obsessed with trying to lose weight (this happened quite a lot – the obsessions as well as the weight loss thing) and we all signed up to a gym that had just opened up down the road. I’d never been to a ‘proper’ gym so this was an exciting thing for me and it was where I attended my first yoga class. Looking back on it now it wasn’t ‘real yoga’ – the class was called Body Balance and it was more about physical fitness.

The next couple of years I practiced on and off at different yoga schools – and at this stage I only went to specific yoga schools because they seemed a lot more ‘professional’ so to speak. I also moved a lot so it was hard for me to have a regular practice.

My first ‘proper yoga school’ was run by a lady named Jacqui in a community center about 10 minutes drive from my house. It was there I learnt how to properly meditate – she had this amazing voice that just lulled you into another world. I still don’t know how she did it but I always felt amazing after one of her classes. Unfortunately I moved and stopped attending but I guess she was the one who introduced me to ‘the real yoga’.

When I moved into my current place of residence, finding a yoga school and practicing regularly was my main goal. By this stage I’d figured out that yoga was important in maintaining some peace in my life but I still hadn’t worked out just how important it was to my sanity. The Central Coast Yoga School was the first place I tried and I fell in love with it straight away. The best thing about it would definitely have to be the teachers.

Cathryn’s style is soft and gentle – I’ve attended some of her classes that were really hard but there was always an underlying element of quiet contentment in her classes. Peter taught me discipline and self love – he got books out and showed us the way the muscles were meant to stretch and showed us on his own body how to do certain poses properly so you don’t hurt yourself. To cut a long story short they were the ones who made me fall in love with yoga and I believe they’ve inspired me to become a yoga teacher myself.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had the money to go back to practicing there regularly. I’m not sure how I feel about this – I’m disappointed because I was practicing 3 times a week and it was really doing wonders for my health and well being but on the other hand I feel like it’s a great opportunity to start living yoga.
I was making excuses for a while there about being lazy with my health regime. I’d always thought that one day I’d stop attending classes and start doing my own practice (I’d even have my own little special space to practice in) so one day I just thought ‘why can’t I do that now?’

So that’s what I’ve been working on; living yoga. It’s sure as hell not easy, especially for someone like me who is possibly the best procrastinator in the world. However, if I’ve learnt anything from yoga it is to just be happy with where you’re at no matter where it is because that’s where you are meant to be. I may not be able to set aside a whole hour for my practice but I have been practicing everyday and that’s something I’m proud of.

“Once the seed is planted, it has to be tended daily, nurtured, and watered through the discipline of regular practice. As a result of devoted practice, insights sprout from within, and an understanding of the tree of yoga begins to grow. The eight limbs become the tools with which to work the soil but only if students follow the correct practice method will the tree grow to maturity.”
– John Scott Ashtanga Yoga