Being an empath can sometimes feel like a burden. Do you feel the elated excitement of a child running through a fountain, or get an anxious tightness in your chest at takeoff when your window-seat neighbor grips the armrest for protection?
It’s called empathy, and it is a noun, meaning it’s a thing not just a feeling. It is the ability to understand, feel and SHARE the feelings of others. Not just sharing the feelings for others, like being sad for your sister, but sharing the feelings of others; experiencing the sadness of your sister. It seems like a syntax issue, but if you speak with anyone who identifies as empathic, they would say it is definitely not. The slight change in definition is what creates the heaviness I spoke of before. It is an actual, tangible, palpable thing of taking on someone’s emotions, or more often, energy.
Empaths tend to carry the weight of the world, or be a bleeding heart, or always offer her shoulder to cry on, or fill in your own cliché. And to be quite honest, we don’t know any other way. I am not saying we are victims to our sensitive souls, nor am I saying that empaths are holier than thou. But what I am saying is that an empath wants to help, hug, give, and solve. Sometimes to their own discontent. It can be hard to feel everything so deeply–it’s not always right as being empathic for someone who may be in the wrong can cause problems too. (But that’s a whole other story).
Well, this thing, this empathy, within me has been intensely shaken with the onslaught of fear, anger, and violence in the news. Big media, in the name of educating the public, wavers in providing honesty and instead injects unnecessary doubt and discomfort. Witnessing the wrongful actions and ignorant words brought by brother against brother left me disheartened and disenfranchised about the world. Like my friends, family and everyone around me, I have been confused, mad, sad, and every low vibrational feeling that accompanies these dark emotions.
While operating in this uncomfortable place of mistrust, I have found myself collapsing onto my yoga mat every morning or every night with a burdened, furrowed brow wondering what new threat or whose livelihood being shattered would I read about today. My empathic heart broke each time I read one of the trending articles or watched a tear-filled video of a distant sister whose life had been changed forever. A life that really was not too dissimilar from mine.
The hardest thing, and potentially most empowering, to remember when you feel the weight of the world is that you have the power to choose what you want to fill yourself up with. The weight of sadness, pain, and disparity will wrap itself around your weak bones and drown you into a deep ocean of unknown and self-pity. But like in every single thought and decision we make, choosing the opposite and focusing on the love that still exists in this world can lift you out of your body and into a realm of elated solidarity.
Seeking ways to pacify my stagnant, heavy feeling rather than aggravate it, I chose to go to yoga. And to my relief it was my savior.
Yoga means “to yoke,” “to unite.” We practice to unite our breath with our body and with our mind. We move in harmony with our inhalations and exhalations creating a space of peace and quietude that is challenging to find during the course of our busy day. The time on our mat is a reprieve from the maddening outside world. Yoga, then, is unity. Your neighbor, then, is you. That encompassing feeling of empathy is within us all. It is a feeling that can be cultivated and strengthened through practice. Not just yoga practice, but by offering a hand, that mentioned shoulder, spare change. Creating a community that is compassionate and emblazoned with empathy is one that operates on love, on unity, on yoga, and one that is possible!
So after days of bewilderment, I chose yoga. And while lying in savasana (again with the clichés), I reclaimed my emotional and mental body after mindfully moving my physical body. I could quite literally feel the loving energies around me. Maybe my neighbor was emitting some serious high vibes, but taking what felt like my first full inhale of the week, I exhaled with an overwhelming and desperately welcomed sense of unity.
Focusing on the good will feed itself, and goodness will be drawn to you. Seek joy, pursue happiness and remember that you create your reality. We are all connected, friends, so choose love.