As compassion for ourselves, others, and the planet develops and grows, we begin to feel ourselves expand. Just by our decision to embark upon this journey of spiritual transformation, we took the first steps to leave the state of contraction and selfishness behind. By now we are growing and expanding so much that we are bursting out of the bonds of the cocoon.
For the eighth month, stretch your wings! That is, let your mind, heart, and soul reach out into the world. Focus on feeling the different ways in which you are connected to everything, both near and far. Notice the interconnectedness of all things.
Before starting this entry, I felt compelled to go back and read what I wrote for the eighth month entry during my last journey through Butterfly Journal, which I wouldn’t normally do. Following my inner guidance revealed a journal post that fits synchronistically with quite a few messages I’ve had to convey during recent astrology readings – how to ground oneself and filter out what empaths pick up to avoid empathic overload. Here is that post re-visited and expanded:
Firstly let’s look at: what is empathy, and what is compassion?
The word “empathy” comes from the Ancient Greek ἐμπάθεια (empatheia), meaning: in or at (en>em) feeling, suffering, or passion (patheia). Having empathy is feeling or sensing another person’s emotions in some way. Most often this manifests emotionally to the empath, but it can also come through as thoughts, as visual impressions, and even as physical signs or symptoms. For an example of physical empathy: if I am regularly around or must engage with someone who is very insecure, anxious, and sneaky and thus keeps secrets and tells many lies (someone who lacks integrity), I tend to get skin rashes (the integrity of my skin breaks down). In such cases, my body “feels” another’s emotional state. Most of the time though I feel other people’s emotions and the strong emotional imprints they may leave behind non-physically.
We all are capable of empathy. Some of you may be very empathic and not know it. You may just think you are “sensitive,” which you are. You are sensitive, that is highly empathic, to picking up others’ emotional states, but you may not be aware that they are not yours. If you feel this is you, pause each time you feel flooded with emotions and ask yourself if you have a reason for feeling this way. If so, address that issue. If not, then you are likely picking up someone else’s feelings, and knowing this you can help them if you can or at least let those feelings go.
When we are able to differentiate between our own emotions and others’ emotions, when we have empathic understanding of what others are feeling, we can then find compassion for their suffering. Compassion comes from the Latin verb compatior, compati, compassus sum, meaning to suffer or feel (pati-, pass-) with (cum>com). Empathy is the sensing, the intuitive “picking up” of emotions and suffering of others, and compassion is when we ourselves feel the desire to help others in understanding or dealing with their suffering.
It is through both empathy and compassion that we learn, or remember, that we are truly all connected and interconnected. It is this awakening and awareness that clears the way for each of us to expand.
However, challenges can arise as we expand, as we open ourselves to empathically pick up on others’ emotions and states of being, and as we extend compassion towards others and in turn ourselves (as we learn to face, accept, and understand our own pains and suffering). But how do we face the challenges of empathic overload? The protective and instinctual thing most of us would do is shut down, withdraw, or become emotionally numb. However, this leads to contraction, which inhibits our spiritual growth and often makes us feel alone in the world.
In order to be open and expand without becoming overloaded by what we pick up empathically and without allowing ourselves to be so open that we become drained by others, firstly we need to be grounded. When grounded, we are centered in our Be-ing, and it is easier to differentiate between our own emotions and others. Being grounded helps to turn the focus and awareness within, from the heart and soul, instead of the ego/mind’s over-thinking and illusions of the external circumstances. When grounded we can observe both ourselves and others with clarity and compassion.
There are many ways in which we can ground ourselves. Here is a list of some practices that help us stay grounded and bring us back to center while at the same time bringing to our awareness the interconnectedness of all. These are also good for our health and spiritual growth:
- Breathe! Stop for a few minutes to take some deep breaths when feeling overloaded with emotions or overwhelmed by others’ emotions. Breathe deeply or do some Pranayama practices.
- Meditate or just sit quietly, observing and releasing the thoughts of the mind.
- Do some gentle moving meditation such as walking, tai chi, or yin yoga.
- Engage in intense exercise to help burn off and release extra steam so it’s easier to ground.
- Visualize roots coming from your feet growing into and connecting to the nourishing support of Gaia, Mother Earth.
- Do devotional practices, such as chanting Mantras, prayer, or reading sacred texts.
- Physically connect to the earth: walk barefoot on the earth or beach, garden, or be in nature.
- Staying well-hydrated also helps. Water, like earth, is a feminine element, and they help us stay connected to our divine-feminine within (men and women) which is intuitive, empathic, and compassionate.
When in the midst of an empathic overload moment with others, we may not be able to stop and walk away to do some grounding, but remember that we can always breathe. Our breath connects us to the universe, and every other human, animal, and plant on the planet. It both clears the clutter of the mind and opens the heart to connect to all with compassion. Like the butterfly free from the contracted confines of the cocoon, open up, stretch, and fill your wings with breath!
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