Each yoga class I attend, regardless of style, begins in Shavasana – laying flat on your back with your legs and arms relaxed ‘taking up space’ on your yoga mat. The instructors always say the same thing “Palms up to receive the energy from the room, palms down to preserve your energy”.
Want to see someone flip their hands over quicker than a blackjack player? Watch me in Shavasana. I’m keeping these mother effin’ hands flat. Keep your own energy. Logical me understands this is all just to receive the positivity you can feel by letting people in, it’s used to accept this positive energy especially when you’re not bringing it yourself.
I’m an empath. I used to feel everyone’s feelings, took their moods on and accepted that if the people around me were sad? Well DUH, of course I’m sad too. I could physically feel the sadness they were feeling. Then a couple years ago I heard someone say, “observe, not absorb”. That’s 3 little life changing words for a girl like me. I heard that, I felt that, I took that in, and then I used it.
I have slowly learned, struggled, and failed at over and over, how to empathize with someone, understand someone’s struggles, story, joy, and not let it become my own. I can be excited for someone, I can feel sad for them, but the key is for them. I don’t need to lose sleep over someone else’s life.
When you’re a highly empathetic person it’s a struggle to go from a feel all the feels to observe, not absorb. I felt selfish. I felt insincere. I felt like a bad person. And then one day, I just didn’t.
And I became a person people flock to. It’s a weird thing to say about oneself. To acknowledge people like being around you, sharing things with you or asking for your advice. That doesn’t mean they want to be my friend, or even particularly like me, but I’ve learned that my ability to observe, understand and empathize while also removing myself from the situation has given me such a unique perspective and it’s a quality other people like.
I had a conversation today with someone around experiences we have, and how they leave us feeling. Empathy is a very strange, very grey area feeling. Empathy allows us to feel how we imagine someone else is feeling. Empathy allows us to feel how we would feel in any given situation presented to us. But empathy doesn’t actually give us a replica of how the person(s) we are empathizing with is feeling, so we don’t actually know. Two people can have the exact same experience, with completely different feelings about it. And two people can have the exact same feelings because of completely different experiences.
I haven’t always embraced this trait of mine, my empathetic, intuitive side. As I’ve gotten older I realize it’s because we associate feelings in general with being vulnerable, with being feminine, with females, with being a weakness. It’s really hard to embrace something that is such a huge part of your being that is also seen as a huge flaw. It’s not easy to accept what would be a perceived as a flaw in yourself. And then, one day I just did.
By fully accepting this so-called flaw, I was really able to just own it. Yes, I cry. Yes, I’m empathetic. Yes, I run on intuition and gut reactions. And yes, it does in fact make me a better human. It also had a weird side effect. It made me so much more accepting of other people. Less likely to point a finger or criticize someone else without immediately counter-balancing that with something positive, and being able to look at the situation from a different angle.
Accepting my empathy as a positive, it really let me use it for good. It let me look at situations critically, to flip the coin to see both sides and still be able to make a logical and sound decision or opinion. It also means that I have been able to make a really logical and sound decision or form a strong opinion, and still be open to changing it. By not taking in all the projected energy, problems, sorrows, and even happiness around me, I have been able to truly appreciate the shared experiences of the people I am fortunate enough to know, observe it, learn from it, gain inspiration from it… and not own it. I preserve my own energy by not absorbing everything around me.
So if you see me out and about, be mindful of the palms down.