The Best Presents Are Experiences, Not Things

I love presents as much as the next person. But the BEST gifts are experiences, not things. Think about it.

In your whole life, how many presents can your recall? Now how many of them do you recall because they were wonderful or meaningful in some way? (Not because they were ugly, weird, etc.?) I’ll bet less than 20. Maybe 12.  In your whole life.

Now think about some meaningful experiences that you have had with others. Experiences that were someone else’s original plan, not yours. Experiences that were offered to you to participate in. As gifts. I would bet that you could remember over 75% of them, which would take you well over 12.

The gift of shared experience offers us so much more. This gift is by nature more giving. It is by nature more thoughtful. And it is by nature more enduring. Who doesn’t want to give and receive a gift that is thoughtful and enduring?

And don’t forget fun. Usually these gifts are pretty fun. Instead of the gift opening with the one second exclamation of “wow, thank so much,” you’re going on a ride together. Buckle up.

Still unsure about what I’m talking about? Here are some real life examples. Your friend invites you to pick out your own pet for your birthday. Friend will purchase whatever pet you want. S/he will take you to as many places as you want and help you get your choice including supplies. Example two – you have a very demanding life, but you love it. Once a year, however, you and your sibling go away for a few days together to unwind. You pick the place together, your sibling plans the itinerary. The whole thing. You are thrilled to go without having to be the organizer. Example three – your spouse invites you out to lunch and a walk in the country just because it’s Saturday, and the sun is shining, and s/he wants to hold your hand for a while.

Be open to giving and accepting the precious gift of shared experience. The more open we are, the more we will have, and the richer our lives will be.

 

 

Help, Thanks, Wow

There are 3 basic prayers: Help. Thanks. Wow.

So says Anne Lamott in her book HELP THANKS WOW – The Three Essential Prayers. Below is the gist of her book. All quotes are hers.

Keep it simple – “God can handle honesty, and prayer begins in honest conversation. My belief is that when you are telling the truth, you are close to God.”

Help – “Help us walk through this. Help us come through.  It is the first great prayer.”  “Praying ‘Help’ means that we ask the Something give us the courage to stop in our tracks….”    

Thanks – “You say, Thank you for lifting this corner of the curtain so I can see the truth, maybe for just a moment, but in a way that might change my life forever.”  “To have been so lost that you felt abducted, to feeling found returned, and set back onto you feet:  Oh my God, thank you – thankyouthankyou. Thank you. Thanks.” 

Wow – “‘Wow’ means we are not dulled to wonder. We click into being fully present where we’re stunned into that gasp…’Wow’ is having ones mind blown by the mesmerizing or the miraculous: the veins in a leaf, birdsong, volcanoes.”

Why pray? – C.S. Lewis wrote: “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.”

“Those are the basic instructions, to which I can add only:  Amen. Let it happen!”

Flow

 

I can match you. Without even trying. It’s pure instinct for an empath. My emotions will rise up to meet and mix with yours. It’s crazy scary but exciting for a young empath. As you get older, you can learn to recognize the green lights and the red flags and where each encounter is likely headed.  We can choose to lean in or get away. Because when your emotions become ours, it changes us. Simpatico cool and good. OR simpatico creepy and scary. That’s why we need to be careful who we spend time with. If your emotions bleed into us, does it make us feel energized or exhausted? Depends on the emotion.

People like to be around empaths because we are good listeners. We are intense listeners. We are in the moment with you. We will meet you where you are. We become linked in. But do we want to link into the emotion you are serving up?

See the attached image. Emotional flow. Emotions can flow or be static. When I feel wary of the inner emotions coming my way from someone in close proximity to me, I try to picture their inside vibrations. If there is flow – like flowing lines – it’s okay. Emotions are flowing normally. If there are a lot of jagged and static lines, I disengage as quickly as possible because the chaotic feelings are overwhelming. I can’t quiet their emotions, and I have learned that it does an empath great harm to absorb toxic emotions for someone else’s relief.

So what are some examples of great flow moments and big static moments? Flow moments occur when combining with someone else’s emotions to achieve a higher (sometimes euphoric) level. They happen in romance, at concerts, during sporting events, while hiking. Worst static moments occur near someone out to do you emotional or physical harm. They happen in assault, browbeating, instability, shaming. Of course there are other examples of both, but you get the idea of the fun or the danger that empaths face when commingling emotions.

Tuning in to flow helps empaths know when to go for the ride and when to jump off the train.

Think about it cuz you know you’re gonna feel it.

 

Be Radiant

The most irresistible beauty is the radiant glow from a kind and gentle heart. ~ Richelle C. Goodrich

How to combat the darkness of the world? Be radiant. Seriously. Be radiant.

“Radiant” means sending out light; shining brightly. How can we shine our lights in a world that is increasingly consumed with bitterness and hatred? We can shine in spite of it. We can actively turn away from the tide of negativity and destruction, and we can actively turn toward optimism, growth, and rebirth.

From the ashes I rise. I am blooming into something radiant. ~ Melody Lee

We are born radiant. The light shines freely from a baby’s eyes. So what happens to us? People and experiences. Some people will try to douse your light on purpose; sometimes it’s by accident. Same with experiences. I’ve had people literally and knowingly try to snuff out my light, my spark, my hopes and dreams in the world. I’ve been told “You can’t be for real,” and “Now, you are damaged just like me.” It hurt, but I crawled toward help, and I never really believed the light squashers – because I learned that misery loves company and so I fled them.

They can change their minds but they can’t change me. I got a dream, I got a dream. ~ Jim Croce 

Keep moving. When our light is flickering and we need to stoke it, we can move toward things that fill us up. We can go out in the natural world and move through its beauty. We can move away from people and experiences that harm us and do not have our best interests at heart.  We can nurture our light with prayer, with kindness, with music, with travel, with love, with friendship, with breath, with whatever keeps us balanced in this unbalanced world.

Escape from the black cloud that surrounds you. Then you will see your own light as radiant as the moon. ~ Rumi

What is the point of radiance? To shine light and to send it out into the world. And that is how we can combat the discord that has the world bleeding. We can be in direct opposition to it by how we live, how we  heal, and how we interact with others. So be a lighthouse to yourself and others by keeping your own glow bright and strong. Defy the times. Be radiant.

 

 

Google “An Empath Is”

When I googled “an empath is” – this is what came up (in order):

  •  being an empath is killing me
  •  being an empath is exhausting 
  •  being an empath is hard
  •  when an empath is angry
  •  when an empath is hurt
  •  being an empath is ruining my life
  •  being an empath is draining
  •  being an empath is painful
  • when an empath gets depressed 

What? Is that it? Pain & Misery make the top ten on the Empath List? No, I don’t think so. No, I know not. I Googled “an empath is” on multiple days and even at different times of the day. Same list. Again and again. I’m not a computer tech at Google, so I don’t know how the drop down menu from a Google search is selected. I am an empath, and I do know that there are many articles and posts on the web addressing many empath characteristics, issues, and concerns. And they are not all negative.

There is a downside and an upside to almost everything. That includes being an empath. Feeling deeply can be really hard (pain, grief, etc.) Feeling deeply can be really wonderful (love, joy, etc.)  Feeling others feelings can be energizing (excitement, happiness, etc) or it can be exhausting (anger, sadness, etc.) The key is to see the big picture and to recognize yourself in it. In any given situation – Where is your balance? What is your role? How can you join in? How can you step away?

An empath is an empath. There is no changing who you are. But like everyone else, empaths are on a life journey where there are better and worse ways to navigate. Self- awareness and self-understanding will help guide your compass. Don’t let others define you or determine your happiness level. You decide how to finish the sentence.

 

 

Flow, Not Geyser

Geysers are beautiful, but you don’t want to feel like one.

Highly sensitive people feel a constant flow of emotions. It’s not something that we can control. It’s just how we experience life. Emotionally. It’s like having a bubbling natural spring inside you 24/7. One emotion surfaces and flows into another. New ones keep bubbling up to combine and collide with the previous ones. Its a watery kaliedescope of feelings. It’s a never-ending emotional well with every day and every moment. It’s a certain way to live that others may not understand.

Some people will tell you “Don’t overthink it.” What they really mean is “Don’t over feel it.” Well, sorry folks, we don’t know how to (not) do that. It’s like telling us not to breathe or not to breathe too much. It is the core to who we are, and we can’t imagine life any other way FOR US.

Instead, we need to learn to release our emotions freely as a natural spring does and not try to push them down. We don’t want our core lovely artesian well to become a not so lovely and potentially dangerous spewing geyser.

How to do that? First step is acknowledgment. This is how I perceive my world. Second step is  acceptance. I may be different, but I will stay true to who I am. Third step is learning to navigate in this world. I can learn how to channel my emotional energy without trying to squash it. Fourth step is protection. I will steer clear from those who try to drink my well dry.

Permission and access and faith are our biggest allies in self-acceptance. A highly sensitive person must give themselves permission:  permission to be who we are; permission to walk away; permission to feel every feeling without fear knowing that it will pass. A highly sensitive person must give themselves access: access to creative outlets; access to solitude; access to nature. A highly sensitive person must have faith: faith in a Higher power and the power of prayer; faith in ourselves; faith in humanity. Permission and access and faith will help to sustain us.

So flow like a spring, like a brook, like a river. Don’t dam yourself. Don’t geyser yourself. Feel what you feel when you feel it. It’s natural.

 

Hope Returns With Every Sunrise

Things really do look better in the morning. They feel better. We feel better. Why? Our natural state of mind changes with the dawn. Hope returns with every sunrise.

We can bring a fresh perspective to a new day. We have had time to rest at night. Our brains have closed to the waking world. Our thoughts have turned inward. Our unconscious may have worked some things out in dreams and/or may have provided us with escape and respite from our worries. We can begin the day with more energy than we ended it.

We can bring a positive attitude to the new day. When we wake up with gratitude, we wake up ready to face the day. We can remember our blessings and count them. I start my day by opening the curtains and looking out a bedroom window that faces the sunrise. The light streams in through colored crackle glass to wish me welcome to my new day.

We can nourish ourselves with morning routines that sustain us for the day ahead. If possible, it’s good to get time to yourself before the family or pets are up in full swing. Morning prayers, yoga, and a healthy breakfast start me on my day. (It wasn’t always this way!) Others may start with reading, listening to music, having a cup of coffee, taking a walk with your dog or exercising….Whatever gets you moving in a positive direction, do that.

And time and energy. Sometimes we are overwhelmed at night by the scope of a problem and by other people’s “crush of want” (Nick Cave). We are out of time and depleted of energy. With a new day, the problem hasn’t disappeared, but it may not seem so overwhelming. What felt hopeless at night often feels better in the morning after a night’s rest. We have restored our energy. We have the whole day ahead of us. We have people we can connect with and count on during the day. We have time to figure it out.

As a child and teenager, when I would be overwhelmed and crying at night, my mother used to say “It will be better in the morning.” I didn’t believe her. It would be the same, I thought. But she was right. And now I say the same thing to my children. And they are starting to believe me.

You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Til It’s Gone*

You never appreciate your body and your health more than after you have been sick. Recovery sparks gratitude. We realize how much we take for granted that our bodies will continue to function, and function well, day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year.

But when you’re sick, you have to stop and notice. We notice when it’s not doin’ what it’s supposed to be doin’. Yeah, then we notice big time. And  we have to stop and rest. Time out to heal. And we remember how much our body does for us every minute of every day. Most of it without being asked to and without being thanked for.

So as I’m getting better today, here is a public declaration of gratitude to share:

I so appreciate:

  1. My breath – I take you for granted most of all for without you we are nothing and we die.
  2. My pulse – for keeping my blood flowing to all its body parts.
  3. My lungs – for being my rhythm guitar and keeping me going.
  4. My heart – my home base that blood flows to and through.
  5. My skin – my crowd control.
  6. My eyes – for beautiful visions.
  7. My nose – for thousands of scents.
  8. My ears – for music and voices and nature.
  9. My joints and parts – that keep me in motion.
  10. To all other body parts big and small – for sticking with me.

Thank you all for showing up today.

  • * “Don’t it always seem to go, That you don’t know what you’re got til it’s gone….” ~ Joni Mitchell – Big Yellow Taxi

 

If You’re Tired, Rest

“If you are tired, learn to rest, not to quit.” – Banksy.

Resting and quitting are not the same thing, though our society often sends us the message that they are. Rest is necessary. Rest is rejuvenating. Rest is a valuable part of life. Resting is actually the opposite of quitting – it is filling you up so that you can accomplish your goals. So do it. It is okay to take a break (long or short) from the demands of life. Your body will thank you for it. Your emotional well being will thank you for it. Your family, friends, and colleagues will notice your improved disposition and your better attention to tasks.

4 Lessons to keep in mind: Lesson #1 – no one will tell you to take a break, you just have to take one. Lesson #2 – people will usually help you IF YOU ASK. Lesson #3 – let go of guilt – you can’t do everything all the time. Lesson #4 – it will be okay – disaster will not strike because you took some time out.

So you need some rest, and you need a break, but how can you actually get one? You have a very busy life. No worries. Rest breaks can be short or long. They are meant to be refreshing, not something else added to your to do list. Here are some suggestions that will lesson stress and lead to rest:

1. Breathe. Remember three good things in your life.

2.  Pray – overwhelmed? Lift it up to a higher power.

3.  Stop and walk away. (It’s okay to hide out in the bathroom quietly or step out on the porch alone.)

4. Control your to do lists. (When I reach 10 things on a list, I throw the list away and make a shorter one.)

5. Laugh! Laughter relaxes your whole body.

6. Hang out with your pets; they make you laugh. Cuddle up for a nap together.

7. Say no. (There is actually someone else who WANTS to do the thing that you don’t want to do.)

8. Tell your partner and ask for help so you can rest.

9. Play music that expresses your feelings or how you want to feel.

10. Sleep. Nap. Go to bed earlier. Rested body = rested mind = ready for the day.

Rest is doing something. It is not doing nothing. So if you’re tired, rest.

 

You Fill Up My Senses*

Highly sensitive people have highly sensitive senses. Makes sense? Of course.

We know we have 5 senses. (I’m not including our psychic senses here – that is a topic for another day.) We know that sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell are the basic five senses. Empaths and HSPs feel the outside world amplified, so it makes sense that we have heightened sensory experiences.

Let me ask you —– Do you smell things that others can’t smell? Do sounds and music strongly affect you? Do you have zero tolerance for itchy fabrics? Are there certain foods that you can’t put in your mouth without fear of puking? Do visual images cause very real feelings for you? (And are you sensitive to temperatures, too?)

Though some senses may be more sensitive than others, if you are an empath or HSP, you probably answered yes to most of these questions. And guess what? There is scientific evidence to back up this difference in sensory sensitivity for us. And guess what else? Science points to we were born this way.

“Brain imaging studies suggest real differences in the brains of Highly Sensitive Persons versus everyone else. Cortical areas linked to attention and processing perceptual data show higher activation in reponse to all kinds of stimuli.” (Andrea Bartz, “Sense and Sensitivity” in Psychology Today 7/05/11)

Some bemoan this sensitivity, but I say celebrate it! What a wonderful gift to experience the world in its saturated form! The key is learning to flood your senses with positive sensory input and conversely, to limit unpleasant sensory input whenever you can. Seek intense and uplifting sensory input. Share it with another, and your sensory bliss doubles. Think about your own personal sensory choices. Be deliberate. Surround yourself with this input. Daily. It will be good for you and for those around you.

Will close here with lines from a sensory rich love song.

You fill up my senses like a night in the forest, like the mountains in spring time, like a walk in the rain, like a storm in the desert, like a sleepy blue ocean. you fill up my senses, come fill me again.” ~ John Denver*