All Posts By

Kerrie Li

Sensitivity

5 Ways of Coping with Living in Big Cities as a HSP

I live in New York City, a place that is energetically dense, fast paced, ego driven. It isn’t just a city – it’s THE city. And people move around the city like they know it. This is a tough town, but also nowhere else like it.

I find that a big piece of the energy here is very defined by the people who come here – those in their early 20s, vibrating with anxiety, wanting to create themselves as much as they hope to leave their old selves behind. And then there is the undercurrent, the bedrock: the older, soulful New York, native New Yorkers who make up the fabric of the city. I have a lot of respect for those who have roots here and yet still graciously make room for those who constantly pass through.

If I wasn’t led here I don’t think I would have consciously chosen to live here! And yet, here I am. I believe there’s a reason why I was born a city girl and have constantly been drawn to cities, and why many other sensitive folks are, too.

My theory is that it’s no longer time for HSPs to retreat and hide themselves away; that this is the time where we have work to do in population dense areas, whether it’s to influence and affect others with our being, to break barriers in traditional work environments, showing young ones how to cope with their own sensitivities, or simply to lead the way by managing our own sensitivities in a balanced manner.

Which is why I also believe that it’s not necessary to get overwhelmed and knocked over by the energy that comes at you, no matter where you live. I think of this process as a gradual building up of resistance in response to the energies around you. It’s called habituation – you slowly start to get used to whatever it is that you are surrounded by, and over time, it gets easier and easier.

According to the laws of physics, every force has an equal and opposing force.

If you think of the energy in cities as forces that surround you, as forces that push and pull at you, then it means that it necessarily requires a similar level of energy to push back and to stand your ground in order to maintain equilibrium. This requires some commitment, and could even mean a radical shift in the way you live your life.

Here are 5 ways I use to cope with living in big cities as a HSP:

  • I prioritize making my home base a place of sanctuary and retreat

Space comes at a premium. Which is why it’s extra important to maximize every inch of it. This isn’t so much about décor and interior design as much as it is about the vibes that dwell within your space. Do you have absolute privacy, even if it’s just in your own bedroom? (I’m aware that this is a luxury for many people – but having any semblance of a private physical space, for at least some of the time each day, is really important.)

Having a designated spot to connect with my spirituality was also very grounding for me. I set up a simple altar with old wine crates and placed some items of value on it, and it feels good to have somewhere that I can go to commune with my spirit (though more often than not, I’m really just tuning in to my jumpy, all-over-the-place thoughts).

Also, very importantly: take care to choose the right roommates – be clear about who you want to share your space with, and who you absolutely cannot stand being around. This is not about being ‘nice’. If you have specific standards, stick to them. At the very least, the people who live in your space must be respectful and are clear about boundaries. The issue of roommates for HSPs can be a whole article on its own. (…I learned this the hard way. I am so sensitive to the energies within my living environment that I was on my way to emotional breakdown when I was in a bad roommate situation.)

  • I make a consistent effort to eat well to maintain my own personal equilibrium

A lot of coping with the city requires physical strength and stamina. If you’re physically compromised, it makes navigating the city so much harder. Again, I’m aware that access to fresh fruits and vegetables can be expensive and is a luxury in many places in the world, but even then, I try to make my diet as plant based as possible.

The hardest thing for me is about finding the motivation and discipline to go to the gym or do some yoga or whatever. The last thing you feel like doing when you’re tired is more exercise! But it’s really true that exercise produces more physical energy – and it really doesn’t matter what kind you do. There’s no perfect diet or exercise program. Don’t aim for perfection, aim for consistent motion towards these ideals. This is the reason why I don’t beat myself up for sticking to a perfect routine (I have long given up on this idea in basically every part of my life), but just getting in exercise the moment I feel like it. This could look like once a week or sometimes once in two weeks. But the moment I get the urge, I do it. And then it gets easier each time.

  • I value my free time like it’s my job

Only spend time with people you truly like and enjoy being around. You know how in big cities you have the pressure to ‘network’ and socialize for work related reasons? (No other word sends shivers down my spine more than the word ‘networking’.) Superficial and shallow relationships and small talk are maybe the most painful things in my life. If it’s absolutely necessary, do it. But if not, I’ve found that the energy it requires is not worth the pay back I get. Turning things down and saying no becomes a valuable skill. Even when (especially when) you’re turning something down in order to do absolutely nothing after a busy week.

  • I express my inner world and spend lots of time exploring and being with myself

Think about all the stimulation and information you get, coming at you and taking up room in your consciousness. I’ve found that it’s so easy to get lost in the barrage of information that comes at you if you don’t push back by also creating and putting your energy out there. Rather than simply allowing social media, videos and other content to occupy your thoughts all of the time, remember to make time to create. I’ve been getting back into doodling and I’ve forgotten just how much fun it really is for me!

  • Realize that it requires ego strength to be okay not doing what you see others around you doing…

Such as going out often etc. We are all social creatures at heart and want to instinctively join in and belong. Even if a large aspect of us have already accepted that it’s okay to be who we are, there are times when we see other people and feel… ‘Why can’t I be more like them?’ etc. So know that it’s a balance; that sometimes going to do something that will zap your energies may be worth it for the gratification you get in return, or that sometimes staying strong and saying no will be so much more beneficial for you. There’s no hard and fast rule, only how you feel at the moment, and growing to become so attuned that you can catch yourself when you slide too far one way or the other. This isn’t really a ‘way’ I use to cope but simply a mindset I have – balancing the expectations of mainstream society while checking in with myself about how I really feel about participating in it. It’s nice to be a part of things sometimes. It’s also nice to stand apart from it. In fact, it’s necessary. The ratio just switches up now and again, and I’ve slowly learned to be okay with both withdrawing and putting myself out there when I need to.

Is it worth it living in a big city? Does it justify all the energy you put into maintaining a sense of equilibrium here? Well, that’s something that only you can answer. But know that you absolutely do not have to suffer, wherever in the world you are at the moment. Even as you search for a better place to be, you can absolutely make your living space more comfortable for you, right now, at this moment.

Sensitivity

Culture of Silence? What Speaking Up Means In Your Culture

It’s impossible to talk about silence and speaking up without also talking about culture. Each culture has its own norms regarding the value and power of one’s voice — what speaking up means, what staying silent means. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to hold back what I truly feel for fear of upsetting someone in authority. Sometimes the threat of doing so was real, sometimes it’s imagined — it didn’t matter. Because all it really takes is a couple of times of upsetting a powerful other in order to learn that speaking up had consequences, negative ones.

In many cultures, and especially Chinese culture, silence is often considered respect for authority; only speaking up when asked was a norm when I was growing up. Over time, you slowly learn to stay silent, to comply, to not say what you truly mean, to not say anything for fear of ‘getting involved’ — whatever getting involved means. Tribal consciousness around norms like this are so powerful, and have a great hold over individuals, whether they are aware of it or not.

This is compounded by the experience of being sensitive and taking on responsibility for others’ feelings. I grew up with a fear of hurting others by speaking about my true feelings — even as, looking back, they were completely valid. That responsibility was put upon me by adults who were made more anxious by the truth, especially when I inadvertently pointed out something that made them uncomfortable. It is much easier to blame the other (and the weaker/more powerless) for ‘making you feel’ a certain way than to really sit down and examine why a certain feeling was triggered — regardless of culture. When healthy ways of communicating are not explicitly taught or modeled, how does one learn? You learn instead the unspoken norms about acceptable standards of behavior.

So from an early age, I learned that the truth is dangerous, that somehow I had the ability to make someone flip out just because of what I say, and that my voice is not welcomed unless I worded it absolutely perfectly and said the exactly right thing that would not upset anyone. On the upside I learned how to write (relatively) well. However, till this day, I am slowly excavating myself out from those years of silence and losing touch with my voice. I had to spend a couple of years going through a period of grief as I learned how to write and speak from the heart again — and in the process, spitting out all the poison I had been told about myself, all the things I started to believe — in order to get back in touch with my voice. I believe I am still going through this process.

On the flip side, there is beauty in silence, too. Silence that precedes judicious speech makes speaking up and using one’s voice extra meaningful because the power of speech isn’t wasted on superfluous uses. But this silence has to be intentional, has to be freely chosen. Silence when imposed as a tool by the powerful is crushing, suffocating, and ultimately, deadening.

If you are also learning how to use your voice again, know that It’s okay to not say it perfectly the first time or even the first 100 times. It’s okay to stumble over your words. It’s okay to slow down and repeat yourself until you are heard. The important thing is to speak and to hear yourself speaking (or to write, and to read your words…).

You can also observe your culture for its messages about silence and speaking up:

  • Who seems to speak up most often?
  • Whose voice seems to have more power? (more respected, more listened to)
  • How often do you find yourself holding back or speaking up? Which is your norm? What do you tell yourself about holding back versus speaking up?

Different cultural factors that have an impact on how, when and where you use your voice include your age, gender, race, minority status, immigration status, socioeconomic status, etc. and any combination of these. Just like I had experienced, your role in your family and the way your family members communicate and relate to each other also have an impact on how you wield your voice.

Sometimes a lot of this is unconscious and it’s hard to know what your norm is until you get to compare it to someone else’s. For that reason, traveling or interacting with someone from another culture can be so helpful.

I believe that the act of using your voice should be something that’s accessible to everyone, and not necessarily in the form of verbal communication but through all forms of self-expression. I think it should be a basic human freedom, and I know in many places in the world, or even in your own neighborhood, that’s not the case.

But as always, I think it starts with each and every one of us lighting the flame within ourselves so that the light that it casts can help illuminate others, too.

Sources:

(a) Concept of tribal consciousness from Caroline Myss. 

Artwork by Mara Berendt Friedman

Sensitivity

When Speaking Up Is Healing

…And when staying silent can be healing, too.

In light of all the recent #MeToo postings and all the stories that have been floating to the surface of mass consciousness, I have been pondering about the issue of speaking up and speaking out.

For many highly sensitive people or empaths, the process of finding your voice, trusting in it, and using it with confidence is a common one.

Many have experienced being silenced in childhood, or having their voices questioned, derided, or worse. Highly sensitive people, with their keen sense of perception, have often pointed out truths that are inconvenient to others, even at an early age. Young and innocent sensitives often voice out these truths guilelessly, without any hidden agenda or motives, simply pointing out what they do see – and not knowing the potential reactions this may elicit.

Unwittingly, this action of innocently speaking out can trigger other people’s wounds and bump up against their egos – and the backlash can be harsh and furious. As a result, many then learn from an early age that it’s far safer to stay silent and hold their tongues. Some convince themselves that they aren’t really seeing what they are truly seeing and experiencing. Others are content to think their thoughts while never daring to express them. This could then seep into other areas of life, leading to a difficulty or inability in asking for what one needs, expressing oneself creatively, and having difficulty in communicating with others. Of course, a whole host of factors can also come into play here, including cultural, family and individual personality differences.

This creates a habit of silence. And when an entire group of people share similar experiences of being silenced, it becomes a culture of silence – with each person reinforcing it in the other. In a patriarchal society, women are the ones who tend to be silenced. When someone’s power is dependent upon your silence, they will be invested in you remaining silent.

Speak to Heal

Regardless of your experience with speaking your thoughts, feelings, and your own personal truth – speaking can be a radical act, and an immensely healing one as well.

Moving from silence to having confidence in your own voice is a process, so it’s important to be patient with yourself! It takes time to unlearn a habit. Practice is key in doing so. Start with the medium that you are most confident in first. Whether it’s writing, singing, through art – these are all ways of Speaking.

One thing that could help is to prize and prioritize the act of self-expression rather than the reaction you might get to what you say.

Speaking allows energy to flow through your system freely. It’s allowing what’s inside of you to be heard, to interact with the world out there, and to come back to you in a feedback loop. When that feedback loop is stopped, it creates a block in the flow. Issues may arise because of this blockage. Dislodging this blockage in turn creates healing.

Seen through the lens of the chakra system, speaking is associated with the throat chakra.

When Silence is a Choice

You’re the only one who can know if you’re ready to speak about your own experiences or trauma. You should never feel coerced or obligated to speak on it. There are times when trauma or difficult experiences need to marinate before you are ready for it to be spoken about in the light of day, for it to be heard and honored by others. And that is okay. Our psyches can be incredibly complex – there are times when it builds up defenses so that you can carry on with your life; and at other times it takes its own time to become strong enough to confront certain truths.

There is no timeline for healing, no fixed schedule you need to be on.

So sometimes it’s enough to simply hear others speak their truth. It can be healing to listen to others’ healing journeys. Or it could also be re-traumatizing. It could stir up memories you may have blocked from yourself.

Or it could also inspire you to speak about your own, speak up on someone else’s behalf, or to finally call out your abuser or oppressor. And I think we have seen examples of all of the above at this time, and maybe even some controversial examples of those just learning about the power of their voices.

So as much as it’s important to speak, it’s also important to discern when you are truly choosing to be silent – or defaulting to silence because you are more comfortable with it. As always, it all starts with self-awareness.

How do you experience your voice? How do you experience the power of your own self-expression?

(Featured image artist unknown.)

Self-care

The Totally Self-Accepting 2017 Year in Review

…Because who has time for that stressful resolution stuff?

You know your goals, you’ve been working on them. This doesn’t change because of an arbitrary marker of time. If you’re tuned into the movements of the Universe and paid attention to yourself at all this year, then I’m sure you’re already doing a great job at living your life and doing what needs to be done.

However, it’s always easy to neglect our emotional selves in the hustle and bustle of living. Which is why I’m presenting:

2017 Totally Self Accepting Year in Review

And here’s the 2017 Totally Self Accepting Year in Review in a downloadable PDF format. It’s fun to scribble on it, so I encourage you to take a pen and doodle away.

Happy new year!

Eating Well Self-care Sensitivity

Intuitive Eating for Wellness

How do you approach the way you eat?

Eating can be such a loaded topic. Depending on where you are and the culture you’re influenced by, eating can be tied up with so many emotions – from guilt and shame, to stress and craving.

From an early age, we may be taught to associate eating with pleasure and sensation-seeking, eating out of boredom, or eating as a response to helplessness and crisis.

And as we get older, food often also gets associated with restriction and control, depending on your ideas of weight and wellness. Some may also associate eating with morality, avoiding meat out of compassion for sentient animals.

Making food choices for wellness can be overwhelming – intuitive eating simplifies it

To me, eating intuitively cuts through all of the information we receive about foods, and simplifies the process of making food choices, especially for those with busy lifestyles.

I went through a whole period of time where I would research nutritional values of foods, and I would make choices purely on what someone else said is ‘good’ for you. But I found that making food choices from a purely intellectual place did not work for me. It took all the joy out of eating, and was an often unsatisfying experience.

I slowly gravitated towards eating intuitively instead, an organic process that arose out of necessity (i.e. lack of time and also, laziness) and because I wanted to enjoy the act of eating. I wanted to eat healthily but I didn’t want to count calories or obsess about food.

Eating intuitively is about trusting the intelligence of your body, and the power of your intuition as a messenger for your body. You may start getting images of certain foods and a craving for certain tastes that really start to make sense later. The more you act on these instincts, the more your body will start to communicate with you.

Eating intuitively is a way to cut through all the ‘shoulds’, all the things you’ve ever read or learned about eating. First, let’s start off with what intuitive eating isn’t about.

It definitely isn’t about following someone else’s rules.

Eating intuitively isn’t about:

  • Counting calories
  • Reading nutrition labels
  • Restricting yourself or dieting
  • Overindulging
  • Judging yourself

Eating intuitively is about:

  • Respecting and caring for your body
  • Enjoying the act of eating
  • Listening to your needs
  • Eating what feels right to you
  • Learning to listen to your body
  • Paying attention to the signals you get before, during and after eating

And as a bonus, when eating becomes an enjoyable activity, we also start to develop a respect for the foods we eat and put into our bodies; how they are grown, produced, and brought to our dining tables become of interest to us.

But it all starts with caring for and listening to our bodies.

Treating your body with respect & compassion

Instead of judging yourself for having cravings, know that sometimes your body sends you signals for what your body is lacking. This can happen due to the normal fluctuations in your body due to hormones and sugar levels. For example, I often crave for spinach or even lamb right before I get my period. This tells me I need to refuel on iron.

Cravings can also be a learned response to emotional changes. When I need comfort I tend to default to white rice, which is what I grew up eating. Nothing says ‘home’ to me more than white rice and porridge. And so when I eat it, I start becoming aware of the fact that maybe there is an emotion under that craving somewhere, maybe something I need to sit with, acknowledge and nurture.

And that is also why I won’t say that I absolutely don’t eat foods from a certain food group. I don’t believe in dogma – regarding almost anything – and tend to stay away from information or writings that say you MUST or MUST NOT ABSOLUTELY do or not do something.

For me, I eat a mostly plant based diet but I do supplement with fish and certain meats sometimes. There are a handful of things I tend not to eat on principle alone. But I do not believe that there are any foods that are inherently bad – even if you crave for chips or candy, I see it as the body saying hey, I need salt! Or, it may be saying, hey, there is an emotion I may be avoiding. Or, hey, I’m stressed and I really need to relieve this feeling; or I’m running on empty, give me some glucose quick!

Or, of course, you may have been eating candy often and your body has developed an addiction to sugar or some other substance … and even then, it is worth looking at the emotion or impulse that’s attached to the food you’re craving. Can you trace it back to when the addiction seemed to start? When did you start to eat what you’re eating?

Attaching shame or guilt to foods can also be counter-productive. Have you ever tried saying, no, I absolutely can’t eat xyz – then find yourself hopelessly craving for it and obsessing about it?

Food is many things, but I tend to shy away from seeing it as punishment or reward. We can learn to trust ourselves and our bodies enough to know that we can respond to it with attunement and love.

Food: It’s nourishment. It’s sustenance. It can be medicine. It is part of a ritual, part of ceremony, an inextricable part of life. We can develop an intuitive, healthy and respectful relationship with food.

And the science of it…

This is also research that shows that intuitive eating leads to weight loss. The paradox here is that by not focusing on a restrictive diet that emphasizes a clinical approach to eating, you actually end up losing weight along the way, if that is your goal.

food-healthy-vegetables-potatoes

You can start today

If your interest is piqued, you can start eating intuitively at any time.

  • Simply take a moment to pause and really look at what you’re about to eat and put into your body. For half a minute, simply look at it. What’s the first impulse that arises? Are you distracted and feel an urge to put it into your body, not caring how it tastes? What attracts you to it? The colour? Smell? Texture? Does it satisfy you when you’re eating it? What do you feel after you put it into your body? What emotion are you feeling at this moment? Be an investigator, be curious about the feelings and sensations that arise.
  • The next time you go grocery shopping, ditch your list. Take a moment to walk through the produce aisles and see what you’re drawn to. Are leafy greens calling to you? A certain fruit? Or nothing at all? Even feeling nothing is a valuable piece of information… Pick up the first thing you feel drawn to, buy it, taste it. See how you feel about it. Once you start collecting more and more information about what you like or dislike, you have started a conversation with your body about what it wants and needs. And you can go from there.

Disclaimer: I’m not a nutritionist. Seek out medical advice before making changes to your diet, especially if you are managing a chronic illness or any other health condition. Take care of you first. <3

References:

  1. Leahy, K. Berlin, K.S. Banks, G. Bachman, J. (2017.) The Relationship Between Intuitive Eating and Postpartum Weight Loss. Maternal and Child Health Journal. Volume 21, Issue 8pp 1591–1597
  2. Cadena-Schlam, L. López-Guimerà, G. (2015) Intuitive eating: An emerging approach to eating behavior. Nutrición hospitalaria: Organo oficial de la Sociedad española de nutrición parenteral y enteral, 2015, Vol.31(3), pp.995-1002
Self-care

Self-Love 101

How is does one know how to love themselves if one did not grow up in an especially loving environment?

Love is an innate force, an urge to connect and nurture another, but it also has an environmental element, and is a learned behavior and response.

Not all of us grew up in environments that were loving and nurturing. Many people come from families that have experienced trauma, poverty, the trauma of poverty, natural disaster, abuse, illness, racism, chronic instability etc. Many people have developed coping mechanisms that are healthy and normal in response to these threats and difficulties, but are not helpful when living in times of peace and stability.

These responses, such as numbing, escaping or turning to workaholism become self-defeating when one is attempting to grow and thrive.

(On the more extreme end, constant hyper vigilance, anxiety, perfectionism and irritability could also be signs of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).)

On top of that, we are constantly receiving messages from the culture around us about what is acceptable and ‘normal’. Not all of these messages are healthy and helpful. For example, the notion of needing to conform to certain beauty standards, or to speak and act a certain way in order to be considered intelligent – in other words, the hoops you must jump through in order to be likable, lovable and deserving are many and pervasive in popular culture.

These are powerful forces that shape our behaviors, and affect whether we even deem ourselves as being worthy of love, or even being worthy at all! This causes us to go through life thinking we’re not good enough, to constantly push ourselves to be more, to do more, without creating the habit of pausing and telling ourselves that we are okay.

It’s no wonder then, that truly learning to love yourself is a process. It requires getting used to the feeling of being able to relax, feeling safe in your body, and being okay with yourself no matter what.

It doesn’t mean having super positive feelings about yourself every single day, but it can be understood as just having a fundamental okay-ness about yourself, and a knowledge that you have your back even when unpredictable things, disappointments and difficult things happen.

And I really do mean, no matter what: whether or not you’ve reached your goals, whether you’ve made a mistake, or when things just haven’t gone as planned.

Self-love means:

  1. Forgiving yourself for making mistakes
  2. Giving yourself room to experience all kinds of emotions, even negative ones
  3. Allowing yourself to pursue your interests, even though they aren’t deemed to be ‘practical’ or have any kind of economic value
  4. Allowing yourself to rest.
  5. Allowing yourself to play.
  6. Having relationships that are rewarding, supportive and trusting.
  7. Taking care of your physical health, mental health and emotional health.
  8. (Your own unique definition here.)

Self-love can also be thought of as a state of being, rather than any specific action. It happens in the way you talk to yourself in your mind, the way you think about yourself, the way you feel about yourself.

Imagine you let a stranger into your house, and they talked to you the way you do to yourself: would you consider them to be a nice person you’d want to be friends with? Or would you bolt the door and never let them in again?

The best part about self-love is that: the more robust your mental health is, the more you will be able to roll with whatever life throws at you. You become less dependent on others for validation, and you may even find that your goals become a lot more effortless to attain. You will be able to create, give and live from a full cup, rather than trying to squeeze everything you have out of yourself yet never really feel happy or contented in the process.

It can be a journey to consistently wake up and feel like you are just fundamentally okay with yourself, but knowing what self-love (a term often thrown about these days) is even really about – is the most important first step in exploring what it means to you personally.

Featured image by Stasia Burrington

Sensitive Warriors Sensitivity

The Female Empath in Patriarchal Cultures

Hello there, lady empath.

It’s no surprise that most empaths are female. Or at least, those who wind up on my site, and are consciously seeking out information for it.

(There are male empaths, too, but many men growing up in patriarchal cultures are not rewarded for ‘being in their feelings’, and are thus often in hiding – you guys will get an article of your own!)

Empaths are created by their environments as much as they are born that way.

Many empaths grew up in environments where their innate sensitivity had to be used for survival within confusing or even dangerous family dynamics – to figure out subtexts, to sense when someone was about to get angry or upset, to smooth over frayed nerves.

As a child whose survival depended solely on your parents, it made sense, especially to a child-mind, to preserve the peace at all costs. Conflict and anger read as danger, especially as a young child. Your life depended on it, no matter how exaggerated this claim may seem to you now as an adult.

As a result, your natural sensitivity had to over function and do double duty in order to uphold dysfunctional family dynamics.

This behavioral expectation multiplies tenfold if you are female, in a family where your father plays the dominant role, within a society where it’s mostly men who hold positions of power.

In patriarchal cultures in general, women are expected to be the empathic ones, to be the one who bends, who nurtures, who gives. Or they are kept down, made to be smaller, made to accommodate. Girls are inundated with messages about who they are meant to be and how they should behave.

Reflection: what messages did you receive about being a girl/woman? How do you view yourself as a woman? What are your thoughts about femininity in general? 

As a result of environmental factors, media messages and necessity, your sensitivity may have served in some way to support these unequal dynamics of power, both within the family and without.

Change is possible; seeing yourself as part of a whole releases you from self-blame

Your responses were learned, not innate, and that’s why if you are in a dysfunctional romantic relationship or stormy family drama right now, it’s possible to change. There is hope, and it is possible for you to have a healthy, creative, fruitful life with fulfilling relationships.

Many empaths often blame themselves for the situations and relationship patterns they find themselves repeating. While it’s important to take personal responsibility for your side of things, it’s just as important to understand why they came to be. Understanding the root of conflicts help us to solve things from the core.

This is why it’s always important to see yourself as part of the whole, of the society and the culture you live in. As spiritual beings in physical bodies, we are navigating our lives in a very real, very material world. It interacts with you, and shapes you, as much as you interact with it.

And when you learn how it has shaped you, you can now be more mindful of the messages you consume, and the energies you allow into your life going forward. Do they reinforce your strengths, or do they reduce you and make you smaller? 

Self-blame is not helpful

So if you’re blaming yourself for having difficulty establishing boundaries, wondering why you tend to make way for narcissists energetically and physically, or why you tend to invite in or attract bullies – or if you have decided to freeze over your heart in order to cope in an unfeeling world, don’t. You responded to the extent you knew how to, based on what little information you had – blaming yourself for this is unnecessary and being way too hard on yourself.

You did what you could to survive in an unequal world, where people are often interested in preserving status quo to serve their own ego needs; where your sensitivity may have also been used to others’ advantage.

However, this isn’t about blaming others, either!

It’s about recognizing your role in a system.

Once you recognize the system, you become at choice when it comes to participating in it. 

And choice is the most important thing for an empath, who often feel that they have ‘no choice’.

So now that you know: you can choose. You can choose to release self-blame, and to free that energy up to focus on your empowerment: pulling your power back within yourself, to tread your own path with increasing freedom and lightness.

Everything begins with your choice. It’s the most powerful thing you have.

(art by Tyler Feder)

Sensitive Warriors Sensitivity

Empath 101: Energy Basics

Perhaps you’re new to the whole concept of energy and being able to sense something we have not been taught to identify or to name. It’s natural to feel scared, skeptical, doubtful, or even ‘crazy’. So often I have heard people (and myself) hesitate to mention this and other ‘special abilities’ for fear of other people thinking that we’ve completely lost it.

And we all know what we do to people who we think are ‘crazy’, and it has not been pretty – until fairly recently. We marginalize them, medicate them and all but toss them out of society. (Which is also why I was led to the field of mental health counseling. The work of de-stigmatizing actual mental illnesses and seeking help for mental health services is only in its infancy – especially among Asian people and other racial groups!)

So back to the topic – sensing energy. Experiencing ‘supernatural’ powers. This all exists. It is real. You’re not crazy – especially if you are here, reading this blog, and have been fervently trying to seek out more information about it. *However, this is a problem if any visions you encounter have been telling you to hurt yourself or others. It’s important to know the difference and to seek medical help.*

Your sensitivity and intuition is simply another skill that you haven’t been taught about. These are natural propensities for certain things, just like how some people gravitate towards math, or play instruments easily, or have a natural sense of rhythm. It’s mostly innate, and it’s not something to fear.

If you’re here because all of a sudden you’re dreaming about things, having visions, having prophetic dreams, picking up on others’ emotions, feeling chronically tired, sensing what other people think and what their motivations may be, knowing about their karmic past etc. – then you really aren’t crazy. In fact…

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Self-care

5 Self-Care Tips for HSP/HSS

Feeling burnt out is one of the issues that a HSP/HSS often encounters. Unfinished tasks and over/understimulation is a constant physiological response to manage – it can be frustrating to try to stay on top of everything and not be exhausted at the end of it all!

Here are some tips I’ve been using to manage my time and energy, based on trial-and-error. I see these energy management techniques as basic self-care, because for us, it’s not about WHAT we do, but HOW… that determines our experience in the end. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. If you’re too frazzled to enjoy the journey and the fruits of your labor, then we’re really missing out on the juicy bits of life! Maybe you might find some of these useful:

  1. As long as you get it done, it does not matter the order you do them in. When I let go of a linear way of working and focused on simply completing tasks, I got things done much more effectively. For example, I may start writing one thing and move on to the other without completing the first thing. It’s probably a no-no for some people, but because I usually get inspired or get another thought when I’m working on one thing, I then jump back and forth because my mind enjoys that stimulation. My rule for myself is that I must complete what I begin within a set time frame. HOWEVER, there are times when focusing on one thing at a time feels a lot more pleasurable, so I just go with that. The point is being okay with the fact that every work session may not be the same each time and slowly developing flexibility to work with whatever presents itself to you each day. But you must first show up.
  2. Schedule or work according to your natural energy cycles. This tip is for those who feel that the usual 9-5 routine doesn’t work for them. The challenge is to neither over schedule or under schedule. For example, if you know you need to be somewhere from 9am to 12pm, stick to that, and then allow the rest of the day to flow and to go where your intuition leads you. This satisfies both the routine loving side of me and the creative side of me that likes being in the moment. (Of course, I decided to quit the 9-5 years ago, so this became possible…I know this can be hard for those people who want or need regularly scheduled jobs.) Again, creating room to have some flexibility for yourself is key. Secondly, work when inspired – don’t hesitate or even start thinking about it. I feel most productive in the morning, so I tend to open my laptop and dash things out and clear my tasks first thing after my usual morning meditation / prayer. (Because deadlines are real and money needs to be made.)
  3. Listen to your body. If you’re spent, you’re spent. Rest. Rest. You will be a lot more effective after a good rest rather than sputtering along trying to force yourself to complete a task.
  4. Try going deep instead of going wide. When you start getting bored and the familiar itch to start something new floods in… Resist! Redirect the energy. I’ve learnt over time that not every idea is worth chasing. I may simply decide to approach an existing task in a new way instead. How do you make it more fun/exciting/enjoyable? How can you go deeper into it? Where can you challenge yourself further? Maybe it’s simply the challenge of Staying Put. It’s about building up a kind of resilience – when sitting with the urge for more stimulation, observe where your mind goes, and try to discern the real emotion driving it. Often it’s simply boredom or a need to take a break for a minute.
  5. Grounding. An easy way is simply to touch the trunk of a tree. The tree’s deep roots grounds your energy down into the earth. This is my favorite way of grounding because trees are so calming to me. Or, take a minute to stand and consciously shift your awareness to the soles of your feet and how they feel pressing against the floor. Exercise is also key to dispel some of the excess energy that often leads to restlessness.

It’s still an ongoing, daily process to work with my energy flows. But self-understanding is key to all of it – remember that who you are isn’t something to fight against, but to encourage and work with. You are who you are for a reason.

What are some of the ways you use to manage your time and energy? I’d love to hear! 

Art by Tiffany Chantel.

Review

Review: Lip Balms

I have chronically dry, chapped lips. Not just in the winter – basically all year round! And so, lip balm is one of those things I always have on hand; it’s something I absent-mindedly buy so that I can always find them in any random pocket.

However, after realizing what’s in them (apparently, terrible things – I used cherry-flavored Chapstick and something from Banana Boat), I decided that it’s probably best to switch to something with no toxic ingredients in them. Especially since I habitually lick my lips so I’m probably ingesting 90% of whatever I apply on my lips.

I tested these three brands out with a couple of days break between them.

P.S. There are a million and one natural lip balms available out there, if you do a simple Etsy search. I received these samples for free in exchange for an unbiased review – though I must say I picked them because they looked good to me and already had awesome reviews! 

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