Are you someone who cares about other people? Are you among the first to notice if someone is upset? Do you like to help those in need around you? Are you someone who often thinks of other’s needs before your own?
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, you are probably a person with a lot of empathy. When you are someone who has a lot of empathy it can be difficult to learn how to have both healthy connections and healthy boundaries. Yet, both are required in order to enjoy your life and not burn out as a caring, empathic person. Empathy increases our ability to feel exquisite joy and deep connection to life. It also increases your capacity to feel everything else – which can include pain, confusion, frustration, and fear.
The key for keeping your capacity to receive life fully without being drained is in knowing how to take care of yourself so that you stay energized. Many people with high empathy find their attention often goes externally to helping others. They may even get most of their self-esteem from how well they can help those in need around them. Noticing what is happening around you is not the issue. The problem is when we lose our ability to sense what is going on inside ourselves because of the habit of paying more attention to what others need.
In simple terms, do you know how to turn your attention inward? Often it comes down to habits – what were you rewarded for in your family growing up? If you were rewarded for taking care of everyone else, it often was at the expense of taking care of yourself. In order to know what you need, it is necessary to know how to sense what is going on inside yourself. Do you know what your needs are? Do you think it is somehow selfish or self-centered to pay attention to your own needs?
What we are discovering in today’s world is that with the stress we all live with on a daily basis, it is paramount that we learn to take care of ourselves. The airlines have it right – you must put your own oxygen mask on first before helping those in the seat next to you. If you don’t, there will no one to help the child or the person in need beside you. It runs counter to how most of us were raised. Yet when we know how to fill our own containers, it gives us a lot more to offer the world around us. Our gifts are more fully and easily expressed.
The other interesting fact about this is that when you feel good and energized it makes you more effective and often more efficient. Have you ever noticed that when you are tired or frazzled that you make more mistakes? Research has shown this to be true across all professions, not to mention our private lives.
And, there are distinct skills in how to listen to your inner wisdom that can be taught and learned. I have been gathering these skills from many different sources for a number of years. Initially I taught primarily healthcare professionals. But today more and more regular people are realizing the importance of these skills.
So how do we learn the skills of staying full and energized? Can anyone learn these? Absolutely!
First, start by being curious as to what is going on inside of you. Allow yourself to slow down and take your attention inward. You may need to partially or fully close your eyes. Simply notice what is happening inside your body with no judgment. Whatever shows up is fine.
Once you are paying attention inside, notice sensations, intuitive hits, physical awareness that is new or familiar. Register it all with a neutral mind. Be curious. You are simply drinking in your experience – it may offer you important information that only your inner landscape can give you.
Next allow yourself to feel the underside of your body. If you are sitting, feel your sitting bones on the surface you are resting on. Feel the bottoms of your feet on the floor. Allow you awareness to drop underneath of you into the earth. With gravity you are connected to the earth all the time – so feel it!
Once you are aware of this connection, allow yourself to soak up nurturing energy from this connection with the earth. Like a sponge in a clear pool of water, simply allow nourishing sensations to begin to fill you up a pace that works for you. What would that feel like? Do you best to feel it as well as seeing it. And take your time.
When you are ready to move on, notice how you feel compared to when you started this inner inquiry. You have taken the first steps to full body presence. Over time, this simple practice will help you develop a fuller sense of trust and confidence in yourself and the world. Enjoy!
Suzanne Scurlock-Durana, CMT, CST-D, is the author of Full Body Presence. She teaches and speaks around the world and lives in Reston, VA. Visit her online at http://www.fullbodypresence.com.
Based on the book Full Body Presence: Learning to Listen to Your Body’s Wisdom Ó2010 by Suzanne Scurlock-Durana. Printed with permission from New World Library http://www.newworldlibrary.com.