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If you want to stop taking on the pain of the world, meditate. Here is how to start

By Michal Spiegelman

All the empaths I know are struggling with the conditions in the world right now. The uncertainty and instability trigger traumas from the past. We feel overwhelmed. Listening to the news and having constant conversations about it drain us. What do we do when we hurt? We hide.

I help women every day to release, heal, and get better. As you can imagine, I mentor women with complicated and heartbreaking life stories and hurt. I witness a deep experience of transformation during our Reiki classes. But as a strong empath myself, I tend to feel other people’s pain, and my default is to take it on. If I didn’t have practices in place to clear and purify my energy, I would probably spend most of my time being physically and emotionally sick because that’s what happens to empaths. The emotions and negativity we take from others can manifest, even physically sometimes, in our bodies. Just like you, I am human. I get drained.

A few weeks ago, I felt emotionally exhausted. I cleared a few days on my calendar (which is not an easy task for me, but it is doable because an incredible team supports me.) I participated in an online meditation retreat, and I also went back to notes I had taken and meditation practices I had learned in the past. I dedicated three full days to self-Reiki and meditation.

I became mindful of my thoughts and emotions. I shifted to a more neutral mindset, and I recharged my internal batteries. At the end of the retreat I had created for myself, I felt centered, grounded, and focused.

Here are a few teachings that helped me to see things more clearly and to rest.

“Mindfulness meditation doesn’t change a life. Life remains as fragile and unpredictable as ever. Meditation changes the heart’s capacity to accept life as it is.” —Sylvia Boorstein

When I heard the author and Buddhist teacher Sylvia Boorstein talking during my meditation retreat, something clicked for me.

Can we really accept life as it is right now? It’s hard, right?

Acceptance is only possible once we shift the focus from the external to the internal. Externally, there is a lot of noise. News. Social media. People suffering. When you get into a loop of negativity, you spiral down. You blame the person you just interacted with for sucking the energy out of you.

You feel physically ill when you watch the news. You continue to get disappointed when people around you don’t meet your expectations. It’s hard to know what’s real and what’s a made-up story you created in your head.

And then you sit to meditate. You become mindful of your thoughts and emotions. You release judgment and negativity. You connect with a more tender place within yourself. And that’s where you find compassion. Getting in touch with the pain that you carry in a compassionate space invites clarity and insight. You start feeling less attached to the situation. You can step back and see things in perspective. You can take what’s going on in the world less personally. You realize that the woman who dumped her story on you was crying for help. You stop blaming her, and instead, you remember how to offer compassion with boundaries. 

Your heart has the capacity to offer compassion with boundaries. You cannot be in real service when you take responsibility for the suffering of other people. You can help them tremendously and be in real service when you stay compassionate towards yourself first. You first. Then others.

“Just for today, be kind to all living things.” —From the Reiki principles

One of the Reiki ideals that many beacons in our Reiki community live by is kindness to all living things. I remind our students all the time that “all living things” includes ourselves. If you are an empath who offers love and kindness to others but not to yourself, you are not being in true service. We can offer a vibration of kindness to a world that needs kindness now more than ever before ONLY if we are first kind to ourselves.

“It’s not what’s going on that matters but how you relate to it.” —Jay Michaelson

I read this phrase in Dr. Jay Michaelson’s book God in Your Body. I also had the honor of learning from Jay at a silent meditation retreat in 2019. Spending a week in silence and learning from Jay and a few other incredible teachers was a profound experience for me. Sitting for hours of meditation every day led to a variety of experiences, including being confused, feeling sad and even lost in the first few days, and then getting so much clarity and insight. I ended the retreat with overflowing sensations of love, kindness, and gratitude.

Since that retreat, I come back to Jay’s words and remind myself daily that I cannot change many of the things that are happening around me, but I can change how I relate to them. I have a sticky note on my desk with the words “how do I relate” written in purple, reminding me to choose how I want to relate to things.

Meditating daily helps you recognize when you are reactive automatically, so you can shift to a place of choosing your response.

When you are an empath or a sensitive soul, you can become so used to taking on other people’s emotions and pain that you don’t always know how not to take on stuff. Meditation teaches you to let whatever arises to arise. Meditation also teaches you to be in a neutral, observant mode. If you start your day by meditating for 15 minutes, chances are that when you get sad because of what’s going on in the world later in the day, you’ll be able to choose how to relate to the situation. Even when you drop to your default of absorbing the pain, you’ll observe your reaction, just like you do when you meditate, and you will be able to shift.

If you have never meditated before, or you have tried and didn’t love it, start small. The 5-10 minute guided meditations I created can help you get started. You can watch the meditations here.

If meditation is easy for you, and it is already an integral part of your life, I encourage you to elevate your practice. I start and end my day with a 30-minute formal meditation practice. My intention is to reset in the morning and to clear and release the energy of the day at night. Giving myself Reiki while meditating brings ease into my practice. If you want to learn to meditate while giving Reiki to yourself, consider joining me for my next Reiki class so I can teach you.

If you find this article valuable, or if you have any questions, please share in the comments area below.

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How often have you shared your pain with family or friends and not felt supported? Do you simply show up when your friends need an ear—or do you give advice and try to fix things for them? This vlog shares 5 essential skills for listening with true empathy and 3 solutions for those times when you’re the one sharing but you don’t feel supported.


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