Jennifer Louden recently addressed the idea of becoming “Skillfully Empathetic” – an especially challenging dilemma for those of us who are caregivers. We have huge hearts, and often expect that somehow we must be able to care for everyone else in the world.
In the piece, Jen offered some really insightful perspectives related to boundary-setting, discernment and self-care–as part of her 3 year-long experiment in “Savoring and Serving.”
Ground, center, and be aware of your breath as it flows into your nostrils, flows down into your belly, and flows out of your body again.
Notice how your whole body, including your skin, expands a little when you breathe in, and contracts a little when you breathe out.
Make this a conscious movement now. Expand slightly on the in-breath. Contract slightly on the out-breath.
Now feel your own energy body all around you. Sense into it and notice its quality, its texture, its temperature, weight, density. Is it denser or more diffuse than the air around you?
Feel the boundary of your energy body, like a second skin, all around you—about three to four feet beyond your physical skin.
Scan it, to see if there are areas that feel more or less tangible to you. Are there areas that are so diffuse you can’t feel them at all? Others that are more dense or solid?
As you breathe in and out, let your whole energy field, including the skin of your boundary, expand and contract. Expand with the in-breath. Contract with the out-breath.
Make this a conscious, pumping movement. Flex and extend your energy body the same way that you expand and contract your physical body when you breathe in and out.
Notice if you can now sense the boundary of your energy body more clearly.
Now expand your energy body out further, until it fills the whole room that you’re in. Take your boundary right out to the four walls, the ceiling and the floor of your room.
Stay grounded and centered. If you moved out of center bring yourself back. Center your awareness first in your spine, then in the center of your head, and extend out from there throughout your whole body and into your energy field all around you.
Notice how you feel when your energy field is as big as the whole room.
Release any discomfort or tension down your grounding, and ask the earth to please transform it.
Now bring your energy field in, drawing it gradually closer to you until it is just an inch or two beyond your skin. Continue to breathe naturally, and let your boundary expand slightly with each in-breath and contract slightly with each out-breath.
Even though your field is so close to your body, it is still fluid and flexible.
Notice how this feels.
Then let your energy field expand again until it’s at a distance that feels comfortable and natural for you. Notice what that is for you right now.
As I read through and experienced this luscious exercise (thanks to both Jen and Hiroboga for making this available!), I was intrigued by how beautifully it might nurture the concept of “Self-In-Presence” that I teach as part of Focused Self Care. That is, perhaps becoming more skillful at sensing our boundaries at an energy-based level of body-mind-spirit-oriented knowing would also help us better respond to whatever challenges life brings our way.
For example, I often teach that we need only become “one breath bigger” than our biggest fear to become “Self-in Presence.” Now, with this lovely exercise, once we can become clearer about sensing, recognizing and even shifting ALL of our boundaries – whether it’s our “skin envelope”, our energy body or our energy field – it should be easier for us to become that one breath larger than our most anxious or fearful part.