Recently I got emotional after class. It wasn’t the first time I felt like I took on some of the emotion/energy in the room. I went home feeling frenetic and slightly overwhelmed. I often use writing to process so I did a quick search for “empath” on the computer. Here is what returned:
Empath (chiefly in science fiction) a person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual
Merriam-Webster/ Definition of empathy
1:the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it
2:the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner
I’ve cried one time in front of a yoga class, as the teacher. The class was right after a sacred water temple in Bali. (That sentence does feel awesome and ridiculous writing it). I wanted to teach the class after because I felt so connected to this experience. To me, it a visit to the temple feels like a spectacular blend of baptism and death, cleanse & release of sorts. Shared with strangers and family, it is personal and communal. This particular trip, we headed back to the retreat center; breathed, moved, and the space began to fill. I could feel that people were integrating their experience. I asked they breathe out what they wanted to release. Unintentionally, I breathed it in, and took it on. I didn’t make it to Namaste at the end of class. In between our final Om and my attempt at Namaste, I buried my face in my hands. No one moved to console me physically. I looked up and it was nothing but looks of support and love. (Which of course made me cry harder.). Typing this feels a little scary, because I know this may sound very strange.
Growing up, I was labeled sensitive. I was an introvert, a die-hard reader, a solo Barbie player. I participated in independent sports: gymnastics, ballet. As my career evolved, every single mentor advised me to grow a thicker skin. I didn’t realize until recently that not everyone feels everything all the time. Over time I developed skills to band-aid the sensitivity. My jobs asked me to be more extroverted: public speaking, relationship management. I found therapists that helped me understand this level of sensitivity, to help me learn how to communicate it (#workingonit). There are challenges. I found activities that help me feel less, they're not always healthy. I avoid crowds. I still have a very heightened emotional sensitivity. Some days feeling all the feels is either less present or supported and understood by the people I choose to be with. Other days, I feel like I live in a vice, and I can’t tell which feelings are mine and which are other people’s. Even typing this, it seems crazy to me. I laughed and was slightly shocked when the first definition in google referenced science fiction. But this concept is very real to me.
I am learning that this thin skin of mine isn’t something to thicken. It is something to manage. In some ways I am grateful to feel so much. I feel deep, deep, love for a lot of people, and often quickly. Death is not a scary concept to me. People in my life can feel how much I care, because I usually wear my heart on my sleeve. Often friends, family, students, even strangers, invest trust in me quickly, likely because they feel safe. But perhaps because they can feel they’re not alone, because I can meet them there.
At the end of a recent yoga class, my voice cracked. With the current state of so many things in this world, of course –of COURSE- emotions are high. I took on the student’s feels that night. I brought them home. We warmed up soup, I lit candles. And I kept the crying-teacher class count at one. It will happen again, and it might be less controllable. But tonight, it’s me, Jai-Jagdeesh super loud, and the emotions of 26 students, working their way out on my yoga mat in my living room.