Is it possible to be sensitive and not spiritual, or spiritual and not sensitive? Sue examines the connection between sensitivity and spirituality, the relationship between the two, and how to ground yourself when things get a little overwhelming.
In order to look at this joint topic clearly, first the individual words and their various meanings needs to be explored.
It could be argued that the natural state of the human being is one of acute sensitivity to both the environment and to the people surrounding them. However, the urbanisation of humans would not be successful if that degree of sensitivity was maintained in cities and towns; living in large groups, subject to the physical, emotional and mental ‘pollution’ of those groups, and separated from nature, would create intolerable stress for people to remain that sensitive. To comfortably live in urban situations that acute, natural sensitivity would be needed to be ‘dumbed down.’
Highly sensitive people in ancient societies would have been valued and their skills supported and revered as useful to the tribe, village or community. These people would have shown their sensitivity through their ability to tune into other people’s emotions, states of well-being, and their ability to ‘read’ nature (weather, impending changes, animal behaviour). It would be likely that these people needed to live on the edge of their community. Partly because other people might have difficulty relating to them on an everyday level, but also because of their need to be alone, to have silence and relief from absorbing other people’s emotions.
The classical psychiatric definition of spirituality is something everyone can experience:
Spirituality is not governed by any religious belief but for some people it may incorporate a religion.
So Sensitivity and Spirituality do not automatically go together; you can be sensitive and not be spiritual, and vice versa.
Over the years I have been involved in healing, teaching and counselling, I have seen that when people embark on their personal, spiritual journey, at some point their sensitivity increases. Often this is recognised by the person as something very positive and self-affirming. There have been a few instances when it has been detrimental. So here a balance needs to be struck. Sudden ‘switching on’ of increased levels of sensitivity can create havoc unless the person already has strategies to deal with the effects. If a person is born with high levels of sensitivity, and if they are lucky, their family would help them recognise and manage their situation. If not, the journey to understand themselves may not be easy.
This is where sensitivity and spirituality meet; “To encourage us to seek the best relationship with ourselves”
In the ancient, traditional treatises of yoga, there are two steps before anyone gets to practice Hatha yoga (Asanas - the physical positions that are nowadays synonymous with the term Yoga) or meditation. The first step is Yama. This consists of ethics and behaviour - not being violent, being truthful, not being acquisitive, not being wasteful, not being envious. The second step is Niyama. This consists of observances - self-care, being content with what you have, vigilance and awareness of your personal condition, study of one’s self, surrendering to the flow of the Universe (or God) as you perceive that to be (apologies to Patanjali for modernising the first two limbs of yoga). The Yamas are a good guide to the mental and psychological states that encourage spiritual growth. The Niyamas show how to manage sensitivity and hypersensitivity within your spiritual journey. Self-care or looking after oneself is probably one of the hardest things to do for someone who is deeply empathic and sensitive. Living in today’s electromagnetic soup of Wi-Fi, tetra and other unseen pollution, bathes the unsuspecting sensitive in energies that play havoc with the health. Picking up stress from other people becomes personal stress. This loads the physical body with other people’s symptoms and destroys any physical balance in the body systems, which often results in pain, digestive problems, immune system dysfunctions (allergies, lupus), etc. Absorbing the feelings of others often results in putting other people’s needs before our own. Any feelings of well-being can be crushed by absorbing someone else’s anger or depression and being open to the thoughts of others can create high levels of fear and crippling self-doubt, indecision and fear of failure. Ironically these can all be accompanied by an over-strong sense of ego which can be easily eased by spiritual development work. To learn to manage all these brings most of the other Niyamas into play.
The Key: To identify what personally belongs and what does not.
Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. Unless there is a clear boundary between the self and other energies, there is no way to determine what is really personal stuff and what is not. The great thing about this is that clear personal boundaries also underpins long-lasting, secure spiritual growth.
Protection and grounding produce good personal boundaries and are therefore vital. Protection is the means employed to stop other energies entering the personal energy systems. Grounding techniques reinforce the connection to the planet and give excess or unwanted energies a means to be released.
There are two types of protection and grounding techniques: active and passive.
Sue Lilly has been working as a therapist and teacher for forty years. She has studied and uses astrology, yoga, crystal therapy, colour therapy, nutrition and kinesiology.
For twelve years she ran a busy therapy clinic until writing and teaching became her priorities. Sue and her husband Simon, have written over thirty books covering a wide range of complementary and
alternative healing topics. As a mother of three, and grandmother of seven, she is keen to pass on knowledge to younger generations so that they can benefit from natural ways of maintaining
well-being and feel empowered by the natural world around them.