1. Truth: As a highly sensitive person, it can be hard for me to focus or stay calm. ALL of the information that is floating around in the environment, all the ideas and conversations and emotions and heat (or cold) sticks to me. Rather than being in my own bubble safe from the rest of the world, I’m covered in tiny holes, porous and without clear boundaries, and like a sponge I soak it all in. When I’ve had a day with too much stimulus, I lose my sense of what’s mine and what’s yours. It’s so extreme that if I read a book or watch a TV show where something bad happens, even to a fictional character, I feel it floating just at the edge of my consciousness like a memory of a lived trauma. Let me repeat that — I embody the trauma of others, even when they aren’t real!
2. Truth: This makes service and social justice work incredibly uncomfortable. I can’t easily detach from the suffering of others, and it’s difficult for me to relax or rest when I know someone is hurting, especially if it’s something I could help or even fix. I remind myself of the conventional wisdom of putting your oxygen mask on before helping someone else with theirs, or of that saying “you don’t have to set yourself on fire in order to keep others warm,” but the discomfort doesn’t really go away.
3. Truth: And yet, I don’t shut down, I don’t give up. In fact, I actively do the opposite, continually and regularly practicing to keep my heart soft and open, stay with the discomfort, allow whatever is arising, and cultivate a sense of vulnerability, a willingness to be hurt. I purposefully practice compassion, which is nothing more than being with someone else and their pain, letting it touch you, experiencing it with them. I’d rather be uncomfortable and connected. I’d rather be of some help than none at all. I’d rather make mistakes than not even try.
One wish: May the merit of our practice ease suffering, in ourselves and the world.